Following on from my first posting, I will inform you about the performance of the Oppo BDP-83 NE. I am a musician, absolutely no specialist in audio equipment and know very little about electronics and digital techniques, so I can only judge by ear. Therefore I'll describe my findings as accurately as I can.
As I said earlier, my own system is mid-range, rather than high-end, however since the BDP-83, even in the Nuforce Edition, actually is in the mid-price range, there may be a point in considering the Oppo in a mid-range set-up such as mine for the more discerning listeners, who need to keep an eye on the budget they spend on their equipment.
Marantz SR 7500 receiver (specifications and documentation see http://www.marantz.com/new/index.cfm...=3202&type=avr
Oehlbach NF 214 analogue interlinks
Profigold digital interconnect cable, high grade optical fibre
Stereo (floor) speakers 3 way (hand built to my specifications by an audiophile friend in 1995)
JMLab 2 way Elite surround speakers
JMLab 3 way Axis centre speaker
Onkyo C 5-VL (3rd PCM filter option, analogue outlet, specifications and documentation see http://www.us.onkyo.com/model.cfm?m=...act%20Disc&p=i
Oppo BDP-83 NuForce Edition (analogue and optical outlets)
Before starting out on any test, I submitted the Oppo to a thorough burn-in of about 120 hours. Before that, I connected the Oppo to the Marantz via its optical output. There has been some discussion about the need of burn-in. In order to put this to test, I briefly listened to the Oppo within 24 hour intervals - always to the first track of the album Capriccio by violinist Renaud Capuçon and Jérôme Ducros at the piano (Virgin Classics 00946 374087 2 8) . This is a radio recording made for the Swiss RTSI station by Etienne Collard and Ulrich Ruscher. Due to the forward placing of the violin it is less than ideal, but the sound of the violin itself is very well caught. For verification I took the Onkyo as a standard. After two days, I still hardly noticed any changes, which seemed to prove my general skepticism in this regard.
Contrary to my expectations however, on the third day the Oppo showed considerably more detail and depth. After settling on this level, there was again little change on the fourth and fifth days. So, I would say there is some point to burning in' (and I have taken quite some precautions to avoid/reduce burning in' the mind, rather than the machine). Still, it may depend on the player and conditions how much time is needed.
On the sixth day, I finally performed a detailed comparison of the Onkyo to the Oppo via the digital output (PCM at 192 Khz) and the Marantz Crystal 192kHz/24bit DAC.
The first test was provided by the final track from a Grieg album by the Russian pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev on Deutsche Grammophon. (Deutsche Grammophon 459 671-2) I have often heard him perform in various concert halls and can testify that this disc, recorded at the Teldec Studio, Berlin in November 1999 by Rainer Maillard (balance engineer) and Wolf-Dieter Karwatky (recording engineer) nicely captures the pianist's unique sound production: transparent and full of contrast. With springy rhythm, Grieg's capricious piece - depicting a Carnaval Scene - allows Pletnev to display a large variety of pedaling technique and touch.
Here the Onkyo shows its prowess right in the very first bars - the Wolfsohn DAC in its third PCM filter option brings a bright sound, with a particularly clear definition of the Studio's reverberation. The Oppo BDP-83 NE, through the Crystal 192kHz/24bit DAC used in the Marantz yields less clarity. The Steinway too, sounds a bit boomy in the bass, whereas the Onkyo reproduces just the right amount of body, making you eager to have a go at the instrument yourself.
These first impressions were confirmed in the second test for which I selected the Andantino con moto from Jean Sibelius' Pelléas och Mélisande opus 46, performed by the Finnish Sinfonia Lahti under Osmo Vänskä on a CD by BIS records. (CD-918 or CD 1912/14) Dirk Lüdemann (balance enigineer) has caught this movement in coolly straightforward, but ambient sound. Orchestrated for flute, alt oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 fagots, 2 horns, strings (V1&2, Va, Vc, Cb) and percussion, the music is very soft for most of the time. The instruments delicately blend in pianissimo - at times revealing an ever so small hint of their own individual sound. The cor anglais' solo sounds nice but a bit diffuse on the Marantz. The Onkyo makes you really hear the reed. Then there is the transparency and position of the strings. Here also, the Onkyo reveals more of characteristics of the exact timbre and position of the instruments, which are lost on the Marantz.
Drawing clear conclusions was not difficult. Perhaps in order to provide a more rounded overall image, avoiding aggressiveness, the Marantz slightly muffles the sound. I have heard it often in other mid-range products of theirs, including the SA 8001, which WestCoastD inquires about in a recent post on this forum. (I auditioned this player before settling on the far more affordable Onkyo for dedicated CD and stereo SA-CD reproduction.) Through the Marantz SR7500, the BDP-83 NE reveals a hint of woolliness - percussion and strings tend to sound a little massive at the climax.
To many, this may be a matter of taste, to me, as a musician used to working with acoustical instruments it is a question of natural reproduction. The Marantz DAC refashions' the sound, and, yes, this may be to the taste' of some, but it is definitely not natural. (Apologies to Marantz, who have some wonderful products on the market, and I do like the SR7500 receiver as far as analogue sound production is concerned, but it has to be said.) Lack of definition can cause lack of impact to the beginning of a tone and it is this very beginning that provides a lot of information about the instrument producing the tone as well as its place in the acoustic. Actually, you will be surprisingly hard pressed to distinguish a violin from an oboe if you cut off' this beginning.
After finishing this comparison, I unplugged all equipment and (after carefully noting all settings) reset the Marantz (factory standard) and performed a new set up from scratch. Subsequently I prepared the BDP-83 for analogue set-up, unplugged HDMI, unpowered the Oppo and reconnected it using Oehlbach NF 214 analogue interlinks. After powering the equipment on, I adjusted all settings and let the powered system rest for another day for the second round of testing involving purely analogue sound.
I can't say I was prepared for what was to come next. So far my test results for the Oppo had been merely adequate. No big surprises, no major disappointments either. I simply took the gamble with the BDP-83, I need a M-Ch SA-CD player anyway and in time its BlueRay capacity will certainly come in handy as well. For the rest, I closely followed the observations on this forum and on the basis of them decided that the NuForce Edition would be worth the extra price - I wasn't sure however.
So I looked forward to the next round of tests with some caution. Then again, it is not for nothing this is an analogue only' thread - and, so far, I had not heard the BDP-83 NE's analogue performance.
I was not going to be disappointed. When the next day, I again took out the Sibelius CD and compared the Onkyo, to the now analogue' BDP-83 NE, the gap between both players had diminished to a mere crack. Both players spaciously project the instruments, both do wonders with the reproduction of sourdines (mutes on the violins) and the sound is wonderfully clear. The Onkyo is just slightly brighter than the Oppo, and yet it seemed to me that the Oppo's darker' coloring, did not rule out any of the transparence, previously lost through the Marantz SR7500. The more silky string sonority reproduced by the BDP-83 NE did not strike me as unrealistic, but merely the result of greater refinement. Playing just a couple of measures at one time (I have another original of this particular recording from a previous coupling, so I can compare without the need of switching the disc), I noted three differences: The cor anglais' sonority clearly differed in detail as well as in its characteristic of resonance, the BDP-83 NE more successfully set off the percussion from the strings in revealing just a hint of the drumhead's sound, and the core of woodwinds came out in truly velvet sound (one can almost see' the circulation of air in flutes and clarinets). Matters of taste, or not?
I took out Pletnev's Grieg album and compared the final track. General impressions were reconfirmed, with the Onkyo a little brighter and the Oppo more velvet, but both wonderfully reproducing ambience as well as detail. Both were completely credible, thus it was not until the end of the track, that I could put a clear finger on a difference that would prove its significance later on. The Onkyo's reproduction of the middle register was clearly less dynamic and seemed less specific.
To pinpoint this, I took out the ultimate test. Stemming from a selection of Live Recordings by the Vocal Ensemble C Sharp Minor, made between 2002 and 2005 at the Marekerk, Leiden, The Netherlands (STS Digital 611166). Some of the singers here belong to my intimate circle of friends and I have been present at all concerts, so any lack of realism would be discovered instantly.
To my mind, the superb recording team was particularly fortunate at the concert that included Gretchaninoff's Passions. So I compared the fifth passion. Here we have a solo tenor, set off against a solo ensemble, some interjections from the entire choir as well as an alto singing from afar. Again, both the Onkyo and the Oppo did well. There was a marked difference in placing of the tenor however. The Onkyo projected him further to the right, an impression that was probably reinforced by the way the reverberation of his voice was handled. The Oppo brought him closer to the solo group, which was in fact, how I remember their actual position was - but then again, recording team might have mixed in an extra microphone.
The first interjection from the entire choir showed up an important distinction: the floor of the church is stone, covered by linoleum. As a result the later' reverberation (from the walls) is more present, than the earlier' one (around the choir). It is very typical of this church and one of the reasons why it is so difficult to perform there - although there could hardly be a better acoustic as far as the audience (or the recording) is concerned. The choir was disbanded in 2005 and since that time I didn't visit this church, so this important detail had completely slipped my mind. And yet, you can exactly hear these characteristics on the Oppo - but not on the Onkyo! When the solo ensemble starts off, you hear the earlier' reverberation. The full choir brings in the later' one. So, when it set in, as if by the blow of a hammer, the entire atmosphere was suddenly brought back to me. How could I have forgotten about it!
Nevertheless, I remained puzzled by the placing of the tenor. So I chose another track to make sure this was not due to any setting of the player: Movement II from De Profundis by Niels. It is an ABA form, and just before the middle part, with a loud voice the tenor soloist sets in. Here I am positive the recording team must have used an extra microphone - and yes, both the Oppo and the Onkyo project him clearly on the right speaker. Immediately after this, the oboe recalls the work's leitmotiv, while the choir sings in long drawn out chords that are actually very dissonant, but somehow seem deceptively harmonious. It is a beautiful moment in the piece and in this test it provides the answer to my earlier question: Is the Onkyo's lack of warmth in the middle register a matter of taste or not? Here is the answer: With the BDP-83 NE, these chords are completely clear and balanced, with Onkyo they lack detail - not that they are blurred, but they tend to clutter together. In other words, definitely not a matter of taste, here the Onkyo is not as accurate as the Oppo.
Stereo SA-CD performance
I have dwelled a little longer on CD reproduction, not only because where pure audio is concerned the average BDP-83 NE will play CD's most of the time, but also because the main characteristics of the player's CD sound are evident also when playing SA-CD's: a highly refined tone, transparent, spaciously placed between the speakers. The margin between the Onkyo (using its Pure Direct mode and no DSD filter setting) becomes even smaller here, which says a lot about DSD's lead over PCM. It speaks volumes that during a blind comparison session performed a day later, I could still make out the Oppo, yet without comparison, it got considerably more difficult to distinguish the Onkyo from the Oppo.
Still there were some clear differences. Let me dwell a little on the single layer Stereo SA-CD the Japanese label Exton issued with a very nice performance of Richard Strauss' Don Quixote, with cellist Mischa Maisky, violist Lars Anders Tomter and the Czekh Philharmonic under Vladimir Ashkenazy. Balance engineer Tomoyoshi Ezaki, did an excellent job at the Rudolfinum Dvorakova. For comparison I chose the Finale Sehr ruhig. Initially we hear the cello against a backdrop of strings, but Strauss wouldn't be Strauss, if there were some unusual couplings, which are beautifully brought out on the BDP-83 NE. One is immediately struck by the silky string tone, but also by the way the trumpet blends into that texture. The Onkyo is a little less articulate, but also less dynamic, and after gauging the basic volume, I couldn't quite pinpoint why this should be so.
Recalling my previous experience with the Sibelius and Grieg CD's, I took out another disc a two layer SA-CD of Murray Perahia playing Chopin's Etudes and played the fourth track. On the BDP-83 NE the piano showed far more body because of the rich sounding middle register. Both the cello (on the Strauss disc) and the piano are especially resonant in the middle register, so it would seem likely the difference in dynamic variation between the Oppo and Onkyo may be due to this. Perhaps you clever audio specialists can come up with a purely technical explanation?
Whatever the case, to my ears there can be no doubt, it is the wealth of detail that singles out the BDP-83 NE. Recordings I always thought relatively bland, such as the Florestan Trio playing French Piano Trios on Hyperion, suddenly acquire a bloom to the tone that I had not heard on the Onkyo or any other machine I played them on. The opening of the Modéré from Ravel's Piano Trio is a clear case in point, starting with the soft piano bass notes in the opening bars, continuing with the whisper of the strings and, after a while, the cello singing in cantabile - on the BDP-83 NE it sounds alive in each microscopic detail - and thus the difference may be subtle, and hard to perceive for the untrained or unprepared, but in the long run it surely makes out the charm of a recording.
Multi-channel SA-CD performance
When passing on to Multi-channel this aspect became even more apparent. When played back by the Oppo some SA-CD's suddenly revealed sonic qualities I hadn't even suspected before. In particular some of the recordings balance engineer Erdo Groot made for Pentatone, bloomed with a fascinating wealth of refined detail, I had previously missed either on my Marantz DV-6500 or on any other mid-range M-Ch machine I either auditioned or got familiar with through relations.
Natural sound is what I like a player to provide, but I must admit the issue becomes infinitely more complex in M-Ch because of the recordings themselves. It must be horrendously difficult to find exactly the right microphone placing or mix. When listening to M-Ch SA-CD I often get distracted by an echo that either doesn't come back naturally, or sounds out of time in a way you would never hear it in a hall - and yet this report should be about the BDP-83 NE, not about my collection. Suffice it to say that there is a lot to learn for balance engineers. Only the best will do here.
Here solo instruments provide yet another complication - how to subtly highlight them and project them back into the whole? Erdo Groot did wonders with Nikolai Lugansky playing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto with the Russian National Orchestra under Kent Nagano (PTC 5186 022). In particular you should listen out for the second movement Andantino semplice where the piano is neither lost in the acoustic (as it would be without any highlight) and remains properly in place, never dominating the other instruments that enter the musical dialogue. After gaping at the sound of the pizzicato strings, I again marveled at a real flute (not the bag full of hiss I have grown used to hearing on disc) and an excellently placed first cellist. Even better, more natural in sonic terms is the coupling: Christian Tetzlaff playing the Violin Concerto. Tetzlaff's tone is warm and intimate, rather than outgoing and powerful. This aspect was lost on the players I previously heard this disc on - I actually found his contribution rather impotent. Of course, it still remains very different from the Russian or Russian-American approach, but on the BDP-83 NE, the incredibly true sound from the violin all its Mozartian finesse, gains considerable charm.
A completely different sound picture is provided on the LSO Live label. Technicians Neil Hutchinson and Jonathan Stokes often need to cope with a very direct acoustic, with more resonance than actual echo. Good results are not always assured, but some recordings have an unusual live' impact, just because they sound so close and most of them are great performances. On a lesser player Walton's First Symphony comes out exciting but rather aggressive, not so on the BDP-83 NE that also makes a real feast of orchestral sonority from Valery Gergiev's characteristically high charged account of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet ballet. For special comment I would however like to single out a recent release with Sir Colin Davis conducting Sibelius' Fourth Symphony - an extremely involving performance (LSO Live SACD LSO00601). There is a captivating stillness about this recording, and the BDP-83 NE makes sure we hear every single detail. When after the vast opening with the celli, basses and bassoons playing in unison, the strings tone down to a mere whisper and a cello solo it is hard not to get glued to music.
The ultimate M-Ch SA-CD test is surely the collection of Dmitri Shostakovich' Preludes and Fugues recorded by Michiel Ras on an impressive romantic organ, with a tremendous bass register back in 2001. I happen to know the church at Zevenbergen quite well and to listen to this SA-CD on the BDP-83 NE is to be transported right there - you do not even need to close your eyes. The, dark, oversized church itself is not the jolliest of places, nor is the music for that matter and aurally being there' while physically standing in your own home in broad daylight is actually a quite uncanny experience.
In short I can give a warm recommendation for the BDP-83 NE on account of its excellence in analogue stereo CD, and both analogue stereo SA-CD and analogue M-Ch SA-CD reproduction. I suppose it must be among the very best players you can get at this price and so far it fully lives up my own hypercritical expectations and more. I do however have to place a few marginal notes about the player's stability. dmusoke already mentioned on 11-20 2009 occasional creaks around track changes. I hear them too. Also some CD's have showed minor dropouts. These incidents are of no consequence to my enthusiasm for this player, but I do feel they should be noted - if only to balance this report. It may not be a particular heavyweight, but the BDP-83 NE's build seems quite solid, but then again, as I said, I am not a specialist in this field and I can only trust my ears. I am sure there will be some technical comments to my findings and look forward to reading them.