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Review of Oppo BDP93 with the new Vanity93 board

Posted by Ronnhedh 
Review of Oppo BDP93 with the new Vanity93 board
January 07, 2012 04:46PM
More and more Audio vendors are now allowing high definition by providing 24bit / 96 kHz resolution. Yet, the ability to establish an unbroken digital path has generally been missing.
While the availability of HD media as DVD-A, SACD, BD and PCM-encoded files so far has been limited, the future seem to be there. There has been few attempts to provide a “universal” digital transport such as the Audiopraise Vanity board, the DVDupgrades 3 x S/PDIF output board, the 4x S/PDIF Transceiver board from Switchbox or other futile attempts, all now practically discontinued.

The new Audiopraise Vanity93 board for Oppo BDP93 is the missing link to an unbroken digital path. This solution allows for all HD media available. Vanity93 turns the player into a full resolution multichannel digital transport of all media formats. Both DSD and PCM data is converted to PCM for S/PDIF output.

I have no affiliation to this product, but on my request, I got the Vanity93 board from Audiopraise to serve as an external field test site. As a Tact Audio owner, I just like to tell it Vanity93 board is a perfect fit. I have had the opportunity to evaluate a prototype for two months.

The Oppo player is known for being pretty versatile. It features a suite of features for both worlds - audio and home theatre installations. This platform can play HD music and video files not only for all disc media formats but it also has an eSATA port designed to directly connect a hard drive or it can indirectly connect to a DLNA network.

The Vanity93 module, designed as an easy and reversible plug'n'play replacement board for the analog one with 4 x S/PDIF outputs. Channel assignment corresponds to the original labels on the back panel. Data from the player are stored in a FIFO memory and an ARM processor fine tunes the master clock to precisely match to the incoming data frequency in order to run the whole system synchronously, thus data is completely stripped down from the noisy and jittery clock domain of the player. For the “raw” DSD 6 discrete channel ->PCM conversion, there is a set of 4 user adjustable filter parameters. The separate power for is provided by massive filtering of the player main PSU. Channel mixing, speaker configuration and other multichannel processing rely on capabilities of the player while the board would just "replace" analog outputs with digital ones, their content remains the same.

The appearance of the Vanity93 surface mount board looks as being very professionally executed. The board fits exactly in the place of the(obsolete) analog board. The data is feed trough the existing flat cable and similarly the power supply cable fits the connector.

During my evaluation I used the Oppo player as transport and set the channel configuration to match my 4.0 multichannel setup and used two of the S/PDIF outputs. No center channel and dedicated subwoofer is used. Also, I set the player to access media files on my NAS server with DLNA over the Wifi network without involving a noisy PC.

I used a very wide variety of musical selections, ranging from vocal to small ensemble acoustic to large orchestra recordings. The majority of it was DVD-A and SACD with some Bluray discs and high resolution 24/96 FLAC or WAV format files from HD Tracks, Linn, and 2L Records. Also, I used the other option is to burn the tracks to DVD-A as a DVD disc, which also preserves the high resolution

I started out listening to the Oppo/Vanity93 combo, and I immediately liked what I heard. It had a very quiet background, with a near total absence of digital noise. It conveyed a sense of realism that I’ve come to associate with detailed soundstage. Frequency response was very good at both ends of the spectrum, and there was a nice smoothness to it without seeming too boring or analytical. This balance between being musical and dynamic without being overly colored was very pleasing to hear.

The overall spectrum is nicely balanced. Bass is more accentuated, deep and impactful, and does not bleed over into the mids but retains a nice sense of control. I did notice that there was more energy at the very lowest extremes. This was only really noticeable when directly comparing to my Pioneer/DVDupgrades combo.

Mids are what I would call smooth and creamy. They do show a plenty amount of detail, but that doesn’t seem to be the priority. Instead, the Cube seems to focus on a more involving sound that is very non-fatiguing. So while the mids might not initially jump out and announce their superiority, I found them to be very enjoyable, especially during long listening sessions. This aspect is key for me as I definitely prefer to sit and listen for a while.

Highs on the Oppo/Vanity93 seem to extend well and there is a nice airy feel to them. Cymbals have a realistic shimmer with a balance between detail and smoothness, and the result is very pleasing.

The soundstage is one of my favorite aspects. It has a very spacious feel to it, with a defined width and depth that is practically three dimensional. For me this is probably the single biggest standout. I suspect it might be a result of the low jitter reclocking function. Whatever is causing it, I’m certainly enjoying it, and I have to say I’ve not heard a soundstage this expansive and accurate in many other setup’s over the years. But the Vanity93 board would just "replace" analog outputs with digital ones

Just let me briefly mention a few impressions. When going trough the various options this player presents, I get an idea which is difficult to reject; That is the Oppo player/Vanity93 combo is very very critical to the music material, meaning that it uplifts technically good recordings, while is unforgiving to the lesser ones, especially on what is called Hi-res recordings. Just let me recap a few examples.

SACD recordings: For many recordings, the improvement was not expected and came as a very pleasant surprise. Two friends who where just stunned and captured of the transparency, timbre, tonal clarity and presence. Now I like play it louder now to appreciate the full dynamics. Maybe subliminal haze and noise earlier shadowed some recordings are now gone thus the recording is perceived as more quiet. On acoustic music the singer “gestalt” is more distinct, distant and smaller on the audio scene. Her voice timbre is very inviting. Singer voice is very soft yet clear vivid and present, where before I found it rather dull. Particulary the choir singers are so natural and present. This choir sounded very vivid and clear without the previous light haze surrounding the singers

On the string tone, there is still a little edge. One recording set the example of wrong proportions due to the recording setup which becomes obvious. The massed strings sounded sweet without harshness or IM distortion while the bass is accentuated. An “all-tube equipment” recording which previously was rather dull recording has now got a new vigor. I found the cello, although very penetrating sound, is overblown and the piano size is small and distant.

Smooth yet detailed and clear powerful bass. The subtle complex pattern of overtones of the piano are coming trough.
Regarding DSD filters, I find the dedicated coefficient sets for 176kHz to be very pleasant without any listening fatigue. If dynamic range is sufficient, that would be the standard mode of listening. On massed string, timbre is soft and sweet, yet the similar level of detail and overall more realistic, on female voice is round and very inviting and pleasant without sibilants. Single instruments such as a cello, the instrument size and location in the hall seems to be more well defined. Another person, a young lady I know although being an untrained (unspoiled) listener has good hearing in the high registers, identified the sibilants a bit exaggerated with one DSD filter setting. with the later setting.

I have a concern which i believe is common, with the original purpose of DSD/SACD where I am not willing to accept the rigidity of 5.1 channels. According to the Oppo user manual, “Speaker Configuration applies to the multi-channel analog audio outputs. So I had been hoping that speaker parameters could be configured to fit my 4.0 setup. This evaluation board just replaces analog outputs with digital without any redirection of redundant channels. So all evaluation has been without a centre and dedicated subwoofer channel. For the Vanity93 production series it is announced that “multi-channel systems using less than 5+1 loudspeakers, the multi-channel material downmix for any speaker configuration is provided by a DSD to LPCM conversion within the player.”

BD recordings: Generally free from a subtle but tiring high frequency haze, not that edgy as I recall the presentation of my former Sony BDP-500 digital out. Violin slightly more “resin” timbre. I still heard some harshness on massed strings. The cembalo was more present, “analytic” and transparent. Flutes are slightly reduced in size. The piano is located well behind in soundstage and possibly more dynamic. I heard lots of distinct details such as the mechanism from wind instruments. The bass is a bit smooth yet detailed, clear and more powerful. Hall sound reverb queues are distinct.

NAS server based recordings, using DLNA: On good recordings, violin tone is lovely, very delicate and well spaced soundstage without contours. Sometimes the violin is has a sharp but clear string tone. The singer is very present and distinct on the scene with a jet black background. The gestalt is not to large although close microphone position. Percussion and cymbals are believable. The saxophone player is heard as he moves on the scene. The tone and timbre of piano recording with full dynamics and instrument size is captured. The large church organ is perceived in it’s full width while all details present. The venue acoustics is captured while all details are readily available also on a low volume.

On some recordings of lesser quality, although the music in the hall is well captured, with good dynamics, the voices are hard on loud passages. Others become unlistenable, although dynamic, the sound of strings and brass sounds as very jittery and harsh.

Going into this review, I had assumed the Vanity93 would sound similar to the DVDupgrades board. Once again I have been reminded that good audio gear is not merely the sum of its parts, but that the design and implementation makes a huge difference.

To my ears, the Vanity combines the best aspects of HD media and Tact unbroken digital path. Actually, unlike technology in the analog realm, this piece of digital technology cannot be improved as it has reached full bit-integrity, as far as I can understand. It means it does not get better than this. Only ones psychological projections can take me further.
It is detailed, has good frequency extension on both ends, and has very smooth non-fatiguing mids that I can enjoy all day.

To conclude the above observations, the quality of the presentation seems more dependent on the media content than anything else. The Oppo/Vanity combo is ruthless in revealing recordings in lesser technical qualities and mirroring the qualities of good ones.

For myself, this combo is the missing link to an unbroken digital path. So from now onwards, this player will continue to rest like on shelve as a black monolith "Kaaba" stone.
Re: Review of Oppo BDP93 with the new Vanity93 board
January 14, 2012 08:45PM
Hi Ronnhedh

thank you that you share your expirience about the Vanity93 with us.
I read them all and hope to understand them correct, because my english is not the best.

I have some questions and hope to get an answer from you. Can I use the power control from the OPPO 93 together with the vanity93 bord and SPDIF out ? Does the speaker Setup (delay, size) works ?

I want to use a SPDIF cable with a lenght from 10 meters, to connect the player with my active speakers.
Are there any problems with SPDIF in for distances ?

Thank you for you help

Best regards

Re: Review of Oppo BDP93 with the new Vanity93 board
January 15, 2012 08:22PM
Hello Andi,
Allow me to answer the technical questions.
The compete functionality of the player in term of speaker settings is preserved even with the Vanity93 installed. The module just replaces the analog outputs board and everything you can get from analog outputs you also get from digital outputs of the Vanity93.
The S/PDIF standard says that 10 meters is the maximum transmission distance, but with a high quality (low loss) cable there are no worries to go even slightly further. We use popular Belden 1694A with Neutrik connectors and we can also supply such a cable in any length and connectivity configuration.

Best Regards,
Re: Review of Oppo BDP93 with the new Vanity93 board
January 15, 2012 10:38PM
Hi Pavel

thank you for this good news.

Did you offer the Vanity93 also together with the oppo player ?
If Yes, how much is it ? Did you send the board together with an assembly instruction ? How difficult is it ?
Is the Vanity93 now available ?

Best regards


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/17/2012 10:04PM by Heimkinoverein.
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