Another Winning DVD Player from OPPO
George Graves, June 20, 2006
HDTV Solutions

After the critical success of OPPO's previous offering, the OPDV971H 1080i upconverting DVD player, one would think that this forward-thinking and innovative company would be content to rest on their considerable laurels for a bit. But no, today, we received from OPPO Digital, a new player dubbed the DV-970HD. This player differs from OPPO's earlier offering in a number of ways, not the least of which is price. The earlier unit (OPDV971H) remains in OPPO's catalogue and is still priced at $199, while the new player, the DV-970HD is $50 cheaper at $149.

OPPO DV-970HD Player

Features
The new player, like its more expensive sibling, will take ordinary 480i DVDs and upconvert them to 720p/1080i through component video (PbPrY) unless the DVD is CSS-encrypted, in which case, the upconvert will be limited to 480p. This means you can upconvert your home video DVDs and any other none CSS-encryted DVDs through component video. HDMI does not have this restriction so any DVD will be upconverted to 720p/1080i through HDMI.

Like its more expensive sibling, the OPPO DV-970HD will play many different disc formats including normal DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, Audio CD, HDCD, Certified DivX, Xvid, and Kodak Picture CD, but unlike the OPDV971H, this unit will also support Super Audio CD (SACD),. OPPO also handles CD-R/RW in DVD +/-R/RW and DVD +R DL.

In addition to composite and S-VHS (YC), OPPO also supports ATSC 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and PAL 576i, 576p, 720p and 1080i through both component (PbPrY), with the limitations noted above, and HDMI. A 2-meter HDMI cable is included with the unit.

OPPO DV-970HD Connector Panel

Sound support for the DV-970HD is impressive for such an inexpensive player. It supports 5.1 channels of analog audio out, as well as, mixed-down stereo analog audio. Digital audio is output through both a coaxial SPDIF and an optical TOSLINK and via the HDMI cable.

Digital Pictures
An innovation in the DV-970HD is the addition of a memory card reader for displaying still pictures from digital cameras. The built-in card reader will accept SD, MMC, SM and Memory Stick (MS) cards, but not the larger Compact Flash cards used by many older, and most high-end, digital cameras. Luckily, next to the card slot, there is a USB connector and the unit will accept a USB v.1.1 (or higher) universal or 4-in-1 card reader available as accessories at most any photo or computer store. With one of these fitted, this player will accept any memory format supported by that reader.

OPPO DV-970HD Card Reader & USB Connection

All your digital slides, regardless of resolution, are output at 725 x 480 resolution. A zoom feature allows you to enlarge them; however, you will see the best results in the default resolution. In slide show the unit delivers an image about every 2 seconds and there is no way to vary the interval between "slides" other than operating manually. OPPO has also given the unit a myriad of "wipe" modes for transitioning from one slide to the next. The DV-970HD will wipe vertically from top to bottom, bottom to top, right to left and vise-versa, as well as diagonally from all four corners. The ability to view digital pictures on your TV is a convenient way to share those digital snapshots with others. Image quality,of course, depends on the resolution and quality of your camera.

Although the specs don't mention it and the manual merely alludes to it, it seems that MP3 music files stored on memory cards will also play on the DV-970HD via the card reader or the USB connection.

Differences
The previous OPPO player reviewed by Projector Central (OPDV971H) was probably one of the highest quality players on the market. In addition to up-sampling 480i DVDs to 1080i, the player also sported the advanced DCDi digital processing by Faroudja that makes 480i DVDs look like film. This new, lower priced model, does not have this feature which was likely eliminated to reach its aggressive price point.

However, one of the key features of the DV-970HD is its ability to transport a 480i signal through the HDMI connection. This feature is not available on the OPDV971H, or other Faroudja based DVD players. 480i transport through a digital connection allows you to use either an external processor or television that has either the Faroudja DCDi or equivalent capability; thereby, ensuring image quality comparable to the highly acclaimed OPDV971H. In essence, you don't pay for the same solution twice.

Performance
DVD performance on the DV-970HD is more than acceptable, especially for a player in this price range. Using the digital HDMI interface, one finds that dot-crawl and other analog video artifacts are mostly gone. Color rendition as well as picture detail is outstanding through the HDMI connection. There are motion artifacts that one wouldn't see in this unit's more expensive sibling, but that's to be expected from any player lacking some form of video processing. Moiré patterns are visible in scenes with brick walls, people in checkered clothing, panning across crowd scenes, etc. Jagged transitions make themselves apparent on diagonal lines and objects such as waving flags. These artifacts do detract from the DVD experience, but most viewers are used to them, as they are a daily part of TV viewing and have been for more than 50 years. Whether or not they bother you will depend on your expectations of a DVD player. If you are upgrading from a standard composite video DVD player, you will likely find the picture provided by the OPPO DV-970HD a revelation when compared to your older equipment, but if your older player outputs 480p with Faroudja DCDi processing, you're going to be somewhat disappointed unless your HDTV already has DCDi or an equivalent processor.

Audio
Usually, we don't concern ourselves that much with the audio performance of a player. Most players, these days, use similar chip-sets to output 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound and possibly DTS sound as well. There is little to say about this, as all players are pretty much the same in this regard.

The OPPO DV-970HD has some audio features that are well worth mentioning, however. First and foremost is the ability of this player to play SACD or Super Audio CDs. These discs use a different type of encoding than do normal CDs and many people find that they are much better than regular CD. They have a much wider frequency response than do normal audio CDs and can have as many as six discrete, full-fidelity channels without compression or PCM artifacts.

Until lately, these SACD discs required extremely expensive players and most of them would play only SACD and regular CD. The OPPO DV-970HD is a true combo player. Not only will it play SACD but it will also play DVD-Audio in all formats as well as standard CD. It will also decode the high-end HDCD format, which is quite rare. Another feature of the OPPO is the ability to defeat the video circuitry in this player when using it to listen to music. This makes the OPPO DV-970HD an ideal player for the audiophile as well as the home theater buff. At this price, most audiophiles will want to add a OPPO DV-970HD to their stereos even if they don't ever use it for video!

Conclusion
Here is a player obviously designed to be a "Swiss Army Knife" of digital media players. Not only does it accept and play virtually all 12 cm disc formats, but it will accept digital storage media via a built-in card reader or USB interface as well for viewing digital still pictures on one's TV. The DVD player portion of the machine will play both NTSC and PAL discs from all regions. Audio support is impressive, this being one of very few machines on the market that will play both SACD and DVD-A audio discs, and is the only combo player that this reviewer is aware which presents these features at this price point.

The main drawback of this player is its lack of DCDi processing by Faroudja; however, if your HDTV has DCDi or equivalent processing, you're paying for the same technology twice. By eliminating it, OPPO has brought down the cost of the DVD player while adding significant functionality. This player is a great deal for its versatility alone, and for those that already own an HDTV with DCDi or equivalent processing, this is a clear winner in both price and performance.

Where to Buy
Buy Direct from Oppo

[Correction: This article has been modified from its original posting to clarify the merit of DCDi in peripherals versus HDTVs and to clarify features and performance.]

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