Since Oppo decided to exit the 4K UHD disc player market in 2017, many wondered if another manufacturer would pick up the mantle. However, despite the naysayers and promoters of streamed media, the shiny disc continues to buck predicted trends of diminishing sales. An extraordinary slate of 4K UHD Blu-ray disc titles hit the market over the past year. And even though everyone thought it was game over for players – including LG and presumably Pioneer – Panasonic forged ahead with their spectacularly good DP-UB9000 and DP-UB820 spinners. The first of these was the only model left on the market until recently to sport a rugged steel full-width 17.4-inch chassis and faceplate. Panasonic clearly wanted everyone to know it was now the only manufacturer in town offering punters a chance to own a grown-up player. It was certainly one that could sustain the rigors of permanent location in a 19-inch rack.
Entrez, Reavon. Hailing from Paris and tied at the hip to the Zappiti media server brand, the company has entered the fray and obviously wants to shake things up. Charging out of the gate late last summer were two sister universal disc players, the UBR-X100 (minus 7.1 analogue outs, stereo XLR connections and SACD playback), priced at $799, and the UBR-X200, with its more sophisticated audio circuitry (reviewed here), priced at $1,699.
Design and Features
The X200 arrives in a sturdy well-padded shipping box; it needs to because the player is a hefty, solid affair that weighs in at 15lbs. The unit feels like quality, exemplified by its cloaking in a dedicated packing shroud. The player’s faceplate is crafted from beautiful black brushed steel and bears basic control buttons, a USB 2.0 input, precision flush-mounted tray door and display. Round the back, you get LAN, an HDMI out, audio only HDMI, USB 3.0, coax, optical and analogue outs (7.1 RCA, 2 x XLR, 2 x RCA).
Reavon puts emphasis on their new spinners being chiefly for disc playback, and not necessarily optimized for navigating all manner of video files or offering up the usual plethora of in-built streaming options. While the X200 does have good audio and video file support, the company believes – arguably rightly – that there are other inexpensive routes to streaming content if you need them. Consequently, and notable in their absence, are Netflix, Disney+ and YouTube onboard access. Wi-fi connectivity is also omitted, rather disappointingly, so you will need to plug in via ethernet to get the device onto your home network.
Like the Oppo players of the past, the X200 plumps for the Mediatek MT8581 SoC media engine for image creation, and 7.1 analogue audio output is driven by the Burr-Brown PCM1690 DAC. Happily for disc hoarders, the Reavon will play just about anything you throw at it, with the exception of your dusty HD DVDs. As well as CD, the Reavon can play SACD multi-channel audio discs (bravo!), and DVD-A with MLP file support should come down the pike via future firmware update. Of course, you can play all types of 4.7-inch video discs from DVD all the way up to fully-leaded 4K UHD.
Samsung display owners may rue the lack of HDR10+ support, but HDR10 and Dolby Vision are naturally invited to the party. There is a useful image zooming feature (if you need to blow up non-anamorphic 2.35:1 DVDs, for example), and onboard scaling to match your display is excellent, usually accommodated by selecting ‘Auto’ in the resolution menu. Perhaps the pièce de résistance, though, is the selectable ‘Source Direct’ option, also in the resolution menu, which by-passes any onboard processing to export a completely unadulterated image to your display (more on that later). I do not believe there is a 16:9 anamorphic squeeze mode for owners of native constant height setups just yet. That feature will hopefully also appear in a subsequent firmware update.
Disc ingestion is a quiet and smooth process, although it can be a little tricky to remove a platter from the tray after ejection. Both 4K and 1080p discs load noticeably quickly and playback is blissfully peaceful. The chunky plastic remote is comfortable to hold, thankfully backlit and well arranged. The X200 innards also comprise a toroidal transformer for lower noise thresholds and should offer corresponding improvements in video and audio performance as a result.
In Use and Performance
After connecting up the Reavon to my hard-working M&K speaker system, I turned to one of my few but much treasured SADCs, the Dunedin Consort’s powerful interpretation of J S Bach’s St Matthew Passion (Linn Records). Having not owned a 5.1 SADC-capable player for some time, this felt like a guilty pleasure. The X200 did not disappoint and created an enveloping soundstage. Both warm and accurate in equal measure, the pared-back baroque orchestra and voices flooded the room.
I then tried out some Mp3 and FLAC files from USB. I also toggled back and forth between HDMI bitstream and XLR out (Reavon DAC) with a number of audio CDs. I marginally preferred what I heard letting my Lyngdorf processor handle the data, but audio down the XLR pipes was no slouch either. The track “Duke’s Travels” on the DVD-A of Duke (1980, DTS 5.1 96/24) by Genesis, also via bitstream, was solid, calculated and inviting, with faultless imaging and instrument placement. It was as if the Reavon instinctively knew what it had to do.
Uncompressed multi-channel audio from film soundtracks over HDMI is also impressive and, if anything, slightly more engaging, musical and less abrasive than my Panasonic BD players. There is no logic to this, given that a bit-for-bit signal from any deck should sound identical after decoding in a processor, but there is a different quality to the audio here.
But the game changer for the X200 is in the picture quality, which spurred me on to watch hours of content, so drawn was I to its output. Audiocom, the UK Reavon distributor who kindly loaned the player, recommended the use of Source Direct mode for movie playback (which had thus far eluded me given its hidden position on the second page of the resolution menu). I used this setting while connected to either my Samsung 55-inch OLED display or BenQ HT5550 projector. Compared to my Panasonic DP-UB820 and DP-UB9000, the Criterion 1080p disc of Broadcast News (1987) exhibited slightly enhanced detail and consistent, unobtrusive grain structure. These qualities were also true of Criterion’s black and white A Night to Remember (1958), which managed to coax out better shadow detail and deeper blacks on my not-very-black HT5550. The experience made me feel closer to their respective 35mm sources.
In the absence of Panasonic’s superb HDR Optimizer, I was concerned that the Reavon might not keep up with the idiosyncrasies of problematic HDR and wide color gamut material on a projector. However, to my eyes, the color composition on the 4K UHD Blu-ray of Flash Gordon (1980) was more natural, imbued as the film is with its bold primaries and vivid rainbow of colors. Even after professional display calibration, colors from the Panasonic players can still look a little over-cooked on my setups, but the Reavon seemingly tamed those excesses. Source Direct mode also reveled in sun-reflected specular highlights and contrasty filmic scenes, on both my displays.
Perhaps understandably, there are any number of forum posters lamenting the demise of the Oppo players and their associated features, while making all the predictable comparisons to Reavon’s current crop. The reality is that Oppo is now four years in the past and unless you are planning to buy one used – with all the risks that entails – then home cinema perfectionists should give the Reavon UBR-X200 serious scrutiny. I am not going to wax too lyrical about the Reavon either because it certainly is not all things to all people. The Panasonic players I refer to in this review are stellar performers, too. Furthermore, the X200 is an expensive piece of kit at $1,699, particularly if you cycle through disc spinners every couple of years. So, you could forego the audio assets of the former and plump for the cheaper X100 at $799.
However, I measure the Reavon price hikes, and the small percentage increase in the quality of playback you get over the competition, against the premium that you might fork out on a video processor, or other gizmo, that tweaks your image just that smidge closer to perfection – and you get universal disc support. If you think you are one of those people who can’t live a normal life without either, then the Reavon UBR-X200 might have your name on it. It has mine.
Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.