Oppo 103 comparison with an Ayre Codex

I have a new Ayre Codex DAC, a pretty good DAC.   I connected my Oppo 103 to my preamp with RCA cables and also connected the Oppo via a decent Toslink cable.  I could switch back at forth RT between the analogue path vs the digital path > Ayre DAC and I will be damned if I can perceive any difference, not even in SPL.  The Codex was a bit of any improvement over my Ayre QB-9, a much-heralded DAC, which itself was a demonstrable improvement over the five sub-$1K DAC’s that preceded it streaming music from my iMac.  The QB-9 acquisition prompted me to sell my TT, it was that good.  The Codex is slightly better.

Two observations:
1.  The DAC in the Oppo 103 is very good.  
2.  Knowing that my $20 Toslink cable is as good as the RCA connection, it frees up the $350 Cerious Technology Graphene Express IC cables to be used elsewhere in my system.  

While I am moving to have all my music on an external HD and playing the music through the Audirvana software, with its error correction, etc., I will always have use a CD player.   By far, the great valued-component component in my sytem has long been the Oppo 103.  It was the best $550 I have ever spent in an audio purchase.  I did hear an Oppo 205 and it was slightly sonically superior to my Oppo 103, which makes sense.  I have no clue why Oppo discontinued their sales of the Oppo CDP’s.
For the best performance of the Codex I highly recommend using the balanced output connections. I directly compared mine connected by high quality RCA cables to the same level XLR cables.  The XLR output is notably better. 
As noted above, your Ayre Codex DAC will sound much better when you use its balanced XLR outputs.  Does your preamp have balanced inputs?

In addition, please confirm your Codex DAC is set to operate as a DAC and not a preamp/DAC.  I assume you are doing this but I have to ask. Your post states you are using a preamp. 
Good question, gents, but it is a bit off the mark.  My issue is on the front end, a bit different than the issue you raise.  To wit, I have compared connectivity from my Codex between RCA ICs and very cheap Monoprice XLR connectors ( my Don Sachs preamp accepts both inputs) and could discern zero difference in SQ.  Maybe better XLR cables would lead me to different conclusion. The Codex is set to accept the digital input from OPPO.

I appreciate your input.  
I use Oppp105D XLR lineout to Sennheise DVA600 Earphone Amp/Pre-amp and get the best sound quality.
I was never a big fan of balanced ins/outs, but after connecting the Codex to the balanced inputs of my amp, this was a notable step up in SQ.
"I did hear an Oppo 205 and it was slightly sonically superior to my Oppo 103, which makes sense.  I have no clue why Oppo discontinued their sales of the Oppo CDP’s."

Hello whitesix,

     I think Oppo getting out of the Blu-ray player market was mainly a financial business decision based on player future sales+cost forecasts, they thought ROI would be better with other products.  I know they're #1 in cell phone sales in China and have invested heavily in 5G cell phone development.
    I own a 105 and love it and was about to buy a 205 when I heard the news.  All Oppo players are  excellent with great support and customer service.  I'm already missing them, too.

Interesting. I have the OPPO 103 and am in search of a slightly warmer sound. Just got a Schiit Multi Modi to try as an outboard DAC connected to the 103. Should know something this Saturday.

Mr M,
I guess I need to try XLR cables with the Codex again.  I tried in once and heard no difference.  I have inexpensive Monoprice XLR's so maybe I need to step up in quality to hear what you are hearing.  Don Sachs tells me the same thing with his Schiit Yggy.  

I suspect you are exactly right about Oppo's decision to get out of the CDP business.  I was surprised on a visit to Thailand and Viet Nam where I saw Oppo signs on businesses, and got excited thinking they were audio stores.  Of course they were only selling cell phones.  

My Oppo 103 was far better than a Consonance tube CDP which was 6X the price of the Oppo.  On a whim, I sent the 103 to Stereo Dave's audio store in Seattle for some modest mods, which were just wonderful.  My pal, I swear, got the last 205D that Oppo sold and I kick myself for not getting one myself.  Check out the prices of used 205's -- shocking that they are selling at 2-3X the list price.  I dunno, maybe there are other CDP's as worthy as the 105/205 at similar prices, but I repeat again Oppo provides a glimpse of hifi sound at an incredibly modest price.  Considering price vs. performance, my 103 has been my best acquisition every.  

I hooked up XLR cables to my Oppo and compared it to the RCA connections and the difference in sound is rather noticeable. It seems to reduce the glare to a certain degree and to my ears it is preferable.  Any recommendations for good XLR cables that don't break the bank would be appreciated as I roll as a "cheap and cheerful" sort of audiophile.   

I have an extra pair of balanced Purist Audio Museaus interconnects (1 meter). If interested, PM me.:-)
 "I dunno, maybe there are other CDP's as worthy as the 105/205 at similar prices, but I repeat again Oppo provides a glimpse of hifi sound at an incredibly modest price.  Considering price vs. performance, my 103 has been my best acquisition every."

Hello whitestix,

     I heard a rumor that Panasonic was going to come out with a high quality Blu-ray player meant to compete with the Oppo 205.  I would think Oppo dropping out of the market would only increase demand for such a product.

Very interesting.  Personally, I always wished that Oppo would produce an audio-only DAC and dispense with the video aspect of the units. But I understand that the video folks love the Oppo's as much as us audiophiles.  Thanks.  
@whitestix The Oppo Sonica DAC is an audio DAC but has been discontinued.  The used units are still reasonably priced.  I think their implementation of the Sabre PRO ES9038 32 bit hyperstream DAC chip is wonderful. 
I meant to say that I I wished that Oppo would have made an "audio only" CDP without all the bells and whistles for video.  

Good idea but don’t hold your breath.

The 105 is like a high quality swiss army knife. It’ll play almost any video or audio disc (CD,SACD, CDROM, DVD, DVDA, BLURAY), it’s a surround sound processor, add external amps and it’s an ultra high quality A/V receiver with a remote, a high quality DAC, connect your wi-fi and it streams audio and video, it has rca unbalanced and xlr balanced stereo outputs, separate internal circuit boards for stereo and surround channel outputs and utilizes high quality and expensive Saber DAC Chips for all audio channels. It was a hi-end bargain new at $1,199 and I’d still consider any used ones in good condition near that price as bargains. The only negative is it’s not 4K like the 205.

You well described the attributes of the 105.  I sure wish I had snapped up a 205 in the end, but with some simple mods to my 103, my ears tell me that it is a great player.   I dunno, maybe there are CDPs in their former price range that are as musical, but overall, I still say that the Oppo players are astoundingly fine and I lament their demise.   I will be surprised if Oppo doesn't somehow license their designs to somebody.  
Hello whitestix,

     I actually was online with the intent of buying a 205 when I had trouble finding a seller with any units left in stock.  I signed up on a waiting list on the Oppo website for a unit from a supposed final production run but was never contacted.

     I really do hope Oppo licenses their designs to another company, too. And teaches them how to provide excellent customer support and service, too.   Eventually, I know I'll need to upgrade from my 1080P 105 and 1080P hdtv to the latest resolution and technology.

whitest, aren't you using the wrong Oppo for your comparison?  Audio quality is the distinguishing characteristic between a 103 and 105.  If you're concerned about audio quality you want a unit ending with a 5 not a 3.  

In preparing for downsizing, I discovered I have a 95, 105, 105D, and 205. The 105D and 205 were in active setups, but I had forgotten about the 95 and 105 sitting in boxes.  I plan to sell all of them, and keep only an Ayre DX-5 DSD.  Since getting hooked on Roon, I rarely spin discs or vinyl any more.  I wonder if Oppo got out because the future seems to be streaming, not spinning.
Hello dbphd,

     Excellent points! 
     While the Oppos ending with a 3 are very good units with very good dacs, the Oppos ending with a 5  provide better audio because they have even better dacs and are specifically designed with the goal of providing better audio.  
     They both have exactly the same parts and design quality levels for video performance for their model years.  The sole difference, and the only reason the 5 models were consistently priced just a bit over twice the price of the 3 models for their model years, was the increased parts and design costs involved with providing their significantly improved audio performance.  They were marketed emphasizing they were exactly the same video wise and with the 5 models targeted to those desiring even higher audio performance quality.
     I believe Oppo's decision to exit the market was a purely financial one based on forecasts of returns on investments (ROIs), with the forecast of reduced physical disc usage being an important factor.   Basically, I think they just determined they would make higher profits investing their resources elsewhere and producing other products. 
     5K cell phones? New expanded home automation products and other products and services connected to the soon to arrive 5K phone networks? Who knows but, knowing Oppo, I bet it's going to be very good,exciting and make boatloads of dough. It should be interesting.

I use an Oppo 103 as a video source that can also play just music, connected with an HDMI cable to a pre/pro.  Is HDMI as good as Toslink for music?
Hello jameswei,

     The best way to learn and gain experience in this hobby is to try both and discover which you think sounds best.

jameswei, IIRC the DSD layer of SACDs is available only from HDMI for copy protection reasons.
Yes, dbphd, I followed Tim’s advice and tried it myself. Not only is the SACD blocked, but the signal is also processed/degraded before it goes out the Toslink. Here’s a quote from the manual:

"Due to bandwidth limitations, high resolution audio formats such as Dolby Digital Plus, DolbyTrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio cannot be sent through the coaxial or optical digital audio output. A reduced resolution version of the same audio track will be output instead. To listen to high resolution audio formats in their best quality, please use the HDMI connection if you have a receiver that handles HDMI audio (see page 11) or use the multi-channel analog outputs if you do not (see page 16)."

And I could hear the difference. So HDMI is the way to go.

(Now I am scratching my head about the OP’s conclusions comparing Toslink to RCA.)