The latest high-end player from Panasonic is an impressive appearance that has a lot to offer for both videophiles and audiophiles. From ample HDR support and remastering to Hi-res audio and balanced stereo outputs. The Panasonic DP-UB9004 is a real sign for the technological knowledge of Panasonic.
Note; the DP-UB9004 is the Dutch model. The specifications are identical to those of the DP-UB9000 the Belgian model.
Panasonic DP-UB9004 – specifications
- What: Ultra HD Blu-ray player
- Connections: 2x HDMI , 1x digital coaxial audio out, 1x digital optical audio out, 1x
- network connection, 2x USB, 7.1 analog out (stereo cinch), stereo out (XLR)
- Disc formats: Ultra HD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray , BD-R / RE, DVD-Video, DVD + R / RW, DVD-R / RW, CD-Audio, CD-R / RW
- Extras: HDR10, HDR10 +, Dolby Vision, WiFi (802.11n / ac ) built-in, USB / DLNA media player, Miracast, Internet applications, HDR optimiser, specific audio design
- Dimensions: 430 x 81 x 300 mm
- Weight: 7.8 kg
- Consumption: 40 / 0.4 Watt
- List price: 999 euro (Netherlands)
Panasonic DP-UB9004 – design
Quality is not only reflected in an exceptionally long list of specifications, but in the case of this player also in a robust design. And then we actually do the Panasonic dishonor. He has the view and weight (7.8 kg!) Of a rectangular block of basalt. Too bad you can not put him on his side, it would be a nice tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey .
At the rear you will find a huge range of connections. In the first place, these are two HDMI connections, a standard choice for many Ultra HD Blu-ray players. It allows you to route the audio to your audio system via a separate HDMI cable, in case it is unable to transmit Ultra HD HDR video signals to your television. The other HDMI connection then only takes the image directly to your television.
In addition, you have an optical and coaxial digital audio output, a 7.1 analog audio output, and for the absolute audiophiles also a balanced stereo output with XLR connectors. A second USB connection, network connection and wireless network complete the list. The SD slot that we found on the older UB900 has disappeared.
Panasonic DP-UB9004 – ease of use
The user interface is the same as on the DMP-UB900 the former top model, and is so very simple, but convenient. Large icons lead you to music, photo, or film, your network resources, or internet applications.
The interface navigates fast enough in most cases. Whoever walks through the menus during installation, is inevitably lost in the enormous amount of settings that this Panasonic offers. Fortunately, most of the names are self-evident and Panasonic has provided a ‘car’ setting for most of them.
The HDMI settings contain the most technical details in the Advanced menu. The most important one is the ‘HDR Display Type’. You have to set this correctly according to your television, we will return to that in the image quality section.
The remote control is very similar to that of the Panasonic televisions, but is done in glossy black. The layout is fine, with large and clear playback keys and at the bottom a series of useful keys to adjust image and sound. The remote is lit.
With playback info you will find information about the HDR-properties of the film, handy for the HDR-optimiser (further on). HDR setting lets you adjust that same HDR optimiser.
Panasonic DP-UB9004 – features
The DP-UB9004 (like its predecessor) still uses the older Netcast environment, not of My, for unclear reasons. Home Screen 3.0 that Panasonic offers on its TVs. There is a wide range of apps, including Netflix and Amazon Prime. YouTube is completely missing, and in Netflix you can not stream HDR content (that did work in Amazon). These things may still come via a software update, but it is already a strange loss for a top-end player.
The player swallows almost all other disc formats such as, Ultra HD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD and CD but no SACD or DVD Audio discs. All typical audio formats that a disc can contain, from Dolby Digital and DTS to the lossless versions Dolby True HD and DTS HD MA, can be sent out bitstreamed or decoded (PCM). Dolby Atmos and DTS-X are supported when you put the player in Bitstream (and your audio equipment can display them of course).
The media player via usb supports all major audio formats such as FLAC, ALAC and even DSD (the format of SACD disks). Also for video the player is fairly extensive, but not really complete. For example, the display of subtitles in some files was utterly ugly, and it did not play DTS-ES (or regular DTS). Ultra HD HDR was not a problem at all.
Panasonic DP-UB9004 – Image quality
The DP-UB9004 inherits all the qualities of the UB900, including the special multi-tap filter for chroma-processing that the incoming 4:2:0 or 4:2:2 format with exceptional precision to 4:4:4 so you do not lose color details even in very fine detail.
The player is equipped with the second generation HCX processor. It provides excellent deinterlacing, and detects all common film and video framerates. In addition, it is equipped with noise reduction, sharpness control, and brightness / contrast / gamma settings so you can tinker with the image. In general we prefer to leave it to television, but it is good to have the options. You can configure three sets of settings, so you can quickly switch between picture modes, and for example DVD can give a different treatment than Blu-ray.
This Panasonic is an extremely capable HDR player. He not only supports HDR10 and HLG, but also HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Especially the latter is remarkable, since Panasonic opts for HDR10 + for its televisions. Those looking for a universal HDR player are at the right address (at least for disks).
The main advantage of this player is the HDR optimizer. What does it do exactly? When a disk has been mastered with a maximum brightness of, for example, 2,000 nits, the television must ‘tune’ this content because it can not show the full range of brightness, for example if its maximum brightness is only 500 nits. In the example below you can see how a television with max 500 nits brightness tonemapped the incoming signal to 1,000 nits, but everything above it clips.
How the television does that tonemapping, you never know completely. And Panasonic claims that they can do better. In essence, the player takes the tonemapping step of the television, and delivers the content so that the television still has very little (or nothing) to do with it.
In order to start that process correctly, you have to choose your type of display in the settings, which essentially tells you the maximum brightness of your display. The possibilities are OLED (1,000 nits), Projector (700 nits), Super High Luminance LCD (1,500 nits), Middle or High Luminance LCD (1,000 nits) and Basic Luminance LCD (500 nits).
 Next, press and hold the HDR settings button to activate the HDR optimiser. Panasonic even offers the possibility to further adjust the image within the optimiser (emphasize black or white detail or adjust the tone curve), but we do not recommend that unless you are an expert. The result of the HDR optimiser is clear, white detail is better shown. In the test picture below we show a gray scale that goes up to 10,000 nits. Without optimiser (first photo) everything is clipped above 89%. With the Optimiser activated everything was visible up to 96%.
The HDR Optimiser also recovers a part of the color intensity that is lost on many displays in the more bright tones.
In short, the player definitely gets the bottom out of the can when talking about HDR. Especially for less high-end televisions, the HDR optimiser is a clever feature, which guarantees a good representation of all color and white detail. This feature is also available on the cheaper models DMP-UB824 and the DMP-UB424.
Panasonic DP-UB9004 – Audio
As in the past, Panasonic positions its highest Blu-ray model as a ultimate solution in the field of sound. The player is particularly well equipped especially in terms of connections, but is not as universal as hoped for. Although SACDs and DVD Audio discs are rare media, we expect that the ability to play them is present on a high-end model. Whether in practice really many music lovers listen to these discs is of course another question. However, you can listen to DSD files – which are derived from SACD – via streaming or USB, thanks to the used AKM AK4493EQ DAC. This is a DA-converter that appreciates many audiophiles, because the Velvet Sound architecture delivers an insightful yet non-clinical conversion.
Not surprising is the analogue stereo output of the DP- UB9004 of high quality, both when listening to music CDs and when streaming music over the network. For our test we worked with an unbalanced connection to a Devialet Expert Pro 220, but with another high-end amplifier you can also opt for a balanced connection via XLR.
We expect a player from this price category to fly with flying colors. our format test is sailing – and that is true. The Panasonic DP-UB9004 is even able to play our multichannel files in both FLAC and DSD, and that can only be very few devices. Surround WAVs are not supported, but they are also very obscure. When playing back surround files, the question pops up: how do I send the audio out? This can be done with the DP-UB9004 via HDMI to an AV receiver or via the analog 7.1 outputs.
These outputs are just a sign of the Panasonic DP-UB9004, but we find it difficult to a realistic scenario to think of where you will use them. Yes, the Panasonic player has interesting features on audio surface that make it more usable as a replacement for a surround processor, such as individual level adjustment per speaker. In this scenario, you connect the player to a surround amplifier in an analogue way. But in the end he only offers 7.1 output, which in 2018 is not enough for a serious home cinema lover. Whoever invests in a home theater wants to start something with height channels. If you play Atmos content, it will be downmixed if you work through the 7.1 outputs – which makes sense, unless you obviously use the HDMI output, but you do not use the excellent DAC in this player.
For a music lover, we find the interface slow and sometimes illogical. It sounds fine, but you have to be patient when searching and selecting music. Panasonic also offers a whole range of digital audio filters (including tube simulations) that you can switch on to your own taste. We found ourselves that the filters did not have to be, the standard display is already quite right.
Panasonic DP-UB9004 – Conclusion
The DP-UB9004 is a top-end player, but it still has room for improvement. First, it does not provide all major streaming services (or no HDR content as currently for Netflix). In addition, he can also use some improvement as a (video) media player. Whoever wants to connect these as the only source on his projector, still has to keep an alternative for some things. As an audio player he has a number of unique possibilities but you have to check very carefully whether you will use it in your specific setup. That point becomes all the more important if you also look at the price.
As a disc player, it delivers exceptionally good performance, thanks to the HCX processor, High Precision Chroma upsampling and the HDR Optimiser. Especially the latter is a real plus to retain all the color and white detail from your HDR images. In addition, he supports Dolby Vision and HDR10+ so that you truly get a universal HDR player. The excellent analog audio quality and the ability to play multichannel DSD, FLAC and ALAC are unique advantages on the audio side, and give it a clear audiophile signature. In the correct setup this player delivers fantastic sound and vision.