In addition to DVDs, the DD-3 can play DivX, MP3 and WMA files on DVDs and CDs. There's no support for SACD discs, although we'd argue that the benefits from high-resolution music discs would be difficult to detect on a system like this.
Connectivity is minimal. The highlight is the HDMI output, which is capable of upconverting DVDs to 720p resolution. Otherwise, the system includes the standard DVD player analogue video outputs (component video, S-Video and composite video). For audio output, the HDMI jack can be used (it carries both audio and video), but there's also an optical digital audio output. Of course, since the system has its own speakers, you'll probably use them instead.
The real omission is the bare-bones support for AV inputs. There are three audio inputs (one stereo analogue input, one optical digital audio input and -- on the front panel -- a minijack input) but there are no video inputs. That means you won't be able to do any video switching to integrate any external equipment -- say a cable or satellite box, or a games console. Of course, you can run the audio to the DD-3 and the video to the TV, but that involves a lot of remote fumbling or buying a good universal remote.
Like most other home-cinema systems, the DD-3 includes an AM/FM tuner along with the ability to save 30 FM presets and 15 AM presets. There's no support for satellite radio or HD radio.
You'll also note there's an Ethernet port on the back, which is used for the network media-playing functionality. The DD-3 is basic as a network player, offering support for LPCM, WAV, MP3 and WMA audio file types. For video files, it can play ASF, DivX, MPEG1 and MPEG2 files -- while photo support is limited to just JPEG files. That certainly doesn't stack up to the best standalone network media players, but for basic streaming it should get the job done. We were disappointed to find that it couldn't play non-DRM 256kpbs AAC files purchased from the iTunes store.
We started off our listening tests with Pat Martino's East! CD. It took only a quick cycling through the surround options to realise that leaving the surround mode off was clearly preferable for standard stereo music. We have to admit we were a little sceptical given the size of the speakers, but they fared pretty well -- at least in a midsize room. We were able to pump the DD-3 up pretty loud and it continued to deliver detail and clarity without breaking up on Pat's intricate guitar phrasings.
In fact, we felt the subwoofer was actually more of the choke point -- when we pushed the volume up it started to get a little boomy and less musical than we'd like. Luckily the DD-3 allows you to adjust the levels of each of the speakers, so we were able to dial the sub in a little better, but we couldn't get the acoustic bass to sound just right.
We swapped out the DD-3's left and right speakers with a pair of older, standard Onkyo speakers to compare. Ultimately, we definitely preferred the boxy Onkyo speakers, as they were a little less bright and sounded more natural -- the DD-3 can sound a little harsh at times. The harshness was also apparent on more aggressive music like Jeff Beck's Truth album, where the Onkyo speakers were more listenable over long periods.
We also watched Serenity, and the DD-3 did a decent job approximating the surround experience, although it's definitely not one of the best at creating a faux-surround soundstage from less than six speakers. Of course, no front-only system is really going to compete with actual surround speakers.
That said, the DD-3 does benefit nicely from the centre channel -- which many virtual-surround systems lack -- and we could easily make out all the dialogue, which was placed right in the centre of the soundstage. We were also able to crank the system up pretty loud. It was just about enough to fill out the medium-size testing facility, and the sub was able to deliver enough bass when the action picked up.