Home Theater HiFi

Mass Fidelity Core

Reviewed by for Home Theater HiFi, December 2016

Mass Fidelity is a five-year-old company that was established to deliver the future of sound for audio lovers. Their first product was a true Hi-Fi Bluetooth DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). The latest product, the Core is different from other Bluetooth or wireless speakers because of the holographic stereo reproduction of music it offers.

During a phone conversation with Mass Fidelity co-founder and audio wizard Ben Webster, he revealed to me how he found the inspiration for the Core loudspeaker. Mr. Webster recalled an experience he had while attending the CES about 8 years ago. As he was passing by displays in one of the large exhibitor areas he was stopped in his tracks by the sound coming from an otherwise ordinary soundbar. Ben heard true stereo sound reproduction from the single speaker. The speaker on display was an experimental prototype brought to the show by European acoustic scientists working on Wave Field Synthesis algorithms. Soon after Ben Webster began to research and work on a new speaker design that would utilize the latest advances in Wave Field Synthesis techniques.

Design

What is Wave Field Synthesis? It’s a technology implementation that offers a virtual sound that is not dependent on the listener’s position. Normally in a traditional stereo system the best sound would be produced with the listener sitting precisely in between two speakers. The use of Wave Field Synthesis and Beam Forming creates a holographic sound image that does not require a person to be in between the two speakers. The technique produces a sound where a listener can localize sound images and not be in the listening “sweet spot” as they say. Experiments in Wave Field Synthesis (or WFS) resulted in speaker arrays surrounding the listener. Ben Webster and his team realized that it would not be practical to bring such a product to market. They wanted a single speaker that would deliver more precise stereo than having someone sitting precisely between two speakers or surrounded by speaker arrays. After a couple of years of development and the creation of some innovative (patents pending) circuits, the Core was born. Its stand out feature is technology derived from the Wave Field Synthesis audio reproduction procedure so that from a single small enclosure a listener can experience holographic sound from any position in the room.

The Core is compatible with Android or IOS products. High quality Class 1 Bluetooth is employed for superb wireless operation. Unlike other similar products on the market, digital and analog sources can be connected to the Core for high quality playback. The Analog input will accept a full range 2V RMS input signal, allowing a Core owner to plug in the highest quality phono preamps. If you have another high-quality network player or DAC, the Core’s optical input will accept 24bit/192KHz uncompressed digital audio. A high-density lithium battery provides up to 12-hours of playback on a single charge.

The Mass Fidelity Core features tri-amplification architecture to ensure the best performance possible. It has a dedicated amplifier for the front, side and bass drivers. All the circuits are precisely tuned to maximize performance in each frequency band. This results in a much richer sound with less overall distortion. The total potential power of these circuits is 120 watts RMS. This allows the Core to perform with the headroom necessary to communicate the high-energy transients present in music and movies effortlessly.

Setup

I don’t normally pay too much attention to the packaging of a particular product, but in the case of the Mass Fidelity Core unit I was compelled to take notice. What I mean is that the unit came beautifully packaged. The shoe boxed sized container is artfully done and the contents inside are aesthetically and carefully done to give the impression of high value/quality in the presentation.

My first look at the Core gave the impression that it is rather small and it doesn’t look like a speaker. The Core looks like a bigger Apple TV box. With its chrome bumper bottom and black gloss top, the small Core looks quite handsome. A quick look at the back and I see a neat layout of inputs for power cable, USB, Optical, Control, and Auxiliary ports. There is also a sub out for use with an external woofer. Mass Fidelity makes a companion woofer for the Core https://www.massfidelity.com/products/core-sub.

On top of the unit there are buttons for volume up and down, input selection, and a pairing button for additional Core speakers to be used in the home. I put the optical cable from my TV to the Core make sure it was working and to start breaking in the speaker. My initial impression was that the speaker has a bigger sound than the size would suggest. Out of the box it did sound a little tinny, but most speakers have a break in time to sound their best.

Listening

I decided to put the diminutive Core on top of one of my large Klipsch Cornwalls, which made it look like a little David on top of a Goliath, and turned on the Bluetooth input. Immediately it found and connected to my Apple 6 phone. Since I am subscribed to Apple Music I can select almost anything I want.

Chick Corea and Return to Forever “Light as a Feather”   So, I began my critical listening with an old favorite, Light as a Feather, by Chick Corea and Return to Forever. I purchased the original LP back in the early 1970’s and the music has been some of my favorite over the years. On the opening track I was very surprised by the clarity of the high frequencies.  I will have to say that this listening session of the Core on this music was outstanding, some of the best that I have heard from this album. I just could not get over the clarity and spaciousness. For instance, on “Children’s Song” drummer Airto Moreira is hitting a wood block rhythmically throughout the piece along with triangle. The wood block was reproduced with stunning clarity and it sounded like it was emanating about three feet left of the speaker! As the music played I forgot about being critical and just enjoyed the music so much that it brought back fond memories of the past.

Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”  Wanting to hear more I found one of Pink Floyd’s masterpieces, Wish You Were Here. As the opening track began I was impressed with the way the Core handled the sonic environment created by the Floyd. The track builds into a crescendo culminating in majestic drumming. This is another album that I have listened to since it was released and I was impressed with the dynamics and clarity coming from such a small speaker.

Listening and watching

Empire  Next I tried some TV and switched to the optical input of the Core. My wife and I like to watch the drama Empire and I thought this show would be good as it features music as well as the acting....  After a while I left the den to work on something in the next room. When I returned, my wife had switched the program and was watching Dancing with the Stars. I was so struck by the sound that I had to check to see if the Core or the large Klipsch were playing the show. It was at this time that my wife turned to me and said, “Why don’t we just get rid of all the big speakers and just use the little one (the Core)? It sounds really good.” My dear wife, I love her but I happen to like the big speakers. However, many folks might find that the Core is all the speaker they need in their lives. It is easy to use, small, and it does sound very good. The technology derived from the Wave Field Synthesis research really showed how impressive a small single speaker can sound.

Conclusiuons

Priced at $599.00 [£479.00p UK] the Mass Fidelity Core represents an exceptional value in today’s wireless market. The Mass Fidelity Core is in fact an overachiever in the wireless, small speaker category. I have listened to many fine soundbars and portable systems in my home and none is better overall than the Core, especially on music. Some systems may offer slightly better bass or slightly better highs, but none offer the combination of superb sound, portability, and flrxibility that the Core offers. The build and sound are first class. I highly recommend this small wonder, the Core from Mass Fidelity.

 

Read the full review here.