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Oppo Sonica USB DAC and Streamer Review


Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Feb 13, 2016
Seattle Area
This is a review and detailed measurements of the now discontinued, Oppo Sonica USB balanced DAC and network streamer. It is on kind loan from a member. When it was on sale, the Sonica costs US $799 from Oppo direct. I think the member bought it used so they are available and hence this review.

The Sonic has a solid build:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced Audio Review.jpg

I did not play much with the functionality though. Selected the input as USB, used XLR as the output and set the volume control to fixed. All was easy enough without reading the manual.

Nice and near rear panel:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced Audio Review Back Panel Connectors.jpg

As you may be able to tell, it was manufactured back in 2016. It used the top of the line ESS ES9038Pro. Will we see the dreaded IMD hump there? Let's find out how it does there and in other areas relative to more recent DACs.

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual, we start with our 1 kHz pure tone as represented in our dashboard:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced Audio Measurements.png

This is very good and places the Sonica in top band of our tested DACs:

best usb dacs reviewed.png

Dynamic range is near top of the class as well:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png

Here is the IMD versus level:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced IMD Audio Measurements.png

Please ignore the little glitches. Once in a while I run into a DAC where the AP software struggles to keep up with it and causes momentary errors. You may be able to see the slightest hint of "ESS IMD Hump" but it surely is addressed well.

Jitter and noise is nailed as well:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced Jitter Audio Measurements.png

Linearity? This thing has it:
Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced Linearity Audio Measurements.png

32-tone test:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced Multitone Audio Measurements.png

Finally, THD+N versus frequency:

Oppo Sonica DAC Balanced THD vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png

What a shame Oppo got out of consumer audio and video. The Sonica is one great DAC and despite its age, it is able to beat many modern DACs in performance. If you can get a used one for a good price, it would make a good choice. But keep in mind that it is a complex beast with fancy graphical display and such and support may be expensive.

As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Running on empty getting reviews out as some of these members have been waiting a long time for them. I hope you feel sorry for me and try to cheer me up by donating using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
I bought this right after launch and returned it because it didn't have gapless playback support over DLNA and Oppo had no plans to fix it.

Edit: archimago measured this which is why I bought it.
Man, I had the HA-1, and just could not get along with it for some reason. I'm not sure if I screwed up the gain staging between components, or what. However, the build quality always seemed impeccable, and the connection options were perfect for me at the time. I won't even mention that awesome dancing LED screen with the dancing EQ on it....or fake meters. ;)

As you mentioned, it truly is a shame they couldn't make it work out, they had some great products on the market.
I was a beta tester for Oppo and helped in the testing and development of the PM-1/2, PM-3, HA-1, HA-2, Sonica speakers, and Sonica DAC, and it was pretty heartbreaking when Oppo Digital was dissolved. Such great products and great people.
Oppo was a California company, no? Bit perplexed by Euro Football Panther here.

E: I stand corrected!
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How good is that!
I wonder if they have popped up under a different brand? Seems a waste of engineering expertise if they just shut up shop.
Killing it back then. What a cruel reality Oppo had to go under, while others persist with nonsense.

Btw this is digital volume control right? So perfect matching channels?

Yep, it's obviously rather costly to properly perform R&D vs just jamming the latest parts into a box and calling it SOTA.

Oppo seemed to have a real R&D outfit, or at least their products exhibited such.
Oppo is doing pretty good selling phones in India now. Not sure about other countries.
I don't know what the measurements are telling you. It is pretty clear to me that the DAC "Lacks dynamic subtlety and overall excitement" :facepalm:

WhatHiFi Review
Naturally the local market product is better to their "ears."
I'm sure if Oppo had been a sponsor... it would have made the DAC sound better... and if they were a major sponsor it would have been a 5-star review. :facepalm:
I don't know what the measurements are telling you. It is pretty clear to me that the DAC "Lacks dynamic subtlety and overall excitement" :facepalm:

WhatHiFi Review

20 bits essentially of dynamic range that lacks dynamic subtlety. These guys are good I'll give you that. They didn't outright say anything that would potentially contradict anyone that could offer objective proof of claims contrary to their direct statements. That word "subtlety" saves them from being directly accused of being bullshitters explicitly. Naturally to most rational people, when they see someone trying to cover your tracks like this (regardless if your ears were right or wrong in assessment) is a pathetic demonstration of cowardice and a blatant display of their own doubt in their golden ear reviewers/review process of choice.

Is this where potentially D grade politicians go? Into writing these sorts of pieces because their nonsense wasn't outlandish or good enough to cut it in politics? Am I out of line folks? What do you think.. Am I giving them too much credit, could it be possible they're like nearly every other outfit that simply employs wordsmiths, where customers reading this stuff fall prey to victims of appeal to authority illusions (the illusion being here, if anyone is fancifully able to write like this just describing sonic differences without annoying dry technical terminology, they must know what they're talking about if they've been doing this for years)?

I realize I'm being quite harsh here. But I think back and wonder how many people were dissuaded from purchasing this Oppo for example, and instead went with some other nonsense that was praised by these guys.
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