Panasonic’s Sydney launch of TV and AV products today included an advance Christmas present for those mourning the imminent departure of Oppo’s optical disc players. Just as Oppo disappears from the market towards the end of the year, Panasonic will be launching its own “reference-class” UHD Blu-ray player, the DP-UB9000 pictured above.
It looks every bit the upmarket player, and we gather pays equal attention to audio quality as video quality, with separate power supplies for the analogue audio section, in addition to a newly-developed vibration-reducing chassis, and a new drive base with a 3-dimensional thick steel plate, plus high-performance DACs, and XLR balanced audio outputs.
It will, of course, also play conventional Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs in addition to the UHD Blu-ray format, for which it will be THX-certified, and includes the latest version of Panasonic’s own HCX (Hollywood Color eXperience) processor, as also used in the new FZ series of OLED televisions. In addition to careful attention to chroma subsampling, the HCX processor now has completely new Dynamic Look Up Tables for colour accuracy, using an algorithm that monitors the average brightness level of a scene to dynamically load an LUT appropriate to that scene.
Panasonic claims this brings significant improvements to mid-brightness scenes, making them look much more natural. Panasonic has also included additional layers of LUT data at much darker levels than previously, improving colour accuracy in dark areas.
The UB9000 will support HDR10, HDR10+ (the nascent 10-bit version of High Dynamic Range with dynamic metadata), Dolby Vision (12-bit depth and dynamic metadata), and a host of HDR options, including HDR-to-SDR conversion while maintaining Rec.2020 colour output.
Its arrival is promised for the last quarter of 2018, and while no pricing was given at today’s launch, UK pricing has been announced at 999 pounds.
Of course, we've been much impressed by what Panasonic does at a lower level with UHD Blu-ray. Its DMP-UB400 is the current holder of Sound+Image Blu-ray Player of the Year under $500, and the UB300 is no slouch either, and is outstanding value (Panasonic's product page needs updating, but we've seen it as low as $230).
These two models will be superseded by three players before the arrival of the UB9000: :
DP-UB820: due July 2018, $659
DP-UB420: due June 2018, $449
DP-UB320: due July 2018, $329
And from the DP-UB420 upwards, the players will support voice control from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, initially for fast forward and pause, with more as the various systems allows. All models will also play high-res audio (WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and DSD up to 11.2MHz - or 5.6 MHz on the UB320).
We hope they'll also keep whatever circuit makes the current Panasonic players so extraordinarily good at upscaling Australian DVDs.
More info: www.panasonic.com.au