Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Blu-ray Player Review

Posted on 2nd May, 2023

Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Blu-ray Player Review

Tony O’Brien samples this premium-priced 4K Blu-ray spinner…

Panasonic

UB9000 4K UHD Blu-ray Player

AUD $2,089 RRP

A lot has changed since Oppo – once the long undisputed king of Blu-ray players – left the market in 2018. The continued growth in streaming has led other manufacturers to follow Oppo’s lead. It’s left physical media collectors with few options, even less so when it comes to high-end 4K Blu-ray players. So it was a pleasant surprise when Panasonic announced the release of its DP-UB9000A reference 4K Blu-ray player in late 2018. And while streaming trumps physical media in terms of convenience, 4K Blu-ray is still king in terms of audio and video quality.

Panasonic recognises this. A visit to its website reveals no less than seven disc players, including four 4K Blu-rays. Catering to a range of buyers, most fall into the budget end of the market. That is, of course, until you stumble upon the DP-UB9000GN. Sharing much of the same technology as the original DP-UB9000A, the DP-UB9000GN sports an upgraded ESS DAC. 

Both the sides and top of this new model are encased in a two-layer-rigid aluminium chassis, while the optical drive is attached to a three-dimensional thick steel base plate. Coupled with sturdy feet, it’s been designed to minimise vibration while separate power supplies for the analogue and digital circuitry keep noise to a minimum.

The DP-UB9000GN1 supports HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and HLG or Hybrid Log Gamma. It will also decode the latest surround sound formats, including Dolby Digital/True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X (bitstream only). It will also play back high-resolution audio formats such as FLAC (maximum 24-bit, 192kHz), WAV (32/384) and ALAC (32/96 (7.1ch), 32/192 (5.1ch)). Sadly, it supports neither SACD nor DVD-Audio. 

In terms of video number crunching, one of the biggest drawcards of this new DP-UB9000GNA is its HDR Optimiser and 4K Chroma Upsampling via its HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor. It also supports streaming with apps such as Netflix, Amazon and Youtube, which also make use of the HCX Processor.

UP CLOSE

Measuring 81x430x300mm [HxWxD] and weighing 7.8kg, the DP-UB9000GN1 is anything but svelte, yet exudes a luxury finish befitting its reference-class status. Featuring a brushed black aluminium faceplate, the front panel is dominated by a large power button to the left. A centrally mounted disc drawer is located towards the player’s top, with an LCD directly below it.

The usual buttons can be found to the player’s right, along with a USB 2.0 input. The back of the DP-UB9000GN1 has two HDMI inputs (video & audio/ audio only), gold-plated 7.1 analogue audio outputs, two-channel XLR outputs, coaxial and optical outputs and a USB 3.0 input. An Ethernet connection is also included, or if you prefer, the machine can be connected to a network wirelessly. It eschews the rabbit ears that most units offer in favour of a shorter, stouter antenna hidden behind the player. The remote control is a classy affair in itself, finished in a glossy charcoal black with a subtle grain. Buttons are large and easy to find, with shortcuts to all of the functions, which are myriad.

GETTING GOING

Set-up is both quick and easy. Connect it to your receiver/processor or TV via HDMI, and add power. Powering it on for the first time, you’re greeted with a few questions and accompanying button presses, after which you’re good to go. This will be enough for most users, although savvy users will want to dabble with some of its advanced functions. Navigating to the setup menu reveals a comprehensive range of controls, including colour mode. I imagine most will select YCbCr 4:4:4, although some experimentation with the Spears & Munsil HDR Benchmark Disc will ensure you’re getting the best from the DP-UB9000GNA and your display.

There are also benefits to be gained by telling the machine what type of display it is connected to. There are several options to select from, including Super High Luminance LCD, OLED and Basic Luminance Projector. Common sense dictates picking the best option to suit your display type. However, it’s worth experimenting, as the choices made here will determine where the bulk of the tone mapping is performed – either the display, Blu-ray player or a combination of both. The DP-UB9000GN1 can also perform HDR to SDR/ BT. 2020 or SDR/BT. 709. HDR/SDR conversion from within the player. Owners of SDR displays and those with limited HDR capabilities will benefit from this function.

Press the HDR Button on the remote, and you can select from several pre-built tone curves, including Standard, Natural Environment, Light Environment and Bright Environment. In addition to the presets, you’re presented with controls to create your own tone. Out of the box, the machine defaults to the Standard tone curve, which is both the recommended setting and the one that adheres most faithfully to the PQ curve.

Pressing the Playback Info button on the remote reveals a wealth of information regarding the source, including resolution, colour space, codec and bit rate. Hold the Playback Info button down for a couple of moments longer, and you’ll be provided with the HDR10 Metadata of the income source, including MLL, MFALL and the Master Display.

PLAYBACK

Panasonic’s DP-UB9000GN1 produced pristine images, its HCX processor adding the icing on the cake. The ability to adjust the tone curve on the fly is a welcome boon to those with televisions in brightly-lit rooms, while the HDR Optimiser can restore detail to bright scenes. The DP-UB9000GN1 proved itself to be an excellent upscaler with legacy DVD and 1080p Blu-ray.

I started my viewing with the HDR transfer of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on 4K Blu-ray. It’s a dark and gloomy transfer, occasionally punctuated with bright highlights from neon signs and the bursts of lightning from battling wizards. With HDR set to Standard, the DP-UB9000GN1 provided the most detail with the least amount of clipping. Experimenting with the inbuilt tone curves produced successively brighter images, albeit at the cost of increased clipping in brighter parts of the image. Despite being the antithesis of videophiles, the pre-built tone curves have their place in bright viewing environments.

Panasonic’s HDR Optimiser generally restores spectral highlights in brighter scenes at the cost of overall image brightness. This will largely depend on the display it’s connected to. For instance, the HDR Optimiser brightened the image on my LG C9 OLED with little, if any, change in clipping. Yet I’ve witnessed the opposite- an increase in detail with a reduction of overall brightness – on an older Sony VPL-VW270ES Projector.

With the all too familiar 1080p Blu-ray of The Wolverine, the DP-UB9000GN1 proved itself to be an excellent upscaler. It produced sharp images, my only quibble being that it won’t pass through the unscaled-native resolution. Granted, choosing 4K and allowing the DP-UB9000GN1 to perform the scaling is going to be the best option in most cases. However, those who wish for the upscaling to be performed by a video processor are forced to either allow the machine to perform the upscaling, or manually select the resolution of each source.

Switching to Baz Luhrmann’s excellent Elvis on 4K Blu-ray, the Panasonic produced stunning images that were crisp and full of detail – easily equal to any of the 4K players I’ve used or tested. While the benefits derived from good Chroma-Upsampling tend to be small, the images produced by the HCX processor did result in a cleaner-looking image. While this player supports streaming, the interface is both rather archaic and limited in the number of apps it supports.

THE VERDICT

In an age that’s becoming dominated by streaming, the DP-UB9000GN1 is a rare beast. And while it also supports streaming, there are more user-friendly options available. Not that anyone will be looking at this machine for its streaming capabilities - it is its disc-playing abilities that count, and in this regard, it’s a stellar performer. It can produce reference-grade images and provides users with the flexibility to customise HDR images based on the viewing environment. It’s a level of flexibility that other machines can’t compete with, the HDR Optisimer – depending on your display – and HCX Processor providing the icing on the cake. If, like me, you fancy yourself a collector of physical media, then this new Panasonic needs to be on your wish list.

For more information visit Panasonic

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    Tony O'Brien's avatar

    Tony O'Brien

    As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

    Posted in:Home Theatre Sources Blu-ray Players Applause Awards 2023
    Tags: panasonic 



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