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Conclusion. Classifying music recordings by sampling rate or bit depth is misleading. This debate has been ongoing and the issue is well recognized. For some guidance look here. The core argument is about the fact that the commonly used division into 'standard' definition (Redbook CD) and high definition (SACD, DVD-A, 24-bit files) misses vital facts! In my experience well-recorded material carefully pressed—preferably as XRCD, K2HD, SHM-CD, Blu-spec or HQCD—often sounds far better than the same material released as 24/96 or even 24/192 files. Why would that be? I'm convinced that the problem lies on the mastering and playback sides. Recording and mastering studios clearly haven't yet mastered the art of preparing such files. It doesn't matter whether the master is analog tape or digital. These companies had 30 years to learn to properly handle 16/44.1 signal which finally started to sound good. But digital files? Not counting the DVD-A fiasco also in sonic terms, file distribution entered the game about 3-4 years ago.

Comparing the denser layer of a hybrid SACD with its CD layer is another mistake. The CD layer on a dual-layer disc reflects the laser light significantly poorer than a regular CD does to make it more vulnerable to distortion. A meaningful comparison can only be made if we had an SACD and CD pressing of the same recording. But unless we proceeded with sufficient care and attention, in most cases even such a comparison wouldn't be conclusive. A louder 16-bit recording often masks certain weaknesses. SACD players meanwhile usually don't properly process 1-bit signal but convert it to PCM somewhere along the way (usually in the DAC). What it means is that talking about high resolution files only makes sense with regard to signal parameters, not sound per se.

Yer the Oppo can show how these two sonic worlds differ. It simply isn't a conclusive statement on the formats as such. One could also put forward the argument that Redbook-quality files will continue to bring so much joy that the fight for hi-res equivalents at any price makes little sense. Still, if we decide to pay more for a properly created 24/96 file, it will be a home run. The BD-105 really is a success. Its primary value is good sound with each format and incredible functionality. In addition to CD, SACD, DVD, DVD-A and BD it also play DVDs and DVD-Rs with audio files. I had no issues listening to such DVD-Rs from Japanese T-TOC and HRx Reference Recordings. Finally I could easily play the recordings accompanying the Japanese Net Audio magazine except for DSD files which the Oppo unfortunately didn't 'see'. HDCDs? You bet. Video? Picture quality was superior, cleaner and more color intense than with the Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD and Popcorn Hour A300.

Sonically you need to be prepared for some compromise. The sound won't be as good as from a CD player for 6.000 or even 5.000 PLN. But it is very close to the latter; closer than any other multi-format player I know. And then there is file playback as its strongest suit. Oppo is known for its affordable well-designed decks which are eagerly modified by specialized companies. The BDP-105EU however is not cheap. Will it become a success in the market? I don’t know. What I do know is that as a flagship model in the spotlight, it is a good example for what can be done within the framework of a large company that's not particularly audiophile-oriented as long as the people behind it know what they’re doing.

Review methodology. The adopted test methodology was based directly on my initial decision to review the Oppo like any other audio-only player. The review had the character of an A/B comparison with both A and B known and 2-min. long music samples. My reference was the Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition (for CD only), the Mark Levinson N°. 512, the Cambridge Audio Azur 751BD (SACD and video discs) and the HDI Dune HD MAX (audio and video files). Another reference point for audio files was the Ayon Audio NW-T + CD-3s CD player and DAC. The Oppo sat on the Acoustic Revive RAF-48H anti-vibration platform and additionally on the Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010 quartz spacers. It was powered by an Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300 power cord.

The Oppo BDP-105EU is an extremely advanced device in terms of functionality. Nonetheless it managed to maintain a very clean uncluttered front panel which is mostly the result of moving the main user interface to the remote and external TV screen. While CD and SACD can be played without a monitor, all other audio and video files require an external screen. Fortunately one can also use a dedicated app for smartphones and tablets to remain inside the audiophile circle. At the time of my review apps were available for Android but not yet Apple iOS.

From the onset this model was designed as an audiophile player as indicated by the introductory line on the website. "The Oppo BDP-105EU is designed from the ground up with components optimized for enhanced analogue audio performance." It’s visible already from the outside. The front panel is a stiff thick aluminium plate whilst the rest of enclosure is made of thick steel. The top panel is damped with special damping sheet. There is no cooling fan to rely on wholly passive cooling. The nice clean front panel was designed with a particular customer in mind. A black semi-translucent acrylic window with a disc tray in its center visually nearly disappears and the very small display to its left obviously transfers more detailed information to a monitor screen. The few control buttons are so well integrated that at first glance only the eject button is visible. ‘Standby’ is masked by the manufacturer’s logo. The others are touch buttons which only light up when you power up the machine.

The rear panel reveals rather unequivocal evidence about what we’re dealing with. The video section is surprisingly small given its extensive capabilities. There are two HDMI outputs and a single HDMI input for an external audio/video player. Three USB inputs are used to connect three hard or flash drives (one in the front, two in the rear). The audio i/o ports are far more extensive and separate for stereo and multi-channel. The former are on RCA and balanced XLR (pin 2 = hot). The 7.1 outputs are grouped horizontally. This Oppo can also be used as DAC and hence has three digital inputs – Toslink, coax and asynchronous USB all good for 24/192. Internet connection is via Ethernet.

The grouping of the different outputs on the rear panel reflects the position of internal PCBs. There are lots of them as each module is housed on a separate board mounted in a rather complex way onto metal screens and braces stiffening the whole chassis. Fortunately the audio boards which interest us the most mount at the top. They feature surprisingly good passive parts. Actually the audio circuit extends across two very nice-looking PCBs for stereo and multi-channel respectively. Their design is surprisingly similar and differs in only two main details – a much more sophisticated power supply for the stereo section and a different way of using the eight channels of the ESS Sabre32 chip. In the stereo section it divides into 2 x 4 for XLR and RCA respectively. In the 7.1 section one channel is assigned to each output.

After the excellent DAC chips we have two National Semiconductor LM4562 per channel and then another one. This section is divided into separate paths for the RCA and XLR outputs. The circuits feature high-quality Wima polypropylene capacitors and electrolytic Elna Silmic II at their outputs. The stereo board is powered from a separate power supply with a large toroidal transformer. The rest is assembled on the DAC boards with two separate power supplies for the analog and digital sections. First there are two large Elna Tonerex filter capacitors followed by IC voltage regulators. More Wima capacitors can be found here as well. The 7.1 audio board is powered by a simpler power supply. The digital coax input couples to an impedance-matching transformer, USB couples to a large XMOS transceiver chip. The multi-format drive is placed centrally and reinforced from the top with a metal plate and bolted to a rigid base. It is powered by a separate section of a sizeable shielded SMPS whose other sections power the video systems.

This deck is unique in that its audio section received very serious treatment better than many expensive CD players. The video section is in a class by itself due to the deployment of the very latest audio and video processors. One issue is the very busy remote control. One might seriously think of using a smartphone or tablet instead.
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