Oppo UDP-205 Blu-ray Disc Player

tmallin

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I debated long and hard whether to make this change from my Electronic Visionary Systems (EVS)-modified Oppo BDP-105D. Its immediate predecessor, the BDP-105, is the subject of this prior thread of mine.

The Oppo UDP-205, which is Oppo's successor to the BDP-105D, has been the subject of a legion of reviews, most highly complimentary about both its audio and video prowess. What finally persuaded me to take the plunge, however, were the comments by Ric Schulz of EVS who says on his Website that as of September 2017 he stopped modifying the 105 and 105D since "[y]ou can get much better sound with a less modified Oppo 205," among other units.

I'm a long-time Oppo believer. I've owned every top Oppo player since the company started, regularly upgrading to the latest-and-greatest Oppo player soon after it became available. What held me up when the UDP-205 was announced?

A good part of it was a refusal to believe that any player could sound significantly better than the EVS-modded 105 through its analog outputs. See that prior thread for details.

Another reason is that in the last couple of years I've been using my Oppo 105 and 105D primarily as transports, with the DAC being either a Lyngdorf TDAI-2170, Benchmark DAC-3 DX, or Benchmark DAC-3 HGC. These changes preserved all that was so good about the EVS-modded Oppo used through its balanced analog outputs while adding further sonic refinements (e.g., blacker background, yet more analog-like, relaxed high frequency presentation, greater yet three-dimensionality, etc.) Perhaps these further sonic refinements resulted from the latest thinking in DAC chips. In the case of the Benchmark DAC-3, that involves the use of ESS Technology ES9028PRO DAC chips. I had to wonder whether the improvements I heard with these new DACs were making whatever positive audible effects the EVS mods had on the 105/105D sound much less relevant. In other words, why should I bother buying the latest Oppo if I'm only planning to use it as a transport and it's really just the latest DACs that are making the sonic improvements I'm hearing?

A further reason was the ability of the 105/105D to decode HDCD discs. I have a lot of Reference Recordings CD encoded with the HDCD process. Listening to HDCDs without decoding is not acceptable, to my ears. The new Oppo UDP-205 does not decode HDCD discs, this apparently because the latest ESS chips and most other current DAC chips have abandoned that function.

And I also was loathe to give up the native Tidal streaming of which the Oppo 105/105D are capable. This streaming sounds at least as good as any other method I'd tried and puts less drain on the battery of my iPhone 6 since with the Oppo doing the streaming, all the iPhone powers is the Oppo remote control app, rather than the phone also being responsible to play and stream the music via Airplay to my Squeezebox Touch or Apple Airport Express. With the UDP-205, Oppo stripped its top player of all native Internet audio and video streaming capabilities, perhaps because of the increasing popularity and availability of streaming via computers, phones, pads, and other dedicated low-cost Internet streamers (e.g., Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, etc.)

On the other hand . . . . In using the Oppo 105/105D as a transport feeding an external DAC, I have primarily been using its audio-only HDMI output. Many experiments have convinced me that this output actually sounds a bit better than the coax output even when the coax is favored by feeding it directly to the coax input of the Benchmark DAC, versus the HDMI output of the Oppo feeding the HDMI input of my Kanex Pro Audio De-Embedder and then via the coax output of the Kanex to the Benchmark coax input. I noted that the Oppo UDP-205 claims to clean up the jitter of its audio-only HDMI output with new circuitry. That might benefit the sonics since, even with the superb jitter immunity of the Benchmark DAC-3 (as documented in the manufacturer's and reviewers' test reports), I hear at least slight differences among digital cables connecting sources to the DAC-3. Thus, I reasoned, cleaning up the Oppo's HDMI output might create an audible improvement even feeding my Benchmark DAC-3 HGC.

As far as my HDCD collection is concerned, I've discovered that most, if not all of these, are available in decoded format via Tidal. Thus, I can listen to these in basically full fidelity via Tidal. In my comparisons of the Tidal version A/Bed against playback of the HDCDs in my system via the EVS-modified BDP-105D, there is very little difference, so little that I cannot be sure that differences are there at all in many cases. By comparison, the difference between non-decoded HDCD sound and the sound decoded is instantly apparent and always in favor of decoding, so much so that listening to non-decoded HDCDs is just not a pleasant experience. Plus, some of the best-sounding HDCDs from Reference Recordings are available in HRx data disc format. These sound better than the HDCD version via my EVS-modded Oppo. The new Oppo UHP-205 carries forward the older players' ability to play these 24/176.4 data discs.

As to the lack of native Tidal streaming in the new UHP-205, my system already has two other methods of streaming Tidal via Airplay. I can stream Tidal via Airplay either from my iPhone 6 to the Squeezebox Touch (which natively supports both Tidal and Deezer) or to the Apple Airport Express. Yes, this uses more phone battery juice than native Tidal streaming, but so far it is not a huge issue. In any event, I plan to upgrade to a new iPhone soon, anyway, and a new iPhone with a new battery should be less affected by the battery drain. Also, I've very recently acquired a new native Tidal streamer (more about this in another soon-to-be-written thread), so the UDP-205's lack of native Tidal streaming really isn't an issue for me anymore.

I took the plunge. The UDP-205 has replaced the EVS-modified Oppo BDP-105D in my system. I have not had it modified (yet, at least). I'm even using it in more-or-less stock form. The changes I've made are tweaks, not modifications, since they are easily reversible with no "surgery" to the unit.

I'm using the stock feet and have left the ventilated metal cover in place. I have added Cardas caps to all the unused male and female RCA and XLR jacks, as I did with the 105D. I also have attached an EVS Ground Enhancer to the ground lug (something new for an Oppo player) on the back panel; for the 105D I had a EVS Ground Enhancer attached to one of the unused RCA jacks. I'm using the same aftermarket Absolute Power Cord II I was using before and the same Caig Deoxit Gold GL100 fluid to treat all the unsoldered connections to the player as before. The support system for the player is now less elaborate, eschewing the three-point suspension which used Walker lead pucks and DH cones. The UDP-205 now sits on its four stock feet centered atop my Ikea Lack table (the 105D was placed at the forward edge of the table) the table enhanced and leveled as before with felt pads between the Lack legs and wood floor. The center of the Lack table is damped by a large Bright Star Audio Little Rock damping weight (itself with felt padding on the underside contacting the Lack tabletop) and the Oppo sits centered atop that Little Rock platform. The UDP-205's metal cover is now damped by a smaller Little Rock (again with felt on the bottom which contacts the Oppo top cover). This Little Rock is small enough not to cover up all the ventilation holes in the top cover of the Oppo.

Connections cables between the Oppo UDP-205 and the Benchmark DAC-3 HCG are the same as before. One meter of Blue Jeans Series FE HDMI cable to Kanex Pro Audio De-Embedder, to one meter of Blue Jeans coax digital cable, to the Benchmark.

So how does the "stock" Oppo UHP-205 sonically compare in this set up to the EVS-modified Oppo BDP-105? I knew within just a very few seconds playing a familiar track that the sound was not "just as good," but was in fact not only different but definitely improved. The bass is both fuller and yet more controlled in the midbass, with deeper low-bass extension. The background is blacker yet. Playback is more analog-like in the sense of being relaxed. Highs are silky smooth, again analog-like. Staging and imaging are yet more three dimensional. Distortion of all kinds seems lower.

Remember, these changes have nothing to do with the change from the ES9018 DAC chip in the older player to the latest ES9038 chip in the UDP-205 since in both instances the player is being used only as a transport, not as a DAC. Perhaps the HDMI de-jittering is what's causing the perceived improvements, but that's just speculation.

Since I originally planned to use my aftermarket Walker/DH footer arrangement, I detached the original feet as part of getting the UDP-205 ready for insertion in my system. It was then that I noticed that the stock feet are much different in the UDP-205 than they were in the BDP-105/105D. With the BDP-105/105D and all prior Oppos, the feet were lightweight and mostly hard plastic, adding only minimal "give" to the suspension. The new UDP-205 stock feet are surprisingly heavy. They feel like they are solid metal. Also, there is a substantial amount of quite compliant rubbery material in the center of each foot, giving the stock feet considerably more give. I also noticed that the chassis, as well as the chassis cover, are quite dead on the UDP-205, unlike prior Oppos. For these reasons, I decided to leave both the stock feet and the chassis cover in place, merely damping the top cover further with the Bright Star Little Rock weight. With that weight in place, the chassis and its cover sound dead indeed in response to my ultra-scientific finger-tap test.

Functionally, the UDP-205 disc player's operation is quite similiar to that of other top-Oppos in its lineage. It is mechanically quieter in operation, however, as well as being a bit speedier in terms of all aspects of disc loading. One very nice change to the remote control is the fact that the remote wand's backlighting feature is now motion responsive. Pick it up, and it lights up automatically for several seconds without having to find and touch the old light button. Very handy for use in a semi-darkened room, as I frequently listen. There is also an updated phone app just for this player.

Oppo players continue to impress me as very high sonic value propositions. While I wish the HDCD decoding and native audio/video streaming functions were still there, I can certainly understand why the decisions to drop these features were made. The price only increased by $100 and the sonics are definitely better. The EVS-modified BDP-105 player trounced the sonics of the stock BDP-105. I originally had the stock version and had another BDP-105 unit modified by EVS. I was thus able to directly compare the stock and modified units and it was no comparison. Now, at least as a transport, the "stock" UDP-205, while perhaps not sonically "trouncing" the EVS-modded BDP-105D, does sound better, not just different, and by a margin easily noticeable within the first few seconds of playback of familiar material.





 
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rbbert

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Ironic timing for this thread to start :p

As far as HDCD, if you have a computer you can software decode (just as Oppo players do) all your HDCD discs to 24/44.1 FLAC or WAV files using Foobar2000 or dBPoweramp, as documented in countless Internet posts. Since a few of the Reference Recordings HDCD's make use of the entire +6 dB potential headroom, they sound pretty poor without decoding.
 

tmallin

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Thanks for the suggestions, ribbert and Northstar, as to how to decode HDCD via computer software.

I do not use a computer to serve up music in my system. At least not yet.
That's why I mentioned the Tidal solution. I have just added a streaming unit which would allow me to add local storage if I want it.

So far I prefer dedicated audio box solutions for music listening. I kind of leap-frogged over the whole local music file storage paradigm, concentrating for years now on the best "reasonably priced" playback of optical discs and Internet streaming services from low-res Sirius/XM to Tidal.

I firmly believe that the whole idea of music catalog ownership (whether via discs or files) is rapidly becoming passe. Streaming via license is the new paradigm: no storage space (real or virtual) taken up, no worry about losing or damaging the media.

The risk is that a given service goes out of business. But even if a given streaming service were to go belly up, there are competitors or will be competitor start-ups willing to plug the gap. Today's Wall Street Journal talks about how streaming service Spotify has changed from slayer to savior of the music industry. Spotify's IPO starts today; we'll see how that goes. Who knows, Spotify may actually make enough money to compete in the so-far-niche service area of lossless streaming, increasing competition in that area and thus perhaps driving prices for such streaming even lower. But even if prices for lossless streaming stay around $20/month, it's a huge bargain both from the monetary and convenience standpoints compared to buying discs or files.
 

rbbert

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...I do not use a computer to serve up music in my system. At least not yet. That's why I mentioned the Tidal solution. [/FONT]I have just added a streaming unit which would allow me to add local storage if I want it.

So far I prefer dedicated audio box solutions for music listening...


Put your decoded HDCD's on a portable hard drive or USB thumb drive, plug it into any one of 3 USB-A slots on the Oppo 205. No computer necessary.
 

NorthStar

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Put your decoded HDCD's on a portable hard drive or USB thumb drive, plug it into any one of 3 USB-A slots on the Oppo 205. No computer necessary.

And the HDCD files will play with higher dynamic range as compared to regular undecoded 16/44 files?
 

rbbert

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tmallin

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Ironic timing for this thread to start :p

I guess you saw the Oppo Farewell announcement of 4/2/18 before I did. Oppo announced it is leaving the audio market, ceasing development of new products and gradually stopping sale of existing products, concentrating only on support of existing products. No reasons were given.
 

NorthStar

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I guess you saw the Oppo Farewell announcement of 4/2/18 before I did. Oppo announced it is leaving the audio market, ceasing development of new products and gradually stopping sale of existing products, concentrating only on support of existing products. No reasons were given.

Mr. Tom Mallin, you posted your new thread one hour and half before the major news came up, approximately.

Here's a new update @ the bottom of this article:
http://www.hdtvtest.co.uk/news/so-long-oppo-201804034553.htm

Update (April 3rd, 2018): Jason Liao, CTO of OPPO Digital, took the time to respond to HDTVTest‘s questions regarding this news, and has clarified several important points. He stresses that while OPPO will not be introducing any new products, it is not disappearing, and will continue to support its existing customers and range of disc players, headphones and speaker.

When asked what prompted OPPO’s decision to stop product development, Jason noted that no single reason influenced the decision. However, he stated that it was carefully chosen to come at a time when development of its UHD disc players had already been accomplished.

Regarding future improvements, OPPO mentioned that a firmware update to support Dolby Vision with Sony TVs is currently being tested by Dolby, which suggests that it has largely been completed. Support for the upcoming HDR10+ standard is being investigated, and hinges on whether or not the current hardware is capable of decoding the metadata and passing the information on to the display. OPPO assures us that if the hardware can do it, support will indeed be added by firmware.

To us, HDR10+ support being added to OPPO’s players seems likely. The company’s renowned customer service, close relationship with Mediatek, and the engineering ingenuity we mentioned earlier in the article, all give us confidence. Additionally, our current understanding is that the HDR10+ metadata is carried via the existing SEI message feature that is already part of the HEVC video standard, suggesting that changes on the playback side should be minimal. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what ultimately transpires.

Although we’ve seen the last of new hardware from the company, it sounds that OPPO fans still have a lot to look forward to.
 

tmallin

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That link provides an interesting analysis of Oppo's technical accomplishments over the years. But I think that the real reasons behind the decision to abandon new product development in the disc player area may involve market forces which are greatly decreasing the demand for Blu-ray players of any kind, much less high-end players.

Internet video and audio streaming services are the new paradigm. Most consumers watch their video and listen to their audio from streaming services now. The successful IPO from Spotify yesterday is just the most recent example of how streaming, once regarded as a pariah by the music industry, is now becoming its savior. In addition, many younger consumers are abandoning complex huge home theater set ups where the ultimate in video and audio resolution is helpful for personal devices with small screens and headphones. The very idea of a disc player is foreign to millennials and those younger.

As for the linked article's mention of the HDMI input on the latest Oppos, that has been there for several iterations of Oppo's Blu-ray players now, not just the UHP-205. There is no need to send video signals from Roku/Amazon/Chromecast/etc. boxes through a Blu-ray player for additional processing. The TV does whatever processing from such boxes is needed just fine these days.
 

Paladin350

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Thanks Tom. Excellent analysis. Based on your guidance, I placed my name on the waiting list for OPPO's June production run.

Newbie questions:
1) How much better sounding is Benchmark's DAC over the UDP-205's built-in DAC?
2) How do their volume controls compare sonically?
3) Do they both have enough pre-amp juice to feed power amps?
 

tmallin

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In my opinion, while the Oppo 205 definitely sounds significantly better from its analog or digital outputs than the previous 105 and 105D stock units did, the Benchmark DAC-3 HGC sounds somewhat better yet, significantly better, I'd say. That's why I take the digital output of the Oppo and feed it into my Benchmark DAC-3 HGC rather than feeding the analog output of the Oppo into the Benchmark DAC-3 HGC.

While the Oppo uses the top-of-the-line 9038 DAC chip and the Benchmark the 9028 chip, Benchmark does several special things to further tweak the performance of the DAC chip, things which are not claimed by Oppo. See Benchmark's discussion of its use and tweaking of the new 9028 chip at its application note, "A Look Inside the New ES9028Pro Converter Chip and the New DAC3". Then there is the fact that Benchmark, but not Oppo, design their DACs to be immune to intersample overs; see the Benchmark Application Note, "Intersample Overs in CD Recordings."

The volume control of the Benchmark is digital for all digital inputs, analog for all analog inputs. The Oppo has no analog inputs and uses a totally digital volume control, I believe. I really have not been able to compare the volume control sonics of the two units since the Oppo's volume control only operates on its analog and headphone outputs, not its digital output. Thus, it's impossible to separate the sound of the volume control from the sound of the DAC in the Oppo.

Yes, both the Oppo's analog outputs and the Benchmark DAC-3 HGC's analog outputs can very handily drive amplifier's directly without an intervening preamp if the volume control of each unit is used. The Oppo outputs a maximum of 2 volts from its unbalanced analog outs. From the balanced outs, the output is about 4 volts. Either of those amounts is more than sufficient to drive most any amplifier to full output and beyond. The Benchmark can be set for three different maximum output voltages. The highest level, meant for the Benchmark AHB2 amp, is the much higher yet, pro-audio level for studio line level equipment.

The ability of the combination of the Benchmark DAC-3 HGC and Benchmark AHB2 amps to be configured with a very high pro-audio level from the DAC and minimal gain from the amp allows proper gain structuring. This allows a greatly increased maximum sound-to-noise-and-distortion ratio, one far better than is possible with the "consumer" output levels of the Oppo. One of the unique qualities of the combination of the Benchmark DAC and amp in this pro-audio gain structuring configuration is the total elimination of background noise. I believe that this uniquely low noise and distortion structure is a major part of what makes the Benchmark equipment sound so good. I will discuss this more in my forthcoming thread about the Benchmark AHB2 amps.


 

tmallin

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Oppo UDP-205 Now Decodes MQA

Despite Oppo's decision to discontinue production of its great disc players, support for those players is continuing. With the latest firmware upgrades, the UDP-205 will now decode MQA files, including those streamed via Tidal Masters. You use the USB audio input to do this. See the instructions for this firmware upgrade under the "Software Driver for USB DAC" and "USB DAC Firmware" at Oppo's site here.

While this new functionality was announced about a year ago, it was only in June 2018, after the announcement that Oppo would be ceasing production, that this functionality was fully enabled. Thanks to Oppo for continuing to upgrade its last player even after its announced exit from the disc player manufacturing market!

I just upgraded my player's firmware to handle Tidal MQA Masters this past week. This process goes very smoothly and quickly as long as you make sure that you FIRST install the "Software Driver for USB DAC" Follow that procedure first, in other words, before following the instructions for upgrading the "USB DAC Firmware." I did not do that at first and wasted a couple of hours trying to figure out what was going wrong.

Also, the instructions for the "USB DAC Firmware" upgrade are a bit misleading, in my opinion. The instructions refer to choosing the "fw_udp205_dac_build0118.bin" file. That .bin file did not open with my computer and finding out a way to open it sent me down an unnecessary rabbit hole. In actuality, what you need to do, once you have followed the procedure to get and install the "Software Driver for USB DAC" is to click on the .exe set up file, as in the "Software Driver for USB DAC" procedure.

In my set up, I am streaming Tidal MQA Master files from my Auralic G2 from the Auralic's USB output to the Oppo's USB digital audio input. I have the Auralic set for its MQA bypass mode, which lets the MQA signal pass downstream from the Auralic without applying Auralic's proprietary MQA decoding to the signal. I let the Oppo DAC do the MQA decoding and then feed the Oppo's balanced analog outputs to the XLR analog input 2 of my new Benchmark HPA4 line/headphone amp. Thus, in this set up I am bypassing my Benchmark DAC3 HGC since it is a non-MQA DAC. Doing it this way, I can do fairly quick comparisons of the MQA and FLAC versions of the same track via selecting the proper album in the Auralic's Lightning DS software on my iPhone X.

Yes, the Oppo does seem to decode MQA without a hitch. See Archimago's comment here. I'm not quite ready to comment on the comparative sonics of the FLAC and MQA versions in this system using this method of comparison, but will soon do so, either here or in my Auralic G2 thread since I've already made some comment on MQA sonics here and here with regard to the Auralic's proprietary MQA decoding scheme.
 

tmallin

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Yes, see https://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-udp-205/lastbatch.aspx for the currently projected late-August date for availability of more players. I wonder if the price will go up? I signed up, if for no other reason than to keep abreast of this situation. But then I might want to send one off for modification. Then again, maybe mods are not necessary or even desirable. See Archimago's measurements on a tube mod of an Oppo UDP-205 here, the same link which has the comments about the Oppo's new MQA functionality.
 

NorthStar

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Comes Fall 2018 and the only Oppo 205 players will be in the hands of the fortunate some. And of course the few clones on eBay for 3-4 times more money. ...Figure of speech but still.

But, there is nothing to stop Oppo Digital to make a comeback sometime in a future year. Who knows what will happen in the year 2020, and after.

My guess: The Oppo will remain the ultimate universal 4K BR player and DAC for many years to come. What will surpasse it first are other upcoming 4K BR players with better and more picture adjustments. ...And steaming of course. ...Like from Pioneer Elite, Panasonic THX certified and Sony ES for example.
Technology always keep improving, in both the video and audio side.

For now the $1,300 Oppo 205 is the ♡ King of Heart, the best of all the rest.
 

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