Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K UHD Blu-ray player Review

With Oppo vacating the 4K player arena, can Panasonic step into its place with the DP-UB9000?

Verdict

When it comes to picture quality, depth of features and build quality, the DP-UB9000 can be considered a peerless proposition

Pros

  • Sensational 4K UHD image quality
  • Dolby Vision and HDR10+ compatible
  • Breathtaking build quality
  • Streaming app portal

Cons

  • No SACD or DVD-A support
  • Not quite audiophile-grade CD playback

Key Features

  • Review Price: £850
  • HCX video processor
  • Multi-HDR support
  • High-Res file playback
  • MaxCLL and MaxFALL playback display

What is the Panasonic DP-UB9000?

Certified as a 4K source component by THX, the DP-UB9000 is the most ambitious UHD Blu-ray player we’ve seen from Panasonic. Featuring formidable build quality and a class-defining specification,  this disc player is uniquely designed to cope with the rocky terrain of today’s HDR landscape.

Not only is it compatible with standard HDR10 and Dolby Vision, it also promises support for platters embracing HDR10+, the dynamic metadata open standard championed by 20th Century Fox and others.

If you want to cover all bases, this is the player you’ll hanker after.

Related: Best 4K Blu-ray players

Panasonic DP-UB9000 – Design and features

The player looks even more premium than its price point might suggest. There’s nothing commodity about its construction. Build quality is exquisite; run your finger along its edges, and every surface is precision perfect. A hairline finish adds extra luxe.

Panasonic DP-UB9000

The deck weighs in at a solid 7.8kg, and adopts a two-layer steel construction, with double-layer top plate, aluminium side panels, and a steel sandwich base. High rigidity 1.2 and 1.6mm sheets combat vibration, while substantial isolating feet negate wobbles. The deck doesn’t just play discs, it wraps them in a steel cocoon.

Connectivity is extensive. In addition to dual HDMI outputs (one audio only), two USBs (one a fast v3.0), and optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, there’s a full 7.1 analogue channel output, plus balanced Neutrik XLR stereo connectors. Ethernet is on hand to support internal Wi-Fi.

Usability is excellent. Rival high-end players may have junked onboard streaming services, but Panasonic keeps the faith, offering users a decent selection of apps – including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, BBC News & Sport and the Berliner Philharmoniker channel.

Related: Best video streaming sites

Panasonic DP-UB9000

There are new tricks, too. One such is its Playback Info screen, accessed via the remote control. The deck is able to read HDR10 metadata, revealing Maximum Frame-Average Light (MaxFALL) and Maximum Light Level (MaxCLL) data from platters.

This offers a terrific insight into the mastering of discs themselves. For example, Pacific Rim Uprising, which is a particularly nice-looking 4K platter, has an MaxFALL of 863 nits. By way of comparison, Despicable Me 2 boasts a max average HDR brightness of 553 nits.

Disc-loading speeds are decent. Movies go from tray to menu in around 40 seconds. The DP-UB9000 employs a newly developed drive base and centre mechanism. The drive sits in a 1.2mm steel cradle to negate vibration; loading is smooth and quiet.

Panasonic DP-UB9000 – Picture quality

When it comes to image fidelity, the DP-UB900 knocks the ball out of the park. In fact, this deck could well deliver the best picture quality of any UHD disc player yet seen. Pictures exhibit both astonishing detail and supreme smoothness, thanks to the sophistication of Panasonic’s image processing technology.

Panasonic DP-UB9000

Much of the magic happens in the player’s second-generation HCX video processor. This includes a number of HDR refinements, including an HDR optimizer to partner the player with specific displays. Viewers can select OLED, High Luminance Projector, Basic Luminance Projector, Super High Luminance LCD, Middle or High Luminance LCD and Basic Luminance LCD.

Related: What is HDR10+?

The deck sets a tone map target for each display and manages metadata conversion internally, to prevent clipping on-screen (where detail is bleached out on peak highlights). With Dolby Vision or HDR10+ content it applies dynamic tone mapping. I tried the DP-UB9000 with a mid-range screen capable of only low levels of brightness, and the results were extremely convincing. Partner with a premium panel and you’ll get a commensurate reward.

Panasonic DP-UB9000

To maximise image fidelity, a 4K High Precision chroma processor and Multi-Tap are used to interpolate a 4K 4:4:4 output from native 4K 4:2:0 content. This translates to silky-smooth colour detailing, and band-free hues. This trait is ably demonstrated by Despicable Me 2, a 4K Dolby Vision disc of ravishing colour.

The player also does an artful job to upscale regular HD discs, reducing edge-stepping for a smooth and detailed presentation. Basically, if it plays video, it won’t look better elsewhere.

Related: Dolby Vision HDR

Panasonic DP-UB9000 – Sound quality

When it comes to home theatre audio, this Panasonic similarly delivers the goods. However, unlike its high-end rivals, the DP-UB9000 isn’t compatible with SACDs or DVDS-Audio discs. For owners of legacy disc collections, this might well be a stumbling block. It does, of course, spin regular CDs plus it’s High-Res audio capable too. File support covers DSD and 24-bit FLAC files.

Panasonic DP-UB9000

There’s certainly some serious musical capability beneath the hood. A 768KHz/32bit AK4493 DAC is nurtured by a dedicated audio power supply; a tailored circuit board for the Neutrik-balanced analogue output keeps everything interference-free.

Sonically, the deck sounds perfectly fine, but perhaps isn’t quite the audiophile artist it aspires to be – at least when it comes to CD. I found the deck’s sonic signature a tad abrasive. There are filters available to mitigate this, but using them feels like you’re trying to resolve a problem, rather than to embellish performance. To keep this in perspective, we’re being very pernickety.

Related: What is High Resolution audio?

Why buy the Panasonic DP-UB9000?

For AV enthusiasts, investing in this battleship 4K player is a no-brainer. The DP-UB9000 delivers best-in-class UHD video performance, courtesy of supreme image processing tech, and boasts a level of construction that exceeds its ticket price.

The deck also uniquely covers all bases when it comes to HDR playback compatibility. With both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support on hand, you’ll be well equipped for any flavour of 4K discs.

If universal disc playback is a priority, then this deck isn’t for you. If you’ve a stockpile of SACD platters, take a look at Pioneer’s UDP-LX500 instead. It comes close to matching the Panasonic in terms of image quality, and edges ahead for audio.

Related: What is 4K TV and Ultra HD?

Verdict

When it comes to picture quality, feature depth and build quality, the DP-UB9000 can be considered a peerless proposition. With universal HDR compatibility and a playback info screen that lays disc mastering information bare, it’s the Blu-ray player enthusiasts have been clamouring for. It’s a brilliant 4K Blu-ray buy.

Score