Oppo Sonica range and 4K UHD player preview
Farleigh House, Bath. If you’re a Rugby Union fan you’ll recognise that as the home of Bath Rugby. This was the location of their shirt sponsors, Oppo, great reveal yesterday. At the exclusive event Oppo unveiled their brand new Sonica range as well as the updated HA-2SE and the much aniticapted Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
This was a bit of an odd one for me. I had heard rumblings of a 4K Blu-ray player coming from Oppo but I was totally blindsided but the rest of the new offerings. I mean, I would have never guessed that there was a DAC/Streamer coming, let alone two new wireless speakers!
Let me get the rugby link out of the way. Bath rugby team went from all conquering to a trophy every five-or-so years when the sport moved from amateur to pro. Thanks to a cash injection and enthusiasm from a born-and-bred Bath man, Bruce Craig, the team and entire operation moved to the Farleigh House estate. Oppo, as shirt sponsors, were allowed to let us rabble loose to play with this latest tech.
Oppo UDP-203 Blu-ray player
Being a huge fan of my very trustworthy BDP-95 disc spinner I was very happy to see a new Blu-ray player from Oppo.
This was held back til last but I am giving it to you first because that’s how much I care about you, the Gadgety faithful.
Even though they are still building it and ironing out a few licensing wrinkles, Oppo’s first ever Ultra HD (UHD) 4K Blu-ray player, the UDP-203, was on show.
The UDP-203 isn’t just a UHD player – it’s HDR-ready.
Thanks to the on-board Mediatek SoC (System on Chip), the soon to be released player is, at least in theory, capable of supporting both HDR 10 and ‘other technologies’. The latter being one of those aforementioned wrinkles to be ironed out. Once passed, it will no doubt appear as a firmware update if not there upon release.
What does that mean to the viewer? Well, you can expect a hugely wide and rich colour gamut as long as you have an equally capable TV.
I am also pleased to report that the player’s user interface has had a refresh too. It is much more user-friendly and a lot less clunky.
The UDP-203 had all the well-made characteristics that you’d expect from an Oppo player. You get a brushed aluminium fascia and steel construction that you know has been tested to destruction many times before it ends up in your home.
Around the back of the unit there’s an ample array of connectivity options. Yes, there’s dual HDMI outputs which will no doubt please owners of legacy AV receivers.
You also get Wi-Fi (5GHz) and ethernet networking options, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a 7.1-channel analogue output.
Oppo UDP-203 price and availability
I was quite astounded that Oppo are pegging this one at a speculative RRP of £599. I know people that will spend twice that much on a CD transport. Expect the UDP-203 before the end of the year.
Oppo Sonica speakers and DAC
The Oppo Sonica range is made up of two cool wireless speakers and a rather great looking DAC/Network streamer.
What makes these wireless speakers so cool? Well, the top of the range Sonica Grand is rocking a pair of planar ribbon tweeters for starters. Show me another wireless speaker that has that. Exactly.
This is what Oppo does best, in my mind. Just look at their awesome PM-1 headphones. Planar magnetic headphones had been done before but, somehow, Oppo was able to take the principal and not only update it, but improve on it.
Oppo Sonica and Sonica Grand
The new Oppo Sonica wireless speakers are capable of decoding audio files up to 24-bit/192kHz from a wide range of digital formats.
So you know that these will play nice with the likes of AAC, AIF, FLAC, OGG, WAV, WMA, Apple lossless, to name but a few.
That app comes loaded with TIDAL and Spotify as standard.
The Sonica comes packing four separate amps in a 2.1 stylee.
There are two 15-watt amps connected in a bridged mode driving the 3.5-inch bass woofer and 3-inch bass radiators. This gives a total output of 30-watts.
This is the top of the range Sonica from Oppo. It’s not only larger than the Sonica wireless speaker but features an aluminium unibody construction, in comparison to the ABS shell of the Sonica.
That curved aluminium case isn’t just there to look pretty either. There has been around a year’s worth of design and testing gone in to the shape of the Sonica speakers in order to ensure they do the job.
The Sonica Grand house a three-way sound system that utilises no fewer than seven active drivers and individual amplifiers.
Up front you have a 5.3-inch woofer, a pair of 2.5-inch mid drivers flanked by two 2.4-inch planar ribbon tweeters. If you think that this all sound like a recipe for a top-end Hi-Fi speaker, then hold on a second.
Thanks to the speaker configuration you get 2.1 stereo from a single speaker. Which is nice.
These can get very loud without losing definition. And, even though the rooms weren’t ideal (country manors rarely are) they sounded really good.
This was a rather unexpected turn up for me.
Even though I’ve never had the chance to review the Oppo HA-1 headphone amp and DAC I have listened to it at various shows and at the launch.
Apparently, customers wanted a stand-alone DAC, separate to a headphone amp but they also wanted a streamer.
Oppo went away and came back with the Sonica DAC/Streamer.
Behind its typical brushed aluminium front panel which houses an extremely clear OLED display sits the latest DAC from ESS Technology, the ES9038PRO.
Keeping the high-end hardware theme, electricity goes through a toroidal transformer which keeps those pesky magnetic rays in check.
The Sonica DAC supports high-resolution PCM and DSD audio.
This 8-channel DAC has a theoretical SNR of 140 dB and total harmonic distortion -122 dB.
Connections are as you would expect. Asynchronous USB, coaxial and optical inputs, as well as AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Ethernet. Oh yeah, did I mention that you can use this DAC to stream your audio too?
Thanks to this skill, you can squirt your favourite digital tunes over from your NAS (network attached storage) or your smart device. The Sonica DAC will decode the files directly from your USB or NAS drive.
You might have also noticed the RCA inputs. Well, that’s so you can hook up your turntable or tape player in to the loop and send audio out to any of your networked Sonica speakers too!
The DAC also provides a 32 bit filtering and the famous Hyper Stream of ESS which reduces jitter.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have a DAC plugged in to try.
Sonica range prices and availability
The Sonica and Sonica Grand will be available in black or silver. Prices are £279 for the Sonica and £699 for the Sonica Grand.
The Sonica DAC will be £799.
These have been earmarked for a November 2016 release.
Oppo HA-2SE portable DAC
Slightly overlooked and overshadowed at yesterday’s show and tell was the refreshed HA-2 portable DAC, named HA-2SE.
I still use and enjoy my HA-2 but some folks with sensitive IEM (In Ear Monitors) did grumble a little about the headphone amp producing a slight hiss. Well, those with hypersensitive earpleasers will be happy to hear that there’s a new amp with “almost cures” this.
No other real information was given but, as you can see, it looks identical to the original HA-2 except for a different name badge.
Oppo Updates and reviews
As soon as the products are ready I will be getting hands-on with everything so keep coming back for reviews and updates regarding pricing and UK release dates.