Farewell Princess Leia and other icons of the 80s.

By now, the news of her sudden demise would have spread across the world, and we are all recalling all her famous movies, photos and the one that is etched in the minds of those who were in their puberty years when she wore that brass bikini in Star Wars.

But behind this image of her, is another...

A young girl who had an affair with an older and married actor, someone who couldn't cope with the pressure and limelight of Hollywood. Someone who then turned to drugs, drinking and had depression. We like to remember the good parts, and certainly she was the darling of Hollywood when she grabbed a laser gun and shot her way to fame. She then did a lovely comedic turn in Harry Met Sally, along with a good run as a writer too.

Yet, I can't help feel sad, that the life of a Hollywood star is adored, admired and even idolised, and we are quick to emulate their looks, and even adopt their epicurean lifestyles. Likewise, we mourn the loss of George Micheal, but are their lives truly worthy models? 

Farewell Princess Leia, and rest in peace. You have given me a pile of movies to watch this year end, but also a lot to reflect upon too. 

Oppo UDP 203 review

Good news! I have updated the video section with a comparison with the Samsung ☺
In addition I have added a comparison with the older Oppo 83 Nuforce.


Just to set expectations right:
this is a review in progress and will be updated with more content as I tried with with more 4k displays and compare it with other players). Furthermore, as this is a personal review, I will try and compare it with as many players as I can lay my hands on, but I don't intend to make my review an end all review of all the current player.












Oppo has been at the forefront of players which provide exceptional value for money, and in recent times, they have moved from providing merely simple value players to players which even the keenest audiophiles will want for their top tier systems.

With the advent of the Ultra High Definition (UHD), 4k format, we have all been anticipating what Oppo has up their sleeves. Wisely they have not tried to be the first off the mark, and have instead allowed developments in this nascent format to take place, and now they are ready to show off their first unit, in the form of the Oppo UDP 203.

Some links to tech specs and the Oppo website:

https://www.oppodigital.com/uhd/

http://oppodigital.com/blu-ray-udp-203/

Some notes on the features:

- HDR capable
- enough CPU processing for Dolby Vision, but it's not enabled in this machine as of now
- twin HDMI, (one is HDMI 2.0a and the other is HDMI 1.4 and this one can be used with non HDMI 2.0 equipped AV amplifiers)
- HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 capable
- 2 USB 3.0 jacks
- analog 7.1 audio output,
- RS-232
- Ethernet and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- 32 bit AKM 4458 DAC
- UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray (2D & 3D), DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, CD and AVCHD disc playback
- quad-core OP8591 UHD decoder


Important details:

Custom-Made 4K Loader
The UDP-203's disc loader features an optimized laser mechanism that delivers super fast disc loading, compatibility with a wide range of optical media, and strong error detection and correction to ensure error free physical media playback.
Advanced Audio Processing
The UDP-203 features a premium 32-bit DAC from AKM, the AK4458VN, which is an 8-channel DAC with support for formats such as 192 kHz / 32-bit PCM and multi-channel DSD64/128.
Advanced Image Processing Technology
With over a decade of experience developing high-end DVD and Blu-ray players, OPPO has once again teamed with MediaTek to produce and manufacture a specialized 4K UHD Blu-ray decoder SoC - the quad-core OP8591, which offers the most advanced image decoding and processing technology available for 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and user generated media formats.
HDR and HDR to SDR Conversion
One of the more exciting elements of the new 4K UHD format is the inclusion of high-dynamic range (HDR) video and an expanded color range, allowing for more natural and true-to-life colors. The UDP-203 supports the HDR10 format, and it is also capable of providing an accurate conversion from HDR to SDR for older displays.

Support for Dolby Vision will be available in the future via a firmware upgrade.

Lossless High-resolution Audio
Audio format support has been expanded to DSD64/128 or multi-channel DSD64, as well as 192kHz/24-bit PCM used in high-resolution lossless formats such AIFF, ALAC, APE, FLAC and WAV.

Manual:
http://download.oppodigital.com/UDP203/UDP-203_USER_MANUAL_ENGLISH_V1.0.pdf

Usage

The remote is very similar to previous ones and if you have used an Oppo before, the controls, setup and menus will be very familiar to you. The new remote has motion sensing.. and the buttons have a better tactile feel than before. , plus it's perfectly usable, just not as good as a Marantz Reference series remote. But those products cost a lot more.

Setting up the wifi was a cinch, and it's pretty fast. I did an update which came up as a prompt, and with my 200 mps fibre net, it was done in minutes.

Loading time is quite impressive, and is as brisk as most modern players, and matches the Oppo 101ci.

The metal work is fine, and looks very industrial, but you won't mistake it for a some reference series amp or CD player, but that's fine, as the money goes to the importanit bits inside. The buttons on the player itself can be used to operate the menu, and you will find 3 USB ports, including one in front.

It's a slimmer player than the older 105 and even the 101ci, and will fit into smaller spaces. But since it does not have an inbuilt fan, do leave some room around it.

There are two HDMI outputs, but only one does video (HDCP 2.2) compliant, and the other port is meant to output audio, in case you have a legacy system that is not HDCP 2.2 compliant.

There is also a HDMI input, which allows you to use the SOC chip inside to upscale other devices such as a media player to 4k.

Bearing in mind that Oppo intends this to be primarily a disc spinner and media player rather than a all singing all dancing player with additional apps like Netflix, one must recognise what it does and it does playback well, otherwise you will then complain about the lack of functions and apps.

The new transport is very well made, and apart from the chips and other hardware for 4k, this is where the money has been spent.




Associated test equipment:
My gear

Video

So let's get down to how the video looks.

I have enlisted the help of a few friends, who have 4k displays to show off the 4k capabilities, and I should declare that the jury is still out as to whether it will work if the entire HDMI chain isn't HDCP 2.2.
(I will post more once I have reviewed it with a variety of 4k displays and I will update this review as I try it on more video displays)

Into 1080p, it's pretty impressive. However as they say: "YMMV" or your mileage may vary. Watching Blu Rays without any upscaling will give you similar picture quality and color saturation as other players. Here the display quality will give more variation in the results.

There are many options to tweak, and if you have a HDR compliant TV set, the colors can be very good. Even out of the box, it's very solid, and the colors, clarity are quite superb.

In comparison: 

I just finished a comparison of the Samsung and the Oppo on a 65" LG E6, and my own conclusions are: don't be in a hurry to sell the Samsung..

From a purely end user point of view, the excitement of watching a UHD disc in 4k clarity, plus the enjoyment of the sound in an Atmos-equipped HT system was more than sufficient to overcome any perceived deficits in picture quality.
Of course from a technical standpoint, when one bothers to pause the movie, compare scene by scene, get the right calibration and so forth, small differences begin to emerge, and these are mostly in favor of the Oppo in terms of color, clarity and most importantly the upscaling. But the smaller the screen, the less noticeable are the differences.

Both players handle motion well, and there were no great issues with Full HD Blu Ray being presented on a 4k TV.

My opinion is of course my personal one, and I would appeal to all buyers to look objectively, because even amongst some of my mates, they do go in expecting the Oppo to best the Samsung in all areas, but when asked to explain what they feel is better, they can't. Yet they refuse to accept that the UHD picture quality is quite similar.

However when it comes to user experience, the Samsung has less glitches, less stutters and freezes. I hope Oppo will correct this in future.

In terms of the build and speed, the Oppo is one up, with a solid remote, player chassis and I am confident the transport matters and will allow the Oppo to be a good CD transport as well. But for current Samsung users, it's ok, don't tear your hair out and sell your player too cheaply. Instead enjoy it to your fullest. Cheers


Audio

As for sound, well it's quite similar in presentation to the Oppo 101CI
(http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2015/12/oppo-bdt-101ci-review.html).

A scene for all fans of ambience to try:

Riddick - 2013 movie
The Mud Demons approach the Station as Riddick is being interrogated, and the rain begins to fall.. drops land on the zinc roof with all kinds of reflections - but it's not just another 'rain' scene. As the monsters approach, you feel the tension being conveyed by the music, and then the monsters land and move on the roof. The roof squeaks, groans and cracks. Inside another battle goes on as Riddick beheads Santana. The crisp singing of the blade interrupts the tension as Santana attempts to behead him, only to suffer a similar fate.

Then the Mud Demons pick off the bounty hunters, one by one.. random shooting ensues and the ping of the ricochets echo throughout the hut.

Try that for ambience and 3D sound. It's not created in DTS-X, but with Neural X, you could have sworn it was.. the footsteps on the roof, distinctive and discrete.. a real demo scene..

And it only works if you do your setup right.. :)

I also tried 13 Hours, which is encoded with Atmos.
You can hear the discrete bullets flying from front to back and across, the sound of the rounds being fired echo around you, and of course the explosions are a real blast, with really meaty bass.

For the stereo listening, I used the Oppo, and fed it into my Marantz PM 11 S3 with Wireworld Equinox 7 Interconnects, and played a few familiar hits. My Dynaudio Confidence Platinum One will happily take apart a less than competent player.

The soundstage is deep, subtle and wide. It's easy to pick out instruments even in a complex piece. The does not plunge the depths as would a better dedicated CD player, but you will get some good bass. The tone tends to stay fairly neutral, and will suit systems that are quite neutral to the warm side. It's revealing enough without being bright. Detail retrieval is good, and that AKM DAC is probably responsible for the quality. Again, I would say it sounds quite similar to it's cousin, the Oppo 101CI. At the end of the day, it's quite good, but not special, as it's not as good as a dedicated player, despite what Oppo fans may say. But for such a low price, you get a 4k player with a decent Redbook playback throw in.

Comparing it to the older Oppo 83 Nuforce, with souped up audio section, the audio depth is a tad smaller, but it's a tough call. Bear in the mind this older machine cost almost twice that of this one. Now that's progress.

More importantly I was keen to see how it would perform as  transport. So I tried it as a transport, to feed my Marantz NA 11 S1, and here it come alive, with the very capable transport. The sound was typical Marantz, warm, three-dimensional, and a definite step up from the internal AKM DAC of the Oppo. The soundstage was definitely better, and more laid out, wide and deep.

This will be a good transport for audiophiles who want to integrate their player into a good audio system, whilst enjoying their movies.


The bottom line:

If you have an existing Oppo or other Blu Ray player, and will not be upgrading to view 4k anytime soon, you do not need to rush out and get this. However if you already own such a 4k display, then this should certainly be on your shopping list.

However in my opinion, this is a good player, but the player is still a beta machine, with glitches like stutter, HDCP issues and such.

______________________________________________________________
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Top seller lists vs SINGAPORE's car of the year list

It's interesting..
Each time I see the cars suggested for the car of the year award, I am amused.
Not often do these lists coincide with the most sold cars.
So what do these lists mean? Best tech, best ride ?
Maybe in a small place with few B roads and mostly start stop traffic, hot yet wet weather, and very expensive COE, we value different other thIngs. Why is it that a Corolla sells well for example?
By modern car buyer desires, it falls behind in the tech and cool count: only two airbags, fewer safety features and a less than desirable shape or interior.
Yet it continues to outsell its rivals handily. If you take away the PI sales it is likely to feature at the top again.
Perhaps it's because fans of the Corolla value reliability above all. The fact that their speaker covers don't fall out, there aren't many transmission issues reported, maintainance is affordable and when the time comes to sell it, finding a buyer is far easier then even selling your HDB flat.
So for all our desires and whatever car journalists write, what we buy doesn't often reflect the desires of keen motoring. Instead our practical side takes over and when it comes to decision time, the average buyer on the street opts for the safe choice.
I don't think we will see more than one or two of the car of the year list in the top sellers list.

Get The Gringo - movie review

Another day with the Neural X, and DTS-X, and I took out a disc from the not too distant past: Get The Gringo A relatively simple plo...