Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Blu-ray Player Review
The enthusiast's player of choice
What is the Panasonic DP-UB9000?The Panasonic DP-UB9000 is the company's latest flagship 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Hailed as a potential 'Oppo-killer' when first announced, Panasonic must have been delighted with Oppo's announcement that it was ceasing production of its hugely popular UDP-203 and UDP-205 players. Oppo's departure was entirely its decision and had nothing to do with Panasonic, but it did provide a handy gap in the high-end player market, one that Panasonic hopes to fill.
The UB9000 certainly boasts excellent audio and video credentials, with state-of-the-art 4K playback thanks to Panasonic’s HCX processor, High Dynamic Range (HDR) support, and a new HDR Optimiser feature. There's also Dolby Vision and HDR10+ decoding, THX certification, a rigid chassis that uses a proprietary design, high quality DACs, two-channel and 7.1-channel analogue outputs with the former using balanced XLR connectors, and high resolution audio support.
Unsurprisingly, all this doesn't come cheap, with the UB9000 costing £849 as at the time of writing (October 2018). That's £500 more than the equally impressive Panasonic DP-UB820, so what do you get for the extra outlay, and is the new player worth the premium?
DesignThe Panasonic UB9000 certainly looks like a high-end player, with a very attractive and contemporary design. The front and side panels are made of aluminium, while the top and bottom both use a dual-layer metal construction. The result is an incredibly well-engineered chassis that's built like the proverbial tank. This is easily one of the heaviest players I've ever experienced, and you certainly feel like you're getting your money's worth.
The chassis is specifically designed to have a low centre of gravity, thus ensuring minimal resonance, and the increased rigidity also reduces vibrations. The Panasonic uses a centrally mounted disc drive with a rigid base that is fixed onto a thick steel plate. The result is a disc tray that glides smoothly in and out, and a player that is extremely quiet in operation. It's touches like this that you're paying for when it comes to high-end players, and the smooth and near-silent operation makes the UB9000 a joy to use.
Thankfully, the drop-down flap and annoyingly located touch-sensitive buttons of earlier Panasonic players are gone, replaced by the centrally mounted disc drive and tray mechanism. Directly beneath the disc tray is a large and informative display, and on the far left you’ll find a physical power button rather than the impossible-to-find touch-sensitive version used previously. Over on the right, there are more physical buttons for eject, skip backwards/forwards, play/pause and stop.
The player itself comes in black and has a lovely brushed-metal finish that not only looks attractive but completes the feeling of a flagship player that will elevate any AV system. The dimensions and weight of the DP-UB9000 confirm the luxury-status of this player, with a full-size chassis that measures 430 x 81 x 300mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at a hefty 7.8kg. A player like this also uses a fair bit of energy, pulling 40W in normal use, 2W with network standby on, and 0.4W with it off.
If you like well-built players that look gorgeous and are quiet in operation, you'll love the UB9000
Connections & ControlThe Panasonic UB9000 has a single USB port on the front, beneath the playback controls but all the other connections are at the rear. Here you’ll find twin HDMI outputs: one for video and audio, and one for just audio. There is also another USB port, along with optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. The player has an Ethernet port for a wired connection, but naturally there’s also built-in Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac).
However it isn’t all about digital, and one of the DP-UB9000's big selling points is the inclusion of some serious analogue capabilities as well. So you get a dedicated two-channel output that uses both RCA phono and balanced XLR connectors, along with a full set of 7.1-channel analogue RCA phono outputs. It’s a fairly niche requirement these days, but if analogue is your thing, then Panasonic has you covered.The provided remote control is essentially the same one that was included with the UB900, and that's not a bad thing. It's an excellent remote that is well designed, comfortable to hold, easy to use with one hand and has an intuitive button layout. The remote itself is made of black plastic, is fairly large, and has a backlight which is very useful when using it in a darkened home cinema or your lounge at night.
In terms of the button layout, there are central navigation controls, numbers above and playback controls underneath. Towards the bottom, there is a range of useful buttons such as Status, Playback Info, and Picture Settings. There are a couple of keys on the earlier UB900 remote that have been changed for the newer player, as a result, the 3D Setting button is now HDR Setting, and DLNA is replaced by Settings.
There's a comprehensive set of connections and an excellent remote control
Panasonic UB9000 Specs & FeaturesThe Panasonic UB9000 sports an impressive set of specifications that includes playback of most disc formats, such as Ultra HD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and CD. However, unlike the Oppo players, the DP-UB9000 isn’t a universal player, so it doesn't support SACD and DVD-Audio playback; nor can this be added at a later date.
The player uses the second generation of Panasonic’s HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor, which has been specifically designed for 4K playback. This processor includes a 4K high precision edge-adaptive chroma processor, optimised for both BT.709 and BT.2020, and improved chroma upsampling for better colour detail during playback.
In terms of audio, the UB9000 includes an HDMI low clock jitter process and supports high-resolution formats, including DSD (11.2MHz/5.5MHz/2.8MHz), ALAC, FLAC, WAV and AIFF. The Panasonic has also been designed to boost the sound quality of lower resolution content, thanks to High Clarity Sound Premium, Digital Tube Sound with upsampling and 192kHz/96kHz Surround Re-master.
It’s the UB9000’s capabilities with analogue audio that really differentiates this player from the rest of Panasonic’s range. It has a dedicated audio power supply, which is separate from the digital power supply, along with an isolated local power supply for the high quality 768kHz/32-bit DAC (digital-to-analogue converter). There are audiophile components used throughout and a new balanced circuit board for the analogue outputs that is designed to reduce signal noise.
The impressive specs include the latest HCX processor and audiophile components
Setup & OperationThe UB9000's home page is essentially the same as previous generations of Panasonic players, but it has had a slight cosmetic makeover. However, looks aside, the home page still provides access to all the main features, so if you want to watch video content you select Videos and then you can choose from an inserted disc or a connected USB device.
The same goes for Music and Photos and if you want to stream content from your Home Network you can do this thanks to high quality network audio playback via DLNA. You can also access the Setup menus either via the homepage or using the direct access button on the remote. Interestingly, the Setup menus are identical to previous years in terms of their graphical user interface.
Finally, under Network Services, you will find all the main apps and, specifically, the 4K HDR video streaming services from Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. If Panasonic wanted to give something a makeover, this is the area where I'd suggest it starts, as this particular smart platform has looked the same for years and feels really dated.
If you turn Dolby Vision on in the menu system then the Amazon app will show SDR content as normal, and HDR content in either HDR10 or Dolby Vision, depending on how it was encoded. The Netflix app shows everything in Dolby Vision (SDR and HDR) but if you turn Dolby Vision off, Netflix shows SDR as SDR and HDR as HDR10 which is how it should be. It's an annoying quirk and I have reported my findings back to Panasonic.
The UB9000 not only supports 4K discs and video streaming services but can also upscale lower resolution content to 4K. It’s compatible with every current version of High Dynamic Range: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). It can also convert HDR to SDR if necessary, and even strip-out HDR for 4K, 10-bit, BT.2020 playback, which can be a handy feature for 4K projectors.
If you press the Playback Info button on the remote you get a useful display showing how the disc was encoded and what signal is being sent to the display. A second press of the button also brings up further HDR10 metadata, which is cool. In the Picture Settings menu, under Sharpness Adjustment, there is a control called Edge Correction, which I would recommend setting to +1 for Blu-rays because at zero there is slight ringing around fine details.
The HDR Optimiser is a cool new feature, but there's an annoying quirk with Dolby Vision on Netflix
Picture PerformanceThe Panasonic UB9000 is easy to setup, and in fact you could leave most of the controls at their default auto settings. The player will then read the EDID metadata of your display and set itself up to correspond to the display's maximum capabilities. There is the option of setting Colour Mode, Colour Depth Output, and HDR/Colour Gamut Output. In the case of the latter you can choose between HDR/BT.2020 or SDR/BT.2020, which can be useful if your display doesn't handle HDR very well, but you still want to take advantage of 4K, 10-bit, and BT.2020.
You can also turn Dolby Vision and HDR10+ dynamic metadata on and off. These are handy features for reviewers because you can watch the same scene with and without Dolby Vision or HDR10+ engaged. Aside from the issue that I've already mentioned regarding Netflix, the playback of Dolby Vision via the Netflix and Amazon apps and 4K Blu-ray worked perfectly. I was unable to test HDR10+, but there is currently very little content using this format.
The big new feature on the UB9000 is Panasonic’s HDR Optimiser, which is designed to tone map content to match the capabilities of your display. TVs and projectors with limited brightness often struggle to tone map HDR content correctly, which results in clipping or a loss in colour saturation. Panasonic believes that the tone mapping in their players is often better than many TVs, and this new feature allows you to take advantage of it.
The menu offers a choice of self-explanatory options: OLED, High Luminance Projector, Basic Luminance Projector, Super High Luminance LCD, Middle or High Luminance LCD, and Basic Luminance LCD. You choose the most appropriate option, based on your type of display, and then activate the HDR Optimiser by either going into the Optimum HDR Adjustment submenu in the Picture Settings or by holding down the HDR Setting button on the remote for more than two seconds.
The HDR Optimiser only works with HDR10 content and is disabled for HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. In the case of the latter format, you'll also find the entire Picture Settings menu is disabled. How effective the HDR Optimiser is really depends on the capabilities of your display and the sophistication of its tone mapping. It worked extremely well with my LG 65C8, although I generally preferred the TV's own processing with its dynamic tone mapping feature.
Where the UB9000 proved more effective was when I used it with my JVC X7500 projector, especially with content graded at 4000nits. There were subtle improvements and using the 4K Blu-ray for Pan, I could see more detail in brighter parts of the image. This raises an interesting dilemma, because where the Panasonic offers the greatest benefit is with less capable displays, but the chances are that if you have a less capable and cheaper display, you're unlikely to buy a £849 disc player. There's no doubt the HDR Optimiser can have a positive effect with TV and projectors, and since the UB820 also includes it and only costs £349, that seems like a more cost-effective solution.
As far as the rest of the performance is concerned, the UB9000 was flawless in terms of its playback. It was wonderfully slick and quiet in operation, with fast and responsive loading and navigation of discs. There were no playback issues on any of the DVDs, Blu-rays, and 4K discs I tried, and the Panasonic also aced all my various tests.
If a player is simply outputting what's on the disc over HDMI correctly, then one player should be the same as another. That may not be much of an incentive to buy a more expensive player, but the good news is that the UB9000 handled Ultra HD Blu-rays with ease, flawlessly reproducing the 4K resolution, 10-bit video depth, WCG and HDR encoded on the discs.
The images were free of any unnecessary processing, colour issues or back door noise reduction, and the Panasonic automatically detected a display's native capabilities and optimised its output accordingly. However there are also plenty of opportunities to tweak the output, including setting the colour mode, bit-depth, and selecting 4:4:4 chroma upsampling, which worked extremely well.
The UB9000 delivered some gorgeous images with 4K discs encoded in HDR10, with films like Dunkirk and Avengers: Infinity War often looking stunning. The player also had no problems with Dolby Vision discs, and the recent release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom looked superb. The Panasonic also delivered HDR10 from YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon, along with Dolby Vision from the latter two as well.
When it came to 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs the Panasonic played them back perfectly, without any unwanted image enhancements. What really impressed is the scaling on the player, which is excellent and produces sharp and detailed images that appear free of any unnecessary processing, colour issues or back door processing. This extended to standard definition content as well and the UB9000 did an excellent job of deinterlacing and scaling low resolution images for an Ultra HD screen.
The UB9000 delivered flawless video and a superb two-channel analogue performance
Sound PerformanceIn terms of its digital outputs, there's no reason to expect the Panasonic UB9000 to sound better than any other 4K disc spinner over HDMI, optical, or coaxial digital output. Having said that, the HDMI low clock jitter processing certainly doesn't hurt, and the resulting digital audio performance was excellent, with a clear, clean and precise sound.
The player can decode both 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, as well as bitstream them, and it had no problems with immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It can also play Dolby Atmos from the Netflix app, although not via the Amazon. According to Panasonic, the lack of Atmos on the latter is related to Amazon, so perhaps there will be an update soon. The UB9000 handled CD discs extremely well, and also did a great job with various audio files over my home network, making the Panasonic an excellent all-round digital media player.
Unfortunately, unlike the Oppo players, the UB9000 doesn't support either SACD or DVD-Audio and nor can these features be added later. So if you're one of the few people who needs playback of these formats, then this isn't the best player for you.The UB9000 might be a very capable digital transport, but if that's all you want then you may as well buy the UB820 instead. However, if you're interested in the more expensive model, then the chances are that aside from its build quality, what you're really interested in is its analogue capabilities. If so, you won't be disappointed. The Panasonic can play back audio in two-channel stereo using either the dedicated RCA phono or balanced XLR connectors. It can also handle 7.1-channel audio, which can be useful when playing back high resolution music encoded on Blu-rays or digital files.
The Panasonic proved supremely capable at decoding and converting digital into analogue, resulting in a genuinely impressive level of sound quality. In subjective testing, I found that the player was capable of retrieving more detail from a recording when compared directly with the digital outputs. I was able to make use of the balanced XLR outputs and there was a marvellous clarity to the sound, with wonderful stereo imaging and superb resolution. The audiophile components, separate power supply, and high quality DACs all combined to deliver a very capable analogue performer.
As I ran through a number of my favourite albums, the UB9000 seriously impressed with its sonic credentials. The symphonic majesty of Suede's new album The Blue Hour sounded superb, with every detail of the complex arrangements revealed by the player. The sparse instrumentation and lo-fi nature of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska was perfectly rendered, while the hard rock of Appetite for Destruction by Guns 'n' Roses pummelled my system into submission. If two-channel music and analogue playback is important to you, then the UB9000 is sure to please.
- Flawless disc playback
- Dolby Vision/HDR10+ support
- HDR optimisation
- Audiophile components
- Superb build quality
- No SACD or DVD-Audio playback
Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Blu-ray Player Review
Panasonic DP-UB9000 VerdictThe Panasonic DP-UB9000 is a fantastic 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. It's beautifully designed, incredibly well made, and boasts state-of-the-art video features. There's the latest version of the HCX processor, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support, the HDR Optimiser feature that can help with the tone mapping on less capable displays, and all the main video streaming apps in 4K and HDR.
The audio side of things is just as impressive, with separate power supplies, studio grade DACs, and audiophile components. There are also dedicated two-channel phono and balanced XLR analogue connections, along with 7.1-channel analogue outputs. To top it all off, the UB9000 is also fully certified by THX, has an excellent remote control, and boasts some very useful on-screen displays.
The Panasonic is supremely quiet in operation, with a performance that is flawless with both video and audio over HDMI. If analogue is your passion, then you'll be delighted with this player and its awesome sonic credentials. Whether it's a digital disc or files over your home network the UB9000 is sure to please, and my only complaint is the lack of SACD and DVD-Audio playback.
That minor point aside, the Panasonic DP-UB9000 is a worthy successor to the much lamented Oppo, and the enthusiast's new player of choice.
What are my alternatives?The obvious alternative is Panasonic's own DP-UB820 which sports all the same video features as the UB9000, but is £500 cheaper. The build quality is decent, with a chassis that's similar to the previous UB900 flagship player, twin HDMI outputs, an optical digital output and 7.1-channel analogue outputs. The remote is the smaller version used on Panasonic's cheaper players, and there's no coaxial digital output but that's hardly a great loss. The big difference between the UB820 and the UB9000 is that the former doesn't have the build quality or the audiophile analogue performance, nor does it have dedicated two-channel phono and XLR outputs. However, if you're planning on only using HDMI, then the UB820 is cracking value.
If you're looking for a high-end player, then the only real alternative is the Pioneer UDP-LX500. This superbly built disc spinner costs £999 and offers many of the same features as the UB9000. It also includes SACD and DVD-Audio playback, so if those formats are important to you then this is the player for you. If not, then it's hard to justify the additional £150 over the cost of the UB9000, especially as the LX500 doesn't have HDR10+ support, 7.1-channel analogue outputs, or balanced XLR outputs. If you want the latter you're going to have to move up to the Pioneer UDP-LX800, which will set you back an eye-watering £2,199. So as high-end players go, the Panasonic UP-UB9000 is starting to look like really good value.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £849.99
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money8
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