Panasonic has been making quality Ultra HD Blu-ray players since the format's inception, but it's only been since the demise of Oppo that enthusiasts have really started taking the company's higher-end efforts seriously. Of course, that creates something of a quandary: with the both Samsung and Oppo's reasonably recent departure from the high-end disc player market, is the Ultra HD disc player landscape really viable anymore? And even if it is, how on earth can Panasonic could justify a thousand-dollar player in such a climate?
It might surprise you to learn that the Ultra HD Blu-ray market is actually growing, not slowing. I know it surprised me. According to a recent report, more than 59 percent of video sales are still on physical discs. Ultra HD Blu-ray accounts for 13 percent of all Blu-ray sales, up three percent from last year. And it turns out Samsung left the market due to poor hardware sales, partly because their players didn't offer competitive performance and features for the price. Oppo left in an effort to take the company in a different direction. So, don't worry: the format isn't going anywhere for the time being.
Panasonic is consciously aware that streaming, despite many of its relative deficiencies, is on the rise, and support for streaming options is an important purchasing factor for many, which is why the company's DP-UB9000 features built-in support for Ultra HD HDR streams from Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime.
Panasonic has also put a large emphasis in the quality of the UB9000's analog audio outputs, making it suitable for those wanting to use the player as a high quality two-channel audio source or for those who want to pair it directly with a multi-channel amplifier. Panasonic makes it clear the UB9000 is not just a disc player, but rather a jack-of-all-trades piece of hardware meant to serve as a hub for most of your AV-related needs.
The UB9000's build quality is top shelf. The chassis is comprised of surprisingly thick anodized aluminum, which not only gives the player that flagship look, but also helps reduce chassis vibration, aiding in additional performance for both the solid-state components as well as the mechanical disc drive. Additionally, the disc drive is centrally mounted on its own raised steel shelf inside the chassis to further isolate the drive from vibration issues. The front of the chassis is equipped with an information screen, and a set of physical buttons giving you quick access to the player's basic controls.
Around back you'll find a robust set of input and output options, including the main 18 Gbps HDCP 2.2-compliant HDMI 2.0 port. The secondary HDMI port is audio output only, which is useful for those with older AV receivers with legacy HDMI ports. Users have the option to use either 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless or the gigabit LAN port for home network and internet streaming services. The UB9000 also includes two USB ports for media playback, with the rear port having enough juice to power an external hard drive. Audio output options include coaxial and optical S/PDIF, along with 7.1-channel RCA line-level outputs and a set of balanced two-channel XLR outputs.
Panasonic has put considerable time and money developing high-quality digital-to-analog output for this player. As well as using premium DAC chips for both the two-channel and 7.1-channel analog output stages, the UB9000 uses a differential, fully balanced design that is mounted on special glass-epoxy circuit boards. High-quality, low-noise op-amps and audio-grade electrolytic capacitors are used throughout, allowing the UB9000 to have a low noise floor with a high signal-to-noise ratio for excellent sound quality no matter the audio format being decoded. For those using the HDMI ports, Panasonic hasn't forgotten about you. The HDMI ports are electromagnetically isolated from the processing portion of the player, with the data re-clocked to ensure low noise and jitter.
The UB9000 supports a plethora of media formats via both disc and file-based playback. Physical disc support includes CD, DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray. File-based playback is also supported via the USB ports or over your home network. Supported PCM based audio formats include FLAC, WAV, WMA, MP3, ACC, AIFF, and ALAC. DSD audio is supported up to quad-rate via DFF or DSF files. Common format video file playback is also supported via USB or over your home network.
The most impressive feature of the UB9000 is its versatility with HDR content. It's one of only a handful of players that currently supports all four consumer HDR formats: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid-Log Gamma. The UB9000 also includes its HDR Optimizer tool that allows owners to choose between tone map modes designed to be used with specific HDR-capable displays, including OLED, LCD, and projectors. These modes alter the stock HDR image to better suit the real-world capabilities of these displays.
If you have a legacy display that doesn't officially support HDR or one that falls drastically short in reaching the performance needed to accurately render HDR content, the UB9000 gives you the option to tone map the content down to SDR.
Further expanding the UB9000's HDR capabilities, JVC and Panasonic joined forces to optimize HDR10 on large format projection screens when pairing the UB9000 with a current model JVC native 4K D-ILA projector. Unlike current LCD flat panels, most projectors fall drastically behind in image brightness on even modestly sized projection screens. The UB9000 includes two new tone map curves designed specifically around the in-room performance of JVC's 2019 projector lineup. Users can choose between High Luminance Projector mode or Basic Luminance Projector mode. High Luminance mode is a tone map curve that clips at 500 nits and is best suited for high-nit HDR content at the expense of color saturation. Basic Luminance mode is a tone map curve that clips at 350 nits and places widest color gamut reproduction as a priority by enabling the projector's P3 color filter.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...