Oppo DV-970HD universal player John Marks on the Oppo
A few quick words about this inexpensive universal digital player ($149), which punches far above its weight class. At the time of writing, I had no idea what Wes Phillips said about it, but his full review was published in the May issue. Judging only by its two-channel audio performance, the Oppo DV-970HD is a very respectable player. Taking its price into account, it is an exceptional bargain.
Oppo thoughtfully includes an Audio Only function on the remote control, which disables the player's video functions. However, I could hear no difference, even through the Oppo's analog outputs. Audio Only, by the way, disables itself when the DV-970HD is placed in standby, which is probably a smart thing. Otherwise, if the player were to be part of a home-theater system, a non-audiophile trying to play a DVD might become very frustrated, getting sound but no picture.
Using the far more expensive Grace m902's input switch to compare the Oppo's analog outs to its digital out feeding the Grace's DAC and listening through the Grace's headphone jacks (which allowed for quick comparisons), I preferred the sound using the Grace's DACs, but it was not a night-and-day difference.
The only things that keep me from making the DV-970HD a "no-brainer" budget recommendation are that it requires the use of a video monitor to set up all its functions for optimal two-channel listening, and, unless you're playing a recording from the beginning and straight through, the controls you'll need are available only on the remote control, not the front panel.—John Marks