Oppo BDP-95 Settings

I recently bought an Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray player, and I already have a Pioneer PRO-110FD Kuro plasma TV. Which video setting should I use in the player, Auto or Source Direct? I've tried both, and the picture looks great either way. I've also tried 1080p, and that looked great as well, though I understand this is far from an ideal setting for 1080i sources. Is there anything I should be looking for to see which setting is better? I have a Denon AVR-4308CI receiver, but I set it to pass the video signal through without any processing.

I use the AVR's HDMI 1 input for movies, but I also hooked up the player's 5.1 analog outs to the receiver's Ext. In. This is for listening to music (CD, SACD, DVD-Audio). For Blu-ray music, should I use the analog out when the signal is PCM? Is the HDMI out better for the lossless forms of Dolby and DTS? As an aside, the player's manual hints that it is better to output SACDs from the analog outs as PCM rather than DSD. Is this because the player likely does a better job at decoding the DSD signals?

Stephen Beney

Let's start with the video-resolution setting. Source Direct tells the player to output whatever resolution is encoded on the disc, while Auto scales everything to whatever resolution is best for the display. (The display tells the player what its resolution is via HDMI's Extended Display Identification Data, or EDID, message.) Your Pioneer plasma has 1080p resolution, so both settings have the same result as setting the output to 1080p—that is, the player outputs 1080p. Any of these three settings will produce the same image with 1080p Blu-rays on your TV.

With discs at other resolutions—DVDs, for instance—it might make a difference. In this case, the question is, which device does a better job upscaling standard-def content, the player or the display? The best way to find out is to play the same DVD clip twice—once with the player set to 1080p, which upscales the image in the player, and again with the player set to Source Direct, which causes the TV to do the upscaling. Whichever way looks better, use that setting in the player. There's no reason to use the Auto setting unless you use the player with multiple displays that have different resolutions.

To my ears, the difference between HDMI and analog with PCM and lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio is miniscule at best, but there are those who disagree. Again, the best thing to do is compare a particular clip of audio using both connections—HDMI to hear the receiver decode the audio and analog to hear the player do the decoding. With HDMI, listen with the HDMI Audio control set to LPCM (player converts Dolby and DTS to PCM) and Bitstream (receiver decodes Dolby and DTS). If you hear a difference, use whichever connection and setting sounds best to you. As for SACDs, perform the same comparison with the SACD Output control set to PCM (player converts DSD bitstream to PCM) and DSD (player sends DSD bitstream to receiver), and listen to the HDMI (receiver decodes audio) and analog (player decodes audio) to see which one you prefer.

Update: As Audio1st points out in the comments below, the BDP-95 is Oppo's audiophile-oriented player with upgraded DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and power supply, which is why it lists for $1000 while the BDP-93 is $500. As a result, it's analog output is likely to sound significantly better than HDMI—in fact, I'd be interested to learn what you think of the difference between them. (I haven't heard the BDP-95 yet, so I can't say from personal experience.) And pay particular attention to any sonic differences between the LPCM and Bitstream HDMI Audio settings with CD and DVD-Audio (or PCM and DSD with SACD) using the analog output to see if one decoder in the player sounds better than the other.

BTW, the manual is clear that setting SACD Output to DSD converts the bitstream directly to analog, but it is not clear about what happens to the analog output when HDMI Audio is set to Bitstream. Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA might be converted to PCM before being converted to analog, in which case the LPCM and Bitstream settings should sound identical.

Also, the manual says, "On the BDP-95, the 'LPCM Rate Limit' can also affect the analog audio performance. Setting to '192K' may help to get the best analog audio quality." (Italics mine.) So try setting LPCM Rate Limit to 192K to see if that makes a difference in the analog sound quality.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askscottwilkinson@gmail.com.