Q: I enjoyed your columns about cost-no-object electronics and speakers. What do you recommend in that vein for high-end TVs and Blu-ray players?
A: I will discuss televisions in an upcoming column. The Blu-ray player question is easy. There’s only one brand of Blu-ray player I recommend above the entry level: Oppo Digital.
Usually I do not recommend that consumers spend more than $200 on a Blu-ray player because even an $80 model will provide excellent picture and sound quality. You typically are using only the HDMI connection, which means that you are taking digital information and transferring it for playback. Spending more usually gets you better construction and sometimes better DVD picture quality or perhaps 4K upscaling. But even those benefits tend to level off at modest price levels.
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 annual Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, you will find that Oppo players are ubiquitous in the high-end demo rooms, where 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’re considered the best. Search the Web for “Oppo service” and you will find universal praise from customers. Oppo stays on top of things and really cares.
The high-end experience begins 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.
The BDP-103D has all the features you would expect from a top-shelf Blu-ray player, and then some: wireless network connection, 3-D playback and 2-D to 3-D conversion, 4K upscaling and streaming of Netflix, Pandora, Rhapsody and VUDU, 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 it 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. 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 percent and High Definition for my TV. You can see samples at www.oppodigital.com.
Here’s the icing on the cake: You also can use Darbee processing with other video sources. I plugged my Dish Network satellite box into the BDP-103D 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 that many TVs cost 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 definitely is worth it. The quality and performance will satisfy you every time you pick up the remote.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at www. soundadviceblog.com.