Medeski Martin & Wood’s live interpretation of “Hey Joe” from Note Bleu: The Best of the Blue Note Years 1998-2005 [Blue Note] is a stunningly dynamic piece recorded in a manner that emphasizes the space between instruments and players, capturing the romanticism of a trio whose members’ effortless rapport borders on the laconic. The DSS 303 doesn’t even flinch when Chris Wood really digs into his upright bass, and while the Canton can't compete with rigs equipped with subwoofers, its sound is nonetheless deep and powerful—surprisingly so for a single-box system this size. As the song swings from loud, forceful passages to quiet and sensitive ones, the DSS 303 really shines—I was surprised it could reproduce dynamic swings with such poise. The only drawback, again, is that the system is unable to reproduce the soundstage that makes this track so captivating; as a result, the presentation just sounds a bit flat and one-dimensional.
The DSS 303 did a decent job with Medeski’s piano, though it made the instrument sound softer and less crisply defined that it usually does when I listen to this track.
The title track of Sufjan Stevens’s The Avalanche begins with Stevens’s soft voice and the gently caressed strings of piano, guitar, and banjo, and the Canton’s warm, full sound complements the song’s essence perfectly. However, when the song begins to escalate and the bass, woodwinds, and drums enter with a deluge of notes, the Canton’s sound becomes more diffuse and less focused, making the music seem a bit cramped, almost as if the musicians are stepping on one another’s toes. But even during this moment, the Canton maintained its overall musicality; its shortcomings were mostly “sins of omission”—never glaring.
For a small, single-box sound system, the DSS 303 is impressive; its diminutive and unassuming appearance enables it to blend in to any décor while its big, lively sound is enough to make it stand out. The system’s greatest strengths are its natural, neutral tonal balance and freedom from glaring colorations or other sonic anomalies. One small caveat: those who crave 3D soundstaging will want to consider systems with dual (left/right) speaker enclosures that give the sound more “room to breathe.”
Canton DSS 303 Digital Soundstation
Driver complement: two 1-inch fabric dome tweeters, two 4-inch aluminum mid-bass drivers
Integrated amplifier power: 50wpc
Frequency response: 38Hz–25kHz
Audio inputs: one antenna connection, one analog (3.5 mm mini-jack), one digital (USB), one iPod docking connector
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 13.9” x 6.7” x 5.6”
Weight: 9.9 lb.