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.
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.