Q: Some time ago you wrote about the Oppo BDP-103D Darbee Edition Blu-ray player. It sells for $599. On the Oppo website (www.oppodigital.com) I also found the Oppo BDP-105D Darbee Edition Blu-ray player. It sells for $1,299. You highly recommended the BDP-103D. Is the BDP-105D so much better that it warrants spending $700 more? Would I be able to tell the difference?
A: It depends on your system and how you will use the player. For many people it is, indeed, worth the difference.
The players have similar video quality, but the audio performance and capabilities are different — for the most part. There is no difference in the audio quality if you use only the HDMI connections in your system. So, if you do not have an external audio system or are using only the HDMI connections between the player and receiver, then the BDP-103D is the player for you.
Though it's not inexpensive at $599, I do think the BDP-103D is worth every penny given its extremely high quality, many features and the noticeable difference made by the Darbee Visual Presence processing. To learn more about Darbee processing, go to www.darbeevision.com. If you want to add Darbee video processing to your system without adding a new disc player, you can buy a small video processor called the Darblet DVP 5000 for $199.
The BDP-105D takes the standout video performance and Darbee processing of the BDP-103D and adds state-of-the-art audio performance. The chassis is bigger and heavier, and the player is finely finished with a beautifully styled faceplate. Balanced outputs are added for use in high-end audio systems. It will improve the sound quality of everything you play, from Blu-ray discs and DVDs to CDs and digital audio files.
To enjoy the improved audio performance of the BDP-105D, however, you must use the analog audio connections for audio and run a separate HDMI cable to the TV for video. Not all receivers have analog audio inputs, but most likely anyone contemplating a $1,299 disc player is going to have a receiver or audio processor high enough in the manufacturer's model line that it will have them.
When I tested the BDP-105D in my system, the difference was quite noticeable. The sound was more richly detailed and airy, and it just plain sounded better. I was comparing it with the audio circuitry in my Anthem AVM50v audio/video processor, which was $5,000 when new, so this is no small accomplishment.
I always tour the high-end audio suites at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The BDP-105D is ubiquitous in these suites. If the displaying manufacturer does not offer disc players, you usually find an Oppo BDP-105D there, playing discs or digital audio files. That it is trusted by the makers of the most exotic amplifiers and speakers to make their gear sound its best in front of a very picky audience is a powerful testament to the quality of the player.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.