The Teufel Decoderstation 3 is, as the name suggests, a standalone Dolby Digital and DTS decoder. Principally designed to add digital decoder functions to Teufel's range of Concept speakers, there is no reason why you couldn't add it existing powered speakers.
Encased in a metal box, it has that solid look and feel to it that begs you to take notice. It is designed to stand vertically, although it is perfectly happy to lie horizontally too, if you can cope with the two-digit LED display being sideways.
The front of the Decoderstation is topped with that LED display, a simple red affair that will convey various settings to you as you select them on the accompanying remote. Normally though, the display will show you the volume.
Ranging down the front you'll find four status lights for standby, AC-3/DTS, Prologic and DSP. Below this is a central clickable dial that will change the volume, or switch inputs with a click. Below this is an optical input. The LEDs are all blue and a little too intense for our liking - if you have the Decoderstation 3 next to your TV, you might find they are a distraction.
Around the back you'll find two digital inputs, a second optical input and a digital coaxial connection. These are the principal inputs and if you are interested in this type of digital decoder, likely to be the ones you'll use.
The inclusion of both a rear and front facing optical connection might seem a little weird, but it does mean you could easy add in an extra device, such as a SPDIF equipped notebook, without scrabbling around the back.
In addition to the digital inputs, you also get three analogue stereo auxiliary inputs, so you could connect a number of audio sources and benefit from the technology on offer, spitting out your audio through your 5.1 speakers using Dolby ProLogic II.
Below the inputs you'll find the 5.1 channel output, which you can connect directly up to your speakers. The big omission here of course is amplification, so you'll need to have amplification in your speakers, such as the Teufel Concept E 200 we tested the Decoderstation 3 with.
The included remote is pretty much a no frills design, but is essential to take advantage of the full range of adjustments, allowing you to switch through all the inputs, adjust volume and balance, as well as changing centre and rear delay to suit the setup of speakers in your room. You can test the signal on each channel, but you don't get an auto calibration as you'll find on some more advanced systems.
You can also adjust the levels of the centre, rear and subwoofer independently to get exactly the result you are looking for.
The results are fantastic. Connected directly to a Blu-ray player to take advantage of the DTS encoding, the system really shines, adding that immersive surround sound that makes movie watching a treat. Of course don't get the latest 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio support here.
We found the best results were connecting directly to the source player to avoid any signal delay coming via the optical output on the television, and saving the second optical input for Freeview. If you have a number of devices that you want to take an audio stream off, you might be more interested in the Decoderstation 5, the big brother of this model, that gives you four digital inputs.
The thing we really like here is the simplicity - you don't need to spend either a lot of money or a lot of time setting the system up and for those that have some component parts of a home cinema setup, this could be the affordable missing link that completes the puzzle.
It might also be a really attractive option for those with a projector setup, who don't have all their video taken care of, and don't want the bulk and expense of a separate AV receiver.
As a simple and affordable solution, the Decoderstation 3 is the sort of device that for those with specific requirements is a very attractive proposition.