Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review Page 2

During my test, I discovered that the DP-UB9000 was sensitive to fingerprints on Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, so I recommend that you check for this beforehand to avoid annoying pixelized image breakup and disc playback freeze. Another downside is that the front panel display provides only the elapsed time when playing video discs. To find chapter information, you need to call up an onscreen menu.

Video Performance
The Panasonic added some edge enhancement to lower-resolution 1080i and 1080p sources when upconverting them to 4K. This effect was clearly visible on a sharpness test pattern, but only when viewed from closer than 2-3 feet. The Panasonic otherwise cleanly deinterlaced 1080i content, and its luma and chroma resolution were both excellent. The player wouldn't play back Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk on disc in full 4K, 60p, HDR, BT.2020, 4:2:2, 10-bit format. But Billy Lynn has been out for two years and remains the only HDR Ultra HD disc yet released in 60p; there's no sign of any others. (Oppo's now-discontinued UDP-203 player had no issue playing the same disc.)

Panasonic's HDR Optimizer subtly darkened the image with most HDR10 discs, though not enough to trouble me. The upside was that it reduced peak luminance clipping, which brought out more detail in bright highlights. Batman vs. Superman features plenty of lightning flashes and explosions that jump out incessantly from the film's otherwise dark, gloomy cinematography. With the HDR Optimizer engaged, the image brilliantly displayed all of the movie's Sturm und Drang while also highlighting fine details such as Bruce Wayne/ Batman's (Ben Affleck) trendy facial stubble.

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The same held true when viewing the far superior (as a movie) Mad Max: Fury Road. Interestingly, the player's HDR10 Metadata screen cited the maximum light level for Mad Max as 9,919 nits. Using the HDR Optimizer menu selections described above, the Panasonic mapped this down to 500 nits and the results were eye-popping.

I vacillated in my preference for using the HDR Optimizer vs. relying exclusively on the Sony OLED TV's own dynamic tone mapping. The latter clipped visibly on bright highlights, but usually in ways that weren't immediately obvious. Highlights often had more punch on the OLED without the Optimizer, with only a small amount of detail sacrificed. The results here might well vary with the peak luminance available from a display. For my setup, I ultimately chose to go with using the Panasonic's HDR Optimizer, but it was a trade-off rather than a slam-dunk when viewing with the Sony OLED.

The DP-UB9000 offers exceptional overall video performance with both Ultra HD and standard HD Blu-ray discs. Its unique features aside, I can't definitively state that it offers better SDR and HDR performance than other premium players such as my Oppo UDP-203 or Panasonic's less expensive DP-UD820 (which I did not have on-hand for comparison). But I doubt that any current player on the market can do better.

Audio Performance
The DP-UB9000 offers a range of audio features you won't find in Panasonic's lower-cost DP-UB820—or at least not implemented at the same perfectionist level. Most of the DP-UB9000's extensive audio EQ tweaks were of no interest to me (including multiple "Remaster" and "Digital Tube Sound" selections—audiophiles may pause as the irony of "Digital Tube Sound" sinks in!). And in any case, their effective- ness will depend on the specific audio system. What I primarily want to discuss here is the player's basic sound quality.

I'll limit my comments to audio performance using an HDMI connection for movies and a coaxial digital one for music. The Panasonic's other outputs, including analog, will be of interest to some, but every modern AVR and pre-pro I know of will first convert an analog audio input to digital before it performs any internal processing (room EQ, tone controls, bass management, etc.). With an analog output from the player, the required additional A/D and D/A audio conversions would likely make moot any comments about sound quality into an AVR.

Oblivion is one of my favorite Ultra HD demo and test discs. The soundtrack is mind-blowing, and for a movie that (mostly) avoids big action scenes, it offers dynamics to spare. From the opening moment as Jack walks across the catwalk to his waiting bubble-copter, to the ebb and flow of music in the final encounter, M83's outstanding electro-orchestral score wasn't shortchanged in any way by the Panasonic (supported here by a system consisting of a Marantz AV8805 pre-pro, Parasound and Outlaw amps, a mix of Monitor Audio Gold and Silver speakers, and a Revel B15 subwoofer).

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For testing the player's coaxial digital output, I used two-channel music on CD with the system pared down to just the Marantz AV8805, the Parasound amp (Halo A 52+), Monitor Audio Gold 300 G5 speakers, and no subwoofer. You can't get sound out of the Panasonic's coaxial digital output (nor, presumably, the optical digital one) if the HDMI audio output is also connected. The only way I found to activate the digital output was to physically disconnect the HDMI audio cable. This situation is inconvenient to say the least for those of us who want to use the player's digital output for two-channel music and HDMI for audio/video. But the inconvenience isn't unique to the Panasonic, since the Oppo players have the same issue.

That said, 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. There's another feature called High Clarity Sound that's directly acces- sible via a dedicated button on the remote. Push this once and some of the player's video circuits that might interfere with audio get shut down, though the disc directory remains displayed onscreen (assuming you're using a screen). Push it a second time and it turns off the screen output as well. The sonic changes here were so subtle, however, that I might have been imagining them.

Conclusion
The undeniably complex settings necessitated by the DP-UB9000's astonishing range of features aside, this Panasonic is, to my knowledge, unequalled by any other video disc player on the market. And while it's a shame that it doesn't play SACDs, it will still give any high-end music disc player a run for its money. Panasonic deserves plenty of credit for pressing on in these days of waning disc sales to bring this technical tour de force to market.

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.

K-hud's picture

$1000 and won't play SACD? I'd rather buy a used OPPO for twice the price! Idiots. The licensing fee to Sony can't be that high.

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