Music in the Round #87: Oppo UDP-205 Recordings in the Round

Sidebar: Recordings in the Round

Rachmaninoff: Symphony 1
Gabriel Feltz, Dortmund Philharmonic
Dreyer Gaido 21100 (SACD/CD). 2017. DDD. TT: 45:43

I'd just switched on the radio. Wow. Several times, I thought, Yes, this piece must be ending now. It continued. I didn't know what it was, or that I'd tuned in at the middle of the first movement. What was it? Surely too brash and clumsy for Rachmaninoff, but . . . it sure sounded Russian—and boy, was it exciting.


That was more than 20 years ago, and I still find unique enjoyment in this work composed by Rachmaninoff in his early 20s. I usually turn to a recording by the London Symphony Orchestra: the one led by André Previn (CD, EMI 764530 2) that I heard that first time, and Valery Gergiev's more recent multichannel version (SACD/CD, LSO Live LSO0784). However, it wasn't until I heard this new recording that I recovered that thrill of discovery of two decades ago. Gabriel Feltz and his Dortmunders play as if the ink on the score were still wet, and hold back nothing. The playing is outstanding; only the thinness of the strings and a woodwind or two reveal that this is not the LSO or VPO. The brass are great. Feltz moves it all with pace, emphasizing the beat with the prominent bass drum and timpani without trampling more reflective passages. The recording supports his approach with a wide dynamic range, deep bass, and a broad, detailed soundstage. It all makes this youthful work sound even more fresh and new.

Various Artists: 17th Annual Blues Masters at the Crossroads
Joe Beard, George Brock, Sonny Green, Marquise Knox Band, Lazy Lester, Mighty Sam McClain, Moreland & Arbuckle, Rip Lee Pryor.
APO Records XBMC2014FULL (multichannel or stereo DSD64, stereo 24/176 FLAC Downloads. 2015. DDD. TT: 10:47:49.

Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds has long been a supporter of the blues, and over the years has promoted the tradition by releasing new and remastered older recordings. Acoustic Sounds has also provided support for live concerts, in Salina, Kansas, and elsewhere. I've had the pleasure of hearing Kassem's artists in the intimate settings of hotel rooms at audio shows.


This blockbuster set was recorded at Kassem's Blue Heaven Studios—a former church more than a century old—over two days in October 2014, and released on Acoustic Sounds in February 2015. At the controls was Gus Skinas, of the SACD specialty firm the Super Audio Center, and a key member of the Sonoma team that produced many of the very first SACDs. I'm sorry I missed the set's debut more than two years ago, but have tried to make up for it by downloading the entire 67-track, 51.20GB set in multichannel DSD64: nearly 11 hours of music for $74.98.


If you're a blues fan, this is about as close as you can get to hearing it live. One of the greatest attractions of the set is the high level of talent, ranging from veterans like Sonny Green and big names like Mighty Sam McClain, to such newcomers as Marquise Knox. Another is the musicians' engagement—not only in their intense and personal performances, but also in their give-and-take with all present in this relatively uncut streaming of the live event. All is greatly aided by the multichannel DSD recording, which greatly captures the presence of the performers in an ambiance of audience and venue. (The set can also be downloaded in two-channel DSD64 or in 24-bit/176kHz FLAC, each for $49.98.)

Few could handle the whole thing at one sitting—I couldn't. I most enjoy it by immersing myself in one or two of these six concerts. When I do, I'm gradually more and more transported from present-day Manhattan to that former Salina church, where I make a deep emotional connection with the music. The individual artists' sets are also available, but I urge you to go for the whole enchilada—it's much greater than the sum of its parts.

Shostakovich & Barber: Symphony 5 & Adagio for Strings
Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Reference Fresh! FR-724 (SACD/CD, DSD64 & DSD256 downloads from 2017. DDD. TT: 60:17

I eagerly await every new Reference Fresh! release from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Each has been an artistic and sonic delight, and this one is no exception. The PSO is a magnificent, world-class orchestra, Honeck is a mature and innovative leader, and through my multichannel system, the Soundmirror recordings sound nearly ideal.


There is no dearth of recordings of either of these 20th-century classics, and it would be foolish of me to say that this disc sweeps all competition. What I will say is that Honeck's balanced and dramatically effective control provides momentum and, in the third movement of Shostakovich's Symphony 5 and Barber's Adagio, a sense of bated-breath stillness. The orchestra flawlessly executes his direction, and the result is completely satisfying and emotionally draining. The DSD256 file has outstanding dynamic range and transparency. As in previous Reference Fresh! releases, classical-music recording specialists Soundmirror provides a fairly close perspective, but not at the expense of a generous sense of space. So revealing is the result that I can occasionally hear Honeck breathing, but that doesn't impair my enjoyment. Overall, this is the best Shostakovich 5 of this century . . . so far.

Alexandre Kantorow: À La Russe
Balakirev: Oriental Fantasy, "Islamey." Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata 1. Stravinsky: Firebird Suite, three excerpts. Tchaikovsky: Two Morceaux, Op.18; Scherzo a` la Russe.
Alexandre Kantorow, piano
BIS 2150 (SACD/CD, DSD 64 download from 2017. DDD. TT: 76:29

This one caught me by surprise. I'd quite enjoyed Alexandre Kantorow's first BIS recording, of Liszt's first two piano concerti and the Malédiction. However, it was irresponsible of me to casually discount it as an accommodation to the pianist's father, veteran conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow, who led the Tapiola Sinfonietta on that disc. À La Russe is clear evidence that Kantorow the Younger is a performer of consequence.


Kantorow's reading of Rachmaninoff's Sonata 1 is notable for its style and passion, though it lacks the gravitas of Robert Silverman's (CD, Stereophile STPH019-2). This approach is even more appropriate for the Tchaikovsky selections, which I found impressive. The disc concludes with a fleet transit of the Oriental Fantasy, "Islamey," Balakirev's infamous finger-buster, which Kantorow tosses off with aplomb. But what makes this recital essential listening comes earlier: Kantorow's spectacular and visceral performance of three familiar excerpts from Stravinsky's Firebird. From his stunning first chord, Kantorow delivers a presentation of nearly orchestral dimensions with a thrust and élan that I'd thought only the great Stravinsky conductors could conjure—and he does this on his own. The piano sound is remarkably clear and present. You must hear this.—Kalman Rubinson

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