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Mass Fidelity Core
p2 Noel says & subwoofer
p3 Measured performance
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WAVE RIDER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small Core powered loudspeaker from Mass Fidelity uses waveform synthesis to produce a huge walk-around sound. Jon Myles listens in and publisher Noel Keywood adds his views at the end. 

 

‘Small is beautiful’ isn’t a phrase that gets bandied around much in the world of hi-fi…especially when you are talking about loudspeakers. For much as we’d all love a big sound from a compact cabinet, the laws of physics don’t make that easy.

In essence, good bass reproduction, smooth mid-band and extended treble tend to require a loudspeaker of a certain size - or so traditional thinking would have you believe.

And surely something measuring just 4” x 6” x 6” (H/W/D) cannot produce anything approaching hi-fi sound, can it? Especially when it also has 120 Watts of Class D amplification packed into that small form factor and costs just £479.

Which were exactly my thoughts when I unpacked Mass Fidelity’s Core wireless speaker. Yes, it really is that small - but Mass Fidelity are not thinking traditionally in terms of how it sounds.

It instead uses a proprietary sound processing technology called wave field synthesis which is said to recreate a stereo sound stage no matter where you place the unit or whatever your listening position is.

It’s rather a bold claim - but, as ever, hearing is believing and this is where the Core really started to impress.

 

 

Before that, though, let’s get to the basics. Yes, it’s small - but it also comes with a full range of inputs. So, you get Bluetooth connectivity (including apt-X for suitably equipped ‘phones) plus on the rear a digital optical input, USB for charging a smartphone and a 3.5mm analogue input.

There’s also an internal battery with a claimed 12-hour life meaning you can move the unit from room to room without worry or wondering whether it will cut out. Charge time is quoted as 2 hours. You can run it from its external charging unit (110V-240V), as well as internal battery.

Inside are five drivers - one on each side plus a pair at the front with a downward-firing bass unit to give some low-end heft. Mass Fidelity also makes a partnering sub-woofer for £299 - which I’ll come to later.

 

 

The optional subwoofer available for the Core, that we also reviewed, connects wirelessly; the wired output is for alternatives, such as the powered sub-woofers used in AV systems. Note that there’s no wired ethernet connection, no USB computer input and no control app. The Core is a straightforward, easy to use powered speaker, Waveform Synthesis being a major differentiating feature. 

A small, light remote control alters volume, provides input selection, mute and on/off. Cores inter-communicate using a 5GHz wireless comms. system and can be used around the home to distribute music. 

SOUND QUALITY

To start with, I placed the Core on a glass hi-fi shelf, paired it with an iPhone and sat back to listen. Which is when it became apparent that this little unit was doing something rather special.

I was immediately struck by the large sound being produced. And it wasn’t merely big - but detailed and nuanced.

Listening to Patti Smith’s ‘People Got The Power’ there was a drive and bounce to the track which ideally suited the music. It’s a hard-charging song which just begs you to turn the volume up - and here the Core didn’t disappoint, going loud without any sense of strain.

Wandering around the room while I listened also revealed one of the Core’s main strengths - there really doesn’t seem to be any obvious sweet spot.

I moved it from the glass shelf onto a desktop and the same qualities were apparent - there’s a room-filling sound that doesn’t appear to depend on positioning.

Reigning back on the tempo with Bruce Springsteen’s stark acoustic guitar and harmonica of ‘Mansion On The Hill’ also displayed a remarkable degree of subtlety. It’s a haunting track and one that doesn’t always translate well via small Bluetooth speakers - but the Core conveyed it with atmosphere and air around Springsteen’s gentle guitar. The same as a pair of large loudspeakers? Mmm, maybe not but the difference isn’t as large as you might think.

And actually that is the great thing about the Core. It provides a great deal of musical entertainment from a very small package.

 

CONCLUSION

Judged by its size the Core really shouldn’t work in pure hi-fi terms. Yet it does. It has a nicely balanced sound that combines thrust with a good degree of detail. It is an ideal Bluetooth loudspeaker for those looking for music around the house – offered at a low price,

 

 

MASS FIDELITY CORE £479

 

 

A small powered loudspeaker with a big, big sound. Impressive.

 

 

FOR:

- small form factor

- ease of use

- big sound

 

AGAINST:

- nothing at the price

 

  http://www.airaudio.co.uk/brands/mass-fidelity/


NOEL KEYWOOD SAYS -

We were all surprised and immediately impressed in the office  by the little Core, simply because it threw out a massive stage of sound that seemed quite divorced from it. I was going to say ‘panorama’, but that isn’t quite the word – and exactly what the Core does and does not do I’ll try to be succinct about. It seemingly generates a small hall, if you can imagine that, in which a performance takes place. There’s a stronger sense of space and proportion than you get from a small conventional stereo system of similar price, plus a nicely solid sense of embodiment to singers and instrumentalists. With Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way (24/96) from an Astell&Kern AK120 connected up optically, Christine McVie floated full size, it seemed, just above the little box - wow! I couldn’t pinpoint the other band members but they too had strong stage presence all the same. 

What I was hearing was massive mono I realised – and I’m not trying to be pejorative. Quite the reverse: some argue that we don’t hear pinpoint stereo in real life – we can’t for reasons of acoustics – and that pan-pot stereo isn’t real, it’s a contrivance. That’s what Mass Fidelity say too – and there’s a strong argument in there. The tiny Core just gave a small hall of sound that could have come from our recently-departed Tannoy Westminster Reference GRs it was so big and three-dimensional – and believable. And this I feel is where the small and inexpensive Core scores: think big, believable sound from almost ridiculously small device. That’s why we were all impressed.

Well one reason. The other was that – as our acoustic measurements show – the small Core is nicely accurate in tonal balance: it reaches low and high smoothly. So cymbals rang and bass had weight.

Being used to stereo at a definitive quality level – think Martin Logan Summit electrostatics and Tannoy Westminster Royal GRs, the Core was intriguing. It sounded unbelievably large and spacious in its sound, yet focused too – unlike simpler devices where sound is dispersed off walls and ceiling – common in the past. Our 6000 cu ft room has no near walls or ceiling (it slopes from 12ft to 18ft ) to support the Core in this fashion, so what we were hearing wasn’t down to strong acoustic reflections, it was down to waveform synthesis. However, the unit needed space around it to project. 

The subwoofer adds weight and is adjustable to aid matching. You get gain, phase and crossover frequency settings. Like all small subwoofers it works manfully to do its allotted task. 

 

 

THE SUBWOOFER

Mass Fidelity also supplies a sub-woofer to partner the Core for those looking for rather more bass impact. As the Core creates its own network there’s no need to physically wire the two - but the sub does need some careful set-up.

It has both crossover and gain controls - and once paired with the Core takes over all bass duties with the former merely handling the mid and treble. This means some time needs to be taken in getting your settings right. Push the gain too high or get that crossover wrong and you’ll hear a rather nasty bass thump. In which case it’s time to lower the levels.

Once done, though, there’s a synergy at work. The sub cuts in when needed and seems to free up the Core to concentrate on what it does best - which is reproducing an immersive sound field in the mid and treble.

So with Leftield’s bass-heavy ‘Dusted’ you really do start to hear some low-frequency impact - but not of the sort that drags the song back into the dirge-heavy category. There’s impact and slam and the sort of sound that makes you smile. It doesn’t dig quite as deep as some other subs I’ve heard from the likes of REL but then again it only costs £299.

Taken together with the Core and you are getting a rather tasty Bluetooth combination for less than £800.


 

Hi-Fi World uses the Clio measuring system for loudspeakers, with Clio and Bruel&Kjaer measuring microphones.

 

MEASURED PERFORMANCE

The basic tonal balance of the Core, on its forward axis, is shown in our third-octave pink-noise analysis. The forward facing units have reasonably even output across the audio band, right up to 18kHz, with some slight roll down above 8kHz. All the same this unit does produce high treble and this helped toward a well etched sound. 

There are no major dips or suck outs and only two quite well controlled peaks, likely due to internal reflections within the small cabinet – a common phenomenon. 

Bass output rolls away slowly below 70Hz, quite a low frequency for a small cabinet. There is even a small restorative peak at 40Hz to add a little deep bass weight.

Our analysis of subwoofer output shows a very smooth characteristic, extending from 150Hz down to a low 30Hz (green trace) with the upper crossover frequency at maximum. This subwoofer produces deep bass and it is tonally very accurate. Setting the upper crossover frequency to minimum pulled response right down to that shown in the orange trace, and this closely matches output of the Core, extending bass down to a low 30Hz. 

The Core has a respectably smooth and even tonal balance across the audio band, and the optional subwoofer extends this down to a low 30Hz to give solid deep bass. This is an impressive performance: both units are well engineered in acoustic terms. NK

 

 

FREQUENCY RESPONSE

 

 

FREQUENCY RESPONSE SUBWOOFER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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