It’s been about four years since Oppo introduced their last top-model universal Blu-ray player, the BDP-105, later replaced by the BDP-105D -- essentially the same player with DarbeeVision video processing. That’s a long time for an optical-disc player to remain in production, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that things settled down in the world of Ultra High Definition (UHD) video, and now Oppo has released a new top model, the UDP-205 4K Ultra HD universal BD player. As in their previous lines of BD players, the 90 and 100 models, the UDP-205 is a step up from its own line’s entry-level model, the UDP-203, with several enhancements, most notable being a much more advanced audio output section.
The discontinued BDP-105 has been the BD player in my reference system since it was introduced, but its sound quality is so good that I’ve also used it as a two-channel DAC-preamplifier. Oppo has consistently provided near-state-of-the-art performance in disc players that cost little more than you’d pay for most budget audio gear, and each new model has raised the expectations of their many followers. I would say that, each time, they have met or exceeded those expectations. With the UDP-205, Oppo again promises “Best-in-Class Audio Performance” from its latest player, and I was very interested to hear if they could meet that lofty goal.
Outwardly, the UDP-205 ($1299 USD) looks very similar to the BDP-105 and BDP-95 before it, but a glimpse within reveals major changes. Instead of using an existing video-processing solution, Oppo has partnered with longtime collaborator Mediatek to design and produce the quad-core OP8591 chip, which they claim provides the most advanced image decoding and processing technology available for 4K UHD and all other video formats. With the latest firmware update, it also now supports Dolby Vision. Unlike its predecessor, the UDP-205 doesn’t support audio and video streaming services, so its menu is much simpler, without myriad onscreen icons for services such as Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, etc. They’ve also designed a new custom, high-precision disc transport that, they say, provides smooth, reliable playback and strong error detection and correction.
The UDP-205’s audio section boasts two of ESS Technology’s flagship DAC chip, the ES9038PRO Sabre, which has a claimed 140dB of dynamic range in addition to ESS’s patented 32-bit HyperStream DAC architecture. The UDP-205 uses one of these chips for its 7.1-channel output, and another for its dedicated stereo and headphone outputs. The stereo output at the XLR jacks is fully balanced from the DAC through current-to-voltage conversion and then to the output driver stage, while the unbalanced and headphone circuits are converted to single-ended at the output driver stage (RCA). Oppo also provides a choice of seven digital filters for the DAC.
The asynchronous USB input supports sample rates up to 768kHz for PCM and DSD512, and the UDP-205 can handle most audio file formats: AIFF, ALAC, APE, DFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, and WAV. It can internally decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio signals, and provides bitstream output for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio tracks. The S/PDIF digital audio inputs support PCM signals sampled at up to 192kHz. In addition to 4K UHD BDs, the UDP-205 will also play standard BDs, DVDs, and CDs, as well as SACD and DVD-Audio discs, but unlike previous Oppo players, it doesn’t support HDCD decoding.
A new feature of the UDP-205 is its jitter-reduction circuit, available on the HDMI output that can transmit only digital audio signals. Oppo says that the difficulty with transmitting digital audio over HDMI is that it is transmitted in packets where there are blanks in the video data, so that the audio clock signal is completely eliminated. The audio clock therefore must be reconstructed from the video clock at the receiving end. The problem is that the video clock frequency can change with the video format used, and the standards permit a frequency tolerance of +/-0.5%, both of which affect the quality of the reconstructed audio clock. Oppo claims that their engineers have created a very stable HDMI video clock with very low jitter by removing the video signal, replacing it with a videostream consisting of full black content, and selecting a video clock frequency of 148.5MHz. They say that this should benefit PCM and DSD audio, but may not have the same effect on compressed-bitstream audio formats such as those from DTS or Dolby, depending on whether the audio processor or receiver uses a synchronous or asynchronous clock.
In addition to the 7.1-channel RCA audio outputs and stereo RCA and XLR outputs, the UDP-205’s rear panel has coaxial RCA and optical digital outputs and two HDMI outputs -- one of which is the previously mentioned audio-only HDMI output. Inputs include digital audio on optical, RCA coaxial and USB Type-B, HDMI, two USB Type-A 3.0 -- and, on the front panel, a USB Type-A 2.0 for playing media files from storage devices. There are also a trigger input and output, an RS-232 jack, and both Gigabit Ethernet and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, to access media files stored on SMB shares or DLNA servers on your network. A fully featured control app is available for download for iOS and Android devices. The analog audio section is powered by a large toroidal transformer; to minimize interference, there’s a separate power supply for the digital circuitry.
The UDP-205 measures 16.8”W x 4.8”H x 12.2”D and weighs 22 pounds, roughly five pounds more than the BDP-105. Though exactly the same dimensions as its predecessor, its double-layered case is new, and claimed to be more rigid and better at canceling out vibrations. I find the chunky plastic remote that Oppo has been using with their players for a few years now to have a good feel, with buttons appropriately sized and placed. The latest version also has an accelerometer, so that its backlighting turns on when the handset is moved. In fact, I preferred using the physical remote to the app, which I’d downloaded to my iPhone 5.
Setup and operation
I set up the UDP-205 in my reference system by connecting it to an Anthem Statement D2 A/V processor via the Oppo’s audio-only HDMI output, and the main HDMI output sent video signals to my Panasonic Viera TC-P60ST60 1080p 60” plasma television. Due to inherent limitations of the Anthem D2, I set the HDMI audio output format to LPCM, and the SACD output to PCM conversion. I also connected the Oppo’s dedicated stereo XLR outputs directly to an NAD Masters Series M27 stereo power amp and Anthem Statement M1 monoblocks, to assess the UDP-205’s analog audio output, and left the digital filter on the default setting of Mini Phase Fast.
Most people use a BD player to spin discs and send digital audio and video signals to their A/V receiver or processor and video display. In those regards, the Oppo UDP-205 performed absolutely flawlessly; I leave it to others to describe its video performance in detail. Wes Marshall reviewed the UDP-203 on SoundStage! Xperience, which has the same video circuitry, and found that it handled UHD and standard BDs equally well and to an exceptionally high degree. On my 1080p plasma display, everything looked spectacular. Whether it was downscaled UHD material, standard BDs, or even 720p MKV file downloads, I couldn’t have asked for a better video source.
The sound through the audio-only HDMI output was also fantastic. Explosions in the battle scenes in Transformers: Age of Extinction (BD, Paramount) were not only room-shakingly loud, but sounds such as shattering glass and the clanging of metal, as Autobots clashed with drone Transformers, were extremely intense without sounding harsh. As these sound effects thundered throughout my listening room at reference levels, I could still make out dialog and other Foley effects from all directions without having to strain. Even though the sound-pressure levels were incredibly high, everything seemed to be at exactly the right level, with a cohesive and lucid sound that didn’t obscure detail in well-mixed film soundtracks.
I next switched my attention to the balanced analog audio outputs. As I listened to Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection, which is processed with QSound (CD, Warner Bros. 1159069), the UDP-205 threw an impressive soundstage with excellent imaging, and deep yet punchy bass. The sound was definitely precise and detailed, but Madonna’s voice in this heavily processed multitrack recording was still very smooth, sounding especially lifelike and present in such tracks as “Cherish.” Even with the pulsating bass of “Like a Prayer” solidly filling the expansive soundstage, solo singers were well delineated from the more diffuse-sounding chorus, and both sounded clear and unforced.
The UDP-205 was even more accomplished with high-resolution recordings. Not only was there plenty of detail, as with all high-quality modern digital sources, there were also the wonderful smoothness and delicacy that distinguish the very best digital components. “Spanish Harlem,” from Rebecca Pidgeon’s The Raven: The Bob Katz 15th Anniversary Remaster (24-bit/88.2kHz FLAC, Chesky/HDtracks), sounded absolutely perfect. Her slight sibilance, and the soft, lilting quality of her singing, were reproduced with an especially deft touch that was exquisite. Pidgeon’s voice was particularly sweet, and the double bass was incredibly agile, while possessing a pleasing warmth and sense of weight. The UDP-205 presented each element of this recording with extreme precision and fidelity, but what I most noticed was the shaker. Not only did each shake sound slightly different, I could sense its speed as the percussionist quickly slowed or quickened the shaking, then momentarily stopped to change tempo. The UDP-205 was able to reproduce an amazing amount of detail in this recording, giving it real presence, as if the instruments were being played in my room.
“White Wedding (Part 1),” from Billy Idol (24/192 FLAC, Capitol/HDtracks), also sounded especially clean and precise. The drums and the lead, rhythm, and bass guitars were easily identifiable, each clearly outlined and placed on the soundstage. The rhythm guitar was at hard left, the lead guitar at hard right, and Idol’s enjoyably gruff voice was dead center and slightly forward, sounding particularly crisp.
Oppo’s previous reference players, the BDP-105 ($1199) and BDP-105D ($1299), simply had no equals at their prices for high performance, extensive features, and robust build quality. The UDP-205 has essentially the same functionality as its predecessors and adds 4K UHD video, upgraded audio DACs, and a few other audiophile features, but has the same price as the BDP-105D.
As I listened to film soundtracks through the UDP-205’s audio-only HDMI output with jitter-reduction circuit, I heard a definite improvement over the BDP-105 in DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks transcoded to PCM and sent to my Anthem Statement D2. Low-level detail was enhanced -- it was subtle, but there was greater surround ambience and the soundstage was deeper. Crowd noises during the riff-off between the a cappella groups in Pitch Perfect 2 (BD, Universal) were more distinct, as were the voices of individual singers. In fact, with the UDP-205, I could more easily hear the voices of backing singers and background dialog, as when Joe Lo Truglio, who plays one of the Tonehangers, speaks during the last few bars of their performance of “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
Switching to two-channel recordings played through the XLR outputs of both Oppo players, I heard more marked differentiation of the rapid percussion and low, pulsing synth bass in “Tennis Court,” from Lorde’s Pure Heroine (24/48 FLAC, Lava Music/HDtracks), with the UDP-205. The percussion had a sparkling clarity and specificity with the UDP-205, and the bass tones were remarkably tight and controlled as they filled the entire soundstage. In “400 Lux,” the extreme lows were even denser through the UDP-205, and the voices slightly more focused, giving the music a fantastically coherent and dimensional quality. The BDP-105 was just as transparent, but could sound a tad flat in comparison. Lorde’s new album, Melodrama (16/44.1 FLAC, Lava Music), also sounded excellent through the BDP-105, but was a touch more refined with the UDP-205 -- the sustain of the piano in “Green Light” was more vibrant and genuine. The UDP-205’s natural, relaxed sound beautifully complemented the sometimes sparse recording quality of this album. Although Lorde’s voice is powerfully recorded and can sound a little raw, in tracks such as “Liability” I could still hear small changes in intonation that were more difficult to hear with the BDP-105.
Even when the other components in the system have been far more expensive, I’ve often used the BDP-105 as a budget reference DAC-preamp, for its exemplary sound quality. However, the UDP-205’s sound was even better in nearly every respect. I still enjoy listening to two-channel recordings through the BDP-105, but I enjoyed them even more with the UDP-205 -- so much that critical-listening sessions often turned into prolonged bouts of listening for enjoyment alone -- I didn’t want to stop listening to the new Oppo’s even more refined, even more effortless sound.
There’s a lot more I could say about the outstanding sound and features of the UDP-205 4K Ultra HD BD player. Instead, I’ll end by saying that Oppo Digital has once again succeeded in producing a state-of-the-art universal BD player at an incredibly reasonable price. Like its predecessors, it has an outstanding disc transport, and it can be used as a high-quality DAC and preamp as well as a basic A/V processor. It supports 4K UHD video, and has improved analog audio performance and an HDMI jitter-reduction circuit. All this for only $1299 -- the same price as the four-year-old model it replaces. The UDP-205 is by far today’s best value in a high-quality universal Blu-ray player.
. . . Roger Kanno
- Speakers -- Definitive Technology BP9080x (stereo), MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9 (mains) and ElectroMotion ESL C (center), Definitive Technology BP-8080ST (surrounds), JL Audio E-Sub e112 (2 subwoofers)
- Amplifiers -- Anthem Statement M1 (monoblocks), NAD Masters Series M27
- A/V processor -- Anthem Statement D2
- Sources -- Oppo Digital BDP-105 universal BD player; Asus VivoBook X200MA computer running Windows 10, foobar2000, and Roon; AudioQuest JitterBug
- USB link -- AudioQuest Carbon
- Interconnects -- Analysis Plus Digital Crystal digital and Solo Crystal Oval and Micro Copper Oval-In, Nordost Quattro Fil
- Speaker cables -- Analysis Plus Blue Oval and Black Oval 9, Nordost Super Flatline Mk.II
- Power cords -- Essential Sound Products MusicCord-Pro ES
- Power conditioners -- Blue Circle Audio PLC Thingee FX-2 with X0e Low-Frequency Filter Module, Zero Surge 1MOD15WI
Oppo Digital UDP-205 4K Ultra HD Universal BD Player
Price: $1299 USD.
Warranty: Two years, limited.
Oppo Digital, Inc.
162 Constitution Drive
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Phone: (650) 961-1118