Universal Players

Marantz UD9004 Universal Blu-ray Player

ARTICLE INDEX

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.