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Oppo 971H: First Thoughts

723 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Cholerabob
Well, I got my Oppo yesterday afternoon and played with it a lot since then.

The Oppo's DVI output is connected to the HDMI input on a Toshiba 34HFX84 television. I have both Digital Coax and Multi-channel for audio to my receiver.

The kids wanted a movie before I got a chance to calibrate the input so we watched Madagascar. It looked very dark but I chalked it up to basically just plug and playing it.

After the kids went to bed, I put my DVE to work.

The first thing I noticed was that when the screen changed, a shadow of the previous screen was left on the page (The white images and text remained faintly on the next screen resembling burn-in). This also occurred when the screen saver kicked in. Oppo uses an oval shape and when I came back from getting a snack I noticed that I had oval shapes all over my screen. I chalked this up to the fact that I was not done calibrating it and may, just maybe, I needed to play around with the settings to correct this.

I went in and got everything set up. Same results with the shadowing. I chaecked to see if it anything changed if I changed from 1080i to 480p, 540p, or 720p. Nothing. Still the same results. I also went in and changed a number of the internal video settings such as TrueLife, CCS, and noise reduction. Same results. Nothing was changed.

After all the calibration was completed (and the shadowing was still present), I tried out some DVD's to see what it would produce.

First up was Fifth Element. I noticed a definite increase in the PQ from my old 7 year old Sony changer. I also thought I saw some trailing (where the image motion is shown behind it as it moves across the screen). All in all, I was very pleased.

Next up was Black Hawk Down (Superbit Version). This movie was extremely good. The dark scenes were detailed and the bright scenes with the explosions were also detailed. Extremely pleased. Surprising, I did not notice too much trailing or shadowing with this movie (although there was some).

Last was Finding Nemo. I though it was very detailed but the trailing was horrible. From the opening scene where the Disney castle scrolls in to everytime a fishes fin moved, there was a horrible trail. It really distracted me. The true test that my old DVD player failed at horribly was the scene where they were in the dark part of the ocean and the Anglerfishes light comes into view. The light was completely smooth as it went from the center to the outer dark most edges. My old DVD player made this look like it was a dartboard with the rings. The trailing varied from object to object. Marlin and Nemo had the worst, while the dentists arms had the least.

Not sure if this is an issue with the player or just the combination of the Oppo with my Toshiba television.

Right now I have mixed feelings regarding it. I can really see the increase in details but the trailing and shadowing really disappoints me. I may see if my local Denon dealer will let me take home and demo a 2910 to compare the two. That was the one I was originally going to purchase before I read the Secrets and Audioholics reviews (as well as a bunch of positive posts on various forums.

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Sounds like macroblocking. I used to see this really bad on my old Zenith 318.
Got my Oppo 971H this morning. To sum it up, it has a lot of nice tweakable features that other players don't, like the various zoom levels, region free, ability to play DivX and other formats, etc, but in terms of playing DVD's it's not that special.

The TV is a Panasonic TH-42PX50U plasma. The Oppo is connected to the TV's HDMI port with the included DVI-HDMI cable. The sound is connected to a Sony STR-DE898 receiver via optical PCM cable. My other DVD player is a Sony DVP-NC80VB 5-disc changer connected to the TV's component inputs and to the receiver's coax PCM input.

I was impressed with its region free feature and its ability to play PAL properly. I did the "setup - 9210 - 0 - setup" sequence to make it multiregion, and made sure to set the player to Video 2 so that it would handle PAL correctly. Then I put in the Region 2 PAL version of They Live. This looks really good on my plasma. Absolutely no issues with sound synch or frame skipping or anything like that. I had previously used a Cyberhome CH-300 to play Region 2 / PAL discs and those were definitely a problem. So the Oppo is a very good player for multi-region DVD's.

But in terms of PQ improvement over the Sony changer, there pretty much is none. I played the Imax version of Apollo 13, and there is very little difference between the Sony's and the Oppo's 480p. Likewise, 480p and 1080i on the Oppo pretty much look indistinguishable. 1080i is perhaps a hair sharper, so I'm leaving it on that setting for now. Admittedly, in my case, it is possible that the PQ similarity is due to the TV. The TH-42PX50U is a 1024x768 display, so no matter what the input resolution is, the TV has to rescale the image to fit. Surprisingly, 720p is rather poor, but I've read that the Panasonic's 720p input support was tacked on at the last minute and it actually displays in less resolution than 480p does. So I suppose it's conceivable that if this player is used with a TV whose native resolution is true 720p or 1080, it might make a real difference, but on a plasma I don't see it.

There were a couple of minor things that bothered me about the Oppo's display. It seems as though there is sometimes a bit of yellow ghosting, sort of like a Y/C delay issue, around vertical edges in some scenes. Also, the image seems a bit softer than that of the Sony, regardless of the resolution I set it to. I will try playing around with cross-color correction, true-life, and sharpness to see if these can be improved. Right now I have tru-life and cross color correction enabled, and sharpness, brightness, etc, at the default 0 settings.

I really have nothing to say about the sound processing quality, because I used the optical output to my DTS-capable receiver and set the output to "Raw". So the player does no processing to the sound, and the sound is just as good as with my other DVD player.

Overall, and this is just based on a first impression after playing a couple of discs, I don't regret buying it. It's definitely a lot nicer than any of the cheap region-hackable players like a Cyberhome CH-300 or the various Daewoo ones. The additional features are pretty compelling -- short of a HTPC there really isn't anything else that can compare in terms of versatility. And the PQ is certainly not any worse than any other player in the same price range. But the scaling really does nothing to improve PQ over a good 480p player.
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This is what happens when a player is so hyped up. I went with the Sony 70h and I haven't looked back.

Turn off the noise reduction, not low, but off -- on both the player and the display (if it has it). The noise reduction circuit will leave an afterimage and this afterimage will be even brighter if the display and player are not calibrated and the brightness is too high. This afterimage has been reported before and it is the byproduct of the noise reduction feature.

In reply to my own earlier post regarding initial impressions of the Oppo: I like it better now. I turned off Cross Color Correction and that seems to have fixed any issues I had with the PQ -- the ghosting / ringing I noticed before has definitely gone away. Also, I think the softness of the picture I had noticed is just due to the source material. Film-based movies like the Imax Apollo 13 do look a bit softer. Yesterday I watched Appleseed (cgi cell-shaded anime movie) and Resident Evil, and those did look noticeably better on the Oppo than on the Sony. The Sony changer has some edge enhancement, which makes softer DVDs like Apollo 13 look a little sharper but makes sharp DVDs like these look harsh. Both of these movies have just about perfect DVD transfers, and they looked perfect on the Oppo. We also watched a couple of 80s movies -- Repo Man and Weird Science -- and they had a very film-like appearance. And even really bad DVD transfers, like the absolutely atrocious Blade Runner Director's Cut, at least look no worse on the Oppo than on other players.

So, as much as I was initially neither disappointed nor blown away by the Oppo, a day later I am really glad I have it. It won't turn your DVDs into HD-quality movies, but it will make them look as good as they possibly can on a plasma tv.
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Look out for Macroblocking on the Panny Oppo + Panny = bad PQ
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