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I would agree with you, the visual aspect of the Panasonic machines I've seen was always excellent whereas compared to the likes of Pioneer they always trailed (far) behind. I choose to purchase a Cambridge DACMAGIC that I use to enhance considerably the sound from both the Loewe blueray AND the TV since Dacmagic has two sets of SPDIF or TOSLINK inputs (and a USB input, so it may even serve your computer as well).
There are other options, of course.
What is your budget? There are many new models out that are Universal Blu-Ray if you also want SACD or DVD-A. Denon, Marantz, McIntosh, Theta, etc. I had looked at tha as an option when I decided to take blu-ray plunge. I ended up going a different direction and don't use my blu-ray for anything but blu-ray. I kept my Denon 5910ci for the std DVD and multi channel audio.
I just received an Oppo BDP-80 and run the digital out to a PS Audio DLIII. I love the sound. Together that is $900 new. The picture on the Oppo 83 is better (some say the best that is possible now)if you are running HDMI out to your display, for a total of $1100. Some posters like the sound of the 83 better than the 83SE but I have not heard them. I choose the 80 because I only have component inputs on my older HDTV. The DAC gives you the option to run other inputs such as USB and optical from other sources such as computer, server, apple express, etc.
I would go for the Oppo BDP-83/SE and combine it with a musical DAC. I'm using an Oppo DV-980h Universal Player paired with an older CAL Sigma single tube DAC. How good does it sound on 2-channel redbook/SACD audio? The Oppo/Sigma combo smoked my $1800 Doge 6 Tube CDP in almost every way. In fact I just sold the Doge and I'm using the Oppo/Sigma for both 2-channel redbook/SACD & DVD video. The Oppo/Sigma combo is dynamic, natural, open, uncoloured and produces a large soundstage. The Doge sounded laid back by comparison.
If you can find an older CAL Sigma, Alpha or Sigma II DAC (they pop up on A'gon somewhat regularly, but you have to act quickly as they literally sell within minutes of posting) it would be a great match with that Oppo player.
Perhaps some other members can reccomend some other musical sounding DACS that would work well with the Oppo.
That's good to know Knghifi. In all fairness I haven't heard the Blue Ray players that Oppo has out, I based my comment on my experience with their DV-980h. I used the 980h in my secondary system as a stand alone player and it does indeed have very good sound from it's analogue outputs, however the external DAC took it to another level and it now outperform my highly regarded (and substantially more expensive) Doge 6.
I would agree that a modified BDP-83 is the way to go. I have an Exemplar/Oppo and am just amazed at sacds. I think it is the Crystal chip set that is responsible also. This is not used in the SE and that is one reason I avoided it.
I also have a Mac/Amarra/Firewire/Weiss Minerva music server. I can hear a difference between it and the Exemplar/Oppo and sometimes prefer it, but sacds on the Exemplar/Oppo are clearly better in every comparison I have done.
Pioneer BDP-09fd if you plan to use the analog audio ouputs. Sound is tonally richer with more body and transient slam than either version of the Oppo 83, though I can't comment on the Nuforce Edition of the Oppo. Visually, Blu-ray video and DVD upscaling are slightly in favor of the BDP-09, but that difference is small and may not be worth the price. It's the audio (and the build quality) that make the Pioneer worth the cash over an Oppo SE. The bonus is that Redbook CD from the Pioneer clearly bests the Oppo, and every other Blu-ray deck with the possible exception of the $6,000 Marantz UD9004 and the $8,000 McIntosh MVP-881 and even that's not certain.
You don't even have to modify the BDP-09 for it to sound steller. I suppose anything can be improved, but the Pioneer is well thought-out and executed from the factory. If you're only passing all signal from the player via HDMI, then the standard Oppo 83 is fine.
Craig_hoch, I had a DV-980h and the BDP-83 is superior in every way.
Strateahed, It's a BDP-83 and NOT SE. Dan found the SE offers a slight advantage in detail and resolution over the non SE because of the superior SABRE DAC.
I bought the Oppo for an occasional BluRay but the sound was so poor in all formats that I stopped using it. The reasons I decided on Modwright is only Dan's mod replaces the whole analog output stage plus I'm familiar with his work.
Nglazer, the power supply in the 83SE and the Exemplar modified 83 are stronger. In my experience the Oppo BDP-83 was not the equal to many of the other players used with digital out. That is not true of the Exemplar, however.
I persist is saying that the chip set in the BDP-83 is superior to that in the SE. I think because it is a single bit dac. Certainly on sacds it is exceptional.
My DAC does not, of course, play SACD, so if I chose to buy a few SACD's that is what I would use the Oppo for with analog out. Now I am a bit confused. Tbg says the power supply on the SE is superior to standard BDP, but the standard is better on SACD. I run digital out to my Dodson 218 DAC for DVD's and I wonder how much difference the power supply would matter for the audio (or video) for DVD's.
Thanks to mds and Tbg for input, so to speak!