The JVC DD-3 Sophisti is a stylish home-cinema unit that employs a virtual-surround configuration that forgoes the need for rear speakers (and the wires that go with them). Instead it offers just two tiny front speakers, a centre 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 price tag of around £750, 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 system features three sticklike front speakers -- two vertical (left and right front channels), one horizontal (centre 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.
Like many smaller systems, 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 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. For example, having two volume buttons so close to each other with only a tiny label differentiating them is annoying.
The user interface is very basic and utilitarian. 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 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 95x11mm direct drive driver (which JVC claims delivers a wider sound field) as well as a 21mm dome tweeter. The centre speaker features the same direct drive speaker, and the subwoofer is armed with a 160mm cone -- somewhat small, even by home-cinema 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: 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.