When we reviewed Oppo’s BDP-93EU earlier in the year we discovered a player that was not only universal but also offered some of the best video and audio performance we have seen over HDMI. In fact, the only area where we thought the BDP-93EU could possibly be improved was in the upgrading of the digital-to-analogue conversion and the addition of dedicated stereo analogue outputs. Well now Oppo has released their BDP-95EU Universal Audiophile 3D Blu-ray Disc Player which not only includes all the best elements of the BDP-93EU but also improves on it in certain areas, especially related to its audio performance. Just like its less expensive sibling, the BDP-95EU includes genuine universal capability which includes 3D and 2D Blu-ray, DVD Audio, SACD, DVD, HDCD, CD, WAV and FLAC playback. It also incorporates Marvell’s superb Kyoto-G2 video processor which includes second generation Qdeo technology for remarkable images from standard definition content. The BDP-95EU also incorporates full 7.1 analogue output as well as two HDMI outputs for more versatile installation options. However here the similarities end because the BDP-95EU Oppo has completely re-engineered the electronics and redesigned the chassis which is now larger and much heavier. Within this redesigned chassis Oppo are using an ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC for the 7.1 analogue outputs and another ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC for the stereo analogue outputs. They have also included fully balanced XLR outputs for stereo as well as higher grade op-amps and passive electronic components. Finally the power supply has been completely redesigned to include Rotel-made toroidal transformers for the audio section which provide a linear power supply.
The Oppo BDP-95EU retails for £899 compared to £499 for the BDP-93EU so the question is do all these changes actually improve the performance of the BDP-95EU and is it worth the additional £400. The full in-depth review follows after the summary and scoring.
Any doubts about Oppo’s high-end intentions with the BDP-95EU can be dispelled as soon as you get the player out of its box. The improved power supply and shielding as well as the upgraded electronics have resulted in a chassis that is larger than the BDP-93EU and 2.5Kg heavier. Whilst the BDP-95EU still retains a brushed metal design, the facia has been changed and now has an attractive curved appearance that compliments the player’s high-end ambitions. The entire chassis sits on four large and sturdy feet which reduce vibrations and maintain stability. The disc drawer is still at the centre and there is only one display which is on the left hand side whilst there are some basic controls on the right. The drawer mechanism is the same as the one on the BDP-93EU which is a shame as that was one of few complaints we had about that machine. The disc drawer itself is a little shallow which means that sometimes you aren’t exactly sure if the disc is in correctly. We would have preferred to see a more solid drawer mechanism with a deeper disc tray built into it. However the disc drawer mechanism is at least quiet and smooth and thanks to the overall build quality the BDP-95EU has a very solid feel and appearance and when operating is almost silent. The Oppo badge on the far left of the facia is also the on/off button and just as with the BDP-93EU there is a hidden USB port at the far right of the facia. The overall look of the BDP-95EU is both stylish and solid which results in a contemporary but well-built appearance that can hold its own against any of the other high-end players on the market.
This high-end approach extends to the informative manual as well as the solid and well padded packaging; inside which you will find the BDP-95EU itself wrapped in a rather nice bag and a separate box for the player’s accessories. Aside from the remote the other accessories include a high speed HDMI cable, a WiFi dongle, a USB extension cable for locating the dongle away from the player and a detachable kettle style power cable.
As with the BDP-93EU the BDP-95EU includes a comprehensive set of high quality connectors at the rear, including two HDMI v1.4a outputs, a composite video and a component video output both of which use RCA connectors. There are also two USB ports (one at the front and one at the rear), a LAN port (in case you don’t have a wireless router), a connector for the external IR sensor, a digital audio out using both optical and coaxial and an RS-232C connector for custom installers. One new addition is an e-SATA (external Serial ATA) port which allows for a faster connection when playing content from external sources. Whilst the BDP-95EU also includes 7.1 analogue audio outputs via RCA connectors, these are colour coded and are now in a straight line at the top rear of the chassis. In addition the BDP-95EU has dedicated stereo audio outputs using both RCA connectors and fully balanced XLR outputs. There are also white plastic caps over many of the key connectors to protect them if they aren’t needed, which is another nice touch.
The remote that comes with the BDP-95EU reflects both the build quality of the player as well as Oppo’s attention to detail and user friendly design. The remote feels solid and comfortable to hold, it has backlighting and includes an intuitive layout of the buttons that makes using it very easy. The buttons themselves are easier to differentiate by touch and have a nice tactile response when pressing them. Our only complaint would be that due to its shape if it is lying on a flat surface and you push one of the buttons at the sides the remote can flip over. However this is a very minor gripe and overall this is one of the best designed player remotes that we have seen in a while.
Setting up the BDP-95EU is very straightforward, especially as most people will be using HDMI to connect the player to either a display or a receiver. The addition of two HDMI outputs is a nice touch and allows the BDP-95EU to pass video to two displays simultaneously or to pass video to one display and audio to a receiver if perhaps that receiver is unable to pass 3D. Alternatively you might want to connect one HDMI output to a display and one to an external video processor if again that processor is unable to pass 3D. Whichever combination you choose, however, it is important to remember that the output labeled HDMI1 is the one that uses the dedicated Marvell DE2750 chipset; the second output HDMI2 uses an alternative Mediatek/Oppo OP8531 decoder chipset built into the player. The BDP-95EU also includes a Source Direct function which allows a user with an external video processor to output the original video content without any processing, so for example Blu-rays will be output at 1080p24 and PAL DVDs will be output at 576i.
For audio you have a choice and can either pass the digital signal directly to your receiver via HDMI or use the internal reference DACs to decode the digital audio and pass this via the analogue outputs to your amplifier. Obviously if you just need a digital transport then the BDP-93EU is probably your best choice as there is little point paying the extra money for the BDP-95EU unless you intend to use the internal DACs. If you decide to decode the high definition audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) within your receiver then the BDP-95EU can pass the audio as bit-stream via HDMI. Alternatively the decoding can be done internally and the BDP-95EU can pass the audio as PCM, either via HDMI or using the 7.1 analogue outputs. If you have DVD-Audio or SACD discs the player can also pass their audio as PCM via HDMI or the analogue outputs and in the case of SACD the audio can be passed as bitstream using the DSD (Direct Stream Digital) codec if your receiver can decode it. The same is true of HDCDs, which the BDP-95EU can either decode internally or allow the receiver to decode if it is compatible. In the case of the BDP-95EU you also have the option of using the dedicated analogue stereo outputs (RCA and XLR) if you are listening to stereo content. For audio listening there is also the option to turn off the video circuits using the Pure Audio button on the remote control.
The menu system is very well designed - it is intuitive, attractive and very responsive. When you first turn on the BDP-95EU there is an Easy Setup Wizard that guides you through the basic setup of the player for settings such as the primary video output, the resolution, the aspect ratio and the audio settings. All the more detailed setup menus can be found by pressing Setup on the remote. As with the BDP-93EU, pressing Setup brings up the relevant menu screen, even if a disc is playing (you don't have to leave playback mode to alter the settings). This flexibility is wonderful for comparing the impact of different options and makes any changes in settings much easier to detect. It is certainly an improvement on many other machines which force the user to stop a disc before entering the setup menu and then starting the disc again after the changes have been made; this can be especially time consuming with certain Blu-rays.
The Setup menu is broken down into six sub-menus - Playback Setup, Video Setup, Audio Format Setup, Audio Processing, Device Setup and Network Setup. Within Playback Setup are the controls for SACD and DVD-Audio playback as well as functions such as languages and parental control. The Audio Format sub-menu allows the user to set the secondary audio used for commentaries etc. and whether the HDMI output will pass PCM or bitstream. In addition you can set the optical or coaxial to pass either PCM or bitstream as well as choose if the DSD decoding for SACDs and any HDCD decoding for CDs is done in the player or passed directly to your receiver for decoding. Whichever combinations you choose, the BDP-95EU is capable of passing audio up to 192kHz at 24-bit over 7.1 channels. The Audio Processing sub-menu is used for setting up the speaker configuration, distance and levels as well as the crossover frequency if you are going to decode the audio in the BDP-95EU and pass via the 7.1 analogue audio outputs. There is also a dynamic range control for smoothing the audio during low level listening and a control for changing the polarity of the XLR terminal (Normal or Inversion).
The Video Setup sub-menu offers all of the controls related to the image including selecting which HDMI output is the Primary Output. There is a 3D Mode setting which is best left to Auto and you can also set the diagonal screen size of your 3D display. There is a control for the aspect ratio as well the TV system and since most modern displays can handle PAL, NTSC and 1080p24 content we would advise putting the setting on Multi-system. The default is PAL but this converts everything to 50Hz including 1080p24 content unless you have selected On in the 1080p24 Output menu. In this setting the default is Off but we would recommend the Auto setting and then the BDP-93EU can automatically detect 1080p24 and pass it to your display. There are also a number of Display Options, the most useful of which is the Subtitle Shift which allows the user to move the subtitles up. This is a very handy function if you have a constant height setup with a 2.35:1 screen and the subtitles appear in the black bars on a particular disc. We believe Oppo is one of only two manufacturers that provide this feature - the other is Philips - but without this function you would not be able to read the subtitles. So if you have a constant height setup and watch a lot of subtitled movies you might consider buying the BDP-95EU for this feature alone.Within Video Setup there is also an HDMI Options sub-menu which allows the user to select the Colour Space for both HDMI1 and HDMI2. This setting defaults to Auto which allows the BDP-95EU to select the colour space supported by the user’s display. If you wish you can select a specific colour space such as YCbCr 4:2:2 which is closest to the YCbCr 4:2:0 colour space that discs are encoded in. There is also an option to select Deep Colour for both the HDMI1 and HDMI2 outputs which can transmit the video image at up to 12 bits per a channel as compared to the standard 8 bits per a channel. Since the discs are encoded at 8 bits per a channel we would recommend leaving this setting at its Off default position.
Finally within the Video Setup sub-menu there is a Picture Adjustment menu which includes Brightness, Contrast, Hue (Tint), Saturation (Colour), Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Colour Enhancement and Contrast Enhancement controls. These controls can be applied to either HDMI1, HDMI2 or the Analogue Video outputs and up to 3 different Picture Modes can be saved. Personally if your display is correctly setup then you should leave the Brightness, Contrast, Hue and Saturation controls at their default setting of zero. We would also leave the Colour and Contrast Enhancement controls at their default setting of zero for similar reasons. Increasing the Sharpness control to 'sharpen' the image will only add ringing and other artefacts but reducing the sharpness control will slightly blur the image which could prove useful to hide compression artefacts on standard definition DVDs. The Noise Reduction control could also be used to to reduce compression artefacts such as mosquito noise on standard definition DVDs. However when it comes to a properly mastered Blu-ray always make sure these settings are all set to zero because a pristine 1080p image just doesn’t need any additional processing.
The Device Setup sub-menu includes information about the latest firmware as well as the option to be notified of any new firmware upgrades. Oppo are very good at continually upgrading their software in an effort to provide the best possible performance so we recommend you always have the Firmware Notification set to On. These upgrades can be done a number of ways, either via disc, USB or through your network (LAN or WiFi). There is also a control for the Remote Code in case the default setting interferes with other devices, as well as a control for HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). Finally there is the control for dimming or turning off the display as well as a menu for the persistent storage. The BDP-95EU has 1GB of internal storage but more can be added via USB. At present the *.mp3 playback is disabled in EU firmware but it will be enabled as soon as Oppo finish obtaining the correct licences. However only the file extension is disabled, so video files with embedded *.mp3 audio will play without any problems. In fact the BDP-95EU appears to support just about every media and file format we’ve ever heard of including Kodak Picture CD, AVCHD, MP4, DivX, MKV, FLAC and WAV files. All these audio, video and picture files can be accessed via discs, USB or eSATA drives.
The Network Setup sub-menu allows the user to set up the network connection either through a LAN cable or using the provided WiFi dongle. Once set up the user will have access to BD-Live content via Blu-ray as well as other streamed media. However you can turn BD-Live off which is a nice feature because frankly we have no interest in this service and with Universal Blu-rays in particular it can take you 10 or 15 minutes to get to the main menu with BD-Live on. In the US the BDP-95 can stream both Netflix and Blockbuster On Demand but here in Europe there is a serious lack of European wide streaming services. Unfortunately if the BDP-95EU had access to LoveFilm or BBC iPlayer it would only apply to the UK which might annoy other European users, so Oppo are currently working on a European wide solution. In the meantime, YouTube will be added to both the US and European BDP-95 in the near future.
As with any system the quality of the image is only as good as the display device the player is attached to but using a calibrated JVC DLA-X3 projector resulted in some breathtaking 3D images. Obviously any 3D Blu-ray player should be able to output the content on the discs equally as well over HDMI because it is a digital signal but the overall 3D performance of the BDP-95EU was excellent with the content playing flawlessly on the DLA-X3. The BDP-95EU handled the high definition audio equally as well over HDMI and the resulting experience was incredibly immersive with the added dimensionality of the 3D image and the enveloping surround sound. We tried a number of 3D Blu-rays and they all played first time without any compatibility or handshaking issues.
As with the 3D performance, the digital nature of the content means that any Blu-ray player capable of outputting 1080p24 should be identical to any other when using the HDMI output. The BDP-95EU performed just as well as all the other Blu-ray players that we have tested and it correctly output the video without any issues as demonstrated by the multiburst and zone plate patterns on our Spears & Munsil disc. That doesn’t mean that the BDP-95EU’s performance wasn’t excellent because it was, our point is that all correctly performing Blu-ray players are capable of the same performance in the digital realm. To satisfy our curiosity and ensure that the Marvell QDEO video processor wasn’t performing any unwanted processing we measured a [tip=Greyscale]greyscale[/tip] test pattern using both the 1080p setting and the Source Direct setting which bypasses the processor. Thankfully the results were the same so there appears to be no back door processing going on with 1080p content.
When it comes to 1080i content the opportunity for the player itself to add value is far greater than it is with 1080p content. The ability of the player to detect film content inside the interlaced signal and correctly deinterlace it without introducing artefacts is dependent on the quality of the processing in the player itself. The BDP-95EU uses Marvell's Kyoto-G2 video processor combined with second generation QDEO technology and it is exceptionally good, passing every single cadence test on both our Spear & Munsil and HQV Blu-rays. This is the first player we’ve ever tested that has passed every single test and whilst some of the cadences are rather obscure it doesn’t detract from the quality of the processing in the BDP-95EU.
We also used the HQV Blu-ray disc to check the quality of the video deinterlacing. This disc has a jaggies pattern that uses three rotating bars and with the BDP-95EU all three bars were smooth with no jaggies. The BDP-95EU also had no problems with the video resolution loss test, correctly processing the moving portion of the image and leaving the background free of artefacts. The BDP-95EU was also able to handle discs with film content that is encoded at 1080i/50Hz without any problems. Whilst there isn’t a great deal of 1080i content on Blu-ray it is good to know that the BDP-95EU is capable of such excellent performance and if you do have any 1080i content the player will be able to output it flawlessly.
Overall the BDP-95EU’s performance with both NTSC and PAL content was reference and using the HQV DVDs the BDP-95EU it was able to fully reproduce the SMPTE colour bar tests for both PAL and NTSC, correctly scaling the full 576i/50Hz and 480i/60Hz images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent, the BDP-95EU reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies, even at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly, even on the bottom line. The BDP-95EU also had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs.
The BDP-95EU’s performance was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the BDP-95EU also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) format as well as all the more obscure variations. The BDP-95EU also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding. This was a superb performance by the BDP-95EU and represents some of the best processing, deinterlacing and scaling that we have seen, not only from a player but even from some dedicated video processors.
Subjective Audio Tests
This is the area that we find the most difficult because unlike the video performance which can be measured using a series of established tests and viewed on a calibrated reference monitor, things are a little more subjective when it comes to reviewing the audio performance. As with video, the audio will also be subject to the quality of the system being used, how it is setup and how it has been calibrated. However our 7.1 audio review system has been calibrated by the Home Acoustics Alliance and thus provides an excellent opportunity for some critical listening.
Obviously a lot of people will just use their Blu-ray player as a digital transport and send the audio as a digital bit-stream over HDMI, this means that the digital to analogue conversion is actually being handled by their receiver or audio processor. If this is your intention then the BDP-95EU is probably not for you as one of the main reasons for buying it would be to take advantage of the reference DACs - you would instead be better off buying the equally impressive but much cheaper BDP-93EU.
In the interests of being thorough we tried the digital outputs of the BDP-95EU with a number of formats including multichannel PCM, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA soundtracks from Blu-rays and Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks from DVDs. We also listened to the multichannel audio from SACD and DVD-Audio discs as well as two channel audio from SACDs and CDs, including HDCDs. We tried different methods of connecting the BDP-95EU to our reference receiver, including HDMI, optical and coaxial and also switched between bitstream and PCM. We even tried splitting the HDMI using the two outputs and sending video to our projector with one and just audio to our receiver with the other.
The result of all these experiments was that we could not detect any differences between any of these modes and every format sounded wonderful. The BDP-95EU is clearly a very capable audio performer and whether it was DTS-HD Master Audio or a stereo CD the audio sounded fantastic. The BDP-95EU was also able to detect all the different discs and audio formats without any problems and played each one back flawlessly.
However it is the analogue performance using the internal DACs that will be of interest to anyone considering buying the BDP-95EU and Oppo have gone to great lengths to ensure its audiophile credentials. First Oppo have used two of the SABRE32 Reference Audio Digital-to-Analogue Converters (DAC) which use a 32-bit Hyperstream DAC architecture which provides a greater dynamic range and reduces jitter and distortion. The BDP-95EU also uses toroidal power transformers custom built by Rotel that provide a clean and robust power source to the critical audio components. The 2-channel analogue stereo uses 4 DAC channels stacking together to achieve even greater audio performance and includes both RCA single-ended connectors and XLR balanced connectors. By transmitting a pair of differential signals, the XLR balanced output provides better common-mode noise rejection and improves signal quality. All of these improvements are contained within a re-engineered chassis that provides solid support to reduce vibrations and also adds more shielding.
This incredible attention to detail and quality has certainly paid dividends with the BDP-95EU delivering a phenomenal analogue audio performance. The analogue stereo from CDs, HDCDs and SACDs was remarkable with a clearly defined soundstage and a wonderful amount of detail and clarity. The sounds were nicely focused within three dimensional space and there was a real sense of envelopment. The soundstage also showed a wonderful frequency response and an amazing dynamic range. With 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks the BDP-95EU was equally assured and the additional speakers just added to the soundstage creating even more envelopment and greater focus. Sounds were perfectly positioned within the soundstage and there was a wonderful sense of detail and clarity. The frequency response and dynamic range were also impressive and the bass was smooth and controlled with a crossover at 80Hz. Overall this was an incredible performance and represented some of the best audio I have heard at any price point.
Disc Load Times
The BDP-95EU is incredibly fast at both powering on and loading discs, in fact the only player we’ve seen that is faster is Sony’s Playstation 3. It only took 5 seconds for the BDP-95EU to power on and extend the disc tray as compared to the 20 seconds that other players take. The loading times of discs will vary from studio to studio and depend on how much BD-Live and Java content there is on the disc but on average discs were loading up in about 25 seconds which is excellent.
- Universal playback (2D & 3D Blu-ray, DVD, SACD, DVD-A, CD)
- Reference audio performance
- Reference video processing
- Reference build quality and quiet operation
- Linear power supply using toroidal transformers
- Very fast load and response times
- Easy to use with well designed menu system
- Two HDMI outputs
- Dedicated stereo output
- XLR Balanced stereo output
- 7.1 Analogue audio output
- WiFi dongle included
- Well designed and high quality remote
- Limited internet and networking capabilities
- Shape of the underside of the remote could be better
- Disc drawer mechanism could be a little more solid
Oppo BDP-95EU Universal 3D Blu-ray Player Review
Incredibly with the BDP-95EU Oppo have managed to produce a player that is even better than the already excellent BDP-93EU. In fact the BDP-95EU manages to include all of the capabilities that made the BDP-93EU so good and has even improved in the areas where it was weakest. The BDP-95EU is still able to produce pristine 1080p24 images from 2D and 3D Blu-rays and it can still handle just about any format you care to throw at it. In addition, the Marvell video processing is still capable of reference processing with standard definition and 1080i content. The BDP-95EU also offers the same flexibility when it comes to connectivity, including a second HDMI output, two USB ports and 7.1 analogue audio output as well as improved networking capabilities.
However Oppo have not been content to just add dedicated stereo analogue outputs to their audiophile player and the BDP-95EU has in fact been redesigned from the chassis up. This has resulted in a reference level of build quality incorporating separate power supplies and additional shielding. The use of reference DACs, for both the dedicated stereo analogue outputs and the 7.1 analogue outputs - as well as the addition of XLR balanced stereo outputs results in a player that is capable of a reference audio performance. Whilst listening tests might well be subjective the BDP-95EU was capable of some of the best sounding audio that we have ever heard from a Blu-ray disc player, let alone a universal disc player.
Aside from the limited networking and internet capabilities of the BDP-95EU, the only other minor complaints we had related to the shape of the remote control and the depth of the disc tray. Frankly if those are the only areas where we can find fault in the BDP-95EU then that gives you a good idea of just how impressive this player actually is. Obviously the decision to choose between the BDP-93EU and the more expensive BDP-95EU depends entirely on your needs. If all you want is a digital transport to send high def audio and video via HDMI to your receiver and display then the absolutely superb BDP-93EU is the player for you. However, if you are looking for an audiophile universal player with a high-end design and reference quality DACs then the BDP-95EU should be top of your shopping list. In fact the BDP-95EU is so good that it can comfortably hold its own against players that cost two or three times as much and as such Oppo should be congratulated for a remarkable achievement.
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