JVC Sophisti DD-3 review: JVC Sophisti DD-3

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MSRP: $999.95

JVC Sophisti DD-3

(Part #: DD-3) Released: May 1, 2007
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Very stylish 3.1 design with small front speakers and no rears; center channel a nice step up over 2.1 systems; solid multimedia support via streaming network; DivX video support.

The Bad Expensive; no video inputs; sounds better on DVDs than music; terrible remote; network streaming is Ethernet only, not Wi-Fi; USB port of limited use.

The Bottom Line If you can look past its high price--and some annoying shortcomings--the JVC DD-3 Sophisti offers elegant styling and pretty good sound for its size.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0

When they first appeared at the beginning of the decade, home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs) were revolutionary for taking everything you needed for a basic home theater system--an amp, five speakers, a subwoofer, and maybe even the DVD player--and wrapping it all together in one convenient box, leaving you to just add a TV to the equation. But as the HTIB market became commoditized, manufacturers were left to up the ante with more original "lifestyle-friendly" designs that deliver better features and more attractive designs. The JVC DD-3 Sophisti is a perfect case in point. The stylish unit employs a unique virtual surround configuration that forgoes the need for rear speakers (and the wires that go with them), instead offering just two tiny front speakers, a center channel, and a subwoofer, plus a main unit with a DVD player. The DD-3 comes with slender, somewhat cylindrical front speakers that look to be designed specifically for those that don't like the traditional boxy look. There's no denying that the system has an elegant look to it, but with a list price of $1,000, it's tough to get by on looks alone. In fact, the DD-3 performed better than we expected given its tiny speakers, but those that appreciate audio performance can certainly get more for their money (although it won't look as nice). For design-conscious buyers, the DD-3 is definitely worth a long look if you've got the budget.

Aesthetic appeal is the top priority of the JVC DD-3 Sophisti. The 3.1-channel home theater system features three sticklike front speakers--two vertical (left and right front channels), one horizontal (center channel), and a stylish sub with some glossy black accents. There's also the "head unit" that combines the receiver, amplifier, and DVD player. The head unit is mostly covered in black gloss with silver trim along the edges. It houses the receiver/DVD player, and under the flip-down panel is a USB port, headphone jack, and a minijack input and output.

Under the flip-down panel is some additional connectivity, including a USB port.
Like many smaller HTIBs, the speakers on the DD-3 actually connect to the subwoofer rather than the receiver. The subwoofer is equipped with spring-clip speaker jacks, and it uses standard speaker wire rather than a proprietary connector, so you can easily substitute your own wiring for longer or in-wall runs. The subwoofer connects to the head unit using just a single proprietary connection. Overall, the whole system looks very stylish, especially for those turned off by standard boxy component-grade electronics.

The speaker connections are located on the back of the subwoofer.
The remote will look familiar to those with JVC gear, which isn't necessarily a good thing. The combination of small buttons, cluttered design, and confusing labels make it difficult to navigate easily. There's a directional pad toward the bottom for main navigation, and above that are some long button rockers for TV volume, audio volume, and TV channel changing--but having two volume buttons so close to each other with only a tiny label differentiating them is annoying. On the side of the remote is a slider, which lets you choose which device you are controlling--either Audio (the DD-3), TV, or VCR/DBS. You'll notice that all of the buttons are squeezed into the top half of the remote, but if you slide down the bottom part of the remote, there are about 30 additional buttons. Unfortunately, these buttons are all the same size and very small--the only consolation is that they're not used that frequently.

For $1,000 bucks, we expect a better remote.
The user interface is very basic and utilitarian. For the most part, it's used when you want to access music, movies, and photos on the network, or off of a USB drive. The very simple graphics and blocky white text contrast greatly with the outward appearance of the unit, so anyone expecting an Apple TV-like slickness in the user interface will be disappointed. Still, it gets the job done, letting you pick a media category (Music, Video, Picture, or Playlists) and then select from other categories--such as artist or album--by picking up tag information. It's certainly not the prettiest way to access your media, but it gets the job done for simple streaming.

The left and right speakers are two-way designs, featuring a 3.75x0.44-inch direct drive driver (which JVC claims delivers a wider sound field) as well as a 0.81-inch dome tweeter. The center speaker features the same direct drive speaker, and the subwoofer is armed with a 6.31-inch cone--somewhat small, even by HTIB standards.

The DD-3 has a built-in DVD player and is equipped with the standard Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS surround decoding options, although it cannot reproduce true Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks without six discrete speakers. Instead, the DD-3 creates an approximation of a surround sound field from the available four channels (including the subwoofer). There are three different sound processing modes the DD-3 uses: Movie/M.Music for movies and multichannel music, Wide/2chMusic to widen the soundstage on two channel music, and Super Wide to create an even wider soundstage.

The DD-3 advertises Dolby Digital and DTS support, but it's faux-surround with 3.1 speakers.

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