DV-970HD Comments & Conclusion
For the full list of features and testing, please see our DVD Player Features and Benchmark Comparisons Chart . This player certainly doesn't perform as well as Oppo's prior model (and this was expected) however it's not so bad that we can't recommend it as a decent "one size fits all" player for the money. The HQV tests are all unflagged and present some pretty tricky test material for any player to pass. The DV-970HD does well where it counts: 2:3 pulldown and basic deinterlacing. It wasn't so hot at jaggie reduction, though it did attempt to reduce the effects of deinterlacing artifacts. While it failed the jaggie and flag tests, it wasn't due to lack of any jaggie reduction, but simply because the implemented solution didn't quite smooth out the results so much as it reduced the blockiness to a smaller scale.
Layer changes were still pretty speedy, so nothing changed from the original player in that department. This player takes an astounding 22 seconds from power on until a loaded disc shows up on the monitor. It's still about 10-11 seconds from power up until you can get the tray to open for insertion of a new DVD. After the disc was inserted, it took another 12 seconds before it brought up the first video track (which, if you add it together gets you to your ~22 seconds cycle time any way you slice it). The player does feel a bit sluggish for start-up routines, but I found the remote control to be much more responsive and skipping through tracks was a breeze.
Moving Zone Plate tests were a mixed bag. Aside from flashing, the 2-3 test held together pretty well, though the 2-2 tests fell apart pretty quickly. Looking at the Rainbow Dither pattern in motion we found that the bit depth seemed to plummet, leaving gradients a bit blocky, contoured and rough-looking. The player successfully passed blacker-than-black and whiter-than-white and it also showed no chroma upscale errors, something that rarely shows up these days. Pixel cropping was amazing - there really isn't any, save a single pixel from the right side. If you notice pixel cropping on this player, double check your display settings.
After reading the benchmark test results you'll see that the DV-970HD is a decent player. While not garnering a tremendously high score, it is still a compelling universal player in this price class and passes the critical 2:3 pull down tests with flying colors. Flagship universal players will likely do better, but they also cost a considerable amount of money.
Viewing evaluations are always subjective, but they are a great opportunity to see the practical demonstration of the above test results. In selecting movies for our demo we chose some reference DVDs as well as some content with less than stellar source material.
DVD: Aeon Flux
Aeon Flux was a movie I had been very excited about. When I finally caught it On DVD (no, I rarely go to movies anymore) I was pleased by the rendition 舑 especially considering I never really thought the author of the original MTV series had a cohesive storyline in his mind anyway 舰 The DVD is filled with a variance of scenery, including bright, colorful acts as well as darker, more shadowy sequences. Overall I found it to be a well-rounded disc with which to test out the video capabilities of the new Oppo DV-970HD player.
In particular I was drawn to the adequate detail shown in the close-up faces of the main characters. Shadow detail seemed to be present 舑 at least in sufficient detail as to let me see that the DV-970HD didn 舗 t appear to be crushing anything it shouldn't.
Listening Evaluation - Discerning Differences Between Players and Outputs
The initial listening system was comprised of a Yamaha RX-V2600, the Oppo DV-970HD, a Denon DVD-5900 for reference comparison, and a pair of Status Acoustics Decimos. We also grabbed a pair of Sennheiser HD600 headphones so that we could make even more detailed evaluation and comparisons of the Oppo player's outputs. Our intent was to listen to and compare the HDMI audio and analogue outputs of the Oppo player against a known reference player and discern the quality of the DACs as well as the HDMI audio implementation. The results were different than we would have anticipated and I think we were able to successfully try several methods to determine the audible characteristics of the player.
We utilized this disc and the Status Acoustics Decimos to start our listening tests and comparisons. Primarily we stuck to a couple of tracks, the first of which was Track 1 - "What a Shame". Upon first listening, the HDMI outputs of the Oppo were utilized and compared to the analogue outputs of a DVD-5900. On this track, the Oppo's HDMI output seemed to come close, but sounded a bit more crisp (and slightly less refined) than the Denon player. Overall, the sound of the Oppo was very good and surprised us. This track, while detailed, simply didn't give us a tremendous audible difference between COAX digital and the analogue outputs of the reference player - at least not in the room we were utilizing for comparisons. We wanted to do a couple more tests, and then see if the lack of a difference was due to the listening system or the fact that the outputs were indeed similar in sonic quality.
Analogue vs. Analogue
Comparing the analogue outputs of the Oppo to the analogue outputs of the Denon DVD-5900 reference player we heard no discernable difference when listening via the Status Acoustics Decimos. Auditory memory also played a big role in the ambiguity of our testing since we only had one copy of a particular SACD under test and it took several seconds to transfer the disc to each player. It was becoming readily apparent that we needed a different and more consistent method of evaluation that would enable a bit more fidelity to be observed on all outputs.
Using Headphones to Discern Differences in Audio Outputs
We quickly decided that in order to get a better comparison of the audio outputs of the players, we'd need an "easier" solution. While our premier reference systems are certainly a valid way to discern audio differences we were, due to scheduling, set up with alternate speakers in a less-than perfect secondary room for these particular tests. This quickly caused us to reconsider our options (namely, move to a new room or figure out a better testing procedure). Fortunately, HeadRoom came to the rescue. Using a loaner pair of full size Sennheiser HD600 headphones we connected to the headphone output of the Yamaha RX-V2600 and continued our listening tests. This allowed us to be quite a bit more discerning and rule out any room interaction.
We switched to Track 5, "Yellow Car III" for a new round of listening from the Patricia Barber SACD. In comparing the HDMI outputs of the Oppo against the analogue outs of the Denon with the Sennheiser headphones, we found that the analogue outputs of the Denon sounded much better, with a wider soundstage and more detailed decays on the overhead symbols. The difference was NOT subtle. In comparing the Oppo's analogue outputs against its HDMI out, the results were nearly identical. Regarding the Oppo's HDMI audio, something was amiss. *See Editor's Note Below .
In queuing up Track 2 of this CD, "Jamaica, Jamaica", we realized an expansion of what we had previously heard. The soundstage pretty much doubled in width when switching from HDMI audio to analogue, making us wonder if the player has inherent issues with timing jitter which could interfere with the perceived soundstage. As this was a CD, we weren't dealing with an SACD-specific DSD-to-PCM conversion issue.
In order to establish whether the Oppo's HDMI output was at fault or if the problem was possibly HDMI 1.1-inherent, we quickly grabbed the flagship Denon DVD-5910CI and compared the same track using DLINK, optical, analogue and HDMI on our reference AVR-5805 receiver. Keep in mind that the source was CD, not high resolution audio, so our lower common denominator made it (we think) even easier to determine the cause of the major differences in quality (since digital PCM conversion wasn't taking place). After a thorough ands exhaustive round of continued testing, we determined that the differences amongst the Denon outputs were almost negligible. Bringing the Oppo player and connecting it to a different receiver (the Denon AVR-4306) eliminated the Yamaha from being responsible for the truncated HDMI audio.
In concluding our listening tests, we were extremely impressed with the ability to playback SACD over HDMI via PCM conversion. We were aware of some esoteric products having compatibility issues with the Oppo player and multi-channel SACD, but this was not a problem with either the Denon AVR-4306 or the Yamaha RX-V2600 receivers, regardless of video output mode. The bottom line with this player is that we recommend using the analogue audio outputs for best fidelity for DVD-A and SACD and the TOSLink or COAX digital outputs for PCM, DD and DTS, at least until the HDMI audio issue is resolved (we're not sure if this is something that can be fixed via firmware or not, but we'll be speaking with Oppo to see what is possible).
Important Correction: Editor's Note on Oppo HDMI Output
We spoke with Oppo about the HDMI issue and found that the factory default setting of the HDMI audio causes a much different sound stage than that of the S/PDIF output. This is because the default HDMI Audio source is set to "Multi-channel", which runs all audio through the Oppo's internal DSP. This means that the down-mix, speaker size, subwoofer setting, channel trim, channel delay and volume control settings are all applied to this HDMI audio. When playing a redbook CD, the output is no longer the original as recorded in the CD tracks. The reason that Oppo choose this default setting is because, as a consumer-grade product, they feel most of the users would be connecting the HDMI output directly to a display with speakers. This default setting makes it the most compatible and most likely to produce reasonable audio quality with a TV's speakers.
To determine if DSP may be corrupting your digital audio simply vary the volume control on the OPPO remote. If the volume changes, then you know the audio is being processed.
When the DV-970HD is configured to use "SPDIF" as its "HDMI Audio" source and "SPDIF Output" is set to "Raw", we found no significant difference in terms of audio quality or sound stage between the HDMI, S/PDIF or analogue outputs.
As of this firmware, when HDMI Audio is set to "SPDIF", there is no audio output over HDMI for SACD. In a future firmware release Oppo will automatically switch to Multi-Channel when an SACD is played. Right now, the optimal setting when HDMI output is connected to a receiver would be "HDMI Audio" set to "SPDIF" and "SPDIF Output" set to "Raw".
For $149, this is an incredible deal for a universal player. I am not aware of anything else on the market that hits this price point for the feature set that the Oppo delivers. The major drawback is deinterlacing ability and the disappointing HDMI audio performance. While SACD-over-HDMI is enticing, the best audio is still to be found via the player's S/DPIF or analogue outputs, regardless of format. We can recommend the Oppo DV-970HD without reservation given the price, just be an informed consumer and use the player accordingly for best performance.
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
|Standard Definition Video Performance|
|High Definition Audio Performance|
|Analogue Audio Performance|
|Ergonomics & Usability|
|Ease of Setup|