Matching speakers to a room, Oppo’s fantastic 971 DVD player for HDTVs

Week of February 19, 2006

Q: I want to have a “music room” in my house, the choice being between a small, unused bedroom (10 x 11) and a fairly large lower level (30 x 30).   A good pair of tower speakers would overwhelm the space in the small bedroom, but I’m wondering whether a relatively good pair of bookcase speakers or even mini-speakers would sound better in the relatively small bedroom enclosure than even top-flight large speakers will sound in the oversized lower level.   It seems like most people enjoy music most when the speakers are fairly close to their ears, e.g., in a car, earphones, computer speakers (if good).   I recognize that any given room may have good or bad acoustics, but, generally speaking, which room and speaker combination do you think will sound best: small room/bookcase speakers vs. large room/tower speakers?

-Neil Polstein, Maplewood, MN

A: This is an easy one: tower speakers in a large room.

Room-speaker interaction is an extremely important part of the sound quality equation. Larger spaces tend to sound much better than small ones, and tower speakers can reproduce the full range of music with effortlessness and dynamic impact that small speakers simply can’t match.

Besides the advantages of the larger room and tower speakers, small rooms have their drawbacks. In a small room you may be dealing with troublesome reflections from furniture and the walls, which make an accurate and well-balanced sound difficult to achieve.

I don’t mean to discourage anyone limited to a small room from trying to reach their sound-quality goals or discourage investing in good small speakers.   Of course, great sound can be achieved in a small room- and most people have to play with the hand they are dealt. Combining great bookcase speakers with a pair of sturdy stands and some strategically-placed acoustic room treatments will yield great sound sure to satisfy almost anyone.   However, you have the luxury of choice and you asked “generally speaking”… bigger is better.

Q: I’m hoping you can help me solve a mystery about an article you wrote late last year. I had clipped what you had written about an upconverting DVD player that you said was by far and away the best bargain for that type of player. (Around $200-300 I thought)

I had saved your article for months waiting until I had purchased a HDTV, and now I have I noticed too late that the golden article has been replaced on the refrigerator.   Please help me if you can.

Thank you,

Tim Anderson, Minneapolis, MN

A: The player you are referring to is the Oppo Digital OPDV971H, usually referred to as simply the Oppo 971. It sells for only $199.00.   It’s a fantastic player, a fantastic bargain and apparently it is being sold by a fantastic organization that listens to and responds to its customers. As enthusiastic as my recommendation was then, it is even more enthusiastic now based on my observations of the product and the buzz on internet message boards, as well as glowing reviews that are piling up everywhere.

The Oppo 971 uses some of the best image processing in the business to produce an outstanding picture that compares to high-end DVD players costing many times the Oppo’s price. A recent review comparing the Oppo to a top-rated $4,500 DVD player said “was hard-pressed under those real-world conditions to see any drastic differences in picture quality.”

There is one caveat: I only recommend the Oppo 971H if you have an HDTV with an HDMI or DVI input. The advanced upscaling and progressive scan features of the player are only available if you use the player’s DVI output. The player includes a DVI-to-DVI and a DVI-to-HDMI cable, so you are covered regardless of the digital connection on your television.

You can see the Oppo 971 at www.oppodigital.com. Two thumbs way up for this one!

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