OPPO UDP-205 Hi-Res Music & 4k Ultra HD Audiophile Blu-ray Disc
So satisfied have I been with my OPPO BDP-95 that, when news and early viewings of what was called "4K" came along a few years ago, I was not among the infected. Looking at LED displays of "live" and digital file content a year later didn't argue for its adoption any better – not by me, anyway – nor did reports of improved color space. What may have been missing from what I saw at home whetted not my appetite. I was happy. My home theatre guests were happy.
OPPO states that the UDP-205's "reference level sound quality" derives from its superb DAC's, especially for the dedicated stereo output, improved clock precision of the HDMI audio output and increased power for the player's built-in headphone amplifier. OPPO maintains that its upgraded HDMI clock includes circuitry that significantly reduces jitter and eliminates timing errors at the audio-only HDMI output whilst improving the sound of PCM and DSD signals. Furthermore, the compressed bitstream audio may also see improved audio performance depending on whether the audio decoder in the AV processor or receiver uses a synchronous or asynchronous clock scheme.
The album is Kaufmann / Wagner: Jonas Kaufmann, tenor, and the Orchestra of the German Opera Berlin, conducted by Donald Runnicles. The program consists of selections from six Wagner operas plus the complete Wesendonck Lieder (arranged for orchestra by Felix Mottl.) This latter entry has few referents in that Wagner wrote these songs for piano and female voice, so we have to take this performance on its own terms. As for the Blu-ray, the three implementations are all two-channel, 24-bit/96kHz – PCM, DTS HD-MA or Dolby TrueHD, take your pick. The 205 clarifies the choice since the 95 offered little to distinguish them. I settled easily for the Dolby, finding that the PCM had more distortion and the DTS a more pronounced treble, as if to compensate for weaknesses in the usual user's playback amplification.
The beauty of the 205 is how wonderfully and readily we can appreciate Kaufmann's differentiated characterizations: Sigmund's heroic stand in Die Walküre, an effete Lohengrin's self–disclosure, Walther's hopeful Am stillen Herd for Die Meistersinger. Kaufmann's approach to the Wesendonck Lieder is different still, where he is narrator and respondent both. The 205 also shouts less than the 95, as if the earlier player was trying to remove a suspected audio impediment – alas, unsuccessfully. The orchestra, too, is richer, with Runnicles directing our ear into the conversation between his forces and Kaufmann.
Clocking and jitter have both been improved in the 205, and by no small factor, and so we are not surprised to find positive differences where there were none before. Huge differences, as it turns out, not least with well-mastered Hi-Res Music downloads thanks to the ES9038PRO DAC. That said, there are CD transports and players out there that better the 205 in regards two-channel music playback, but you would have to spend two or three times the money and they wouldn't be able to do anything in the video universe. And, if you'll excuse the astronomical malapropism, that universe is in a different galaxy altogether.
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