Recently I reviewed the Sony BDP-S6700 (review) Blu-ray player and quite liked it as a high-value audio player. It was versatile enough to handle multiple formats, not just the Blu-ray discs that you saw on the front of the box. So I thought I would check out another well-regarded Blu-ray disc player, the Panasonic DP-UB820-K, to see how it held up against the Sony. Is this $499 player worth the extra money, or would we find that the Sony is still a better value in the modern disc-player space?
What Makes the Panasonic DP-UB820-K Special?
- The first thing that jumps out about the Panasonic player in comparison to the Sony is that it actually plays Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, whereas the Sony only upconverts standard Blu-ray discs to a 4K resolution. The DP-UB820-K reproduces a clear and vibrant picture, and it includes support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. I also like that it allows you to adjust the HDR signal if you feel the picture is too bright, and the HDR Optimizer function will automatically tailor the HDR signal to suit your display’s brightness capabilities.
- The Panasonic DP-UB820-K provides you with lots of output options. It comes equipped with two HDMI outputs, one for audio/video and one just for audio. It also has 7.1-channel audio outputs, as well as an optical digital audio output. From an audiophile perspective, many of these connection options are extraneous, since very few integrated amps or stereo preamps have HDMI inputs and you are almost certainly going to want to use a DAC with this player—so the analog outputs aren’t much of a selling point. Still, it’s nice to have options.
- One welcomed feature is USB audio playback, including hi-res audio files. One issue I found when reviewing the Sony BDP-S6700 was that I could not play any files encoded with ALAC. This wasn’t an issue with the Panasonic, as it supports the following file types: FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, DSD (DFF, DSF), WMA, AAC, and MP3.
Why You Should Care About The Panasonic DB-UB820 Blu-ray Player?
If your primary focus is to play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, then the Panasonic DP-UB820-K is definitely worth your consideration. But it also gives you the option to play CDs and hi-res music from a hard drive or USB thumb drive, as well as all of the legacy video formats.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Panasonic DP-UB820-K Blu-ray Player…
- The sound that the Panasonic DP-UB820-K outputs when playing a CD was less than engaging to my ears. Compared to the Sony BDP-S6700 (especially with the $129 Schiit Audio Modi 3E DAC in the mix), the Panasonic DP-UB820-K sounded flat and even boring at times through its analog audio outputs.
- I did add the Schiit Modi 3E DAC to the DP-UB820-K via an optical (Toslink) cable, and it made a world of difference—taking the music from bearable to enjoyable by adding a significant amount of clarity. It also really brought the soundstage forward, as well. The problem here is that you are adding another $129 to a $499 player, and the reason why we are reviewing these relatively low-cost players is because we are looking for outlier, high-value, audiophile-oriented options. The Panasonic DP-UB820-K is more of a winner in the home theater space than in the audiophile one.
- While this player does give you Ultra HD Blu-ray support, it doesn’t support the playback of SACD or DVD-Audio formats. We have talked at nauseum about these formats being antiquated, especially DVD-Audio. (I believe some classical labels are still releasing music on SACD, and I have also heard rumours that Pink Floyd’s Animals 2018 Remix will have an SACD version, as well.) But it would be really nice to have true universal disc playback on a player in this price range, especially when you can get SACD playback from the Sony BDP-6700 that’s less than half the price.
- There were times during my testing where I could actually hear a CD spinning during playback.
- My Panasonic DP-UB820-K wouldn’t play some Blu-ray discs. I have an extensive collection of Blu-ray and DVD-Video discs, and I was disappointed to find that it didn’t recognize any of the 2011 Star Wars Blu-ray discs (Episodes 1 through 6) when I put them in the tray. I had the same issue with the 2013 version of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel on Blu-ray.
- The Marketplace menu gives you access to streaming media apps, but it was painful to use compared to other silver disc spinners in this price category. Respectfully, there wasn’t anything useful in the Marketplace for audio lovers. There are no apps for Spotify, Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, or Amazon HD Music. Oof. At the very least it would have been nice to see Spotify and/or Tidal Connect available on a player at this price point.
Who Is the Competition For The Panasonic DB-UB820 Blu-ray Player?
Sony BDP-S6700 Blu-ray Player ($119)(review): It’s hard to believe that this player is less than half the price of the Panasonic. Out of the box you get a fuller sound, and you can add a good DAC and still pay less than the cost of the DP-UB820-K. I would gladly trade the Panasonic’s ability to play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to get the Sony’s SACD playback—since the cost to add a standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player is much less than the cost of an SACD player.
Reavon UBR-X200 Universal Disc Player ($999): I have not gotten my hands on one of these players yet, but I feel like if you’re going to pay more for a player that supports Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, you might as well pay the extra to add SACD and DVD-Audio playback.
How Is the Resale Value On The Panasonic DB-UB820 Blu-ray Player?
In general, disc players are more fodder for recycling than resale, but due to this player’s good reputation, the resale market for it isn’t too bad. I’ve seen this player selling between $275 and $350 on eBay, which is pretty strong. If you decide this isn’t the right player for your setup, you should be able to recover a good amount of value if you find yourself outside the return window—assuming technology doesn’t change radically.
Audiophile Listening On The Panasonic DB-UB820 Blu-ray Player…
The first song that I used to audition this player was “2+2=5” from Radiohead’s 2003 release Hail to the Thief (CD resolution). One of the first things I noticed from this track was how muddied the drums sounded. I could really only hear three of the four beats at the start of the track; I almost completely lost one full beat. When I added the Schiit Audio Modi 3E DAC, I could hear the extra beat again, but that isn’t an ideal solution at this price. The Panasonic didn’t overly brighten the higher pitch of Thom Yorke’s vocals, but that might be the best thing to say about how this track sounded. There is a lot going on in this song, and I lost much of it due to the Panasonic’s muddied presentation.
The second CD track I used was “Stop Breakin Down” performed by The White Stripes. This is a Robert Johnson song that has been covered by many artists, including The Rolling Stones—who played this song on the 1972 double album Exile on Main Street. This track certainly has less happening on it than the Radiohead song, but it doesn’t lack intricacy. You get brief moments of a bass guitar, and during Jack White’s guitar solo midway through the song, he uses a technique to layer the melody of the guitar into his solo. The Panasonic DP-UB820-K handled these elements well. I didn’t have any issues picking up smaller aspects of this song. Unfortunately, the experience still suffered from the player’s inability to reproduce an inspired sound—the music never sounded like it was right in front of me.
Final Thoughts On The Panasonic DB-UB820 Blu-ray Player…
The Panasonic DP-UB820-K would be considerably more interesting if I were reviewing it for a home theater publication, but from an audiophile’s perspective this player is an easy one to pass on. Through its analog audio outputs, it doesn’t reproduce a sound that offers any sort of inspiration. While it’s nice that the player supports a full array of audio files via its USB port, the lack of SACD support, along with its price, makes it too difficult to recommend. If you want full universal-disc support, including Ultra HD video, SACD, and DVD-Audio—I would recommend that you consider spending more on the Reavon player. And if you’re simply looking for something that can play Blu-ray discs and do a nice job playing CDs and SACDs, save yourself some money and get the Sony BDP-6700 and perhaps an outboard DAC.