Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co. has started talking up a recently introduced Ultra HD/HDR Blu-ray player that it is earmarking as “reference class” – and last week, the engineers responsible for its design were brought in from Japan to an outpost near its Newark, N.J. U.S. headquarters to explain why the player will merit its $1,000 price tag. Based on the technical presentation they offered, it is all about a combination of build quality and meticulous attention to audio and video signal processing that pegs the DP-UB9000 as the solution for first-on-the-blockers hankering for a disc player to couple with their new 8K TVs – and worthy enough for owners of top-drawer 4K TVs to fill a void in the premium UHD Blu-ray category, left when high-end audio brand Oppo exited the CE business last April. The 9000 is available in Europe and has registered highly within technology award circles there.
Addressing the merits of its build quality, Udeni Sangakkara, staff engineer of hardware design at Panasonic Co. Ltd., spoke at the New Jersey demo of the weight and solidity of the chassis; the UHD Blu-ray drive is centered in the player and mounted on a high-rigidity base with a low center of gravity.
Besides support of HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, a key technology on the video side is Panasonic’s proprietary HDR Optimizer – an image processing solution that works with HDR10 metadata, automatically optimizing tone mapping dynamically, title by title and scene by scene, said Kazuhiko Kouno, chief engineer of Panasonic Corp.’s Visual Networks Business Unit. It works only at the high-luminance range of the measurement scale, to adjust the brightness level of content where needed.
Scarsdale, N.Y.-based Value Electronics, a stateside high-end A/V retailer known for promoting annual “TV Shootout” events, is featuring the player on its web site and offering customers the opportunity to get on a priority wait list for its early-March rollout.
Value is promoting this HDR Optimizer feature on its web site as especially notable, touting its ability to benefit even ordinary HDR and TV footage to deliver full HDR dynamic range and 100 percent color volume. Value’s president, Robert Zohn, who attended the demo as well, remarked during it that the HDR Optimizer works its effects even as dark shadows and facial tones remain unaffected by its implementation. The Optimizer is also said to help compensate for image reproduction limitations on certain TV models.
The player also has two projector-dedicated modes. Through collaboration with JVC Kenwood, the modes will auto-optimize content for JVC’s 4K D-ILA projectors that offer e-Shift 8K output processing and auto tone mapping.
On the audio side, the model is built with two separate power blocks, isolating the power supply for audio, which is said to optimize D/A converter performance. The player is also compatible with many digital music formats except for SACD and DVD-Audio. Additional audio appointments include 10 separate selectable sound effects that alter and improve the nuances of the audio reproduced.
For buyers of high-level 4K LED and OLED TVs – as well as mavericks who are already shelling out the money for the first iterations of 8K TV – the whys of buying a premium UHD Blu-ray player like the 9000 have to do with producing “the best picture quality, which you can’t always get from streaming services,” Zohn said. Discs are reliable, while data streams are dependent upon available bandwidth to produce full video and audio benefits.
Added features on the 9000, according to Motoki Nakagaki, manager of Panasonic Corp.’s Visual Network team, are Google Home and Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as Control4 compatibility, at the beginning of April.
The 9000 is slated to roll out more widely to the U.S. market at mid-year.