Panasonic has today announced its 2018 line-up of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players, including an upgraded HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor with the latest chipset for a thrilling home entertainment experience; and selected models offering features such as HDR10+ and Dolby Vision compatibility.
Aaron Waters, Product Marketing Manager – Audio & Video, Panasonic, said: “We’re confident that our expertise, with fine-tuning by Panasonic’s Hollywood specialists, has created the highest-quality Blu-ray range to date.”
The new range, all Ultra HD Premium certified, takes in the entry-level DP-UB320, the DP-UB420 with HDR10+ support, and the enthusiast DP-UB820 and premium DP-UB9000 which incorporate both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.
Later in 2018, from the DP-UB420 and upwards, the players will support voice control from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant[i]. Simply speak to an enabled device and conveniently fast forward or pause your favourite movie without using the remote control.
In addition to the models being rolled out in June and July, Panasonic will be offering the reference-class UB9000 player in time for Christmas this year. Housed in a newly-developed vibration-reducing chassis, the UB9000 features the highest-ever picture and sound quality in the history of Panasonic Blu-ray players.
The quartet of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players expand on Panasonic’s existing line-up; the largest range of Blu-ray players and Recorders on the market today, as the company looks to build on a strong 12 months in the category.
Taking HDR to the max
Three of the new Panasonic Ultra HD Blu-ray players (the UB420, UB820 and UB9000) support open, royalty-free HDR10+ dynamic metadata technology, which will offer considerable benefits to viewers by optimising the viewing experience on a scene-by-scene basis. The UB820 and UB9000 also support Dolby Vision.™
High quality pictures: Proprietary technologies faithfully reproduce original images
The 4K engine powering the line-up is Panasonic’s proprietary HCX processor for Ultra HD Blu-ray, expertly developed and refined by specialists in the heart of Hollywood.
This has been improved by applying unique chroma and gradation processing to the video technologies which were developed at the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory (PHL), the R&D facility for enhancing Blu-ray picture quality. The HCX Processor reproduces Ultra HD Blu-ray and internet-streamed 4K video images with stunningly precise colours and optimal brightness. All models also have an original 4K Direct Chroma Upscaling feature that up-converts Full HD to 4K for high resolution and beautiful colours.
With more and more HDR content available on disc and via streaming services, the optimal reproduction of HDR content has become essential. In addition to having a wide range of contrast, images from Ultra HD Blu-ray players must be reproduced with fine detail in both dark and bright areas. To achieve this, Panasonic’s new players use unique technologies to provide three HDR adjustment functions – HDR Optimiser[ii], HDR Adjustment and HDR to SDR conversion.
HDR-compatible TVs use tone mapping to match the brightness range of images according to the static metadata within the content, but optimal results are sometimes not possible due to the limitations of the specific TV model. By conducting the tone mapping on the player, stable HDR picture quality is delivered regardless of the TV. Panasonic’s original image processing technologies achieve HDR images with higher definition, while tone mapping is used to adjust the brightness level of the content. Even HDR images from ordinary HDR10 and TV footage provide optimal playback.
The new models also have a HDR adjustment feature which reproduces dark and bright areas with high fidelity regardless of the viewing environment. Dark scenes in HDR images are sometimes difficult to see when viewed in a bright room and may require brightness adjustment. Because HDR signals are inherently different from SDR signals, existing adjustment functions are insufficient. The players use an original technology to optimise HDR video signals, which enables them to freely adjust the brightness of the HDR images. An HDR setting button on the remote control allows the user to simply select the optimal setting for the viewing environment.
Dynamic Range Conversion reproduces images with greater brightness and beauty than ordinary Blu-ray disc images, when played on a non-HDR TV with standard dynamic range (SDR-TV). This feature maximises the image expression that is inherent to Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Unique audio technologies achieve rich sound reproduction
The UB820 and UB9000 support analogue 7.1-channel audio, providing direct connection to a home theatre system for lifelike surround sound. Each terminal is gold-plated to resist oxidisation and maintain high signal conductivity.
The UB420, UB820 and UB9000 players feature dual HDMI outputs for isolating and transmitting TV (4K video) and amplifier audio. By separating audio and video signals, unwanted noise is suppressed, resulting in high-quality audio reproduction. The distinctive, warm, comforting sound characteristics of tube amplifiers are faithfully simulated. Six different kinds of sounds from vacuum tubes with 96kHz/192kHz up-sampling can be enjoyed in exceptionally high quality.
All models are designed for high-resolution audio reproduction. In addition to conventional WAV/FLAC/MP3/AAC/WMA formats, DSD[iii] (11.2MHz/5.6 MHz/2.8 MHz), ALAC and AIFF music files can be reproduced. Simply connect to a home audio system to enjoy music sources equivalent to studio master sound quality.
Outstanding audio from reference-class UB9000
The reference-class UB9000 raises the bar for AV enthusiasts with extremely high sound quality thanks to its analogue audio circuits, including a dedicated audio power supply, a high-performance D/A converter, and XLR balanced output. THX® certification replicates the finely nuanced colours and rich, detailed images required to reproduce the filmmaker’s intentions precisely. It also achieves truly life-like surround sound.
A newly-developed drive base with a 3-dimensional, thick steel plate fixes the optical disc drive to the centre of the 2-layer chassis to reduce vibration and noise during disc rotation; while the use of a 2-layer structure with a heavy steel plate for the chassis achieves a low centre of gravity and low vibration.
Voice control capability enhances viewing experience
Coming soon, the UB420, UB820 and UB9000 models will support voice control from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. By simply asking a Google Assistant device – like the SC-GA10 – or an Amazon Alexa device, a variety of operations, such as fast forward and pause, can be carried out by voice without having to use the remote control. Future plans will include starting and operating apps, such as VOD (video on demand).
4K VOD support
The Blu-ray range supports 4K VOD services[iv], offering a paramount video viewing experience for those who demand uncompromised quality in picture and sound when watching streamed content. The players also offer 4K networking for 4K Video playback[v] and 4K JPEG playback.
The stylish and compact design provides a high-quality presence
All of this advanced technology is packed inside a stylish, compact body, with the UB420 and UB820 featuring Panasonic’s 3D Glass Cut Design. This simple yet eye-catching design perfectly complements any flat-panel TV, while the Ultra HD Blu-ray player’s front panel features a bevel cut finish on all four sides for a subtle yet distinctive presence.
The UB9000 is finished with aluminium on the front and side panels to enhance sound quality and add a luxe touch to the design.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICING
[i] Via firmware update
[ii] HDR Optimiser not available on DP-UB320
[iii] DP-UB320 only supports DSD at 5.6 MHz/2.8 MHz
[iv] DP-UB320 supports Netflix 4K VOD; DP-UB420, DP-UB820 and DP-UB9000 support Netflix and You Tube 4K VOD
[v] MP4, [4K/25p,30p] bit rate up to 100Mbps/resolution up to 3840 x 2160