I finally was pushed over the edge to buy the Oppo 83 last month, because of a Blu-ray disc I authored which has so much dynamic range that my Sony BDP-S301 is too noisy to allow the ambient sounds on the disc to be heard without a lot of hiss and hum. The disc has well over 85dB of dynamic aperture and was mastered from a 24-bit recording. In case you're wondering what could have so much dynamic range, it's a recording my company was commissioned to make for an international fireworks/pyro company and we made it from the launch site, where the maximum loudness was achieved.
The disc presents many challenges. The slightest noise in a system will mask the ambient sounds before the explosions begin. Having a -100dB noise floor is simply not good enough to properly enjoy this disc.
Naturally, when I read that the Oppo has -110dB noise floor and the ability to trim each output to +10dB, I figured this would gain me an extra 10dB of s/n ratio. Unfortunately, the Oppo cannot use the full potential of the output op-amps. The D/A converter clips when the op-amps are only at 2.4vrms output, even though they are capable of 9.8vrms, having 14 volt rails. That was a disappointment.
Prior to installing the new firmware, I was able to keep +trim values in the speaker configuration and control the clipping with the main Oppo volume control. After the upgrade, any small amount of + trim will now cause the Oppo to clip. Never use + trim values if you have the May 2010 firmware. I don't know why Oppo bothers to put positive values on the trim because of this.
On the test bench, I was dismayed that the Nyquist filtering is a throwback to 1983 and the first-generation CD players. With a 400Hz square wave test signal on CD audio, the Oppo rings throughout the entire period of each half cycle. In contrast, my Sony Blu-ray player damps out the oscillations about 1/3 of the period of one half cycle and the overshoot is about 2% vs. 6% for the Oppo. This is not good performance for a DAC made after 1986. It should be no surprise that the SE version, if it's square wave response is better, would sound audibly better than the base model.
Gripes aside, the BDP-83 performs admirably on the visual side. Evaluating images on my 60 sq ft projection screen, the deblocking, mosquito noise removal, color accuracy and dynamic range are all superb. And for DVD playback, it really does make them look their best, almost film-like. I have one terribly-mastered DVD video from Central Park Media, which looked unwatchable on my Sony, back when it was driving a 47" LCD. It was endurable on the Oppo, even on a much larger screen.
If Oppo has chosen to make full use of the output capabilities of the analog op-amps, they could have had the ability to put out +20dBm, making itself a leader in getting above the noise floor with extraordinary program material. As it stands, I find myself in the position of wanting to modify an in-warranty unit, because it bugs the heck out of me that the unit is only able to put out +9dBm at DAC clipping. Oppo could have used that extra headroom by allowing +10dB trims before clipping. No digital apparatus should be designed such that through volume and trim settings, the unit could be made to clip. That's just poor design. I wonder how many people have + trim values and are wondering why the music sounds distorted?
The BDP-83 is a decent player, but I'm not all that impressed with the audio section.