When I started to look for a replacement for my aging Cambridge Audio CD player I happened upon a review of an Oppo disc player.
I was intrigued as it was both a CD and DVD player, and yet the general feedback from the audio community was that it was putting many specialist CD players to shame.
I have owned my BDP-93EU for many years now and still enjoy it. Not bad for an eBay bargain.
The Oppo UDP-203 is quite an investment, but is it worth the outlay for this universal disc player?
Oppo UDP-203 design
The UDP-203 is solid. That might even be an understatement.
Measuring in at 430 x 311 x 79mm (WxDxH), it is definitely a full-sized player.
Your shelf will also notice its 4.4kg of weight.
As a fan of the Brutalist movement, I approve.
Up front, there is a large and high-quality LED screen that provides you with information. It also breaks up the black when it’s on.
The remote control is very similar to the BDP’s that I am used to. As well as lighting up when in use, it also contains a motion sensor that illuminates the device so you can find it as you pat the coffee table or chair arm for it.
Oppo really loves the AV enthusiast and this is reciprocated. The main reason for this is the output options.
There are two HDMI outputs on the Oppo: an HDMI 2.0 for video and audio, and an HDMI 1.4 for sending audio signals only for older receivers.
You also get three USB ports for playing media files (they’ll charge your smartphone, too) and two digital inputs (coaxial and optical). Finally, you also have the wired LAN port for firmware updates and slurping content from your network.
Quite an impressive list of connections there I reckon.
Oppo UDP-203 performance
The UDP-203 comes equipped with the latest HDCP2.2 specification, meaning it adheres to the BT.2020 colour gamut standard set by the UHD Alliance.
The player supports the standard HDR format, HDR10 (present in all current 4K Blu-ray discs), as well as Dolby Vision HDR.
In addition to the latest UHD Blu-ray, the UDP-203 supports regular Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, and audio CD.
Inside the Oppo lies a 32-bit/384kHz DAC capable of playing lossless hi-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz and multiple DSD formats.
Getting hooked up to your network takes no time at all really.
There is more time to spend in the audio and visual menus, if you are that way inclined.
There are a variety of colour space output options (including RGB PC, RGB Video, and YCbCr output at 4:4:4, 4:2:2 and 4:2:0). There’s also the option to choose between 12-bit, 10-bit and even 8-bit colour depth.
I think where these settings will come in to their own i where compatibility issues between displays, sources and even cables throw up challenges. These are still very early days for UHD so things are yet to settle.
You will also find that the UDP-203 has HDR (High Dynamic Range) options. It has whattady-what now?
Before I go on about these options, let’s just take a quick moment to find out about HDR.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) has been bandied around for a while now. These days, however, it’s almost entirely used regarding video metadata.
HDR metadata is simply additional information sent along with the video signal. This information holds the complete colour descriptions that the TV can read and then display precisely.
The easiest way to describe this is if you could use voice control to drive your car (it’s coming, don’t worry!).
With Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) you could command your car to “go flat out” or “go half on the accelerator”.
Now, with High Dynamic Range, the commands would be more like “go 120mph” or “go 60mph”.
Depending on the car, performance may vary. It might not even be able to reach 120mph. The same goes for HDR and televisions.
I hope that goes some way to explaining things.
Back to the review.
The options that Oppo include are an HDR Off setting that converts HDR to SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) for displays that can’t handle HDR, and a Strip Metadata option. The latter simply removes the HDR metadata from the video entirely.
Both the on-screen menus and the UDP-203’s own display are clear and informative. The front display is also dimmable, it turns out.
The buttons on the remote and front panel are firm, positive and responsive.
The disc loader is fast and fairly quiet in operation. The boot-time is noticeably quicker on the UDP when compared with the BDP.
My telly is not 4K so I had to enlist a friend to test that side of things.
I did, however, have a play with standard HD Blu-ray and DVD movies both from disc and streamed from my NAS library.
Action is handled very smoothly and, watching Blade Runner in HD, the colours, textures and sound took me ‘in to’ my favourite film.
All very impressive.
But, when watching the standard 4K test film, Life of Pi, my jaw dropped.
Life of Pi is known for its colours and the Oppo UDP-203 did not disappoint. The blue of the ocean and sky ablaze in sunset is amazingly sharp and lush.
Every ounce of detail of the CGI tiger’s fur looks so tactile that you want to reach out, and just bury your face in him.
The colours are unleashed with equal effort spent on contrast and shadow. You find yourself just delving deeper in to the picture.
Oppo has obviously opted to impress with colours that pop, but not to the point that they look unnatural.
Watching ‘High Fidelity’ and the ‘normalness’ of it all is what strikes you most. Your attention is drawn to the natural skin tones. Clothing is alive with realistic texture and shading.
There is no fuzzing around the edges of brilliant whites on inky blacks either. The opening text crawl of the Star Wars films is presented stark, sharp and clean.
My friend pointed out that he was seeing more subtle details in shading than his own player (a Panasonic).
The player decodes audio file formats such as AIFF, WAV, ALAC, APE and FLAC. It also directly plays Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) audio files in stereo or multi-channel.
For movies, the UDP-203 is good for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and bitstream output for object-based immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
It’s perhaps needless to say, then, that soundtracks sound epic and dynamic.
The UDP-203 really does love those huge orchestral scores. But it also has time for plain ol’ stereo too.
Furthermore, amongst the effects and music, dialogue cuts through with rich precision.
However, my BDP gets more work as a CD player so two-channel music is its bread and butter. As expected, the UDP is quite up for this as well.
It has great rhythm and is more refined than the BDP.
Rodrigo y Gabriela’s guitars shimmer and bite throughout their performances. Kate Bush’s vocals colour the room with detail and expression.
I know that the UDP-205 is the more expensive audiophile version but it really has to be something amazing to beat this.
Some of you might look in disbelief as I write this but, hang on.
The UDP-203 doesn’t come with any video streaming apps such as Netflix or YouTube baked-in. There. I’ve said it.
Oppo says this is to ensure the player is fast to boot up (which it does). More’s the point is that your telly or, at least, TV box will already have these.
I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and have not once thought, Ooo… I wish it had YouTube. The BDP does and it’s clunky at best.
If you really need them on your player, then just shove in a Google Chromecast Ultra or Amazon Fire 4K TV box into the Oppo’s only HDMI input. Instant ‘smart’ functionality.
I happen to think using that HDMI in for my NAS is smarter. I already have a range of apps on there, including Plex.
You can, of course, hook the UDP-203 via Wi-Fi but I tend to opt for the extra stability of wired when offered. – and you’ll be able to stream your entire music library from your NAS box and other connected devices.
Streaming tunes from my NAS was painless and enjoyable though.
Oppo UDP-203 4K universal disc player review conclusion
I want one!
The Oppo UDP-203 has impressed me, as well as my friend who has been an early adopter of the 4K UHD format. He really enjoyed the Oppo’s colours and detail. Although he hasn’t exactly thanked me for bringing in a unit that out-performed his 3 month-old player. Sorry.
To be fair, now that I’ve seen it plugged in to a 4K TV I have now got the itch to buy a new telly, as well as the UDP-203. So, I think that my buddy still wins.
I suppose, where price is concerned, you not only have to take in to consideration the richness of detail and subtleties of texture that the UDP-203 is able to present, but also the sheer musicality of the player. This stands whether in 5.1 or 7.1 surround or 2-channel stereo.
Here you have an extremely good CD player as well as an excellent HD and 4K Blu-ray player. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, then add in its networking abilities.
Oppo – you have done it again. In that, I mean, making me spend money 🙂
Oppo UDP-203 price and availability
|Disc Types||UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, AVCHD, SACD, CD, Kodak Picture CD, CD-R/RW, DVD±R/RW, DVD±R DL, BD-R/RE|
|BD Profile||BD-ROM Version 3.1 Profile 6 (also compatible with BD-ROM Version 2.5 Profile 5))|
|Output||Analogue Audio: 7.1ch, 5.1ch, stereo. Coaxial/Optical Audio: up to 2ch/192kHz PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS. HDMI Audio: up to 7.1ch/192kHz PCM, up to 5.1ch DSD, Bitstream. HDMI Video: UHD/1080p24/1080p/1080i/720p/576p/576i/480p/480i, 3D frame-packing 720p/1080p24.|
|Input||HDMI Audio: up to 7.1ch/192kHz PCM, up to 5.1ch DSD, Bitstream. HDMI Video: UHD/1080p24/1080p/1080i/720p/576p/576i/480p/480i, 3D frame-packing 720p/1080p24.|
|Audio Characteristics(Nominal specification)||Frequency: 20Hz – 48kHz (±0.2dB), 20Hz – 96kHz (-4dB ~ +0.05dB) Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >112dB (A-weighted, Unmute) THD+N: < 0.001% (1kHz at 0dBFS, 20kHz LPF) Crosstalk: < -103dB (A-weighted)|
|General Specification||Power Supply: 100V – 240V~, 50/60Hz AC Power Consumption: 40W (Standby: 0.5W in Energy Efficient Mode) Dimensions: 16.9 x 12.2 x 3.1 inches (430mm x 311mm x 79mm) Mass: 9.5lbs (4.3kg)|
|Operating Temperature||41°F – 95°F
5°C – 35°C
|Operating Humidity||15% – 75%
|Parts & Labour Warranty||2 Years|