Panasonic Might Bring New Flagship 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Here
Panasonic is looking at adding a second new Ultra HD Blu-ray player to its 2018 U.S. product portfolio, a spokesman told HD Guru Friday.
The new player, model DP-UB9000, is positioned as an audiophile-focused flagship model which could possibly join the previously announced UB820 in the U.S. AV assortment this year. The DP-UB9000 was announced for the first time at a Panasonic Product Convention in Europe earlier this week. The company has not disclosed pricing or an exact availability date as yet.
For a variety of reasons including a more price-competitive market, the United States has not been receiving as many Panasonic 4K Ultra HD players (or any of its 4K UHD OLED TVs) as other international markets. In 2016 Panasonic introduced its first premium 4K UHD Blu-ray player, model UB900, in the U.S. and elsewhare, although the company offered several additional models at lower price points for Europe that year.
It would make sense for Panasonic to bring the DP-UB9000 to the United States, as it is a direct replacement for the previous flagship UB900, and would be a new flagship audiophile player to market alongside other audiophile Panasonic and Technics branded hi-fi gear that it still markets well over here.
The Panasonic UB820, which is definitely coming to the U.S. this year, was unveiled along with three other models intended for other international markets at CES 2018 last month, where it won HD Guru’s Best Ultra HD Player of CES 2018 award.
Both the UB820 and the newly announced DP-UB9000 will support the newer HDR10+ high dynamic range (HDR) profile with dynamic metadata. This is similar to the Dolby Vision HDR profile that is also supported by both players, in addition to the baseline HDR10 profile which is mandated for support in the Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications.
The DP-UB9000 will be the new flagship player in the 2018 Ultra HD Blu-ray player line, offering, among other things, more advanced audio reproduction capabilities via analog outputs.
The DP-UB9000 is clearly positioned for the audiophile market, offering what the company called “pristine analog audio output” for supporting AV receivers and preamps.
The player was also painstakingly engineered to minimize disc vibration for the highest-level sound reproduction, using a “vibration-reducing chassis with high rigidity and lower position for the center of gravity,” the company said.
On the video side, the DP-UB9000 and UB820 will be able to playback HDR10+ and Dolby Vision via a forthcoming firmware update. More on that in a minute.
Like the UB820 and other models announced at CES, the UB9000 incorporates Panasonic’s HCX Processor for crystal clear image reproduction.
Among the new developments in the HCX processor is the introduction of a “Dynamic LUT” (Look Up Table) system. The LUT technology is used extensively in professional post-production and broadcasting to ensure color accuracy. Until now, LUTs were fixed according to the color space used by the source; with this innovation, the HCX automatically monitors the average brightness level of a scene and uses picture analysis to dynamically load a LUT appropriate to that scene, Panasonic explained.
Other features include a dedicated audio power supply, a high-performance D/A converter, and XLR balanced output. Panasonic said the DP-UB9000 produces “the highest-ever picture and sound quality in the history of Panasonic Blu-ray Disc Players.”
The most newsworthy addition to the player’s arsenal of features is inclusion of the aforementioned HDR10+ profile, which has been presented as a lower-cost and open profile for adopting parties. In addition to Panasonic, the early backers of HDR10+ are Samsung and 20th Century Fox, which is expected to offer HDR10+ supporting Ultra HD Blu-ray movie titles once supporting players have been released to the market. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has also committed to supporting HDR10+ in forthcoming content. In contrast, there are currently more than 30 Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with Dolby Vision HDR, which both the new UB820 and the UB9000 players also have covered.
Furthermore, the DP-UB9000 is THX certified and offers two HDMI outputs, one for video and one for audio. This will both assure a purer sounding signal and help owners of legacy AV receivers make a non-HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 connection for audio, while the main HDMI output is connected directly to the HDR-supporting 4k UHD television set.
Unlike the first-generation Panasonic Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the DP-UB9000 was introduced with the ability to stream popular apps in up to 4K UHD resolution.
Both the UB820 and the DP-UB9000 will support Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa-delivered voice control.
The new Panasonic DP-UB9000 appears to have been developed to compete with Oppo’s widely acclaimed BDP-203 and BDP-205 premium 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players, although those models include support for the legacy DVD-Audio and SACD high-resolution multi-channel audio discs, and the Panansonic player does not.
By Greg Tarr
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