Universal Players

Marantz UD9004 Universal Blu-ray Player

ARTICLE INDEX

Design

The first thing you notice about the UD9004 is the overall size of the unit. The UD9004 is a very large component and is easily the size of many receivers. Taking it out the box makes you think that you just unpacked a receiver, since the UD9004 weighs in at over 42 pounds. The next thing that strikes you is the build quality of this player.

The front panel is sleek brushed aluminum flanked on either side by curved black panels. The front panel has two raised insignias for both Super Audio CD and Blu-ray Disc, while the rest of the logos are placed on the top edge of the player to minimize clutter on the front panel. The black zinc side and top panels of the UD9004 are attached with copper screws which give the unit an elegant feel. The entire unit rests on solid copper feet. Looking through the vents on the top offers a glimpse of the copper plated chassis and the copper encased toroidal transformer which powers the player’s audio side.

The front panel controls are very clean with basic transport controls for Eject and Pause on the left, Play and Stop on the right, and Reverse-Skip and Forward-Skip under the tray mechanism. The front display panel is very readable and can be dimmed or turned off as desired. The disc tray is very thin and made from cast aluminum. The leading edge of the tray is finished in brushed aluminum to match the front panel finish.

Rather than clutter up the front of this player, Marantz has enclosed a few more controls under a hidden front panel just under the front display of the player.

The fit and finish on this player are so well done that you don’t realize there is a front panel at first glance. Opening the panel reveals small control buttons for HDMI Mode and HDMI Resolution, Pure Direct operation and Sound Mode. The right side of the hidden panel contains the SD card reader. The reader itself supports SD, miniSD, microSD, and SDHC cards. I used a 4GB SDHC card in my testing as this was the maximum card size supported by the player. The reader itself is a spring-loaded design. Once a card is inserted, simply press on the card and the spring-loaded mechanism ejects the card so you can easily remove it. I appreciated not having to pry these tiny SD cards from the reader slot. The button to the left of the SD card reader tells the player to read from the SD media or play a disc.

Moving on to the back of the player, you notice the copper plated chassis underneath the black silk screening which covers the rear panel. The RCA and component video jacks are all premium, gold plated connectors. The connectors are beautifully machined and don’t offer any give thanks to all those small copper screws on the back panel. I was never worried about accidentally damaging any of the RCA connectors on the back of this player due to a cable gripping too tightly. As for connections, the player offers a 7.1 analog output, a stereo XLR output, coax and Toslink digital connections, and component, S-video and composite video connections. The player offers two HDMI 1.3 connections which we will talk about in the next section. There is the all important LAN connection for BD-Live support and RS232 and IR Control jacks for integration with remote control systems.

The UD9004 borrows many of its design elements and components from the Reference Series SA-7S1 Super Audio CD player. The internal steel chassis is reinforced and copper-plated to help minimize any vibration and interference.

There are three separate compartments which serve to isolate the power supply, transport and video processing, and analog circuitry. The toroidal audio power supply is shielded with copper to help minimize interference.

There are four separate audio circuit boards which are driven by six AKM AK4399 32-bit/192 kHz DACs. The first DAC is assigned to the Front L/R analog circuits; DACs two and three are assigned to the Center/Surround Left/Surround Right analog circuits; DACs four and five are assigned to the Subwoofer and Surround Back Left and Right analog circuits, and the sixth DAC is assigned to the XLR L/R circuits. The UD9004 also utilizes proprietary Marantz HDAM and HDAM-SA2 discrete amplifier modules in its audio output stage to optimize performance. High resolution audio formats are processed by a 32-bit SHARC DSP from Analog Devices.

On the video side of things, the UD9004 makes use of three separate video processors. For HDMI, the player uses the Realta HQV video processor. For Component video, the player uses an Anchor Bay ABT2010 video processor with a 297 MHz/14-bit Analog Devices ADV7344 Video DAC. For S-video and composite video, the UD9004 uses an Anchor Bay ABT1012 video processor with a 297 MHz/12-bit Analog Devices ADV7340 Video DAC. The UD9004 supports vertical stretch so those with an appropriate projector and anamorphic lens can eliminate the black bars from cinemascope video. The UD9004 also provides extensive control over the video parameters. We’ll see how well the player does on the bench later in the benchmark section.

Features of the Marantz UD9004 Universal Disc Player

The UD9004 is fully compliant with the Profile 2.0 specifications for Blu-ray which means that it supports Bonus View, which is a Profile 1.1 feature, and BD-Live. The LAN jack on the player supports a 100 Mb connection speed but this will ultimately be limited by your internet connection speed. The player supports playback of SACD (stereo and multi-channel), DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and CD media and also supports BD-ROM, BD-R, BD-RE, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-R DL, DVD+R DL, DVD-RW,DVD+RW, CD-RW, CD-R , DTS CDs and AVCHD formatted media. The UD9004 will display JPEG image files on properly formatted CD-R, CD-RW and SD media. The player also supports DivX (ver. 6), WMA, MP3, WAV and Kodak Picture CD playback.

As for output capabilities, the UD9004 supports the output resolutions of 480/576i, 480/576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. The UD9004 supports the playback of Blu-ray media at 1080p/24Hz if you have a compatible TV and an HDMI connection. The player will also upscale DVD media to 1080p resolution. The UD9004 offers support for Deep Color via its HDMI connection which may come in handy down the road if and when media becomes available. The player supports decoding Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, and DTS-HD Master Audio. If you are using a receiver which supports HDMI 1.1, the UD9004 will output multi-channel LPCM. If you are using HDMI 1.3, the UD9004 can send the high resolution bitstreams to your receiver based on your preferences.

The UD9004 also supports a wide range of video adjustments which include the normal controls for contrast, brightness, chroma level, and hue as well as gamma control. These controls are very handy if your display or processor doesn’t allow for adjustment based on the individual input being used. The color space of the HDMI output can be set to properly match your display. The UD9004 supports a number of advanced video enhancements. While I generally preferred to leave these settings at their default, features like edge enhancement and DNR (Dynamic Noise Reduction) will definitely appeal to those users who enjoy experimenting and want the most control of their video experience.

The UD9004 features the ability to precisely control the processing of audio and video signals within the player. This capability starts with offering two discrete HDMI outputs. The inclusion of two output terminals allows the player’s HDMI outputs to be configured in six different ways.

Option 1, “HDMI Auto (Dual)”, supports outputting video and multi-channel audio to two devices simultaneously. Option 2, “HDMI Auto (Independent)” supports running video and multi-channel audio to one device while running video and 2-channel audio to another. Option 3, “AV Pure Direct”, allows for running the audio to a processor or receiver via HDMI and running the HDMI video directly to a TV or projector. This option allows for the least amount of interference with the video signal output from the UD9004. Options 4 and 5, “HDMI 1” and “HDMI 2”, are simply using one HDMI output or the other. Option 6, “HDMI Off”, turns both of the HDMI outputs off.

In addition to the flexibility in HDMI configurations, the UD9004 provides a video and audio signal to every output simultaneously. This allows the UD9004 to be used in a variety of complex configurations to suit the needs of the user or the custom installer. For example, the UD9004 can be used to decode all audio from a DVD-Audio/Video or Blu-ray and send the multi-channel audio and video to a receiver or processor with HDMI, while simultaneously sending multi-channel audio and component video to a second zone receiver, all while sending high resolution video via HDMI to a TV or projector.