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Christmas Gift Guide

Panasonic SC-DM3 review:

Panasonic SC-DM3

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The Good DVD-Audio/video capability; space-saving, vertically oriented design; nifty, chromed satellites; slim-line sub; onscreen display.

The Bad Scarce connectivity options.

The Bottom Line Supersleek and ultracompact, the SC-DM3 is an excellent bedroom kit, particularly for style-conscious consumers.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

If compact styling is what you're after, you'll like Panasonic's ingeniously slim, DVD-Audio (DVD-A) -compatible SC-DM3 DVD-player-cum-receiver. This component is less than four inches wide, so it will fit into even the most cramped quarters, and its matching minisatellites and diminutive subwoofer are among the smallest speakers that we've ever seen. Miraculously, the DM3's performance belies its spartan dimensions. If compact styling is what you're after, you'll like Panasonic's ingeniously slim, DVD-Audio (DVD-A) -compatible SC-DM3 DVD-player-cum-receiver. This component is less than four inches wide, so it will fit into even the most cramped quarters, and its matching minisatellites and diminutive subwoofer are among the smallest speakers that we've ever seen. Miraculously, the DM3's performance belies its spartan dimensions.

Slim is in
The SC-DM3 includes five chromed, 4.25-inch-tall sats; a compact subwoofer; and that amazingly cool DVD player/receiver. We imagine that most DM3 owners will orient the mirror-finished unit vertically, but it works equally well when placed horizontally. The player's softly backlit LCD automatically detects orientation, so it's always easy to read. Power ratings are on the low side: 15 watts for the left-and right-front speakers, 45 watts for the center channel, 20 watts for each of the surround speakers, and 55 watts for the sub. The DVD player is compatible with Panasonic-recorded DVD-Rs and DVD-A discs, plus the usual suspects--DVDs, CDs, hybrid Super Audio CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs.

This kit was designed to be at home in a cozy bedroom or an office, where its minimalist connectivity quotient won't be a concern. You get stereo audio inputs and a set of composite and S-Video outputs, but that's about it. If you're using an HDTV, the DM3's lack of progressive-scan outputs might be a deal breaker.

The remote gets a passing grade overall, but we wonder why the company had to use such tiny buttons for volume, play, stop, and pause.

One nice touch: Panasonic includes a special polishing cloth so that you can maintain the luster of the chromed component and the speakers.

Pure and simple
The DM3's brilliantly clean and clear sound will appeal to many buyers, but we often wished for a somewhat richer tonal balance. Even after we diddled with the DM3's EQ adjustments, we felt that dialogue was lightweight and lacked body. Take the Keb' Mo' track on the Sessions at West 54th Street DVD: It sounded and looked fine, and Keb's rich voice was nicely presented but slightly thin. However, the band's guitars and light percussion were delicate, lively, and quite natural sounding.

We next checked out the DM3 with a few DVD-A discs. This new format offers better-than-CD sound quality and 5.1-surround capabilities, along with bonus tracks, videos, live concert footage, interviews, commentaries, photo galleries, and lyrics. The Doors' classic L.A. Woman DVD-A unfurled a massive sound field, and the thunderstorm effects that stretched across the surround speakers on "Riders on the Storm" were very wet. We were pleasantly surprised at just how much detail and resolution we heard from the DM3's one-way, tweeterless sats.

Better still, our favorite bass-busting band, Morphine, didn't faze the DM3's spunky little sub; low frequencies weren't superdeep, but they were fairly taut and clean. Do try to place the small speaker fairly close to one of the front sats, or you're likely to hear an obvious gap in the midbass sound.

The SC-DM3, like most systems built around minispeakers, will perform at its best in small rooms. We can't help admire its high style, space-saving size, and generous features. Better yet, you can find it online for less than $350.

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