Monday, December 9, 2013

Oppo BDP-103D Blu-ray Player - An audio evaluation (Revised 8 April 2014)

(Revised 8 April 2014)


A fairly sturdy centrally mounted disc tray and USB port in front.

IEC socket for lovers of aftermarket power cords, two additional USB ports, and optical and coaxial digital outputs. The BDP-103 does not have any digital inputs, you need to step up to the BDP-105 for that.

The Oppo BDP-103 and 105 are very popular Blu-ray players. I recently purchased the BDP-103D (Darbee equipped version of the 103), and put it through it's paces to see whether it could serve as a high quality CD/SACD player or digital transport. 

The 103D was evaluated through its on-board DAC and analog output section, as well as fed into my Calyx Femto DAC.

The Oppo is serious business as far as Bluray players go, tipping the scales at 4.9 kg. Build construction is sturdy and inspires confidence. The Oppo is equipped with a DAC chip from Cirrus Logic, the CS4382A which is capable of 24 bit / 192 khz sampling. It's more expensive sibling, the BDP-105 sports twin ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chips, and throws in digital inputs, including asynchronous USB to allow it to function as a DAC.

The Oppo was placed in my main system rack and supported on a trio of Finite Element Ceraball footers. AC power was supplied by a Furutech FP-Alpha 3 power cord, and interconnect duties were tasked to a pair of Acrolink 7N-A2070 interconnects. SPDIF linkage to my Calyx Femtodac was made with an Oyaide DB-510 digital cable.

My set was broken in over a period of one week of continuous play, either through playback of discs, or music tracks loaded on a thumbdrive.


The Oppo was reasonably fast in recognizing CDs (not always a given with Bluray players). With Pure Audio mode activated (the display and video sections are shut off), playback quality was pleasant, with a slightly forward presentation of the soundstage. Music was dynamic, with a smoothness to the midrange. Image size was quite big, with emphasis on big picture presentation rather than fine detail. 

Listening to familiar albums like Eva Cassidy's Live in the Blues Alley and Patricia Barber's Cafe Blue, it is obvious that the Oppo tends to smooth out sibilance and add a bit of chestiness to female voices. Microdetail in the outstanding percussion work in Cafe Blue tends to be less well separated.

I briefly tried playback through a thumb drive loaded with AIFF files. An iOS app that enables navigation through USB media, and playback can be downloaded. However, this app needs a bit of work as it seemed to have stability issues. Initially, AIFF playback was fine with the original firmware, but ceased to work after my latest  update done in April 2014.

There was a significant deterioration in playback quality with Pure Audio mode deactivated. Sadly, Pure Audio mode is deactivated whenever the Oppo is switched off.

Playing back optical discs, as a rough gauge, the Oppo is on par and exceeds most CD players in the entry level category. From distant memory, it does sound better than the Marantz CD-6003. 

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the sound quality as 5/10, improving to 6.5/10 using Pure Audio mode.


This is where things get really interesting. As a transport, the Oppo is not bad, not bad at all. Hooked up to the Calyx Femtodac, the Oppo's performance gained significantly from an increase in resolution, soundstage depth and width. 

The sound took on a more confident feel, with firm control over transients. Although the midrange was less euphonic compared to the Oppo's built in DAC, the fine vocal inflexions and texture that were previously smoothed over, were clearly presented.
This is most obvious in the form of better separation, firmer bass and an enhanced retrieval of acoustic space.

Sound quality is easily 8/10 and improves to 8.5/10 when used with the Finite Element Ceraball footers.


I don't think the Oppo is the natural choice for all as a transport. There are cheaper options out there, such as entry to mid-level CD players from the larger companies. 

However, the Oppo is the perfect choice for all-in-one systems that will need to rely on the Oppo for video and audio duties. In that respect, the Oppo is a more than decent choice, whether as a standalone player (in budget setups), or when paired with a high quality DAC, where it should be able to front pretty serious setups. 

Did I forget to mention that its video quality as a Blu-ray player is outstanding ? Throw that in as a bonus and you have a winner on your hands.