Oppo Surprises Us All
One of the main reasons I came up is because Jason and Nathan from Oppo were planning to attend as well. I figured they would just be up to enjoy the event and talk about the Oppo BDP-105 player that Kris and I both use for our reference Blu-ray player, but they had a surprise for us. Inside a bag was a prototype of a headphone amplifer/DAC/preamp that they are working on. When, and if, it will be released are still up in the air, but from the model we got to see and listen to it will be something I will buy for my desktop for sure.
Font of amp, LCD screen missing
Top view with LCD-2s
Listening on the LCD-2s
With all of the experience gained from producing the Oppo BDP-83SE, BDP-95 and BDP-105, Oppo knows how to design a high-end analog circuit now. This features the same ESS SABRE 9018 DAC that those products use, and provides both balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs. It also has Coaxial, Optical, USB, and Bluetooth AptX inputs for using it as a DAC for your PC, Smartphone, Tablet, and other digital devices. It also has a high-quality, pure analog potentiometer for volume control letting you use this as a high-quality analog preamp and DAC as well as a headphone amplifier.
As a headphone amplifier it did not disappoint. It has 6.3mm and a balanced headphone output on the front so it can work with anything you have. Using Audeze LCD-2 headphones, which can be a beast to drive, the sample unit was able to bring out all the bass that the LCD-2 is capable of. My only sources were lossy Amazon Cloud Player tracks using Bluetooth streaming, but the amp still sounded fantastic. The headphone output section is pure Class A. The maximum power was still up in the air, but they said it can even power the HiFiMan HE-6, which is one of the toughest headphones on the market to drive today. Since they arenít certain if theyíll be able to build it, price and timing are not available at the moment. If they do release it, Iíll be certain to pick one up and review it as it can serve double-duty as a headphone amp and analog preamp for me.
One demonstration that I missed was Don Munsil, of Spears & Munsil, offering an in-depth demonstration of their new HD Benchmark Blu-ray to the attendees. Iíve reviewed the disc in the past for both HD Guru and Secrets of Home Theater and find it to be a truly indispensable resource. The menu system isnít the easiest to navigate due to how much content is on the disc, but your patience is rewarded with the best collection of test patterns and material anywhere.
Also available to attendees was a presentation on calibration using CalMAN 5 and a Panasonic VT50. This let people see how much even a high-end, THX Certified display can be improved by a certified calibrator, and what all goes into the process. I believe after the demonstration, and switching back and forth between the THX mode and the ISF calibrated mode, many people were impressed with the difference in image quality.
I really do want to thank Kris for putting on this home theater get together. It was a blast for everyone involved, and I got to meet many people who Iíve only seen online before. I also got a sneak peek at a component that I didnít know existed, but is now at the top of my list for things to request for review. Hopefully when CEDIA rolls around in a few more weeks we can get some more definitive plans out of Oppo!