Review: Initial DMA-710 Mini DVD HT System Video

Category: Home Theater

I can’t play it cool. This miniature home theater system is the neatest little thing I’ve ever seen. (Well, aside from the new PowerMac G5.) The low price—under $89 at your local Wal-Mart, of all places—adds considerably to my excitement. The fact that it sounds better than it has a right to and has a ton of features makes it probably the coolest thing you can buy for under $100.

The DMA-710 is something I can’t believe nobody’s ever thought of before: a 2-channel, mini desktop stereo with a built-in DVD player. This would be perfect with a little 13-inch plasma screen TV, or for your kids’ bedrooms, a dorm room or even a small apartment. And, again—this thing costs less than a decent half-meter interconnect, for crying out loud!


Okay, some explanation of how I ended up in the godforsaken electronics section of my local Wal-Mart Supercenter is in order. So here goes. I needed a little system for my bedroom. So, about two years ago, I started looking around. I went to my local Bose store and tried out a Wave Radio/CD. It sounded about as good as a decent boom box. Trouble was, it’s $500. Good as it is for what it is, this thing isn’t worth anywhere near $500. (They can stick their acoustic wave-guide where the sun don’t shine.)

I ordered a much more reasonably priced Cambridge SoundWorks Model 88 instead. About $200, if I remember right. I had a spare Philips CD changer so I hooked it up with a cheap Monster Cable interconnect and listened. It sounded about as good as a decent boom box, with a little more bass than the Bose but a lousy tuner. (Even with a $50 Terk Pi antenna, it could barely pull in NPR.)

So I traded the Cambridge and some cash for a big old 1979 Yamaha 60-watt receiver that I immediately felt sorry for. (I knew this thing deserved better than to be stuck in a lonely, dusty corner of my bedroom. Amazing tuner, smooth sound, nice phono section.) Plus, it was gigantic. It sat alongside the TV cabinet it was supposed to fit into.

I started searching for a minisystem with an input so I could hook up a DVD player. Nothing like an NAD or Linn all-in-one, just an el cheapo that would meet the following criteria:

1. It must be cheap. (This whole stupid project of getting a radio for my bedroom was getting too damn expensive.)

2. It must be something I won’t feel sorry for. (I must be able to leave it on all night and forget to turn it off in the morning without any regrets.)

3. It must be able to take a bump or two and still come out swinging. (And when it gets a ding or a scratch, I must not care.)

4. It must sound good, but not too good. (I must not be tempted to buy a pair of B&W DM302s because the amp deserves better speakers. And it must not sound so good that it keeps me awake at night by involving me too much in the music. After all, I’m trying to get to sleep.)

5. It must be cheap. (Did I say that already?)


I came across the Initial Mini Home Theater during an online search of stores like Best Buy and Target. Only $88.84, and about $95 with PA sales tax. Only problem: my local Wal-Mart didn’t have it.

Undaunted, I trekked to the bafflingly huge and inhumanly cold Wal-Mart Supercenter. Simply negotiating the parking lot was an Olympic event. Pedestrians everywhere were pushing giant carts overflowing with family packs of hamburger meat, 27” TVs and snow blowers—all on the same cart, by the way. Abandoned shopping carts rolled eerily through the parking lot, grazing the flanks of everything from BMW M5s to rusted-out Cavaliers. Wal-Mart is the great equalizer: everyone needs snow blowers and hamburger meat, so everyone comes to Wal-Mart.

Once inside, it’s not easy to find an actual Wal-Mart employee. The reason is simple: there aren’t many. Except at the checkouts, to take your money. Once you pass that friendly greeter—who will eye you suspiciously in a very unfriendly manner on the way out while carefully checking your receipt – you’re on your own, jack. (I guess now would be a good time to mention that the opinions stated here are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone at Audiogon.)

After a few minutes of wandering the electronics section, I was able to find a nice man who ascended a giant ladder and picked a DMA-710 off a monolithic pile of the things. I guess Wal-Mart anticipates selling a ton of these, and they should. (That’s a good thing and a bad thing at the same time—more on that later, though.)


After wolfing down a few Odwalla food bars (I’ve been taking meals in bar form as of late due to a packed schedule) I ripped the box open like a kid at Christmas. Inside I found a lightweight but nice-looking amp/disc player. Its silver finish was nice looking, and build quality didn’t seem any worse than the other minisytems I looked at. In fact, it was better than almost anything in its price range, though not quite as good as more expensive systems from Yamaha or Sony.

Also in the box were audio and video cables, short lengths of speaker wire, a remote with batteries included and separate AM and FM antennas. The speakers were surprisingly hefty and the cabinets were quite rigid. The weight was biased strongly toward the front, suggesting a big magnet for the midbass driver. Spring clip terminals on the back were cheesy, but certainly better than most systems in this class, in which the speaker wires are soldered directly to the drivers or crossovers and terminated with an RCA plug. That’s good, because someone could—if they wanted—add a cheap pair of Polks and have a nice starter system.


And once I hooked it all up, the DMA-710 was just that: a nice little system. My first attempt to cue up a CD resulted in an error message. (It had a hard time cueing up a few of the discs I tried, actually.) After a few tries, it came to life and sounded pretty damn good. Better than it has a right to.

But semi-serious listening would have to wait while I negotiated the features. Which, by the way, there a ton of. The back panel of this thing is more complicated than some early A/V receivers I’ve owned. It has an S-Video output, component video outs, an audio input, audio outputs, jacks for AM and FM antennas, and even a detachable power cord. A lunactic could have a field day with this thing. I half-expected to see balanced ins and outs. And yes, for a brief second, I did consider trying a better power cord.

That's missing the point, though. So I grabbed the remote and—wow! This thing has more features than the DVD player I paid $400 for back in the 90s. I guess I should have expected that. It lets you zoom in and out when you’re playing a DVD, mess with the orientation of the picture and switch audio tracks with the push of a button.

The remote duplicates every feature of the unit itself, except for Open/Close, and has a few more, too. You can turn the unit on and off, adjust the volume, bass, treble and balance. It has a few EQ presets (for rock, jazz, classical, etc.) that you can cycle through from your listening position. All this was pretty amazing to me, of course, considering my living room system’s preamp has just four buttons: power, volume, source and tape monitor. And no remote. (Purism has its drawbacks.)

The DMA-710 plays just about everything except DVD-A and SACD. It even plays Kodak picture CDs and MP3s. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this thing had an HDCD decoder in it. Oh, by the way, the DMA-710 has two microphone inputs for karaoke. Freaking karaoke! I bet, if you read the instruction manual very carefully, you’d find a way to toast Pop Tarts, too. There may even be a nose hair trimmer tucked away somewhere on the back.


Bose has a lot of explaining to do. Because, while the Wave Radio is more accurate tonally, it’s not $400 better than this little guy. And the Wave Radio is not that much smaller, ether. Better looking, you bet. Better built, absolutely. More ingenious? Well, I don’t know about that one. Packing all these features and functions and bells and whistles into a tiny 7-lb. plastic box that actually works well is something of an accomplishment.

Once you get the EQ set to the least offensive setting, and adjust the bass and treble a bit, the DMA-710 is easy to live with. In fact, I wish I had one of these in my job-hopping, apartment-swapping post-college years. It would have spared me a lot of backaches, the result of dragging a giant Pioneer Elite home theater receiver around with its associated gear.

Like any small stereo with limited bass, this one is best suited to jazz and acoustic music. It performed well, on everything from Whiskeytown’s “Pneumonia” to Michael Hedges’ “Live on the Double Planet.” Rock music gave it some trouble; Fountains of Wayne’s “Welcome Interstate Managers” and Liz Phair’s new self-titled release got a little compressed-sounding. And every selection I played sounded a just a little distant and tinny. But all in all, the sound was fuller and more spacious than I expected.

By the way, I have to say I did not allow any break-in time. Maybe in another 50 more hours or so, the drivers (which look half-decent, by the way) will loosen up, the amp will settle down and my gripes will disappear. Then again, maybe they won’t.

My only real complaint is that the CD motor vibrates audibly, rumbling slightly at times like the one in the Gateway desktop sitting next to my monitor. That could be a problem if I sat closer, but I don’t; the unit is tucked away in a sturdy wood cabinet. Problem solved.


The miracle of this player is that it can actually play a DVD at its price. I couldn’t believe it when it popped in “25th Hour” and it actually read the disk and a picture came up on my TV’s screen. I mean, think about it: the cheapest DVD player you can buy that I know of is $40 or $50 and it feels like it’s made of saran wrap and rubber bands. If it costs $40 for a DVD player, than how can anyone make a complete stereo with amp, tuner and speakers for another $30? It’s baffling, considering I once paid $100 for a turntable mat. And the mat just sat there, not playing DVDs or doing much of anything.

Another reason to love this player: it has no scruples. Unlike mass-market players that force you to watch those damn FBI warnings, this one lets you skip right past them. It also lets you skip through those over-animated root menus, too. I have to wonder if this thing has regional coding or even copy protection circuitry built-in. I don’t burn CDs or DVDs, and I don’t own any DVDs from other regions, so I didn’t test it out. Might be worth a try, though.

The picture quality is as you’d expect for the price. Artifacts galore. A little jagged. But my bedroom TV is only a 20-incher. I don’t how this would fare with a 31” or larger TV, but it’s perfectly fine for me.

The best part is, the DMA-710 does movie soundtracks pretty well. It’s not going to give even the most basic Pro-Logic home-theater-in-a-box system a run for its money. It will, however, reproduce the booms and crashes loudly and deeply enough for a bedroom or dorm room. It may even disturb the neighbors. (And remember, it has those audio outputs so you could easily add a cheap $99 subwoofer from Best Buy. For less than $200, you’d be the king of your dorm.)


My Cambridge SoundWorks Model 88 had a disappointing tuner. So did the Bose Wave Radio I auditioned. But the DMA-710 pulls in every station in my market with nothing more than the 10-cent wire antenna it came with. It has 20 presets, which you can cycle through with the remote. You can even use the remote’s numerical keypad for direct access to one of the presets.

The only problem: you can’t manually switch between stereo and mono. On some distant channels, there was static that would have been eliminated if I could have switched to mono. Unfortunately, the weak signals were just strong enough to keep the DMA-710 in stereo mode.


All right, I can’t help myself. I’ll probably, at some point, need to try this with a pair of cheap Wharfedales or B&Ws or something to see how it sounds. And yes, I’ll likely add a subwoofer at some point when I see one at a yard sale. Because, damnit, the outputs are there, just waiting to be used! However, I will resist the urge to upgrade the power cord. And I will not be using Kimber Heroes to hook up my hi-fi VCR to the inputs. (I used what came in the box, for the first time in 10 years.)

But I did have to upgrade to thicker-gauge Radio Shack zip cord, which improved the sound considerably from the stock speaker wires. (Which makes me wonder what Monster Cable XP might sound like, or even Kimber 4PR or something—which is really cheap if bought un-terminated, right?) I also want to stick it on Vibrpods. Really, really badly. So much so that I keep dialing Music Direct but hanging up before they answer when I come to my senses.

I am, admittedly, not a well man.


“Made in China.” Until recently, that wasn’t very confidence inspiring. Then big names started making mid-fi gear there. Roy Hall is even slapping the Music Hall name on a very good CD player that I think is made by Shanling. Shanling, by the way, makes those really cool-looking tubed CD players. Antique Sound Labs made one of the best amps I’ve ever owned.

Not only are China’s top electronics manufacturing facilities clean and modern, from what I’ve read they’re also not the sweatshops of old. People work less than 30-hour shifts, make decent money, and build a heck of a good product. So any guilt I might have felt a few years ago from buying a Chinese-made product is lacking. (Aside from the guilt I feel buying anything that’s not American made. Like everything I own except a few pair of chinos. And the aftermarket winter floor mats in my VW, which were made in Compton, California.)

The only internal conflict I have is that this thing is too good for the money. Kids will buy this, and so will cheapskate adults, and they’ll enjoy it. They’ll hear music reproduced fairly well. They’ll watch movies and crank the volume and they will like what they hear and see. And when this thing breaks—which it assuredly will, especially if it is mistreated like I expect it to be by the purchaser it’s targeted at—they will likely replace it with a similar product, instead of an NAD music system or something. Because people who shop for stereos at Wal-Mart just don’t wander into their local hi-fi boutique to A-B the low and medium output versions of the Benz Glider.

So Andy Singer won’t be seeing any any DMA-710 buyers anytime soon. And yes, this is one more (small) nail in the well-nailed coffin of the two-channel hi-fi hobby. But there is a bright side, and it’s this: people who buy something like this may find themselves enjoying music more than they did on their Emerson boom box, and they’ll maybe buy more CDs. Of course, they’ll be buying them a Wal-Mart instead of their local independent music store, but that’s another issue.

If music survives, so will hi-fi in some form or another. Even if that means us two-channel folks will have our two speakers powered by a 7.1 receiver (with RF-blocking caps over the 160-odd jacks not being used).


Buy one for your kids. Buy one for your musty, damp basement to go with the console TV that’s been rotting down there since the days of console TVs. While you’re at it, buy one for yourself.

If this were just a mini stereo, it would be slightly better than average. If it were just a DVD player, it would be way overpriced. But to get a sensitive AM/FM tuner, a DVD player, a CD player, a full-function remote and a 15-watt amp that doesn’t sound like a chainsaw in one package—with good speakers—is pretty remarkable by any standard. I’m sure in a few years Sony and Aiwa will have systems like this for $50. Until then, the Initial DMA-710 is the only game in town.

Hmmm…I think I left a CD playing in it when I left the house, and I won’t be home for another 12 hours. And I don’t even care. Ha!

Associated gear
Panasonic and Sharp HiFi VCRS, ancient RCA 20" TV.

Similar products
Various HT receivers and seperates from Yamaha, Pioneer Elite and Teac; various desktop minisystems.
i also bought the system but at first i didn't think that i would have that good of a sound to it but when i put in a busta rhymes cd that little thing was so loud i thought the speakers might bloww im satasfied with what i bought.
I found this review witty, informative, and helpful. An $88.00 micro cd/dvd system is the perfect christmas gift for my girlfriends daughter age 11. As the proud owner of a acustat trans nova twin 200 and a monolythic pair of speakers I feel your pain brother audio nut. We have become dinosaurs, and there is a svelter raptor on the horizon called cheap chineese equipment. We can evolve and buy or talk about the grand old days and become extinct....
I just bought one yesterday and I'm also very impressed with the unit. For my desk at the office where I might want to listen to MP3 on CR-R and CD-RW , FM, Audio CD's, DVD Audio it's all there. Now I jsut need a monitor that has an input for the cable so I can watch DVD's or use the feature that will display audio information on the TV output.
My Bose products are great for home, but I'm leary about bringing them into the office. They might develop little feet and walk off!

By the way - Great story "Ekobesky "
Nice review. I got a unit from Walmart too.
Here is a description of the Chinese version "Shinco DMA-700":

It plays VCDs and SVCDs as well, but not DivX (MPEG-4). I wonder if it progressive on component output and how good its de-interlacer is. The Chinese description says it is using ChaoYue quartos decoding CMOS chip.

Anybody knows if is is region-specific for DVDs and how to unlock it?
I am thinking of buying this unit, if it meets a particular requirement. I am a fan of oldtime radio (OTR), and they are available on MP3 encoded CDs. However, they are usually recorded at 24 or 32 kbps. Does anyone know if it will play MP3 files encoded at low of a bitrate? Surprisingly, most boomboxes and a lot of DVD players will not play those files.
does any one know a web site where i can contact the maker of this unit? or initials parent compay, i just want to find out some more info about incase i need to replace a lost manual or broken remote, etc. thanx.
The maker's web site is:
Hmmm... I am really tempted to buy it.
Can an owner tell me if it reads CD+G
(karaoke format) disks ? Thanks.
Best darn little unit out there.Believe me ,you absolutely get your moneys worth,also bought a Daewoo 20 inch flat tube TV,Then I added a altec Lansing subwoofer,that I paid a whole $15.00 for ,Hell I would rather stay in my bedroom and watch my dvd`s,play cd`s or listen to the AM/FM radio than bother with my $3,000 living room TV, Tuner, DVD,or VHS player entertainment center.You Must try this (INITIAL DMA-710)outfit to appreciate it.You can take this advice to the bank as collateral. It is sure equity. Frank Nelson
I really enjoyed the review of this product. I have one burning question. Does it have a clock/alarm function on it? My alternative is a Panasonic SCDP1 ($199 I would appreciate a reply by e-mail from anybody who has purchased one. Thanks
It does not have a clock or alarm, but I've been very happy with it so far.
I bought this for my son in July. He has it in his dorm room. He says it no longer plays DVDs. Does everything else ok though. When he puts in a DVD he gets "disc error". Don't know how to get service for it, but I'm looking. That's how I came across these posts.
im planning to buy one but i have one question to ask. can you play mp3 cds without a TV?
so does it play vcd? or svcds? if so i will definitly be getting one of these in the next few days thanks

It's always good to be reassured on a purchase, especially after the fact! I bought one of these yesterday to serve as a desktop micro-stereo at the office, and ever since unpacking it I've been even more pleased. For a very small amount of money, the unit has a TON of features! Best of all (in my situation) the FM tuner is sensitive enough to get good reception in my office building. As for the DVD player - it's a bonus. I may have an excuse to pick up a small tv monitor now, but if I do I'll never get any work done! heh
well i bought one, and a friend gave me some sub, its got no name on it besides "3M" which. hell i dont think thats a sub company, but anyway, the sub works when i plug it in my onkyo system in the living room. (+ and - basic speaker cable) but i JUST noticed that the sub out on this initial is a i dont know what to call it "av port" how can i make my sub "red white" ie + and - work w/ this unit,

besides not able to use the sub (yet i hope) this unit is damn good, its a little SLOW.... did anyone else notice this? not in loading cds/dvds but in changing stations, even if i have 10+ presets on the remote for FM it still seems slow but it plays my svcds :) i'm happy

any help would be GREAT


Does the DMA-710 require an 8ohm subwoofer? If so, where can I find one? All of the subs I have seen are rated at 4ohms, and I don't want to burn up the unit.

Am I correctly assuming I could use a (Radio Shack) RCA-to-mini-DIN converter to connect an inexpensive PC subwoofer, as long as impedence matches?
I just bought a DMA-710 Initial Micro Stereo System. Unfortunately, Walmart seems to be discontinuing them. I had to buy the display model and they couldn't find the
remote. To buy one from the company, with shipping, is $24.50. Does anyone know where I might find a used one? Or can a generic remote be programmed to execute all the features?
The review was incredible considering the 88.oo price, I was so entranced and exited I linked to walmart, found it, ordered it, just recieved it, and it's still in the box. I am looking forward to having some Cheap Fun. My HT cost over 20k, my 2 channel over 10k and my bedroom streo only 88 bucks....go figure...I will see what it's all about.....Cheap Fun

Great review
Anyone having trouble with the tuner? I took one back with tuner troubles, and now the one I got in exchange has developed a low freq hum. Especially noticeable on AM.
The DMA-710 is still humming along in my bedroom but it's having trouble reading some music CDs (all from indie labels). For $88 I didn't expect the fun to last forever. The tuner still works fine and the DVD player has yet to develop any hiccups, however.
I Only Need A Universal Remote To Complete This Cheap Rock'n Package...

Love It
I'm loving my dma-710 that I've had since last christmas.

I have, however, had a few problems with it. Basically, it freezes. It has happened with mp3 and cd playback. I'm flicking through tracks when the unit stops responding. I can still change the volume and it keeps playing, but it won't respond to anything else. Sometimes, I can just turn it off and back on, but other times I have to... *gasp* pull the plug.

Also, Ekobesky, to correct you, you CAN manually switch to mono for the Tuner. When you're on a not-so-clear station, just press the "L/R" button on the remote. It'll switch to mono and stay there 'till you switch stations.
After getting my living room system sorted out, I finally have time to experiment with the DMA-710 again.

I just bought an el cheapo KLH 6-piece home theater sub/sat system at Best Buy. I figure I'll try it with the DMA-710 using the KLH sub and original speakers that came with the DMA-710, and then the KLH sub and two KLH sats. That seems like a sensible path. I also hope to try the DMA-710's component video outputs.

I'll post a follow up in a few weeks. Until then, if anyone's interested, Best Buy has the KLH HTA-4100 on sale for $40 off retail, but it's a clearance deal so you'll have to hurry -- inventory is already spotty. It comes with a 50-watt powered sub and five sats. For the price, you can afford to throw away the three sats you won't be using.
Sorry to say I returned the KLH system yesterday. Despite build quality about equal to Bose (at less than 1/10th the price – but we all know how that goes), the subwoofer began cutting in and out due to a loose RCA jack. Also, because the sub only goes down to 50Hz, its not really a “sub” at all (again, just like the Bose bass module). That, in addition to the limited range of the study satellites, meant a big hole in the midrange and poor integration between the sub and sats. But judging from the in-store demo, the same problem is true of the Bose Acoustimass. On to something else, I guess…
Mine lasted for a year and now i can barely get it to read that there is a DVD in the thing. Yeah, it was cool for a little while, but you get what you paid for in the long run. This thing won't last forever! I recommend buying a DVD player that will last a few years longer.
Teac makes a similar unit -- it can be found as B-stock for around $130. And Denon makes a GREAT 2-channel DVD minisystem that's available as B-stock for around $330. For those who like the concept of the Initial but not the execution, either of those alternatives is sure to be made of more robust stuff (especially the Denon).

My Initial is still working 100%, but I don't expect that to last. Still, as long as the amp section keeps working, I'll just hook a cheap $50 DVD player up to it to keep it going.
I had the best luck, believe it or not, using Bose 201 Series V with the Initial. I recently sold them and replaced them with a $119 pair of Cerwin-Vega V-5M shielded monitors. Lousy result. Whatever bad stuff people say about Bose (and it's mostly all true) their speakers are VERY forgiving and musical with lower-end amplification and sources.

Is the Yamaha yst-sw015 a bookshelf speaker? Is it a current model or vintage?
I bought this system and was impressed with all of its features, however i was disipointed with the speakers it came with. But when i replaced the speakers with Bose 501 series V speakers it sounded a thousand times better. I even tested it with some cheap KLH sppeakers and they even sounded better than the stock speakers.
I don't know of anyone who still carries the Initial system, but Teac makes a similar one, and it seems to be of higher quality as you'd expect. Retail was $399 but refurbished units are available all over the web for between $100-$200 including at

Here are the specs:
30 watts total power (15W x 2)
Top-loading DVD/CD player
CD-R/RW compatible
DVD Video, Audio CD, and MP3 CD playback
AM/FM stereo tuner
40-station memory
On-screen display
Headphone jack
Subwoofer preamp out
S-Video out
Composite Video out
AUX audio in
Two-way speaker system
Remote control
d you have the remote codes... i bought one from swap meet w no remote...i need the codes
I too love my DMA 710, but I need a copy of the manual.
dear friends. excume but i need information of how can do conversation my miniDVD SYSTEMS in multiregion, the code my systems is one. how can do in my control.pleased neeed his answer.the No. serial is skm3412030803a bye.
The manual is available at the following link; no remote codes are provided, though (see second link).

Your best bet is to buy the remote for $14.99 + shipping.
I bought 2 of these last Xmas for the kids, one is played heavily in my 3 yr olds room everynight, but now it won't spin the disk? Any ideas, anybody ever try to get it fixed??
who know how this unit can read divX and mpeg4, may be change internal software? if this possible, than say how change software??
It's been over 2 years since I bought the Initial. I use it a few times a week to play DVDs and my girlfriend plays CDs on it.

So far -- reliability has been surprisingly good. The drawer tends to close by itself sometimes these days, but it continues to read CDs well.

I haven't been to Wal-Mart since the day I bought it...and given the recent news about how they treat employees, I'm happy not to partonize them.

But for $88 -- a very decent piece of gear.
I have DMA-710 for two years also, still playing nicely. At the moment, I use only for cd connected to Yamaha AX-700U integrated/amp (paid $70) using A/D/S SAT 7 (paid $300).

They sound better than my main system, honest. Link:

You can still buy here:
Also here you can buy. Especially check CD section connected to quality preamp or integrated amp. Goodluck.;_ylc=X3oDMTFlOHNoMGJuBF9TAzk2MDc5MjYwBGsDaW5pdGlhbCBkbWEgNzEwBHNlYwNrYgRzbGsDdGl0bGU-?view=g&p=initial%20dma%20710
i need to know if there is any code to unlock the region of my system, most of the dvds in my area are region 4 and this item is region 1, so i hope to have an answer about this, thanks.
Just want to confirm that the unit is NOT region free. Sometimes it is possible to bypass the region code by pressing 1 on the remote while the DVD loads (does not work all the time though).
Other than that, it a great little unit.