Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity - Best of Awards 2019
In this review, I checked out a new high-end Ultra HD (4K) Blu-ray Player from Panasonic, the DP-UB9000.

Built with premium components, it delivers reference quality video and sound to any home theater or media room. SECRETS thanks Robert Zohn at Value Electronic for providing the sample tested here.

If reference-quality video is your goal, only a premium optical disc player can deliver it. The Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player is a high-end source component built in the tradition of fine electronics. A stout chassis is filled with only the very best parts that work together to produce the best possible quality from optical disc formats. With support for HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and HLG; along with dual HDMI outputs, 7.1 analog audio, and balanced stereo connections; it even earns a THX certification. Those seeking the ultimate in video and sound quality may very well have found their ideal source component.

Highlights

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

  • Supports all optical disc video formats
  • 7.1 analog outputs with balanced stereo outputs
  • Dual HDMI outputs
  • HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision support
  • Bitstream support for Dolby TrueHD, Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio, and DTS:X
  • Streaming apps for all major providers
  • No support for DVD-A
  • No Support for SACD discs in disc tray (does have DSD file support on USB drives)
  • Heavy chassis design to isolate vibration

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

Introduction

In this day and age of streaming and smart TVs, are Blu-ray players even a thing? Panasonic doesn’t just think they are, they have unabashedly announced that they are, indeed, a thing with their new DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player. Priced at $999, this player is a no-compromise video source component built with premium parts and designed to produce the best possible picture and sound from all optical disc formats. Or not quite all. It seems that there is no support for SACD or DVD Audio which will be an issue for some audiophiles with large hi-res disc libraries. Today though, I’ll be focusing on the DP-UB9000’s video capabilities. Our Editor-in-Chief, Dr. John Johnson, is covering the player’s audio features in a separate review coming soon.

The DP-UB9000 supports all currently available optical disc video formats right up to Ultra HD with HDR and 12-bit color at 60Hz. It covers all flavors of HDR including HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision. Audio codecs go right up to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X though, at this time, there is no support for Auro 3D. Dual HDMI outputs ensure compatibility with older surround processors and receivers and you can even play your 3D disc library assuming you have a capable display. The DP-UB9000’s range of features and build quality is certainly impressive enough to warrant a deep dive. Let’s take a look.

PANASONIC DP-UB9000 ULTRA HD BLU-RAY PLAYER SPECIFICATIONS
Design:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

Video Codecs:

Blu-ray (UHD, FHD, 3D), DVD Video, AVCHD, CD (JPEG, MKV)

Audio Codecs:

WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, DSD

Surround Sound Audio Codecs:

Dolby TrueHD & Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio & DTS:X, Dolby Digital, DTS

Audio Output:

LPCM or Bitstream

HDR Support:

HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision

Audio Connections:

7.1 RCA, Digital Coax, TOSLink, Stereo XLR (balanced)

Video Connections:

2x HDMI 2.0 w/HDCP 2.2

Supported Video Resolutions:

up to 2160p @ 60Hz (4:4:4 & RGB)

24p Output:

Yes

Additional Connections:

RJ-45, 2x USB, Wi-Fi

Dimensions:

16.9” W x 3.2” H x 11.8” D

Weight:

17.6 lbs

MSRP:

$999

SECRETS Tags:

Panasonic, dp-ub9000, ultra hd blu-ray player, ultra hd, hdr, dolby vision, blu-ray player, Blu-ray Player Review 2019

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Design

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

The DP-UB9000 is a no-compromise design starting with the chassis which is tank-like. Heavy panels are used in the shell and structural areas to ensure that no vibration from the disc transport mechanism reaches any of the electronics. Even the large feet have insulating properties, so no external forces affect the goings-on inside the player.

A peek under the hood reveals neatly organized circuit boards with discrete circuits for audio and video signals. Even the power supply has separate digital and analog sections to ensure the cleanest possible transmission. Though there is no support for DVD-A, the analog output of the player is in line with other premium audio components. There are separate 7.1 and balanced stereo signal paths and audiophile-grade capacitors are used to further reduce noise.

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Inside

Video circuitry is equally well-engineered. An HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor handles decoding chores with special attention given to chroma up-sampling and scaling from lower-resolution discs. In addition to HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision support, the DP-UB9000 is the first player to offer the new HDR10+ format with its dynamic metadata. When connected to a compatible display, this material tone maps according to the display’s capabilities, much like Dolby Vision does. This ensures that all information is seen in the brightest and darkest areas of the image and maximizes perceived dynamic range. It also processes color in the 12-bit domain which eliminates compression artifacts like banding and macroblocking.

Another feature, which I first saw in the Epson 5050UB projector I reviewed recently, is the ability to adjust the HDR tone map up and down to suit differently-mastered content. This means the luminance curve is shifted to provide the best balance between brightness and image depth. These two parameters can vary not only between different content but different displays and different viewing environments. What works in your living room may not look so good in a darkened theater. Panasonic has put that control in the hands of the user so your Ultra HD discs can always look their best. All this goodness has earned the Panasonic DP-UB9000 a THX certification which makes this player unique.

Styling is best described as simple elegance with a plain, brushed-finish front plate broken only by the disc drawer, a small display, a large power button, and five additional transport keys. A USB 2.0 port supports plug-in storage and provides 500mA of power. The display can be dimmed or shut off from the remote or on-screen menu and strangely, there is no power LED or standby indicator. When the player is off, it’s completely dark.

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Back PanelAround back is an impressive set of outputs starting with two HDMI ports. Both are version 2.0 and are designed to split the audio and video streams if your processor or receiver doesn’t support Ultra HD. Additional digital outputs include one each of coax and optical. Analog audio is supported by RCA 7.1 and stereo jacks and you get a pair of balanced XLR connections too. An additional USB port (version 3.0) provides 900mA of power and supports external devices like thumb drives and hard disks up to 4Tb. Networking is covered by an ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi. Oddly, there are no control inputs like RS-232 or IR. Integrating the DP-UB9000 into your automation will require one of those stick-on IR blasters.

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Remote

The remote has a large array of buttons to control the player’s many features. In addition to the usual keys for transport and menu navigation, there are dedicated keys for Netflix, the home screen, and the app center where you can access other streaming carriers and browse the internet. At the bottom are the tweakers’ controls with controls for HDR, video and audio options, and signal status. You also get a dimmer for the front panel display.

Setup

When I powered up the player for the first time, I was greeted by a synthesized voice, speaking very fast and loud, prompting me to go through the quick setup routine. Luckily, the second screen let me turn off the voice prompts because there are not only deafening but nearly unintelligible. The DP-UB9000 spent a few seconds determining the capabilities of my display (an Epson 5050UB projector) then offered to connect to Wi-Fi which it did without issue. Impressively, there were no firmware updates waiting to be installed so I set about exploring the large menu system.

If you have a modern Ultra HD TV or projector, you’ll likely be able to leave all the video options in their auto modes. Things like HDR format, bit-depth, and resolution are all part of the EDID protocol that all displays use to communicate with source components. If you like to tweak, you can set the video signal to 4:2:0, 4:4:4, or RGB output. Many displays look their best with an RGB signal. You can also set the HDR format and color depth manually along with 24p support.

Audio formats are equally self-explanatory. The DP-UB9000 can output bitstreams of all lossless audio codecs up to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. If you connect to an older processor like my Integra DHC 80.1, Atmos and DTS:X will come through as TrueHD or Master Audio. I never had any audio issues during my time with the player despite my processor being nine years old. I used a separate HDMI cable to carry audio to it while feeding the video directly to the projector. The HDMI outputs are clearly marked video and audio, and you can alter their functions in the menu if you wish.

Pressing the Internet button on the remote brings up an app center. My sample player already had Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube installed. You can add more carriers through an app store and there’s even a web browser. I logged into my Amazon Prime account with ease to watch a few episodes of The Grand Tour.

When first installing the player, the menus aren’t much different from what you’ll find in any other well-featured Ultra HD Blu-ray player. But when a disc is in the drawer, you get access to a vast array of video adjustments and signal information. Ultra HD discs contain metadata specifying the maximum and minimum luminance levels and color gamut coordinates. You can view all of this by pressing the Playback Info key on the remote. Furthermore, there are tons of options available when you press HDR Setting. You can change the luminance curve as well as color and image enhancement options. There are even two settings memories available. This level of control is something I’ve never seen before in any video source component.

In Use

Let me start off by saying that the DP-UB9000 is a videophile’s dream component. Its adjustability is simply staggering, and you can spend many hours playing with various settings for both HDR and SDR output. If you don’t want to fiddle, the default settings work well too. But many HDR displays have little to no control over their luminance curves which makes it hard for all content to look its best. I connected the Panasonic to an Epson 5050UB projector which has 16 different HDR luminance curves available between the two components, I could tailor HDR output very precisely to my room and screen.

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Movies

Starting with the Deserts and Cities episodes from the 4K disc Planet Earth II, I tried the Panasonic player’s preset HDR options. Letting it optimize the output made a noticeable difference in image depth and added a bit of extra color saturation. I wound up leaving the optimizer turned on for the rest of my viewing. I had already calibrated the projector for HDR and raised its luminance curve four levels. The resulting image looked better coming from the DP-UB9000 than it did from my OPPO UDP-203, and that is a first.

Creed 4K is a particularly challenging HDR transfer and looks too dark on many displays. Thanks to the DP-UB9000 player’s controls, this wasn’t an issue. I went right to the restaurant scene which is very murky and saw detail I usually don’t see. The textures and folds of Sylvester Stallone’s sweater were clearly visible, yet blacks remained deep. This is the best rendering of this film I’ve yet seen.

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player More Movies

Avengers Endgame is a feast of CGI awash with brilliant color that takes on a number of different hues as our heroes travel through time to save the universe. Not only did the picture pop, but the detail was also even sharper than what my OPPO player could produce. This is the first time I can truly say I’ve seen a difference between players’ output quality. The DP-UB9000’s control of HDR tone mapping is something special.

I finished my viewing with a Blu-ray copy of Baraka. Even in 1080p, this player and projector combination shines. Film grain is well-controlled without artifacts or edge enhancement. While the HDR options obviously aren’t there, you can still tweak the white and black levels, color saturation, and gamma from this and any other SDR Blu-ray content. I felt no need to do this but if you want to adjust the picture to your personal preference, Panasonic provides excellent tools for the purpose.

After several days of movie-watching, the takeaway was this: the DP-UB9000 will make your discs look as good as they possibly can regardless of the connected display or room environment. Its level of control and quality output is simply unmatched.

Video Processing Tests

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Video Processing

The DP-UB9000’s HCX processor flawlessly upscales, deinterlaces, and chroma up-samples all lower-res content. This is good news for those of us still watching the occasional DVD. The Epson 5050UB projector I used for testing failed the 2:2 test when fed a source-direct signal but the Panasonic player locked onto the cadence instantly, as it did all other formats. There was no clipping of below black or above white information and the chroma multi-burst patterns resolved perfectly in 4:2:2, 4:4:4, and RGB formats. Jaggies were handled smoothly with no edge enhancement or anti-aliasing visible.

Conclusions

Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

At $999, the PANASONIC DP-UB9000 isn’t cheap but it is by far the best Ultra HD Blu-ray player available today. For that reason, it’s worth every penny (the best is never cheap).

Likes
  • Stunning picture quality
  • Unmatched control of SDR and HDR output
  • Tank-like build quality
  • Built-in streaming apps
Would Like To See
  • DVD-A support
  • SACD support

Other than its lack of DVD-A and SACD (disc in tray) support, I have no complaints about the Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player. It truly is a videophile’s dream component. Not only does it perform flawlessly, but it also delivers a level of image control one normally finds only in professional-grade equipment. If you put the guts of this player into a commercial-style travel case and charged $5000 for it, I doubt anyone would bat an eye.

Luckily, it only costs $999 and while that isn’t a small sum, it seems reasonable for a reference-level video player. HDR is still an evolving standard and unlike SDR and standard HD Blu-ray, you can’t simply calibrate your display once and leave it at that. Different content is mastered to different output levels and occasionally, different color gamuts. Having the ability to tweak your player means you can see the best possible quality no matter what is on the disc. The DP-UB9000’s myriad of options and information screens makes that a simple affair.

As a video geek, I can’t imagine how it could be better. I’ll be making this Panasonic my new reference player. It receives my highest recommendation.

Value Electronics provided the DP-UB9000 sample used in this review. You can find out more here.

The Audio performance review of the DP-UB9000, written by John Johnson, is located here.