Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Unique adjustability
Outstanding overall performance
Tank-like construction
Minus
Complex adjustments
Won't play SACDs

THE VERDICT
If you're in the market for an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player that can do everything you want, and plenty of things you didn't know you wanted, Panasonic's flagship model leaves little on the table.

When Panasonic introduced its flagship DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray player in early 2018, serious videophiles in the U.S. were set to drooling. Although a less expensive player, the DP-UDP820, had been widely available for some time, this new model clearly offered more. In late 2018, the New York A/V dealer Value Electronics ended up becoming the exclusive U.S. source for the DP-UB9000. That launch proved so successful that Panasonic's flagship player is now widely available, replacing the discontinued Oppo UDP-205 and UDP-203 players as the premium disc spinner du jour.

Features
The THX-certified DP-UB9000's appearance isn't Tiffany-like, but its finish and construction quality (it weighs in at over 17 pounds!) are clearly uncompromising. It's compatible with a wide assortment of disc formats, including Blu-ray 3D. That said, some users may be put off to learn that format support doesn't extend to Super Audio CD (SACD) and DVD-Audio.

In addition to its two HDMI outputs (there's no HDMI input) and two USB ports (2.0 on the front, 3.0 on the back), the player sports 7.1 analog audio, balanced and unbalanced stereo analog audio, and optical and coaxial digital audio outputs.

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The DP-UB9000 includes a number of unique audio features, many of them simply offering frequency response tweaks that most users will ignore. But the player's variable Analog Output Filter presets (Sharp, Slow, Short Delay, Super Slow) might be of interest. These are available only from the analog outputs and modify the slope of the high frequency cutoff required by any digital audio source. This is typically fixed in most digital gear, though some audiophiles like to have selectable options. That said, most DP-UB9000 owners will feed their AVR or pre-pro via a digital audio connection from the player, rendering the feature irrelevant.

The Panasonic supports the HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HLG HDR formats. As Kris Deering noted in his DP-UB820 review, since many Ultra HD discs are mastered at a higher peak luminance level than most displays can handle, a process called tone mapping is used for HDR playback. Metadata on the disc tells the set to "remap" the HDR data to meet the set's capabilities, minimizing peak white clipping while still taking some advantage of bright highlight detail the set can't otherwise deal with. Since the metadata specifying peak luminance on a disc can sometimes be inadequate or wrong, the Panasonic ignores it and generates its own metadata.

Setup
The DP-UB9000 offers a range of six peak white settings (two more than the DP-UB820 provides) that correspond to the light output capabilities of your display. These are located deep in Player Settings menu: two for projectors, three for LCD TVs, and one for OLED TVs. The most appropriate option isn't always an obvious choice, though the visible differences can be subtle. For example, with the Sony XBR-65A9G OLED TV I used for my review, the Panasonic's High Luminance Projector option worked slightly better than the OLED one. That's because the OLED setting tone maps to a maximum light level of 1,000 nits, while Sony's A9G TV clips at about 565 nits and has its own dynamic tone mapping. But by using the Panasonic player's High Luminance Projector setting, which maps to 500 nits, the TV was freed up from doing any tone mapping at all.

To then enable the player's tone mapping based on your display type, you enter the Optimum HDR Adjustment menu (accessible directly via the Video Setting button on the player's thankfully backlit remote control) and turn on the HDR Optimizer. This menu also offers several other controls that I sometimes found useful. Tone Curve (Black) helped bring out shadow detail on discs that looked a bit dark. The Dynamic Range Adjustment could also be helpful to a lesser extent. A separate HDR Setting button offers four additional options for displaying HDR10 content, one Standard and three others that provide an increasingly bright picture. For viewing in my dark room, I mostly left this in Standard, though I occasionally ranged up one step to the Natural Environment setting.

919panabd.remA two-step Status button on the remote provides basic information about a disc you've just loaded. A Playback Info button (also with two steps) provides information about the HDR10 metadata on the disc and how that data is being mapped by the player before being passed on to the display. The Video Settings and HDR Settings, however, including the HDR Optimizer and its associated features, are not available for Dolby Vision sources. If your set does support Dolby Vision (an increasing number of sets do) you can switch it off in the Settings menu and drop the source back to HDR10 (the base layer that Dolby Vision is built on). This will open all of the above adjustments if you think you can do better, although you probably won't. Dolby Vision's tone mapping is dynamic (varied scene-by-scene) while the Panasonic HDR Optimizer's mapping is static (it assumes the same peak luminance for the entire disc).

The player also gives you the option to retain an Ultra HD disc's 4K and wider color gamut minus HDR by converting the output to SDR/1080p. You simply select SDR/BT.2020 (Auto) in the HDR/Color Gamut Output option in the Setup menu. (Unfortunately, this setting is buried deep and not helpfully labelled: Setup>Player Settings>HDMI>Advanced Settings>HDR/Color Gamut Output.) Some projector owners find this conversion useful since many projectors aren't bright enough to deliver HDR without negative picture quality side effects. I'd recommend trying to find a suitable setting using the Panasonic's HDR Optimizer before accepting this compromise, however.

The Panasonic offers a limited selection of built-in apps including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube. It also provides a blizzard of other video (and audio) features, most of them covered, but not necessarily clearly, in a 49-page owner's manual you can download from Panasonic's website. I recommend that any potential DP-UB9000 buyer review this manual carefully to ensure that they won't find the player's complexity intimidating.

COMPANY INFO
Panasonic
201.348.7000
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Puffer Belly's picture

...rules out me ever buying this player. Sony may be the only manufacturer left that supports all disc formats (excluding DVD-HD) now that OPPO has left the market.

Thomas J. Norton writes well, but he really should limit his use of the "that said" phrase. It's meaningless words.

Sonodyne's picture

In the absence of Oppo (I am fortunate to own the UDP - 205 model which is a great player), those looking for a similar player, also check https://www.soundandvision.com/content/pioneer-udp-lx500-ultra-hd-blu-ra....

HDTV1080P's picture

Only Pioneer and Sony make Blu-ray players that offer SACD and DVD-Audio playback. This Panasonic would be my top choice if I did not need SACD and DVD-Audio playback.

drny's picture

The Lament cries of the demise of Oppo are a year old, and still ongoing.
Panasonic's UB9000 and 820 are a close match to Oppo's 203 in regards to video quality. The Optimizer feature puts them over the top to all current 4k players.
Unfortunately on the audio side Panasonic is far lagging, in comes Pioneer Elite with UDP- LX 500 and 800. These two 4k players are a close match to Oppo's 205. Both are true Universal players (SACD, dvd and bluray audio included). Unfortunately they fall short on the video side.
Now we understand why we saw second hand Oppo 203 and 205 at two to three times their original MSRP.
As far as UHD 4k players go, my clear choice is Panasonic's UB820 (identical to the 9000 in video quality). I will continue to baby my twelve year old Universal player ( not 4k of course), and delight my SACD and blu ray audio collection.

Deus02's picture

Luckily for me, I have an Oppo BDP 105 sitting directly underneath my Panasonic UB820 so a lack of the above audio features on the "Panny" was not an issue for me.

For point of clarification and with reference to the HDR Dynamic Range adjustment settings feature it actually offers more than FOUR settings. Each of the four presets starting from Standard automatically moves the brightness level up THREE or FOUR notches at a time which, in reality, can actually be more finely tuned by holding down the HDR settings button on the remote in which case it returns to the HDR menu now giving the user the option of moving the settings up or down one notch at a time to a maximum level of 12.

In my case and depending on the movie, it is of more benefit to be able to move up the HDR brightness settings one or two notches rather than the four at a time which can make the picture too bright (or dark) and potentially wash out some of the color.

johnnydeagle's picture

"Audio performance when using the Panasonic's coaxial digital output was superb and sounded marginally more open and transparent than when the player's HDMI audio output was used for music playback".
I guess the zeros and ones coming from the coaxial digital output are just better than the zeros and ones coming from the HDMI output, LOL! Unless their being processed differently, which I doubt, that's highly unlikely, and highlights the reason why audiophiles are often marginalized by electronics engineers.

Bosshog7_2000's picture

This looks like a great player...but given how few Blu rays I watch anymore I just can't see buying one. Hate to say it, but for the very limited discs I watch these days my XBox One X is good enough. I wish the age of Blockbuster wasn't over so I could rent UHD discs...I refuse to pay $40(Canadian) to own a 4K title, except for some very rare exceptions.

Tommy Lee's picture

We are lucky to have a Family Video store nearby. Great selection and prices, plenty of UHD releases. Perhaps there's one near you...
apply.familyvideo.com/about_us.php

mns3dhm's picture

Kudos to S&V for continuing to review source components and thanks for having Tom Norton do the write up. I'm amused by criticisms posted here related to SACD or DVD audio; those formats failed because they were not widely accepted and Panasonic's decision to not support them only affects the small and shrinking number of consumers that did.

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