OPPO DV-981HD Upscaling DVD Player - Review

Bridging the Gap Between Standard DVD and Blu-ray/HD-DVD

OPPO Digital DV-981HD Upscaling DVD Player - Front and Rear Views
OPPO Digital DV-981HD Upscaling DVD Player - Front and Rear Views. Images provided by Oppo Digital

Original Publish Date: 02/03/2007

Introduction to the OPPO Digital DV-981HD

The OPPO Digital DV-981HD bridges the gap between standard DVD and Blu-ray/HD-DVD. This DVD player brings out the most from standard DVD, courtesy of its onboard Faroudja DCDi video processing. In addition, HDMI connectivity delivers the bet possible signal from the DV-981HD to an HDTV. Other features, such as DVD-Audio, SACD, and Divx playback add great audio and video flexibility.

If you are looking for a new DVD player, to use with a flat panel HDTV and surround sound system, you should check out the DV-981HD. For less than $230 it performs as well as, or better than, than more expensive units. For details, keep on reading...

Features and Specifications

1. DVD player with DVD-Video/Audio, SACD, DVD+R/RW/-R/-RW, Divx/MPEG4, CD/CDR/CDRW/CD-MP3/HDCD and CD-JPEG playback.

2. DVD Upscaling to 720p, 1080i, and 1080p via HDMI (adaptable to DVI-HDCP). An HDMI cable provided.

3. Built-in Faroudja DCDi video processing.

4. S-video and standard composite video outputs are included. However, the DV-981HD has no component video outputs.

5. Digital optical, digital coaxial, and two sets of analog audio outputs (2-channel and 5.1 Channel).

6. Support of Dolby Digital and DTS bitstream pass-through; built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoders included for 5.1 channel direct output.

7. DVD-Audio and SACD accessibility by both 5.1 Channel Analog and HDMI outputs.

8. On-board adjustments for Sharpness/Contrast/Brightness/Saturation.

9. Switchable NTSC/PAL output - automatic PAL/NTSC bi-directional conversion.

10. Wireless remote control is included. The remote works in conjunction with Easy-to-use onscreen menus.

Video Upscaling

You can enable the Oppo DV981HD to either feed the digital video signal as either 720p, 1080i, or 1080p (in addition to 480p) to your television.

The capability of the Oppo DV981HD to output a video signal in 720p, 1080i, or 1080p format allows its video output to more closely match the capabilities of today's HDTVs.

Although this is not the same as watching your DVDs in true, high definition, as current DVDs are not recorded in high definition, you will experience increased detail and color you didn't think was possible from a DVD player; unless you purchase an HD-DVD or Blu-ray Player and view HD-DVD or Blu-ray Discs.

Although the Oppo DV981HD is not a true high-definition DVD player, it is considered HD-Compatible and bridges the gap between standard DVD quality and true high definition viewing.

OPPO DV-981HD - Video Performance

The of Playback functionality of DV-981 was excellent, with commercial DVDs, several DVD-R/DVD+RW discs, as well as a selection of CD/CDR/RW/DTS/DVD-Audio, and SACD format discs.

In terms of casual viewing comparisons between DV-981HD and the other DVD players used, the OPPO DV-981HD was on par or excelled. Color consistency, edge smoothness, detail, and noise reduction was very good. Also, no upscaling artifacts were noticeable, except for some macro blocking on very dark scenes.

With regards to more technical testing, the DV-981HD met almost all the tests on the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD, which measures DVD player or monitor performance with regards to video processing and upscaling.

The test results revealed that the DV-981HD does excellent on progressive scan (3:2 pulldown), jaggie elimination, noise reduction, detail, motion adaptive processing, and moire pattern detection and elimination.

Where the DV-981HD did not do as well, were some of the more complex video and film frame cadences used in animation and variable frame rate cadences. Also, there was slight mosquito noise present around some objects in some test segments.

The DV-981HD did not have a problem when converting HDMI to DVI. Using the DV-981HD with the Syntax LT-32HV LCD Television, which required the HDMI output of the DV-981HD to be converted to DVI to make the connection, there was no problem with connection recognition.

Also, rerunning the Silicon Optix Disc tests, I found no detectable performance difference when using DVI instead of HDMI.

OPPO DV-981HD - Audio Performance

In terms of audio performance, The DV-981HD delivered excellent audio performance on DVD soundtracks through the digital optical, digital coaxial, and 5.1 channel analog audio outputs. When playing standard DVDS, CDs, SACDs (Super Audio CDs), and DVD-Audio Discs. I noticed no audio artifacts that could be attributed to the DV-981HD.

Surround imagery and vocal presence in movie soundtracks, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Serenity, and U571, as well as audio-only discs, such as the SACD version Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and the DVD-Audio version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, was very consistent. In terms of standard 2-channel CD playback, Heart's Magic Man, with its distinctive bass slide to the extreme low end of the audio range, was spot on.

The DV-981 demonstrated versatility as both an excellent DVD player and CD/SACD/DVD-Audio player. It is too bad that SACD and DVD-Audio discs are hard to find on the shelves, as the DV-981 really delivers very credible performance on those two niche formats.

The one audio feature I was unable to test was SACD and DVD-Audio using the HDMI connection, as I did not have an HDMI-equipped AV receiver on hand for this review. I may do a follow up on this when I secure an HDMI-equipped AV receiver. All of my audio testing was done using the Digital Optical, Digital Coaxial, 5.1 channel analog, and 2 two channel analog outputs using the Yamaha HTR-5490 6.1 Channel AV receiver or Outlaw Audio Model 950 Preamp/Surround Processor.

What I Liked

1. Excellent video and audio performance - plays most video and audio disc formats.

2. HDMI output with 720p, 1080i, and 1080p upscaling options. This makes the DV-981HD compatible with any HDTV with an HDMI or DVI-HDCP input.

3. DVD-Audio and SACD playback can be accessed via 5.1 Channel analog outputs or HDMI output. This makes it possible to connect the DV-981HD to an AV receiver with HDMI vers 1.1 or higher input capable using a single HDMI cable for all video and audio output capabilities.

4. On-board video and audio adjustments allow for fine tuning of video playback parameters to your own taste, which changing your HDTV's video settings.

5. Excellent styling, easy to set up and use; slim profile.

What I Didn't Like

1. There are no component video outputs.

2. There is no separate DVI-HDCP output.

3. The Remote control is not backlit, which would make it easier to use in darker rooms.

4. NTSC/PAL conversion only works on non-region coded discs in out-of-box operation.

5. Limited controls on the unit itself. This is an issue on many DVD players. Don't lose your remote!

Final Take

The OPPO DV-981HD was easy to set up and use. The user manual illustrates several connection scenarios, based on the type of television or audio system to be used.

Overall functionality was excellent. The DV-981HD easily played commercial DVDs, several DVD-R/DVD+RW discs, as well as a selection of SACD/DVD-Audio/CD/CDR/RW discs, and also a Divx disc.

In terms of video performance, quality depended on the type of connection used, with HDMI producing the best results, with the upscaling feature.

Using HDMI and both the 720p, 1080i, and 1080p output settings in conjunction with a Syntax LT-32HV 32-inch LCD TV with native 720p display capability, Samsung LN-R238W 23-inch 720p LCD TV , and a Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor, and using a standard test disc as a reference, the DV-981HD produced excellent results in terms of jaggie elimination, detail, motion adaptive noise reduction, video noise reduction, and moire pattern elimination. In addition, although the DV-981HD did not do well on some frame cadences, it did better than the comparison players.

Audio performance of the DV-981HD was excellent. Dolby Digital/DTS surround sound options worked well, with good imaging. CD, DVD-Audio, and SACD playback audio reproduction was excellent and I did not sense any shortcomings that could be attributed to the DV-981HD

NOTE: DVD-Audio and SACD playback can be accessed by either the 5.1 Channel analog or HDMI outputs (provided you have an AV receiver with HDMI ver 1.1 or higher input capability). The DV-981HD converts SACD to PCM for HDMI access.

Taking all into consideration, OPPO has succeeded in delivering a DVD player that combines high performance with great value. If you have a TV with HDMI or DVI, consider the DV-981HD. I give the OPPO DV-981HD 4.5/5 Stars.

NOTE: After a successful production run, OPPO Digital has discontinued the DV-981HD and, in fact, no longer makes DVD players, but does offer up an impressive line of Blu-ray Disc players. For more details, check out their Official Webpage.

Also, if you are looking for a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player, refer to my periodically updated listings of Upscaling DVD layers and Blu-ray Disc Players.

Additional Components Used In This Review

TVs: A Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor, Syntax LT-32HV 32-inch LCD TV, and Samsung LN-R238W 23-inch LCD TV.

Comparison LCD TV/Monitors were HD-compatible. The Westinghouse LVM-37w3 (1080p) and Samsung LN-R238W (720p) both have HDMI input; the Syntax Olevia LT-32HV (720p) has a DVI-HDCP input. The Syntax was connected to the Helios H4000 via HDMI-to-DVI Connection adapter. All LCD units have progressive scan HD-Component inputs as well.

All Displays were calibrated using SpyderTV Software.

Video Projector: Panasonic PT-AX100U 3-chip LCD projector with 720p native resolution and HDMI connectivity (on loan from Panasonic).

Blu-ray and HD-DVD Players: Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD player, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player, and LG BH100 Blu-ray/HD-DVD Combo player, playing standard DVDs in 720p, 1080i, and 1080p upscaling modes.

Audio Components: Yamaha HTR-5490 6.1 Channel AV receiver, Outlaw Audio Model 950 Preamp/Surround Processor paired with a Butler Audio 5150 5-channel power amplifier.

Comparison DVD players: Samsung DVD-HD931 (DVI-HDCP output - 720p/1080i upscaling) and Helios H4000 (HD-component and HDMI output with 720p/1080i/1080p upscaling).

Loudspeakers: Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2, Optimus LX-5IIs, Klipsch Quintet III 5-channel speaker system, and Klipsch Synergy Sub10 and Yamaha YST-SW205 Powered Subwoofers.

Software Used

Pre-recorded standard DVDs used included scenes from the following: Serenity, Aeon Flux, The Cave, Kill Bill - Vol1/2, Pirates Of The Caribbean, V For Vendetta, Underworld, Moulin Rouge, U571, Zathura, The Corpse Bride, and The Promise, as well as video content on DVD-R and DVD+RW discs recorded on DVD recorders.

For audio only, various CDs included: HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Telarc - 1812 Overture. DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, Beach Boys - Pet Sounds, Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Indivisible. SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy. In addition, music content on CD-R/RWs were also used.