Universal Players

Marantz UD9004 Universal Blu-ray Player

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

When I hear the name Marantz, the first thing that comes to mind for me is music. From the 1950’s when Saul Marantz introduced the company’s first preamplifier, Marantz has been creating products which help people enjoy music in their lives. Today they create some of the best high performance audio products available as well as products which are accessible to the average home theater enthusiast. The Marantz UD9004 is their flagship universal disc player and is designed to let you enjoy every conceivable disc in your collection.

The UD9004 presents an interesting challenge in that it strives to reproduce the audio from SACD, CD and DVD-Audio and tackle the challenges brought on by DVD-Video and today’s high resolution audio formats and Blu-ray video. In short, play everything well and do it with the quality that one expects a flagship player to deliver.

Specifications

  • Supported Disc Types: SACD (Stereo/Multi), BD-Video/-ROM/-RE/BD-R, DVD-Audio/-Video/-R/-R DL/-RW/+R/+R DL/+RW, CD-R/RW, MP3/WMA/DivX(ver.6)/AVCHD/JPEG/Kodak Picture CD, BD Profile: 2.0
  • Connections: 7.1ch Analog, 2ch XLR, Coaxial, Toslink, (2) HDMI 1.3, (1) Component, (1) S-Video, (1) Composite, 100 Mb Ethernet, RS-232
  • Supported Resolutions: NTSC: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
  • Dimensions: 6.4" H x 17.4" W x 16.1" D
  • Weight: 42.3 Pounds
  • MSRP: $5,999.99 USA
  • Marantz America

Design

The first thing you notice about the UD9004 is the overall size of the unit. The UD9004 is a very large component and is easily the size of many receivers. Taking it out the box makes you think that you just unpacked a receiver, since the UD9004 weighs in at over 42 pounds. The next thing that strikes you is the build quality of this player.

The front panel is sleek brushed aluminum flanked on either side by curved black panels. The front panel has two raised insignias for both Super Audio CD and Blu-ray Disc, while the rest of the logos are placed on the top edge of the player to minimize clutter on the front panel. The black zinc side and top panels of the UD9004 are attached with copper screws which give the unit an elegant feel. The entire unit rests on solid copper feet. Looking through the vents on the top offers a glimpse of the copper plated chassis and the copper encased toroidal transformer which powers the player’s audio side.

The front panel controls are very clean with basic transport controls for Eject and Pause on the left, Play and Stop on the right, and Reverse-Skip and Forward-Skip under the tray mechanism. The front display panel is very readable and can be dimmed or turned off as desired. The disc tray is very thin and made from cast aluminum. The leading edge of the tray is finished in brushed aluminum to match the front panel finish.

Rather than clutter up the front of this player, Marantz has enclosed a few more controls under a hidden front panel just under the front display of the player.

The fit and finish on this player are so well done that you don’t realize there is a front panel at first glance. Opening the panel reveals small control buttons for HDMI Mode and HDMI Resolution, Pure Direct operation and Sound Mode. The right side of the hidden panel contains the SD card reader. The reader itself supports SD, miniSD, microSD, and SDHC cards. I used a 4GB SDHC card in my testing as this was the maximum card size supported by the player. The reader itself is a spring-loaded design. Once a card is inserted, simply press on the card and the spring-loaded mechanism ejects the card so you can easily remove it. I appreciated not having to pry these tiny SD cards from the reader slot. The button to the left of the SD card reader tells the player to read from the SD media or play a disc.

Moving on to the back of the player, you notice the copper plated chassis underneath the black silk screening which covers the rear panel. The RCA and component video jacks are all premium, gold plated connectors. The connectors are beautifully machined and don’t offer any give thanks to all those small copper screws on the back panel. I was never worried about accidentally damaging any of the RCA connectors on the back of this player due to a cable gripping too tightly. As for connections, the player offers a 7.1 analog output, a stereo XLR output, coax and Toslink digital connections, and component, S-video and composite video connections. The player offers two HDMI 1.3 connections which we will talk about in the next section. There is the all important LAN connection for BD-Live support and RS232 and IR Control jacks for integration with remote control systems.

The UD9004 borrows many of its design elements and components from the Reference Series SA-7S1 Super Audio CD player. The internal steel chassis is reinforced and copper-plated to help minimize any vibration and interference.

There are three separate compartments which serve to isolate the power supply, transport and video processing, and analog circuitry. The toroidal audio power supply is shielded with copper to help minimize interference.

There are four separate audio circuit boards which are driven by six AKM AK4399 32-bit/192 kHz DACs. The first DAC is assigned to the Front L/R analog circuits; DACs two and three are assigned to the Center/Surround Left/Surround Right analog circuits; DACs four and five are assigned to the Subwoofer and Surround Back Left and Right analog circuits, and the sixth DAC is assigned to the XLR L/R circuits. The UD9004 also utilizes proprietary Marantz HDAM and HDAM-SA2 discrete amplifier modules in its audio output stage to optimize performance. High resolution audio formats are processed by a 32-bit SHARC DSP from Analog Devices.

On the video side of things, the UD9004 makes use of three separate video processors. For HDMI, the player uses the Realta HQV video processor. For Component video, the player uses an Anchor Bay ABT2010 video processor with a 297 MHz/14-bit Analog Devices ADV7344 Video DAC. For S-video and composite video, the UD9004 uses an Anchor Bay ABT1012 video processor with a 297 MHz/12-bit Analog Devices ADV7340 Video DAC. The UD9004 supports vertical stretch so those with an appropriate projector and anamorphic lens can eliminate the black bars from cinemascope video. The UD9004 also provides extensive control over the video parameters. We’ll see how well the player does on the bench later in the benchmark section.

Features of the Marantz UD9004 Universal Disc Player

The UD9004 is fully compliant with the Profile 2.0 specifications for Blu-ray which means that it supports Bonus View, which is a Profile 1.1 feature, and BD-Live. The LAN jack on the player supports a 100 Mb connection speed but this will ultimately be limited by your internet connection speed. The player supports playback of SACD (stereo and multi-channel), DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and CD media and also supports BD-ROM, BD-R, BD-RE, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-R DL, DVD+R DL, DVD-RW,DVD+RW, CD-RW, CD-R , DTS CDs and AVCHD formatted media. The UD9004 will display JPEG image files on properly formatted CD-R, CD-RW and SD media. The player also supports DivX (ver. 6), WMA, MP3, WAV and Kodak Picture CD playback.

As for output capabilities, the UD9004 supports the output resolutions of 480/576i, 480/576p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. The UD9004 supports the playback of Blu-ray media at 1080p/24Hz if you have a compatible TV and an HDMI connection. The player will also upscale DVD media to 1080p resolution. The UD9004 offers support for Deep Color via its HDMI connection which may come in handy down the road if and when media becomes available. The player supports decoding Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, and DTS-HD Master Audio. If you are using a receiver which supports HDMI 1.1, the UD9004 will output multi-channel LPCM. If you are using HDMI 1.3, the UD9004 can send the high resolution bitstreams to your receiver based on your preferences.

The UD9004 also supports a wide range of video adjustments which include the normal controls for contrast, brightness, chroma level, and hue as well as gamma control. These controls are very handy if your display or processor doesn’t allow for adjustment based on the individual input being used. The color space of the HDMI output can be set to properly match your display. The UD9004 supports a number of advanced video enhancements. While I generally preferred to leave these settings at their default, features like edge enhancement and DNR (Dynamic Noise Reduction) will definitely appeal to those users who enjoy experimenting and want the most control of their video experience.

The UD9004 features the ability to precisely control the processing of audio and video signals within the player. This capability starts with offering two discrete HDMI outputs. The inclusion of two output terminals allows the player’s HDMI outputs to be configured in six different ways.

Option 1, “HDMI Auto (Dual)”, supports outputting video and multi-channel audio to two devices simultaneously. Option 2, “HDMI Auto (Independent)” supports running video and multi-channel audio to one device while running video and 2-channel audio to another. Option 3, “AV Pure Direct”, allows for running the audio to a processor or receiver via HDMI and running the HDMI video directly to a TV or projector. This option allows for the least amount of interference with the video signal output from the UD9004. Options 4 and 5, “HDMI 1” and “HDMI 2”, are simply using one HDMI output or the other. Option 6, “HDMI Off”, turns both of the HDMI outputs off.

In addition to the flexibility in HDMI configurations, the UD9004 provides a video and audio signal to every output simultaneously. This allows the UD9004 to be used in a variety of complex configurations to suit the needs of the user or the custom installer. For example, the UD9004 can be used to decode all audio from a DVD-Audio/Video or Blu-ray and send the multi-channel audio and video to a receiver or processor with HDMI, while simultaneously sending multi-channel audio and component video to a second zone receiver, all while sending high resolution video via HDMI to a TV or projector.


Setup

Perhaps one of the hardest decisions to make with the UD9004 is just how to integrate it into your system. In its simplest configuration, the setup of the UD9004 can be very straightforward. You only need to connect an HDMI cable, LAN cable, and power to make use of the player. While stopping at this point will give you access to all your audio and video, you would be short-changing yourself by doing so. To really take advantage of the UD9004, you need to hook up the analog audio side of this player. Your options for doing so are threefold. The first option is to connect the balanced XLR stereo outputs to a compatible receiver or processor. The second option is to connect the 7.1 multi-channel analog outputs to your receiver or processor. The third option is to connect both which is what I did.

For my testing with the UD9004, I used an Anthem Statement D2 processor. I hooked up the stereo XLR outputs from the UD9004 to the dedicated 2-channel inputs on the D2. I also connected the UD9004 to the 5.1 inputs on my D2. I left the Surround Back left and right channels disconnected since the D2 has no analog inputs for Surround Back channels.

The distinct advantage in hooking up all three connections, XLR stereo, 5.1/7.1 multi-channel, and HDMI from the UD9004 is that you can experiment with lots of configurations and really decide what works and sounds best in your system. For all the flexibility in configuration that the UD9004 offers, the player should offer a dedicated set of RCA jacks for stereo output in addition to the existing XLR jacks. While it offers RCA jacks for the left and right channels, it does so only in the context of the multi-channel outputs. This means that for those who don’t have XLR inputs on their receiver or processor, they will either have to buy XLR to RCA adapters or choose to downmix the multi-channel input to get a proper stereo output.

With respect to the video connections, you also have to decide how you are going to connect the UD9004. In my case, I experimented with “AV Pure Direct” and ran an HDMI cable from the UD9004 directly to the TV and ran another HDMI cable to my processor. While the picture looked great, the biggest negative for me in this configuration was the loss of the on-screen display from my D2 processor. I am used to using the on-screen status and volume displays from the processor in testing, so I quickly reverted to a single HDMI cable solution from the UD9004 directly to the D2 processor.

Once you get the player connected into your system, you should start making yourself familiar with the behavior of the setup menus of the UD9004.

The player’s menu system is activated by pressing the Set Up button on the remote. The menu structure is accessed from a scrolling vertical ribbon of menu choices. Pressing the up/down arrow scrolls through the possible menus. In the example above, I stopped on the “Video Setup” menu. Pressing the right arrow selects the first item in the menu list which is “TV Aspect” in this case.

On the right side of the display the current options for “TV Aspect” are listed. The item with the small circle to the left is the currently selected default. So let’s say we want to change from the default of “16:9 Squeeze Auto” to “WIDE (16:9)”.

To change the value, simply press the right arrow to highlight the current item

and then press the down arrow key again to select “WIDE (16:9)”.

What you then notice is that while the selection rectangle on the right did not move, the order of the items in the list did change.

I expected the complete opposite behavior. The selection rectangle should move, not the list of menu choices! This behavior is repeated everywhere in the menu system. For example, if you return back to the main “Video Setup” menu, and then select “Progressive Mode”, you will notice that “TV Aspect” is now in the third position in the menu.

If you exit the “Video Setup” menu and even turn off the player, the next time you go back to the menu it will be displayed in the same order as you left it.

This has the distinct advantage that a setting that you change regularly will be right where you left it. The significant disadvantage is that you often spend time looking for things because their menu position has shifted on you. This also makes the player harder to learn. I should note that this behavior is not unusual to the UD9004. It is the current norm for many of the Marantz and Denon players on the market today.

Once you get the hang of the menus, you need to make some decisions about the audio configuration of the UD9004. The place to start is the “Audio Setup” menu which can be found on the “HDMI Setup” menu.

To access the “Audio Setup” options, press the right arrow button.

The first option in the list is “Auto”. In “Auto” mode, the UD9004 selects the appropriate audio format based on the capabilities of the HDMI device connected to it. In my case, the UD9004 sends DTS and Dolby Digital bitstreams when watching DVDs and various Blu-ray extras, and it sends high resolution PCM when watching Blu-ray since my D2 doesn’t decode the new high resolution formats. I found the Auto setting to work well all of the time and I appreciated having the D2 handle the decoding on the formats that it knows best.

The “2Ch” setting is used to downmix multi-channel audio to the front left and right analog multi-channel outputs of the UD9004. The “Mute” setting turns off the audio but allows the video to pass through. The other two settings control how bass management is applied within the UD9004. The “Multi LPCM BM Off” setting will always send Linear PCM output over the HDMI connection without any bass management. This means that the receiving processor or receiver is responsible for handling speaker size, distance, level compensation and bass management. The last option is “Multi LPCM BM On” which means that the UD9004 takes responsibility for handling the speaker size, distance, levels and bass management.

Once the “Multi LPCM BM On” option is selected, you have full access to the menus for channel level, distance, and speaker configuration.

The “Distance” menu allows for every speaker to be adjusted independently without restriction and distances can be entered in feet or meters and in small increments if necessary.

The “Channel Level” menu was typical of most receivers these days and allowed for manual or automatic test tones.

The unexpected item on the audio setup menu was that “Speaker Configuration” was grayed out and unavailable. I wondered about this for a bit and ultimately found the answer in the manual.
It turns out that the “Speaker Configuration” is tied to the “Source Direct” option which can be found on the “Audio Setup” menu.

The “Source Direct” menu is used to control how SACD output is produced by the UD9004. When the “Source Direct” option is set to “On: 100 kHz” or “On: 50 kHz”, the UD9004 automatically sets each speaker to large.

This makes sure you get the most from your SACD collection, but it does mean that you only have access to distance and channel levels when configuring speakers and bass management within the UD9004. Once you realize the dependencies, you will find that the UD9004 can be easily configured to work with your equipment.

Since the UD9004 is a Blu-ray player, it needs to be connected to a network and it is a good idea to make sure the player is running the latest firmware. Network configuration with the UD9004 was a breeze. I just plugged in my network cable and the UD9004 auto-configured itself. A networking menu is available should you need to enter specific details about your network. As for updating the firmware, that option is available from the “Other Setup” menu.

You may notice that the menu is grayed out and unavailable much of the time. I discovered that this is caused by having a disc in the drive. Simply take out the disc, and the menu will activate. Once you check for an update, the UD9004 will let you know if an update is available and approximately how long it will take.

I chose to update the firmware and the player displayed an appropriate warning message and a progress indicator once I agreed to continue.

The entire process was hassle free and took about 24 minutes to complete with the UD9004 rebooting itself twice during the process. My only complaint was that the player does not tell you what version of firmware you are currently running or what version you just upgraded to.

I want to mention that updating a Blu-ray player to the latest firmware is generally a recommended process no matter what brand player you have. Since a Blu-ray player is frequently running Java-based applications when you watch a Blu-ray disc, there are sometimes software problems that can occur depending on the individual media and studio provider. The Blu-ray player manufacturers will often provide corrections and enhancements to the players to deal with software issues, but the only way for a consumer to get these enhancements is to update the player’s firmware. The UD9004 makes that process convenient and simple for the user.

The last items to check are HDMI mode and resolution and the all important video settings. All of these settings are done outside of the Setup menus using buttons on the remote or the front panel of the UD9004. In the case of display resolution, you press the “HDMI Resolution” button. This displays the current resolution and allows you to change the resolution by pressing the button multiple times. The second option is “HDMI Mode” which selects how the two HDMI outputs are treated by the UD9004. Pressing the buttons multiple times allows you to change your settings. The screen shots below illustrate both options.

“HDMI Resolution” is displayed at the bottom of the screen.

“HDMI Mode” is displayed at the top of the screen.

As for video settings, these options are changeable only from the remote by pressing the “Pict. Adjust” button. This brings up a small menu which allows for the selection of standard video settings as well as a bank of 5 user-selectable memory options.

Selecting “Memory 1” brings up another menu which gives you full access to the video configuration parameters for the UD9004.

I would recommend using a test disc to check the video settings from the UD9004. In my case, I found that I had to lower the contrast level slightly since I was losing detail in the picture. The Spears and Munsil High Definition Benchmark disc allowed me to quickly dial-in a beautiful picture.


In Use

Now that the setup details are out the way, we can talk about the UD9004 in daily operation. The first thing you notice about the UD9004 is that it’s not a speed demon. I found the player to be quite slow in comparison to some players on the market. For example, it takes on average 45 seconds for the tray to open when the player comes out of standby, and another 34 seconds after that to start hearing music if you insert a CD. If you left a CD in the player when you turned the UD9004 off, it will start playing in approximately one minute when you hit play. The UD9004 offers a “Quick Start Mode” to compensate for the slow start-up speed, but this comes at the expense of extra power utilization.

In my experience, I was content to just wait rather than consume more power. The player’s tray mechanism was extremely smooth and quiet and easily the nicest I’ve ever seen on a universal disc player to date.

For CD playback, I started testing the UD9004 with Yo-Yo Ma & Friends Songs of Joy & Peace. This holiday album has been a refreshing change from all the same old traditional songs and renditions.

Marantz UD9004 Universal Disc Player

I first played the CD via the HDMI connection to my D2 processor. My first reaction was that while the audio sounded great, it didn’t really sound different from hearing any other PCM source fed into the D2. I switched the D2 processor to the XLR stereo inputs, and immediately noticed a distinct difference in the sound. The audio sounded so much more natural. I’ve been using Anthem’s ARC room correction software for quite some time in my listening room, so I decided to enable the room correction processing for the XLR input. In this configuration, the D2 processor was performing a 96 kHz/24-bit A/D conversion on the analog signals from the UD9004 and performing full bass management and room correction. The Anthem D2 is well regarded for its transparency in digitally processing analog signals, so I was curious how all this would sound. Putting it simply, I was just blown away at the sound from the UD9004 in this setup. The sound stage suddenly had much more depth. The resonance of individual strings and notes became well defined. When listening to Diana Krall play with Yo-Yo Ma on track two, it felt like I was sitting in my living room watching them perform. The piano and cello music just enveloped the listening environment and I could easily imagine John Clayton standing there playing the bass. On track 21, Happy Xmas (War is Over), the cello and ukulele performances make this one of the most stirring and soulful versions of John Lennon’s classic song. The subtle detail of the strings and the harmony of the instruments were just captivating.

I don’t have many DVD-Audio discs in my collection, but the UD9004 encouraged me to bring a few of them out for a listen. The multi-channel surround mixes from Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature and Diana Krall’s When I Look in Your Eyes reminded me of just how much fun multi-channel audio can be. The UD9004 did an excellent job reproducing the 96 kHz/24-bit tracks from these discs offering a consistently natural depth to the sound stage. In listening comparisons to multi-channel PCM via HDMI, I noticed that I was having a harder time differentiating between the multi-channel analog input and the HDMI input on the D2. Part of this may be due to the 96 kHz PCM input signals over HDMI giving the Anthem much more to work with.

In terms of SACD performance, I consistently preferred the UD9004 analog output to PCM output via HDMI. The UD9004 only outputs 44.1 kHz PCM signals when transmitting SACD over HDMI. To get the full benefit of SACD performance with the UD9004, you must use an analog connection. The UD9004 converts the DSD bitstream directly to analog. Selecting “Source Direct” as discussed earlier allows you to send up to the full 100 kHz signal during analog SACD playback. With disc after disc, the experience with the UD9004 was stellar. With Diana Krall’s The Girl in the Other Room, it was as if a real piano had suddenly been brought into the room. The subtle nuances in Diana’s voice and the sound of the piano, guitar and bass seemed so much more real with the UD9004.

Marantz UD9004 Universal Disc Player

For Blu-ray playback, I tested the UD9004 with a few new releases: Up, Angels& Demons, Star Trek and The Ugly Truth. The UD9004 did a fantastic job with all four movies. The picture quality was superb, colors looked accurate, and the detail in the images was outstanding. What I wasn’t expecting from the UD9004 was just how immersive the picture became. In Up the fine detail in Ellie’s goggles was just mesmerizing. The fine cloud mist that passes in front of the balloon during the title menu made me stop and think if that was really there. In the Ugly Truth, you could distinctly make out differences in the editing of the film. Some scenes looked as if the actors would step out from the screen while in the ending sequence you could clearly see flaws in the computer simulated balloons. When running the same scenes through the other players I had on hand, I was able to find the same details and flaws. What I consistently found with the UD9004 was that the picture was absolutely transparent reflecting every detail of the movie – good or bad. We’ll see how this stacks up in the benchmark section.

On the audio side of things, the UD9004 did a great job with the soundtrack from these movies. Angels & Demons was engaging as the characters ran all over Rome. In Star Trek, Chapter 5, as the ships leave space dock the sound track produces some excellent sub-sonic bass response. The UD9004 had no trouble producing this correctly via either HDMI or the multi-channel outputs. The same goes for Chapter 8 when planet Vulcan is consumed by the singularity. I was surprised that I often found myself unable to tell the HDMI input from the analog multi-channel input.

For DVD playback, I tested with Gladiator, Star Trek Insurrection, and the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The UD9004 did a great job upscaling all three movies and was easily the best I’ve seen them in this format. I did not see any obvious artifacts in the playback. I was once again surprised at seeing additional details in scenes that I had watched countless times before. Overall, the UD9004 was pretty responsive during playback. The player was certainly not the fastest in terms of menu transitions or layer change, but overall was acceptable.

Like the player itself, the UD9004 remote boasts exceptional build quality. The top of the remote is brushed aluminum. It has a very nice feel in your hand but I would trade the build quality for a backlit remote any day. I would also like to see the transport buttons be a bit larger.

The user interface during CD playback is very basic.

Pressing the Display button on the remote cycles the display through the remaining track and total playing times. With all the available space on the screen, I would love to see a progress bar with track elapsed time on one end and remaining time on the other. The display gets more useful with SACD playback where the player will display artist, song, and album title if available.

When playing media from the SD card, the player will also include the album art if it’s included in your media.

There were some aspects of the UD9004 that I did find frustrating. While I appreciated being able to play media and view photos off of an SD card, I really would have preferred to see a USB input on this player so I could access more media in a convenient fashion. USB flash drives are the norm these days and not everyone has SD cards. Many of my audio files are in WMA 9.2 Lossless format, and despite the player’s ability to play WMA, it was unable to process the lossless WMA files. This was a real disappointment for me and something I hope is enhanced in a future version. I also wished the player could just access the media on my existing network.

The Marantz UD9004 Universal Disc Player BD-Live Performance

In addition to the high resolution video and audio that Blu-ray offers, there are two additional features of the UD9004 that we need to discuss. The first feature is Bonus View which allows you to enjoy a picture-in-picture overlay on top of the actual movie you are watching. The Bonus View technology is part of the Blu-ray Profile 1.1 specification. Bonus View is a great way to get some perspective on the making of the movie itself, and the Bonus View technology helps you really keep the comments in perspective. The audio for Bonus View is found on the secondary audio tracks.

The term secondary audio refers to an alternate audio track which is available on most Blu-ray discs. This extra audio content may contain menu sound effects which play when items in the menu are chosen. The extra audio content may also contain useful information such as the audio for the Bonus View feature. In order to hear this secondary audio, the player must mix the audio with the primary audio track for the movie. In the case of the UD9004, the player does not mix the secondary audio with the primary high resolution audio track unless you explicitly select “Mix Audio Output” in the “BD Audio Mode” menu. So what does all this mean to you when you are watching a Blu-ray?

First of all, if you want to use Bonus View, you must remember to turn on the secondary audio mix. If you forget to do this, you simply have to press the Mode button on the remote which brings up an onscreen menu.

Selecting “BD Audio Mode” then allows you to switch between “HD Audio Output” and “Mix Audio Output”. While this may seem like a lot of trouble, it is really a nice implementation since there are many players out there that require the user to stop the movie, go back to the setup menu, find the audio menu, find the BD audio setting option, change the option, and then navigate back to the main menu and restart the movie! That adds up to a lot of time-consuming steps to take advantage of the Bonus View technology. Fortunately, the UD9004 makes that really simple.

You may be asking why not just leave the player in “Mix Audio Output” mode all the time. The reason for this is that you then lose another major benefit of the player – the high resolution audio. The UD9004 does not have the internal processing capabilities to actually mix the secondary audio with the high resolution audio track and leave it in high resolution. To be precise, if you mix the secondary audio with a TrueHD or DTS-HD audio track, the player will only output the low resolution Dolby Digital or DTS audio tracks. If you want to ensure that you are getting the most from your audio experience on the UD9004, you have to make sure that the secondary audio is not being mixed when you watch the main feature on your Blu-ray disc media. I would recommend quickly pressing the Mode button when you start watching a Blu-ray movie to make sure that the “BD Audio Mode” is set correctly.

The other feature of the UD9004 is BD-Live. This technology relies on the network connection in the player to retrieve additional content related to the movie and to provide additional movie trailers and promotional material offered by the studios. The BD-Live specification recommends a minimum of 1 GB of storage in order to download content off of the internet. The UD9004 falls short in this regard by not having enough onboard storage to use BD-Live. Make sure you install and format your own SD memory card before attempting to use BD-Live on the UD9004. At this price point, I would have liked to see Marantz include 1 GB of internal memory to satisfy the basic storage requirements for BD-Live. The UD9004 had no trouble accessing the BD-Live content during my testing except for the Up disc.

I included a small benchmark to give you a better sense of how the UD9004 compared against the PS3.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 is still one of the fastest Blu-ray players on the market. While newer players are catching up to its speed, the ability to quickly and accurately process BD-Live material is still a step ahead on the PS3. My findings with the UD9004 indicate that disc load times were somewhat slower compared to the PS3, while the PS3 still won on overall BD-Live load speed. This is not that surprising given the processing horsepower that comes in the PS3. I was surprised to see that the UD9004 was significantly slower than the PS3 when returning back from BD-Live to the movie menu. The UD9004 was between 1.5 to 3.5 times slower than the PS3.


On the Bench

Video Performance

The Marantz UD9004 had solid performance in nearly all of our benchmark tests. Measurements were taken at 1080i resolution with our Tektronix Oscilloscope from the component analog video outputs. The UD9004 had excellent results in our core tests and were very similar to the results we saw with Denon's DVD-A1UDCI universal Blu-ray player. White levels were measured at a very respectable 99.3IRE, luma and chroma channels were in perfect alignment with each other, and the image was displayed in full resolution without any cropped pixels. As you can see in the graph, the frequency response measured from the UD9004 is very close to being ruler flat which translates into exquisite picture quality.
In our HD section of the benchmark the UD9004 had solid performance. The player passed our tests for banding, 1920x1080 pixel cropping, and since the UD9004 is a motion adaptive player it was able to apply diagonal filtering. There was some material where I could observe some slight stair stepping but it was minor and wasn't enough to prevent the player from passing the diagonal filtering test. One area where the UD9004 fell short was in its 1080i/p conversion. While the player can handle 3:2 cadences, it doesn't convert the 2:2 cadence properly and some artifacting can be observed. The most common type of real world material of this cadence would be in 1080i concert or documentary footage.

Standard DVD Performance

When Blu-ray was first making its way to market, most players didn't offer good standard DVD performance as well as Blu-ray performance, but this trend has changed with companies such as Denon, Pioneer, and Oppo creating players that serve both purposes quite well. Marantz can be added to that list now as the UD9004 had perfect performance across the board on our standard DVD benchmarks. The UD9004 passed every one of our film based cadence tests using both HDMI and component video connections.

On video based material the UD9004 passed every test and showed that it is motion adaptive, features diagonal filtering, and is able to switch between film and video with good recovery time.

In addition, the UD9004 passed all of our chroma upsampling tests with flying colors.

The only area where the UD9004 fell short was in its usability. Responsiveness was a little on the sluggish side and the layer change measured at nearly one and a half seconds.

Using 19 kHz and 20 kHz sine waves as the test signal, the B-A peak at 1 kHz is nil, which is excellent.

The measured frequency response was ruler flat to 20 kHz.

IMD, using 60 Hz and 7 kHz sine waves, was only 0.0023%.

A 1 kHz sine wave test signal resulted in 0.003% THD+N, again, excellent performance.


Conclusions

Overall, the UD9004 is an amazing universal disc player. The player handled every disc I threw at it with ease. The video quality was excellent. The UD9004 analog audio performance made me want to listen to every disc in my collection all over again. The player is responsive once you get past the slow start-up speed and supports BD-Live without much difficulty. My single biggest complaint was the lack of a digital input. For as much as I loved the sound from the UD9004, I longed for the ability to plug the audio from my music server into the UD9004 to see if it could work its magic on my networked music collection. I hope Marantz considers adding that feature on a future version. For now, the UD9004 has reminded me just how much I enjoy listening to music. I will definitely miss it. If you are looking for a premium, high performance universal disc player with exceptional analog and multi-channel audio performance and reference level video performance, the UD9004 should definitely be on your short list to audition.