CAN IMPRESSIVE SOUND & VISION MAKE PANASONIC’S DP-UB9000 FLAGSHIP UHD BLU-RAY PLAYER KING OF THE 4K JUNGLE?
Panasonic is pulling out all the stops for its upcoming DPUB9000 high-end 4K Blu-ray player.
At a preview of the eagerly anticipated disc spinner, due to launch in October, it revealed some of the technology that it hopes will enable it to monopolise the premium Blu-ray player market, including a high-performance DAC and an HDR Optimiser which improves playback of HDR by reducing the amount of dynamic tone mapping a TV is required to do, be it
a high performance panel or low brightness UHD display.
The DP-UB9000 arrives only months after the retreat of Oppo from the consumer electronics space. Chief video engineer Kazuhiko Kouno says that while that provides an opportunity for Panasonic, he was sad to see Oppo leave the market. “Competition is good for everyone.”
The preview offered a closer look at the player, with both video and audio demonstrations. As with the DMP-UB900, the model is built around the brand’s second-generation HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) image processor. However, build quality is a magnitude more impressive.
It comes with balanced XLR stereo outputs and a full set of multichannel analogue outputs. There are two HDMI outputs.
The player will offer support for HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision. When it launches it will also have THX certification. Although there has been no official statement on the matter, Kouno-san confided to me that the DP-UB9000 would also be compatible with the Dolby Vision over HDMI implementation introduced by Sony on its ‘X1 Extreme’ OLED and LED LCD TVs.
Demonstrations of the HDR Optimiser in action proved impressive. The system is for use with static HDR10 content only. When dynamic metadata is detected, it’s bypassed. Using a sequence from Pan, the Optimiser was switched in and out. When engaged, colour saturation improves and bright detail was restored. HDR Optimisation isn’t just for discs, it also works with streaming services too.
The Optimiser invites users to match the player’s HDR output to their display, through the use of tonemap luminance targeting. If an HDR10 source has a peak luminance of 1,500 nits, the HDR Optimizer will undertake metadata conversion, outputting HDR at 1000 nit. This minimises the potential for clipping, where detail can be lost on screen.
The default option is for screens offering 1000 nit peak brightness, but there is also a 500 nit setting for basic luminance LCD TVs and projectors, as well as a 1500 nit setting for Super High Luminance LCD, as well as a dedicated OLED 1000 nit option.
There is yet more to come on the picture processing front, as Panasonic’s engineers confirmed that more work, specifically for this model, was being undertaken.
Where the player may well surprise is its twochannel audio performance. Hooked up to a Technics amplifier and floorstanders, the player spun CDs with warmth and musicality. The deck employs a 32-bit 768KHz AK4493 DAC for stereo duties and has completely separate power supplies for audio and video. High-Res file support includes all key 24-bit formats, and DSD. DVD Audio and SACD is not supported.
Pricing for the DP-UB9000 is yet to be confirmed with its launch later in the year.
All of Panasonic’s 2018 Blu-ray players support high-resolution audio, and 4K video playback for streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube.
HDR OPTIMISATION ISN’T JUST FOR DISCS, IT ALSO WORKS WITH STREAMING SERVICES TOO.