Extracting high-quality audio from Blu-ray players is problematic. The HDMI signal interleaves video and audio data which, upon decoding, produces an inherent jitter as high as 7nanoseconds (For comparison, a good CD player’s jitter is in the picosecond range). In practical terms, it is difficult to properly decode HDMI audio without employing extensive reclocking circuits, thus pushing up the cost of a good HDMI audio pre-processor.
The simplest way to improve analog audio performance is at the source. The Oppo BDP-83SE player incorporates ESS Technology’s state-of-the-art Sabre DAC, widely acknowledged as one of the industry’s best. The 7.1 multi-channel unit employs a single 8-channel Sabre DAC. The stereo channels’ dedicated Sabre DAC is achieved by stacking four DACs per left and right channel for utmost transparency and dynamic range.
The Nuforce Edition elevates performance yet further by:
* Replacing critical analog components with the high-grade equivalents NuForce uses in its high-end audio components
* Superior high-speed power regulation on both DACs and all analog power rails. Improved power supply regulation also applies to the 7.1 channels
* High-performance parts and related circuits/component values replacing the stereo channels’ monolithic devices.
* Bypass the Stereo and 7.1 channels’ output muting circuits. The SE’s relays are better than the standard BDP-83’s muting transistors. Nevertheless, imposing as little as possible along critical signal paths is clearly preferable.
The result is a better power supply and optimized analog signal paths. As always, the proof is in the listening. The improvements in stereo (CD, SACD, DVD-A, BD Audio), and L/R/C movie outputs are clearly audible.
The standard Oppo BDP-83SE offers exemplary audio performance. The Nuforce Edition goes a step further in transparency, dynamics, and detail retrieval. As is typical of all Nuforce products, these benefits relate directly to our high-end product line in the preservation of musical truth.
I purchased both the Oppo BDP-83 and the Oppo BDP-83se NuForce Edition, so this is a review of the latter. I won't go into the video improvements, since there aren't any (none of the video components have been upgraded). There has been some discussion online that the upgraded power supply can improve video quality, but I can't tell the difference (perhaps my TV isn't good enough, but I doubt that). On the other hand, audio performance it significantly improved and that is what I will be focusing on.
My system is a bit unusual in that I'm passing video straight to the TV, I'm using a McCormack MAP-1 multi-channel analog preamp (no digital sound or video processing), I have a Magnepan MC-1/MMGC/MMGW speaker setup, I'm running the fronts as full-size speakers and using the sub to filter out the low frequency effects, and I'm using class-d amps. It sounds a little out there, but this combination has provided the best sound to my ears, something I believe is attributable to it's simplicity (kind of ironic, I know). Anyhow, I first replaced an aging Sony universal player with the original Oppo BDP-83, and then I added the NuForce edition to compare just before the holiday. The McCormack has two multi-channel inputs, so a/b testing is as easy as switching the remote.
My system has always sounded a tad on the bright side, and that had always bothered me. The standard BDP-83 didn't do much to improve on that, and while clarity and speed are top-notch, the system sounded thin. Also, with wall-hanging Magnepans getting any meaningful bass is a chore. When I switched to the NuForce player, the whole system came to life for me. It had, for the first time, heft and weight. I can't really describe it differently, but without loosing any detail and speed, the system now sounds much more substantial. SACDs, DVD-A, and BR disks now have more power and grunt, almost as if the mid-bass was now filled in. The NuForce player adds warmth without reducing clarity in the least bit.
So why did I opt for the NuForce player over the Oppo SE? Well I did a lot of research online and from what people who had compared them said, the Oppo's upgrades were more significant and high-quality than the basic SE. This is not to knock Oppo's improvements in any way, as they do apparently improve the sound considerably, but I wanted the best I could get without going to a third-party mod that would affect my warranty. I've read that with those mods, the improvements can be even greater, but I wanted something that had Oppo's blessing, and so this was my solution.
I have not heard the SE version in my system, so I can't really comment on it, but the NuForce Edition is the first player that has truly made me enjoy my HT setup. As a matter of fact, after comparing the two, I used the Nuforce exclusively; the difference in sound is not just clearly audible, but a substantial improvement. Is it worth the $1300 price tag? I can't really say because I haven't heard the SE, but I'm certainly happy with the NuForce player. I do realize it's expensive for a BR player (for me as well), hence my 4 stars on the value rating.
And in all my excitement I never thoroughly tested the 2-channel capabilities. From what I've read the improvements on the 2-channel outputs are even more significant from both the stock Oppo, and the SE versions. I bought it mostly for multi-channel use, but I'll move it to my 2-channel system later this month to see about that. Anyhow, for anyone who has a receiver w/o HDMI and relies on 5.1/7.1 analog audio connections, the NuForce edition is a fantastic upgrade from the stock Oppo.