Dave Upton Oppo UDP-205 UHD Blu-ray Player Review Flagship products are generally harder to evaluate for reviewers like me, since they cost a lot more than their capable siblings and generally offer only incremental improvements. Thankfully, in Oppo’s case it’s not nearly so hard, because they offer a truly unique feature set in addition to myriad improvements to justify the $750 price jump from the UDP-203. As a matter of principle, when working on products like the UDP-205 designers rarely make any compromises with component quality or design complexity, this usually results in higher performance and cost, which some folks are bothered by. Oppo is truly unique in offering a product that is engineered as exactingly as any five-figure audiophile product, but doesn’t carry the absurd price tag nor useless “audio jewelry” chassis, despite being very handsome regardless. Features & Improvements Of The UDP-205 Like the BDP-105 before it, the Oppo UDP-205 is their flagship universal optical disc player, offering Redbook CD, DVD, SACD and Blu-ray playback for both HD and UHD discs. The UDP-205 can also take the place of an AV receiver or processor by utilizing the 7.1 analog outs directly to an amplifier and making use of the units internal volume control and bass management features. Unlike its predecessor, the BDP-105, the UDP-205 no longer has YouTube or Netflix app support, and has given up the front MHL HDMI input. None of these are big losses for most of us, as most enthusiasts and consumers have discovered the increased utility of dedicated streaming media players like Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast in the last few years largely relegating these apps on most Blu-ray players to the category of unused and unsightly irritations that clutter the home screen. Oppo’s decision to remove these apps has also allowed a simplification of their interface that is both beautiful and elegant. The interface is overlaid on a beautiful wallpaper image, and focuses on simplicity and elegance, which is a refreshing change compared to the majority of competitors. In terms of outputs, the UDP-205 is nothing short of impressive, offering the aforementioned 7.1 analog RCA outs, as well as stereo RCA and XLR outputs. Moving to the digital side, the UDP-205 has optical and coaxial digital outputs in addition to dual HDMI outputs. One HDMI port is fully HDMI 2.0a HDCP 2.2 compatible, while the other is audio-only and is useful for those who need to bypass a legacy receiver to run UHD/HDR video directly to a display. In the UDP-205 (unlike the 203) the audio only HDMI output is fed by upgraded HDMI jitter-reduction circuity with a high-precision clock. On the internal side, most of the upgrades the UDP-205 enjoys over the 203 are oriented towards improving audio performance. The UDP-205 uses dual ES9038PRO SABRE DAC chips (the UDP-203 utilizes a single AKM AK4458VN DAC chip), each feeding a different set of analog outputs, with the first being dedicated to the 7.1 analog outputs, and the second feeding the RCA and XLR stereo outputs, with the XLR outputs getting a dedicated differential signal path. The onboard DACs can decode PCM up to 768KHz and DSD512, however the player’s USB DAC functionality (via the port in the back) is stereo only, though still a fantastic value-add in what would otherwise be an optical disc transport only, and extremely useful for those like me who have a home theater PC in need of a great DAC. Like its predecessors, the UDP-205 supports network or local USB port based playback of the majority of audio formats including the most popular lossless formats of WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and multi-channel DSD, which can be output anywhere you like including the stereo or 7.1 channel analog outs. In addition to these improvements, the UDP-205 offers a built-in headphone amplifier with improved power over the BDP-105 that is connected straight to one of the ES9038PRO chips, and a large toroidal power supply for the analog audio circuity. Build Quality & Appearance The UDP-205 is built like a tank, weighing 22 pounds and measuring nearly 2 inches taller than the UDP-203. Everything about the UDP-205 exudes quality, from the chassis’ brushed aluminum faceplate to the all-black PCB’s used internally and extremely clean cable routing. The UDP-205 puts the vast majority of optical disc players I’ve seen to shame in terms of internal cleanliness, component separation and design. The rear panel is made of standard materials, but is logically laid out and clearly labeled. If I were to offer one critique, it would be that the HDMI ports do not offer any strain relief, though the screws in place above the ports make this an easy DIY improvement. Testing – The Setup The UDP-205 was evaluated with my personal system which consists of a Marantz AV8802A pre/pro feeding a D-Sonic M3a-5400-7 amplifier and Legacy Audio speakers (Signature SE mains, custom Marquis HD center, and Phantom HD surround). On the video side, testing was done using my Sony VPL-VW675ES projector, which is a native 4K projector that supports HDR10, but not Dolby Vision at this time. Usability – Menus & Navigation Oppo has redesigned their interface for their UHD models, opting to show a high-resolution background wallpaper image by default, with the menu navigation located towards the bottom of the screen, and arrayed horizontally. The overall effect is clean, well-organized and a pleasing differentiator from the app-cluttered home views I’ve become used to on other more commercial players. Audio Performance & Network Streaming Evaluating the audio performance of the Oppo was relatively easy, requiring a simple swap of XLR cables from my Marantz pre/pro to the Oppo for my left and right channels with Audyssey bypassed. I performed this test by playing my standard list of review material, beginning with some uncompressed WAV demo files I keep on hand, many of which are uncompressed bootlegs from the mixing console – I have some very kind friends to thank for these files. Playing these back over both my home network and via USB, was extremely easy on the UDP-205. I moved on from the WAV playlist to some albums I enjoy in FLAC (B-Tribe’s Volume 5 and Volume 6, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones Little Worlds, and finally Mickey Hart’s Global Drum Project) running through my playlist over the course of a few listening sessions, switching from the Marantz to Oppo and back. Overall the Oppo delivers a detailed, rich audio experience that measures up surprisingly well to the extremely expensive circuitry in the Marantz AV8802A. The vast majority of listeners wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart, and the most picky among us would still be very pleased with the exemplary performance of the UDP-205. Blu-ray & UHD Blu-ray Playback In terms of the UDP-205’s core job as a Blu-ray player, it’s clear that this product is as much an Oppo as anything else they’ve ever produced, but it’s also a new generation. To put it succinctly, the UDP-205 is stable, fast to load, and does a truly fantastic job no matter the content all while offering the unparalleled configurability we’ve come to expect from Oppo including subtitle adjustment, picture and audio adjustment and a plethora of other options that are beyond the scope of this review. Oppo’s decision to remove apps and let the player do what it is best at results in a greatly simplified, more elegant experience in the home theater, and truly deserves commendation. While I was unable to test Dolby Vision HDR content, both 1080p HD Blu-ray and HDR-10 mastered UHD Blu-ray discs played back flawlessly on my Sony projector. When a UHD disc with HDR encoding was inserted, the projector instantly swapped to HDR mode without any of the fuss or handshake problems I experienced with Samsung’s UHD player. Picture quality on the UDP-205 is superb, demonstrating no flaws to speak about. Simply put, the UDP-205 is everything that a dedicated Blu-ray player should aspire to be, and it’s glorious. Conclusion Oppo has been the choice of uncompromising enthusiasts for over a decade now, with a track record of excellence dating back to the era of DVD. Oppo has continued that track record with the release of the UltraHD Blu-ray format, and their flagship UDP-205 player is a testament to the prowess and dedication of their engineers. For those seeking a universal disc player primarily for video use that don’t need a high-end DAC integrated into their player, the UDP-205’s little brother the UDP-203 is likely a better fit. For people like myself who straddle the line between audiophile and home theater enthusiast, the Oppo UDP-205 represents a near perfect amalgamation of the ideal optical disc and digital file transport for 2-channel listening, in addition to being a world class Blu-ray player capable of all the latest formats and resolutions. While the UDP-205 is costly at a list price of $1299 USD, no product on the market can touch its feature set, build quality and overall attention to detail. The UDP-205 is the universal disc player perfected, and then some. Highly Recommended.