Category: Home Theater

I am now three years into a long and twisting road toward assembling a "permanent" home entertainment system including decent H/T as well as 2-channel audio. And along that road I've had pleasant surprises and I've had unpleasant surprises -- but I've never been as shocked and stupefied by the disconnect between what other people are saying, and the experience I had, as with the Oppo DV980H. The player (and the company) for which nearly everyone has only praise and nary a whimper of complaint was, in my experience, just about the most single overrated piece of consumer tripe, this side of the New Coke.

To begin with, the Oppo doesn't work properly even by its own standards without a dizzying assembly-line of firmware upgrades. (Note to self: Never again buy a piece of electronics that touts how easy it is to upgrade with a front-end USB port. If it didn't work when it left the factory, don't buy it.) Break point insertions either do- or do not happen from disc to disc, with the same set of keystrokes, audio decoding either works or it doesn't with no apparent rhyme or reason, and most personal DVD backups of old VHS tapes either don't spin up at all, or return perhaps one frame in every twelve to the screen, making every old recording in your collection look like it was made with clay-mation.

Picture quality is lackluster at best, with lots and lots and lots of false contouring, and the audio is peppered with so much midrange breakup at even moderate output levels that for weeks I thought I'd somehow managed to blow up both of my front-channel speakers. It took me three solid days of experimentation to figure out how to make DTS content play to all six channels including the subwoofer, and then when I changed to a second DTS-encoded disc the same switch-settings no longer worked.

Along the way I also learned that the company apparently staffs a team of thinly disguised schills, trolling the discussion forums under the guise of helpful enthusiasts who immediately close down all discussions of their products that aren't favorable. As soon as it became apparent in a different forum that the helpful suggestions I was getting were self-contradictory and ignored my previous posts, my ostensible hobbyist friend posted one more time to say that next time I should read my manual, and then had the thread closed.

Finally I just threw up my hands and bought a Marantz DV7001 and -- WOW! -- it's so much better, from picture quality to audio reproduction to user interface to support, that I just can't see how anyone on earth should patronize Oppo and their second-rate products, whatsoever. Granted, the Marantz will cost a bit more money, but these days it's not really that much more, and besides: in the words of one famous movie character, you *WILL* know where that extra money went.

Send an e-mail to author "at" escapeclause "dot" net, if you'd like more details.
I'll give you 20 bucks for the Oppo.
But seriously, I purchased a 980H a few months ago to use as a cheap transport with a Bel Canto Dac2. It served its purpose there, but I agree it's nothing special as a stand alone player. Haven't used it for video. Should also say mine has worked without a hitch though.
Well, I liked New Coke better than I've liked having an archive of over 3000 personal backups that won't play in my DVD player.
I've had great experience with my two 981HDs. The upconverting video is good and the two-channel sound gives an excellent price/performance ratio. I didn't install any firmware upgrades, nor feel any need to.

My Playback Designs MPS-5 blows the Oppo into the weeds, but it cost 100-times more, literally. I think the Oppo is a great value and I plan to keep one or two around as transports in the event that SACD/DVD-A players dissappear.