Originally Posted by PugetsoundHD
Was offered one of those rare opportunities to evaluate the SQ of the 95's dedicated 2ch outputs when I asked Mike Lavigne if we could check out the 95 in his system (see system details below).
First up we listened to a number of different source materials to familiarize ourselves (Alex & me) with the current sound and resolution of Mike's system. First off were 174/24kHz and 192/24kHz files off of his server. Very impressive and thoroughly enjoyable. Mike says that this is his default music source as he loves to read with music playing and this is simply the easiest way to play music.
Then we were to get spoiled. Checked out different types of music using his vinyl system. Amazing. As good as the streaming was the vinyl almost got you to the venue. Then came Oscar Peterson and his piano on tape! This was one of those singular moments of If you weren't there you won't know what were are trying to convey in words. They were there. I commented that I felt I could talk to them and they would respond.
OK, so we had our listening parameters set up for checking out the Oppo 95 using Mike's room and the Playback Designs (Music Playback MPS-5 SACD/CD Player) as the reference system. Over the next three hours Mike, Alex & I pulled out some of our favorite and reference SACDs and CDs. Track 11 on Sempre libera/Anna Netrebko's SACD featuring her voice preserved the tonal balance but gave more ambient info and placed her farther back in the hall. Track 10 on Christian McBride's: Getting To It CD gave a better defined low end on his double bass. The biggest difference was noted by all of us on Tr. 3 of the Burmester CDII (not the ultimate in SQ but well known to all of us having heard it 100s of times on different systems over many years) which features Hans Theessink playing guitar and singing on Call Me. Here the bass was more pronounced and his voice authoritative without any hardness. I'm not sure it is clear in the above observations but the the positive differences heard were when we were listening to the Playback Designs. We did play a couple of Blu-ray discs using 2.0 LPCM 24/192kHz which Alex & I found much better than our home system. We could not use the Playback Designs as it only plays SACDs and CDs.
I should add that that these are just a sampling of the music we used for evaluation. These particular selections gave us the ability to easily distinguish the differences we were hearing. For the record the Playback Designs was more detailed, produced a somewhat wider soundstage, gave voices more body, had better defined low bass and displayed more high end extension.
Where does this leave Us? Well as Mike said, This is one heck of a multidisc player and it only costs $1,100 (here we corrected him to $999). Have I mentioned yet that the Playback Designs unit costs $15,000! and was setting on special nonresonant footers to boot. We'll be trying out some nonresonant footers of our own along with polyethylene coated lead rings here at home to see if this tightens up the bass. Stay tuned.
For those of you who will question whether or not we could distinguish differences on Mike's system check it out in some pictures at <<a href="http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vaslt&1036349020
> on Audiogon. A complete writeup along with more pictures including a complete listing off all his components can be found in the Dec. 2010 issue of Vinylphile on their website at <<a href="http://www.vinylphilemag.com
>. On this system changing interconnects, speaker cables, power cables and lifting cables off of the floor can be heard. Mike typically listens to streaming music off of his server while reading as previously mentioned and is perfectly happy to do so (and so would we). However, if you want to be drawn into and immersed in the performance you need analog via turntable or tape. While the differences between streaming 192/24, the Oppo and the Playback Designs are relatively small, the difference between digital and analog (vinyl & tape) is not subtle. However, for those of us with more modest dare I say real world systems than Mikes we can be happy that the differences are not so apparent and that digital reproduction has gotten so good that the Oppo 95 is in the same ballpark as the Playback Designs. And who knows maybe Oppo can surpass the Playback Designs with a little tweaking of the firmware. Heh, heh.
Need to point out that these comparisons were made using single ended RCA stereo outputs connected via one of Mike's cheaper ($9,000/pr
) cables to his darTZeel preamp which uses proprietary BNC connectors to his darTZeel amp. He thought that the true differential balanced outputs on the Oppo (he was surprised to hear of these in a $999 unit) might sound better in the right system. We had planned to listen to it this way in his system but I had forgotten the darTZeel uses RCA & BNC connections only.
Are we keeping our Oppo BDP-95? Darn right we are. We were very impressed with its performance in Mike's system. In our own we can only say that we enjoy listening to the music. In addition, we can watch Blu-rays, DVDs, stream music and video files and access the internet for more content. In other words, What an amazing piece of A/V gear. Oh, and for those might be wondering, the 95 was as quiet as the proverbial mouse during our education session.
Under "musical snow promised yet again" Seattle skies, Gill