Music in the Round #87: Oppo UDP-205 Page 2

Using my Marantz pre-pro, I used both HDMI outputs anyway, and yes, Audio Only sounded somewhat smoother, with less haze and, consequently, greater resolution of very low-level signals. But the difference wasn't much. I think this implementation of low-jitter HDMI is a pyrrhic victory, especially for BD playback, and that most users will forgo the low-jitter audio merely out of convenience.

These days I play few discs, but when I do, my Manhattan system can handle only multichannel sources with analog outputs. Fortunately, the implementation of the Sabre Pro DACs in the UDP-205 is excellent. Not only can I use the Oppo's dedicated 7.1-channel analog outputs (RCA), which are fed by one of the DAC chips; The other DAC chip enhances multichannel performance by taking just the L/R output from the dedicated Stereo Audio Outs, unbalanced (RCA) or balanced (XLR). The stereo RCA outs worked just fine in this setup, and made the wiring and connections more coherent. I didn't hear a difference between them and the XLRs via 1m Kubala-Sosna interconnects.

I loved the UDP-205's sound through its analog outputs. That's important, because playing discs in the UDP-205 is how I determine whether to rip and keep the disc. The sound I got from the UDP-205 was honest, revealing the quality of the recording and the performance. It predicted what I could expect from the resulting file when I played it through the server with its much more expensive DACs.


In fact, the UDP-205 can subtly shape the sound to the user's taste with the choice of filter characteristics used in the conversion of digital to analog. On the Audio Processing page of the setup menu is an option called Filter Characteristics. I've listed the seven selections below, along with comments from Oppo and from AKM (footnote 3): Brick Wall ("Usually good for measurement results, not so good for listening"); Corrected Mini Phase Fast ("Low dispersion, Harmonic Sound"); Apodizing Fast ("Some listeners like this due to the elimination of so called 'pre-ringing'"); Mini Phase Slow ("Short Delay Slow Rolloff, Acoustic Tone"); Mini Phase Fast–"Default" ("Short Delay Sharp Rolloff, Acoustic Sound"); Linear Phase Slow ("Slow Rolloff, Traditional Tone"); Linear Phase Fast ("Sharp Rolloff, Traditional Sound").

According to AKM, Mini Phase Fast, the default filter, should "enhance bass sound," and it did—but I found the Apodizing Fast filter had less edge and so was more to my liking. Each of the others, with the possible exception of Brick Wall, had both positive and negative characteristics, and I can imagine that other listeners would make choices different from mine. However, I've played with filters before and have found them bewildering: Compulsive comparing does not lead to certainty. I advise you to choose two or three favorite tracks for your initial trials, listen, choose, live with your choice, and don't revisit the issue unless something changes in your room or system—or mind—that dictates you must.

Disc playback aside, the most attractive aspects of the Oppo UDP-205 involved its use as a multichannel music server and multichannel DAC—no other such integrated devices are near it in price. As a server, the UDP-205 was relatively swift at accessing attached USB drives and networked file storage. I ran playback from USB and NAS drives, by file, performer, genre, etc, on-screen with the remote or with the Oppo app on my iPad. The UDP-205 handled all file formats up through 24/192 and DSD64. Higher resolutions appeared as options but while the UDP-205 tried each track of a selected album in turn, it would play none of them. What it did play, through analog outputs, sounded as good in every way as the original discs, and in my view was more conducive to relaxed enjoyment.

Using the UDP-205 as a server, either HDMI output was equally successful, depending on the DACs in the target component. Of course, if you choose the Audio Only HDMI out, its black screen will prevent you from doing any onscreen browsing or playback. Fortunately, Oppo's iPad app for the 2XX players bypasses that roadblock, and turns the UDP-205 into a formidable multichannel music player.

As a $1299 DAC, the UDP-205 sits comfortably in the wide gap between miniDSP's PCM-only uDAC-8 ($299) and exaSound's e38 ($3839). Like those two, the Oppo can be accessed as a DAC via one of its USB inputs. The other two USB ports function when it's used as a music server/player via the built-in file interface or the iPad app. To use the UDP-205 purely as a DAC with a full-service music player such as Roon or JRiver Media Center, you must use either its HDMI or Ethernet connections. Both Roon and JRiver recognized the UDP-205 via its HDMI input, but as Roon doesn't support the UPnP/DLNA protocol required by Oppo, only JRiver worked with Ethernet, wired or wireless. If you prefer HDMI, I warn you: It was a bit flaky to configure with Roon or JRiver (I didn't try others), but it was doable.

Ethernet, however, worked with nary a bump. Within seconds of connecting the UDP-205 to my network, it appeared on JRiver's list of available network targets. I simply configured JRiver to send all files to the Oppo in their original formats, and bingo, I was playing multichannel PCM up to 24/192, and multichannel DSD64. I suspect that any player that supports UPnP/DLNA will also work. The sound was superb, and a real advance on the USB-connected miniDSP uDAC-8: cleaner and more dynamic, with greater bass extension. In comparison to the exaSound, the Oppo had punchier but equally transparent sound with solid bass, but the e38's sound was more subtle, smooth, and spacious. I ultimately prefer the exaSound, especially for long-term listening, but I could also make a case for the Oppo without overreaching.

Gapless playback is limited on USB and unavailable on Ethernet, but JRiver's intelligent buffering and the UDP-205's faster processing have reduced the lengths of these gaps, which in most cases were unnoticeable. With a Mahler symphony, in which portions of a single movement are in separate tracks/files, I heard a gap only when Mahler had left neither a break nor a sharp transition.

Oppo Digital's UDP-205 offers many features and a high quality of sound at a low price. I mostly prize it because it's the long-sought missing link: a high-resolution, DSD-capable, multichannel digital-to-analog converter for under $1500. But it's much more than that—it's also a quite good server/player and network bridge. Even if it didn't have a disc transport, I could recommend it.

Footnote 3: ESS does not provide descriptions of their filters, so Oppo publishes descriptions of equivalent filters from AKM, whose DAC chip is used in the Oppo UDP-203.

Anton's picture

It was educational, as well....and I own one!

As a two channel guy, I will add: This baby is even better than Kal said!

tonykaz's picture

Hmm, $1,300.

All things being equal I figured OPPO stuff would be in the $5k range by now.

It's better in all manner of ways, isn't it?

Egads, seems like Oppo is lowering their prices.

this is the same outfit that MSB in Watsonville says is so very high level. Phew.

And it's the Player that Mr. JVS has sitting amongst those very pricey Wilsons.

I'm heading to 6moons to double check your appraisal.

So-far, I'm stammered by your reviewing discoveries.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm not a TV / Video guy so I don't follow this 4K stuff.

Anton's picture


"Didn't" find a way to bring up vinyl!


Kal Rubinson's picture

In a "Manufacturers' Comment," Jason Liao announces that the UDP-203/205 models are now Roon Ready devices and, therefore, can be controlled by Roon via Ethernet. This is, of course, good but please note that this support does not extend to DSD or to multichannel. IMHO, this is unfortunate.

tonykaz's picture

Roon is only music, so far, aren't they?

I thought that they were an off-shoot of MQA people who are an off-shoot of Meridian.

Egads, so many intrigues.

Overall, I contend that things are getting pretty darn good, especially compared to those old 100lb. TV sets sitting in everyone's basement, patiently waiting for a safe way to dispose of them.

I admire your work ( and Professor Waldrip's) in this area buuuuuuuut, as a one time retailer, I can't see regular civilians willingness to spend for quality music gear at the entry level, much less the 5 Channel versions. ( as of today )

Futuristically, I see all music delivery as surround type format, it's the method that can place listeners in the experience. Music in the Round is like being in the Holidome, I suspect it's a logical application of the emerging 4th Generation of music formats.

We have a wonderful music future ahead of us ( I think; in the next 10 years ).

Tony in Michigan

ps. we've come a very long way in the last 70 years, which is only the beginning.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Yes, Roon is just music, afaik, not movies/video. Also, there is a back-story about their relationship to Meridian but they are now quite independent.

tonykaz's picture

I just got an email say'n that our Bernie Sanders is Larry David's cousin, he looks strong enough to run in 2020 ( where I'll again be delighted to help )

This Internet is Shrinking the world around us.

I'm watching Roon

Tony in Michigan

ps. the RMAF17 Seminars are starting to be YouTube released, they're pretty darn good.

Richard D. George's picture

Great review, Kal.

I used to be a big Oppo fan, and I fully realize that the focus of the review is music. But....
If you don't actually spin music discs anymore (which I don't, anymore), the new Sony UBP-X1000 ES is a better purchase if you want to use the player for spinning 4K HDR video discs. I traded in an Oppo 105 and a 103D for two of the Sony units in one house, and will trade in two similar Oppo's in our mountain house next year when the other equipment is 4K HDR ready. The build quality of the Sony is very good (not like "consumer" Sony Blu-ray players) and takes 3-prong IEC power cords so you can use an upgraded power cord. It also has features that are useful to custom installers (Control 4 friendly). And... you can stream video through it, a feature that Oppo has dropped. The Sony unit is half the price of the Oppo.
I love listening to music, particularly high rez files and Tidal (and Spotify) and bit-perfect ripped CD's. I just don't play CD's or SACD's anymore.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Great review, Kal.

I used to be a big Oppo fan, and I fully realize that the focus of the review is music. But....If you don't actually spin music discs anymore (which I don't, anymore), the new Sony UBP-X1000 ES is a better purchase if you want to use the player for spinning 4K HDR video discs.
Thanks but I am not particularly interested in 4K video although I have a Samsung 4k player in my work room.

Richard D. George's picture

Fair enough

Richard D. George's picture

I suspect that there are more than a few Stereophile readers that:

- Already have a decent DAC, in one form or another
- Do not regularly play SACD or DVD-A discs

For the same money as the Oppo, these good folks could buy a Bluesound Vault 2 and connect it to their existing DAC (with a good coaxial digital cable) and:

1) Buy high rez files from HD Tracks and have them automatically download to the Vault 2 (2 TB capacity)
2) Take their existing CD's and rip them (bit perfect) directly into the Vault 2
3) Access existing music files on other NAS's using the Vault 2
4) Stream high rez Tidal using the Vault 2. There is also support for MQA.
5) Access all of the above in different locations in the house if additional Bluesound devices are added later.

I used to be a huge fan of Oppo and have purchased 5 of their players, including a few flagship 105's. In the brave new world, their appeal is now quite narrow in my opinion.

Kal Rubinson's picture

For the same money as the Oppo, these good folks could buy a Bluesound Vault 2 and connect it to their existing DAC (with a good coaxial digital cable)
AFAIK, no BlueSound device does multichannel. Thus, I prefer using my Baetis Prodigy-X server with an external DAC to do those things.

Richard D. George's picture

Fair enough.

My macro level point is that Oppo players used to have very broad appeal (to people like me) and I submit that going forward they will have a much narrower appeal.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Oh, I do agree and a lot of it is that the market it is in has become splintered at the same that Oppo has deleted apps that broadened its appeal.

Christopher Mankiewicz's picture

On the contrary! I play more SACD & DVD-A than ever before and relish multi-channel whenever available! Oppo retains a central place in our home. Music companies are finally issuing first class remasters of great opera & orchestra recordings of the past, and what a difference from the pathetic Red Book previous reissues!

The SOUND IS THE THING, and the Oppo 205 delivers musical enjoyment as never before.

Richard D. George's picture

Unfortunately, Oppo is no longer in the disc player business.
We live in interesting times.

David Harper's picture

good review but an even better deal is the OPPO 203 which is 99% as good for half the price. I think I read that the two are identical except for a couple of relatively minor circuitry differences which wouldn't mean anything to the vast majority.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Indeed. There is a different DAC but that affects only the analog outputs. Otherwise, a great alternative.

David Harper's picture

and the replies above which criticise the OPPO on the basis of the lack of importance of playing discs anymore are simply wrong. Millions of audiophiles still want an excellent digital disc player. I have absolutely no interest in streaming and files and Tidal and spotify and all that BS.
Nobody has ever been able to reliably and repeatedly distinguish between CD and hi-res in a properly controlled double blind test.

Jimme's picture

I'm a little late to this party but the review does not mention that there is a noticeable audio delay on the first track of CD's. When I play a CD on my Oppo, the audio is not heard until 1/2 to 1 second into the song. I find this very annoying especially considering the 205 is touted as a superior CD player. Why is this not noted in reviews or the manual perplexes me.

David Harper's picture

yes you're right, it is annoying.I think if I insert the disc, advance to the second track, pause, and hit the previouse track button on the remote,it doesn't do it.

Mike-48's picture

Thank you for noting in the review that the Oppo doesn't do gapless reliably. It is infuriating that most professional reviews of file-playing devices either don't test for this or suppress the findings. It is also infuriating that in 2018, a small handful of manufacturers -- Oppo being the most notable -- continue this bug, which has been known for many years and which distorts recordings in most genres (opera and other classical music being the most affected).

Mat's picture

Thank you, Kal. I found this very informative and helpful. I was wondering what your impressions are of how the Oppo (used as a stereo DAC) compares to the Mytek Brooklyn DAC (or the newer DAC+ model)?

Much appreciated.

Atacgene's picture

I am not sure why Oppo has to pose so many limitations:

Unable to do DSD128/256 or DXD multichannel, b
Only can do DSD128 stereo, with DSD256 only via windows, not Mac

What is the point then, it seems playing SACD may just be much easiler. downloads are very expensive compared with SACDs these days. If I do downloads, I better get the best RES playback.

I wonder if there will be more software updates later on to allow these playback. The ESS chip should be able to do high 256 M-ch though I could be wrong. This sounds more like a universal disc player with limited file playback only.
I wish there is a bit more comparison with the exasound. How much bEtter is it compared with Oppo?

Roy Boy's picture

This is a question for Kal. I am currenty using an Oppo 103D to rip and stream MCH DSD from my NAS. I am looking to improve the quality of MCH playback and weighing going to UDP-205 and using analog outs into my Integra DHC 80.3 or keeping the 103D and upgrading to Marantz 8802A using HDMI to send MCH DSD. Which path is likely to yield better results? Thanks