By Don Lindich
Week 16, 2015
I enjoyed your columns about cost-no-object electronics and speakers. What do you recommend for high-end TVs and Blu-ray players?
-Luke T., San Francisco, CA
I will discuss televisions in an upcoming column. The Blu-ray player question is easy, as there is only one brand of Blu-ray player I recommend above the entry level: Oppo Digital.
Usually I do not recommend consumers spend more than $150-$200 on a Blu-ray player as even an $80 model will provide excellent picture and sound quality performance. You typically are only using the HDMI connection so you are just taking 1s and 0s and transferring them to the receiver and television for playback. Spending more usually gets you better construction and sometimes better DVD picture quality, or perhaps 4K upscaling. I haven’t seen anything above $200 I find compelling other than the Oppo players.
Oppo has long been considered the leader for Blu-ray players, offering superior quality, technology, performance and customer service. If you go to the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas you will find Oppo players are ubiquitous in the high-end demo rooms, as the manufacturers want to provide their equipment the very best signal possible.
I recently reviewed the Oppo BDP-103D Darbee Edition Blu-ray player. It reminded me why they are still considered the best. The high-end experience begins from the moment you open the box. The BDP-103D is built like a tank and comes wrapped in a soft cloth bag. A box inside the box holds a slew of accessories, including a nicely-made HDMI cable and the full-featured, backlit and rugged remote control. Compared to what you usually get when you buy a disc player it is a Ritz Carlton kind of experience. Speaking of which, search the web for “Oppo service” and you will find universal praise from their customers. Oppo stays on top of things and really care.
The BDP-103D has all the features you would expect from a top-shelf Blu-ray player, and then some: wireless network connection, 3D playback and 2D to 3D conversion, 4K upscaling, and Netflix, Pandora, Rhapsody, and VUDU streaming, as well as others. It can play SACDs, DVD-A discs, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, Kodak Picture CDs, AVCHD discs, high resolution audio files and content from USB sticks, making it a “Universal Player.” It has picture controls and dual HDMI outputs for video, and 7.1-channel analog audio outputs for better surround sound. You can browse and play media from your home network library with an Oppo smartphone app.
What makes the BDP-105D extra special is the “D” which stands for Darbee Visual Presence processing. Darbee uses a proprietary algorithm and processing to enhance picture quality to bring out missing depth and detail without creating artifacts in the picture. I don’t know how they do it, but it definitely works. I did a freeze-frame and turned the processing on and off and the difference was immediately noticeable. There are various settings to control the effect and I settled on 35% and High Definition for my TV. You can see samples at Oppo’s website.
Here’s the icing on the cake: the BDP-105D has an HDMI input in the back so you can use Darbee processing with other video sources. I plugged my Dish Network satellite box into the BDP-105D and enjoyed a better picture from TV broadcasts, too. When you buy the Oppo BDP-103D you not only get a powerful performer that can play everything, you get a video processor as a bonus!
In a world where many high-end Blu-ray players sell for thousands of dollars, the Oppo BDP-103D is a bargain at $599. Given many TVs are less than $599 these days it may not make sense for everyone, but it is an investment that will last and will improve the picture of everything you watch, not just discs and streaming content. If you have a good TV and want the best it is definitely worth it, and the quality and performance will satisfy you every time you pick up the remote. See it at www.oppodigital.com.