Is OPPO worth the inflated price?

I've had my eye on the now discontinued OPPO UDP-205 for some time (more for playing my CD's than for video)  but am discouraged that units which last sold retail for $1299 are now asking $3500. Is this worth it and if so who are the buyers? Would appreciate the group's input. . 


I got my first SACD player about 20 years ago. I was immediately taken by the superior sound possible with that technology, and for many years used only that medium for home listening. 

It is only a few years ago that music streaming quality got to the level that I would consider pleasurable for home listening. Now that high-resolution files are available for streaming, I became curious about using an alternative to my OPPO-205 as a DAC. 

After some research, I settled on PS Audio Directstream player as a possible candidate. That DAC is well regarded, and I was able to find some favorable comparisons to OPPO-205, with the reviewer commenting on an improved level of detail. 

Most music lovers will agree that the speakers and the listening environment (room) are mostly responsible for what you hear. The amplifier(s) have to be of decent quality and have adequate power for the speakers. You have likely selected your speakers/amplifiers/preamps or lack thereof/interconnects, based on the sound/tonality you like. Upgrading the source would be least likely to affect tonality, but may make a big difference in the level of detail. By detail I mean such terms as soundstage, placement of instruments, “presence”, the “air” or “rosin” quality of the violins, etc.

If you can easily tell the difference between tremolo (same note with rapid alternating direction of the bow stroke) and legato (same note, same direction of the bow stroke) of the violin, the drums played with sticks vs brushes, acoustic vs electric bass, if you have a stable soundstage with good separation and localization of instruments, you likely have good detail. Not all recordings will have such level of detail, but, when present, it will be easy to notice. Your room and speakers will greatly affect your soundstage. And, if your speakers/amplifiers cannot reproduce detail, you will not hear it, no matter the source. 

Many commentators mention “harsh” or “fatiguing” sound of some digital sources. I find harshness to be mostly the function of the recording, not the DAC. Even the best DAC will be able to do only so much with a clipped, distorted recording, although some DACs make such recordings slightly more tolerable. But a DAC will not be able to create detail absent on the recording.

The terms such as “warm”,  “bright”, “bloomy”, etc. are used to describe tonality. I think the DAC is least likely of your components to affect tonality. If you are interested in changing the tonality of sound, your goal would be better achieved by changing/adding other components. 

Personally, I subscribe to “no preamp is the best preamp” philosophy. In my opinion, the more elements are in the system, the more detail is lost. 

I set up the OPPO for the comparison process, while waiting for the PS Audio to be delivered. Previously, I was using the OPPO for SACD playback; Tidal streaming via asynchronous USB and the app on the PC; and TV streaming via optical in, all in stereo, 2-channel configuration. After setting up OPPO as a UPnP player, it was immediately apparent that the sound quality thus obtained is clearly superior. Even after tinkering with driver settings, the loss of detail with the use of PC/USB connection is not subtle. Taking the PC, with its USB card and player driver, out of the chain is a clear benefit. 

It also became clear that SACD disks were far superior to any other data source, followed by DSD downloads, followed by Qobuz stream, followed by Tidal. I downloaded the DSD file I already had on SACD for comparison from one of the commercial sites.

Interestingly, MQA did not seem to make any difference compared to non-MQA in sound quality (as streamed from Tidal). Yes, I checked - it was on, and working. 

This hierarchy presented an immediate problem. SACD stream cannot be transmitted to an external DAC without some dubious hacks. PS Audio used to make a DirectStream Memory Player, which, ironically, used the OPPO transport, and output SACD digital stream over I2S to the DirectStream DAC. You can still buy them used, but you would not be able to return them, and I was not ready to commit. Even used, the player is 3 times what a new OPPO used to be - and it does not have an internal  DAC! You can install an aftermarket board into an OPPO-203, but, after reading multiple forums regarding this, I very much doubt you would achieve satisfactory results. Enthusiasts attempting the modification were relying on indicator lights on the board to determine whether they were outputting DSD signal or a downgraded signal. So much  for sound quality! There is no room in OPPO-205 for aftermarket boards in any case. McIntosh has their own thing going. There are some other, very expensive solutions, but there was no easy way for me to test them. 

So, unless you are planning on purchasing a used Memory Player, or hacking some other player at your own risk, there is no reasonable way to use PS Audio for SACD playback. 

PS Audio changed to a direct distribution model. They will send you the DAC for a 30-day trial period. You can return the DAC during that period for a full refund. They will absorb the shipping costs.

When PS Audio arrived, I have set it up in parallel with the OPPO, as a UPnP player. Both have ethernet jacks (with PS Audio, an optional board called Bridge II is required), digital volume control, obviating the need for preamps, and XLR out. I used both mConnect and BubbleUPnP apps for control of playback. Neither DAC has built-in apps to work with content providers, so one of the apps above would be required for playback. Both are somewhat buggy, but useable. 

Straight out of the box, while the quality differences between different sources were noticeable on PS Audio (I could not play SACD through it as mentioned above); compared to OPPO, the detail on PS Audio was blunted. This was also true for DSD files, even though PS Audio is supposed to be specifically built for DSD. I vaguely remembered that the OPPO “opened up” after about an hour of play, so I waited an hour… then two… then I put it on a loop and went to work. After over 100 hours of “burn-in”, it sounded exactly the same as it did when I first plugged it in. PS Audio recommends 200 hours of “burn in”, but I was worried about going over my 30 day return period. Also, one would think, I would notice some difference after 100 hours, but there was none at all. 

Lack of detail on PS Audio compared to OPPO was noticeable on multiple tracks, varied kinds of music, varied sources, and varied encoding. I do not listen to regular CD’s, so, even though I could output digital signal from CD’s via OPPO coaxial digital out to PS Audio, I did not attempt that. 

As expected, the tonality of both DACs was very similar. 

PS Audio does not have USB A input, except for software upgrades, so USB sticks/drives cannot be connected to it directly. OPPO has 3. It is very easy to play files from NAS on either DAC, using the same mConnect or BubbleUPnP apps you would for streaming; and, during testing, I did it for both DACs. I did not try to check if it is possible to play music off the PC/Mac hard drive(s) via asynchronous USB on PS Audio. OPPO is capable of that. 

One of professional reviews mentioned that connecting both RCA’s and XLRs on PS Audio is not recommended, so I did not use my subwoofer for testing. There is no such limitation on the OPPO, so, once the testing was done with,  I plugged my amplified sub back into its RCA’s.

I used PS Audio for some TV viewing, using optical input. I thought the dialog sounded clearer with it,  than it did with OPPO, but the difference was marginal. 

PS Audio folks asked me why I was returning the player, promptly issued an RMA and a return label, and issued a refund one day after receiving the DAC.

Does any of this make any difference? No matter how wonderful I think OPPO is, it is no longer available. Who knows what the process of repairing a discontinued product would be. The value of a used OPPO-205 is a matter of vigorous debate. What are its competitors? Even so, I would take a used OPPO-205 over a used PS Audio transport/DAC combo with the asking price of 8K.  If you have the OPPO, and it works, and you like the sound, I would not worry about upgrading it. Do not get confused by folks talking about OPPO-95, OPPO-105, OPPO-203, etc. They have different, inferior DACs. Consider upgrading your speakers/amps before upgrading the source. If you are happy with the rest of your system - forget about upgrading, and enjoy the music!  

My system: OPPO-205, bridged Spectron Musician III’s x 2, Thiel 2.7, JL Audio f113.

Interesting comparison between the OPPO 205 and PS Audio.

I was lucky to get one of the 205's from the last production run. Sounded excellent. Sent it to Ric Shultz for mods and it sounded even better, more open, spacious, lower noise floor.

Last month I splurged on an open box Marantz SA-10. Have to say, on my system,  it betters the OPPO across the board. Smoother, richer, more natural sounding. Deeper soundstage. Deeper, more solid bass. I'm using both with their analog outputs.

So, I'm happy with the Marantz, but will be keeping the OPPO for playing all the media the Marantz can't play, including video. So, you can get better sound than the OPPO 205 for (CD and SACD), but hard to beat the versatility of it.