Panasonic has confirmed that its much-anticipated DMP-UB900 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player will officially be available in Canada on July 20, for $999. This means Canadians will get their hands on the player before the U.S. release in September.
In preparation of the launch, Panasonic invited me as one of only four technical journalists, and the only Canadian journalist, to join the hands-on preview session in Newark, NJ.
As demand for UHD content continues to rise, the DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player offers a new video viewing experience for those who desire uncompromised quality in picture and sound. From the physical properties alone, this player screams quality. The design, quality output jacks (both analog and digital), chassis rigidity and sheer weight, makes it clear that the DMP-UB900 is designed for the audio video connoisseur.
First and foremost, from a logical perspective, the rigidity and weight of the player will translate to less vibration, which directly correlates to the reduced reading error and data jitter. Further, it’s clear from looking at the internals of the player that a relatively hefty power supply is being used for better and more stable supply and power distribution throughout the system. I immediately noticed the use of a large-capacity electrolytic capacitor, copper-foiled film capacitor with gold-plated legs, high voltage and large capacity Schottky diode. In other words, these are serious, professional-grade components.
This approach to using pro-grade components also extends to the USB input, LAN connector and HDMI connectors where the USB input uses a ruby mica capacitor, and LAN connector (compatible up to a Gigabit connection) employs noise filtration and twin HDMI connectors with separated ground. These were all done to reduce digital noise to a level that is immeasurable.
Using a calibrated yet-to-be-announced Panasonic full-array backlit LCD with 512-zones, Pioneer Elite SC-99 receiver, and Monitor Audio Gold RS300 for audio preview, Panasonic also brought in a Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD BD player. Video switching was done without a switcher. Instead, to avoid any signal colouration and/or degradation, they used a single HDMI cable when switching from one player to the next for comparisons.
Technologies from the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory, the foundation of Blu-ray Disc Research & Development, are applied to the company’s original 4K High-Precision Chroma Processor. 4K image colour signals (4:2:0) are interpolated into 4K (4:4:4) by a multi-tap (variable) chroma process for natural textures and depth. While the Samsung device is still a very capable player, a direct comparison to the UB900 suggests that the colour process of the Panasonic player is superior, without any colour smearing. The UB900 also showcased much better shadow details, with gradation from complete black to complete white far more evenly distributed – there was no crushed blacks or clipped whites. These superior attributes were shown by using test patterns created by Q-Tec in Japan, which is a standard used by various display and playback device manufacturers.
Panasonic used the UHD Blu-ray of the movie Mad Max to show real-life results of proper colour processing, which includes 10-bit video, Wide Colour Gamut, and HDR 10. Luckily, I was intimately familiar with the movie. For the longest time, I thought I didn’t like a full-range HDR (1,000 Nits range.) But it turns out that the player I’m currently using might be the culprit, due to its tendency to crush certain levels of black and clipping the whites. I also discovered that the slight oversaturation of red, which I dislike from Wide Colour Gamut, may also be caused by my player, not the technology itself.
Although it was not demonstrated at the event, 4K Internet video is also supported by YouTube and Netflix, affording additional high-quality content. These high-definition Internet video signals are also processed by Panasonic’s 4K High-Precision Chroma Processor to achieve crisp, beautiful images. Though I do not expect YouTube and Netflix content to ever be anywhere as good as 4K content from physical media.
From the detailed, hands-on preview session, I’m confident that the THX-certified DMP-UB900 reproduces the finely nuanced colours and richly detailed images intended by the film’s creator, while also achieving lifelike surround sound. Of course, further testing and a full review done in my reference environment are needed. (Stay tuned.)
As for audio, from signal processing to output, the DMP-UB900 was designed to deliver stunning sound quality. Large-capacity electrolytic capacitors provide more dynamic sound, and a Mica capacitor reduces digital noise from the power line. A LAN Common Mode Filter reduces noise from external devices during network playback and a hi-res audio-compatible 192kHz/32bit Audio DAC.
You’d think that digital is digital. But if you believe that, you’re wrong. Digital transmission via HDMI is riddled with jitter in the hundreds of pico-seconds (read: at the level where one can hear the jitter). By utilizing an extremely low jitter clock, the sound coming from the UB900 is noticeably cleaner with tighter bass, better vocal clarity, faster transient, and a very noticeably wider soundstage in both stereo and surround modes. Switching the same phrase between one player to the next, the differences were not subtle. Again, to verify this further, I would have to do a more proper listening test in my own reference environment. But considering my familiarity with the Monitor Audio Gold speakers and Pioneer Elite SC-99 used by Panasonic in this detailed hands-on preview session, I’m confident that these improvements in sound quality will also be reflected in my own home environment.
My initial takeaway is that this player boasts a serious feature set, along with stability and sophistication. Stay tuned for a full review.
The UB900 advanced features include:
Native 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Playback (4K/HDR 10/BT 2020)
4K High-Precision Chroma Processor
4K Direct Chroma Up-scaling
4K 60p/50p Output
4K Networking (10/100/1,000)
Multi Contents 4K Up-scaling
Full HD 3D Blu-ray Disc Playback
Picture Type Presets
Twin HDMI Pure AV (Twin Isolated Output）
7.1ch Analog Audio Output
High-quality Audio Components (Power Supply, Audio Circuit, Digital Circuit)
High Clarity Sound Premium
HDMI Low Clock Jitter Process
Digital Tube Sound with Up-sampling
High-resolution Audio Playback (DSD (2.8MHz/5.6MHz), ALAC, FLAC, WAV)
192 kHz/32bit DAC x 5
192 kHz/96kHz Surround Re-master
Network Drive Access
External HDD Playback (FAT32 and NTFS compatible)
Wi-Fi Built-in (802.11n(11ac))
Highly Logical and Ergonomic GUI
Home Screen Wallpaper (user customizable)
3D Cut Design