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Magnetar UDP900 review: unnecessary — and universally awesome

Magnetar UDP900 Disc Player
Magnetar UDP900
MSRP $2,999.00
“The Magnetar UDP900 is fantastic, to the point that it's my favorite disc player ever now.”
Pros
  • Pristine video fidelity
  • Pristine audio fidelity
  • Plays everything
  • Outboard DAC features
  • Built like a tank
Cons
  • Occasional mechanical noises
  • Software feels dated
  • Expensive

Let’s say you are looking for a disc player that can act as an outboard digital-to-analog converter. You’re looking for something that can handle just about any digital audio device — like a PC or a MiniDisc player or an older disc player with a lame DC in it. Or maybe one of today’s modern streamers that maybe has a great interface, but a lame DAC — any application where you want one of the best DACs you can buy.

The Magnetar UDP900 can do that.

Video review

Magnetar UDP900 Review | The Last Disc Player You’ll Ever Need

You don’t need it, but that’s not the point

There are things we need, and there are things we just want. Even if you are an avid videophile and audiophile, this universal disc player (that’s the UDP part of the name) resides very much in the “want” category.

You don’t need the Magnetar UDP900, but I 100% understand why you’d want it.

This machine is exquisite.

After spending a little over 100 days with the Magnetar UDP900, I can confidently say this machine is exquisite. If you are an audiophile, videophile — or both — with lots of money and very little time, then you have my blessing and assurances that you can close this article right now and buy the Magnetar UDP900 with plenty of confidence that your money is going toward the best universal disc player you can buy today.

Go ahead. You can thank me later when you come back to see me for advice on the best TV and audio gear to hook up to this thing.

Magnetar UDP900 Disc Player
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

For the rest of you, I have to assume that you are curious about what makes a disc player worth $3,000. Perhaps you’re wondering if you should splurge for the UDP900 or save quite a bit of cash and get the $1,600 Magnetar UDP-800. Or save even more money and get the $1,100 Panasonic DP-UB9000P1K.

Well, I hope to answer all those questions as I take you through what the UDP900 offers while comparing and contrasting it with the other two premium players I just mentioned.

Magna who?

Now, some of you may be sitting there thinking to yourself … Magne-what? How did we even get here?

Well, Magnetar exists to fill the void left behind by Oppo. That’s right, once upon a time, Oppo didn’t just send phones to the U.S. Between 2009 and 2018, it also made the world’s most beloved disc players for almost a decade. In fact, Oppo’s players are still used by enthusiasts and industry professionals alike, and some models fetch a handsome price online.

Magnetar UDP900 Disc Player
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

What made Oppo’s players great was their robust build quality, their “we can play anything” attitude, and their top-notch audio and video fidelity.

Enter Magnetar, which picked up the baton Oppo set down and started running with it. To be clear, though, Magnetar didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. The folks behind Magnetar are also responsible for the Reavon brand of high-end disc players, which are big outside of North America. These are well-established, well-respected engineers and designers. Magnetar may be a relatively new brand, but its tech pedigree is well-established.

Consider the alternatives

Let’s get something out of the way: If you are looking for the best-quality video disc player — if you just want to get the best picture you can from your DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray collection — then I suggest you go buy the Panasonic DP-UB9000P1K. That’s because that player is less expensive than both of Magnetar’s machines and will do exactly what you need it to do.

Panasonic DP-UB9000P1K
Panasonic DP-UB9000P1K Panasonic

Furthermore, if you are a budget-minded audiophile and want to get great sound out of your CD collection, the Panasonic is a tremendously good CD player with top-notch DACs and balanced audio outputs to boot.

If, however, you are looking for a play-everything machine? One that can play Super Audio CDs (SACD) and DVD-Audio CDs and even Kodak Picture CDs — literally every optical disc-based format that has ever been? Then you need one of Magnetar’s players. The Panasonic doesn’t do SACD or DVD-Audio discs.

Let’s pause a second to call out that I’m whittling down a twig here. The number of folks who need or want a disc player has dwindled over the years, from log to stick to twig. From that twig of an audience, we have identified the skewer that is the audience for premium players like the Panasonic 9000P1K. From that skewer, we have whittled down to the toothpick audience that exists for the Magnetar UDP-800.

So, who’s it for?

Now, let’s whittle that toothpick down to a splinter. Who actually needs the UDP900?

If you like overbuilt, brawny gear that weighs far more than it should, has all the best internal components the market has to offer, right down to a 60-watt toroidal transformer power supply, gold-soaked printed circuit boards, as well as some of the best-rated capacitors made today — then you want the UDP900.

If you like to see, feel, and smell your gear — yeah, I said smell — then you want the UDP900.

Notice how we have transitioned from needs to wants?

Outside of the outboard DAC functionality, the Magnetar UDP-800 has almost all the audio chops the 900 has. (I think the 800 uses Burr Brown DACs for its dedicated stereo audio outputs as opposed to the 900’s second set of ESS Sabre DACs.) And while the UDP-800 isn’t as overbuilt as the 900, it’s got a similar power supply and a very robust chassis. Functionally, it’s going to do all the audiophile things.

Magnetar UDP900 Disc Player
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

The UDP900 isn’t practical. It is 35 pounds of flex for your AV rack. A rack, by the way, which is not tucked away in a closet or basement room. No, you do not buy the UDP900 just to hide it in a climate-controlled server room. The UDP900 is a showpiece. For those of us who regard electronics as art the way sneakerheads do with the shoes they put on display, the UDP900 is a transistorized Van Gogh. Except it’s … stereo.

Putting it through its paces

I guess I should describe how I tested this thing to arrive at my conclusions, huh?

I’ll do that. But before I dig in, I should point out that the first frame of video I saw out of the UDP900 and the first note I heard from the speakers told me everything. Sometimes, you just know immediately. Magnetar delivered that for me.

For video evaluation, I compared the Magnetar UDP900 to a Sony X1100ES and Sony PlayStation 5. I did not integrate the Xbox Series X as a Blu-ray player, as I’ve well-established it is inferior to the PS5 for disc playback and video fidelity.

I’ve reached out to Panasonic for a review sample of its 9000P1K and will update this review after I’ve made a comparison to that machine.

Magnetar UDP900 Disc Player
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

For audio evaluation, I connected the UDP900 to an Anthem STR Integrated via both balanced and unbalanced analog inputs and optical digital output so I could compare the DAC performance to that which is built into the Anthem Integrated. On the other end of the Anthem Integrated is a gorgeous pair of GoldenEar T66 speakers outfitted with AudioQuest NRG-Z3 power cables and Rocket 33 speaker cables in a bi-wire configuration.

Also connected is a Klipsch Reference Premiere Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 speaker system driven by a Marantz SR8015, which I used for multichannel SACD and DVD-Audio playback.

I also connected the UDP900 to an Integra DRX 5.4 receiver to test its HDMI CEC and HDMI compatibility with the Integra’s switching system.

For displays, I used the Sony A95L QD-OLED as my reference monitor, the TCL 98-inch QM8, and the Vizio Quantum Pro.

Folks, the Magnetar UDP900 aced every test I threw at it.

The 4K HDR video quality is pristine. The difference in quality from the PS5 is pronounced enough to be seen in aggregate, whereas the improvements over the Sony ES player were marginal and took a lot of pixel peeping to register.

One feature the Panasonic 9000 offers, but the Magnetar does not is a suite of custom tone-mapping options. The Panasonic’s video processor and its tone mapping are probably better than some midrange TVs, so that could be handy to have instead of relying on the TV’s HDR ton mapping. If the Magnetar UDP900 had that, I’d have to say it does everything, though, and that just doesn’t seem fair.

The Magnetar holds its own versus the Sony, which is massive praise.

The Magnetar’s built-in upscaler is excellent. I can see little to no difference between the 1080p to 4K upscale as performed by the Sony A95L versus the Magnetar Player. The absence of artifacts from the Magnetar would be impressive enough, but the fact that it reduces macro-blocking and banding so well is mighty impressive. I just had to pop in a James Taylor concert DVD to see what it could do, and it looked very good. I mean, it’s still a 480p DVD, and that upscaling job is a nightmare. But the Magnetar holds its own versus the Sony, which is massive praise. The Sony A95L’s Cognitive XR processor is better, but the Magnetar is right behind it.

But those are performance attributes I’d expect from the Panasonic player, too. And from Magnetar’s less expensive player. What I really wanted was an amazing two-channel audio experience, and, folks, I got it.

Look, I’ve been giddy for months. I’ve been pulling out all these CDs I haven’t heard in ages, and I’ve finally been able to enjoy multichannel SACD and DVD-Audio again because, while the Sony X1100 ES will read the discs and pass along the PCM or DSD, I’ve had some trouble on the receiver end – which I’m sure is my fault, but I haven’t had time to figure it out. The Mangetar UDP900 decodes it and puts out a gorgeous multichannel analog signal.

Magnetar UDP900 Disc Player
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Honestly, the Magnetar player’s mechanics are a bit noisy, but the analog audio signal is dead quiet. That super-low noise floor paints a perfect black canvas on which the music is painted, and it is revelatory.

It’s been a while since I tested any other audiophile disc players, so I can’t sit here and tell you that the analog section of the Magnetar is categorically better than that of, say, a McIntosh MCD350 or a Yamaha CD-S1000 – though I’d like to find out! No, all I can say is that the UDP900 is the best-sounding disc player in this setup by far, and the best-sounding disc player I’ve used since my Oppo UDP-205, which, unfortunately, has some sort of DAC processing error in it now, so I couldn’t make a direct comparison for this review.

Simply the best

No matter. The Magnetar UDP900 is fantastic. It’s my favorite disc player ever now. Oppo will always have a piece of my heart. But I’ve moved on, and I like the new me with this Magnetar player.

It’s not for everyone. In fact, it’s hardly the smart choice for anyone. But it is never, ever going to be a poor choice, and not only will it not let you down, but it will do a marvelous job of lifting you up.

I know it has done so for me.

Caleb Denison
Digital Trends Editor at Large Caleb Denison is a sought-after writer, speaker, and television correspondent with unmatched…
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