I am a new owner of a 970. After trying several receivers (all of which I was unhappy with for one reason or another) I was left with 2 options: spend a LOT more money and get a good pre/pro with HDMI (e.g. Integra 8.9 or 9.9) OR wind back the clock to the initial days of SACD and use analog outputs.
Since I needed analog bass management (my sub actually does it, but due to a flaw in the BDP-83 it cannot be used right now, more on that later) the 970 seemed like a good choice.
Before I bought the Oppo, I did bass management with my sub (it has High level outs to go to the amp after stripping the bass). With the Sony BDP-S550, when speakers are set to large and SW is set to off, the LFE signal is mixed in with the L/R channels. So this could be stripped out with the sub. Currently the Oppo DOES NOT SUPPORT this. If the SW is set to off on the Oppo, bye-bye LFE (this has been confirmed by Oppo with no ETR). So I no longer could do analog BM with my sub which I needed for good vinyl playback (I have the Axiom M22 bookshelf speakers) (Don't get me started on pre/pros that digitize the analog signal to do BM the covert it back to analog) Hence me buying the Outlaw.
Now to setting up my 970.
My first test, hook up the turn table, switch the Bass Management switch to LPF/HPF and see what happens.... perfection! The analog inputs on this unit are excellent. After getting vinyl to sound perfect.. I moved on to the rest of the set up.
Level matching and delay setting was a snap. The remote leaves much to be desired, but it's functional (far better than the Audio Refinement 2-DSP I had!) .
Dolby D from the cable box sounded good (wish lipsync delay was less than 10ms) and now I was ready to the big show: the Oppo...
And now begins my week long Odyssey of frustration, tears, and serious thoughts of returning the 970.
Using the AIX BD included with the Oppo play, I level matched with the DD 48Khz signal using the coax out, pretty much matched watch I had set before. I the only interesting thing was the sub was +10db higher (more on this later) Now, did it again with analog out, was going well until the sub-out: nada. There was a more than 10db drop in the signal, this made it more than 20db softer than using the coax.
LFE and Analog Out
I remembered from way back in the early aughts, about how analog outs needed a +10db boost. So in the Oppo I cranked the SW level +10db and reran, still softer, but I though, well, let's just try it out.
I began watching LOTR:FOTR via analog. It is a film I know really well so it is perfect for me to judge audio performance on. There was a lot of good bass, but something seemed missing. I assumed LFE was working since Mt Doom eruptions were very strong. Yet some battles and collapsing of Kaza Dum seemed weak. So I switched over to have the 970 process the DTS signal, BAM!! It all came back, it all sounded perfect. Just as it should...hmmm...I was becoming unhappy that my $400 pre/pro played better sound than my $500 bluray player.
Back to fiddling: To cut to the chase and spare you the blow by blow of another 3 hours of trouble shooting, to get LFE to sound correct out of the Oppo Analog out I have all speakers set to Large and I drop all speakers by -6.5db and increase the SW +6.5db. Ending with a overall +13db increase for the LFE channel. An interesting note: On the AIX test tones, using the same DD 48Khz test signal, using coax the sub was +10db over my other channels and using analog it was level (I guess this make sense since the 970 is boosting LFE +10db) yet if films they sound the same - sorta.
LFE fixed, but 970 still sounds better?!
Here is the REALLY interesting part:
After comparing some tracks here are my initial impression with testing limited titles:
(all tests were done doing A-B comparison ensuring level matching (there was the 6.5 db difference))
DTS ES/EX (on LOTR:FOTR) sounds MUCH better having the 970 decode it. I do not have a 7.1 set up (I have 5.1) so it is not the extra channels. It is just much fuller and rounded. I have not tested a regular DTS track but I will be interested to do so. (I know the Oppo only has a basic DTS decoder)
Dolby digital(Lion, Witch, Ward (Bluray)): Pretty much sounds the same between Oppo and 970. Maybe a very slight edge toward Oppo, but so slight it could be in my head.
LPCM-Uncompressed(Lion, Witch) Obviously the 970 cannot handle that since coax can only output hi-res in 2 channel, so I compared with the DD. I was surprised to see only a slight edge toward LPCM. My previous testing (with other equipment) showed Hi-res audio sounding much better. But this is only one title and an older one at that. I still need to test new DTS-MA and DD-True HD titles.
Now more surprises with Oppo
The Oppo has 2 analog outputs. One is stereo only and uses Cirrus Logic highest end DAC. It is NOT affected by level controls, delay, or (I assume) BM in the Oppo. I have it hooked in to the CD analog in on the 970. A problem I noticed, doing a frequency sweep from 200-20Hz there is a major bass hole at 50Hz, a 10db drop. This DOES not appear doing the same 2 channel sweep with the multichannel analog outs. I will report this to Oppo. Dunno if it is a problem with the firmware or the chip itself.
DVD-A: Sounds AMAZING out of the 2 channel out. It is the best my DVDAs have ever sounded. I was ecstatic. It blew away the multi out.
SACD: Oddly, this sounded worse out of the 2 channel out. Way too bright. It actually hurt my ears after listening awhile. If it had more resolution, it was obscured by the 'ringing' of the output (I need to test having the Oppo covert to LPCM before sending it to the DAC)
Muti-channel was MUCH easier on the ears. It did sound better but that was only because it did not feel like nails were being driven into my ears. Need to test with having Oppo convert to LPCM first.
Whew...sorry for such a long post, but I wanted to share my experience of the last week. I hope I can help others avoid the same pain as me and would be interested to see what the experiences of other Oppo 83/970 users are.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!