There are plenty of Bluetooth speaker makers that claim to deliver stereo-quality audio, but how many say they can eliminate your sound system outright? Ben Webster, CEO and co-founder of Mass Fidelity, believes his company's $599 box (available Sept. 4) blows away today's options. This gadget is so versatile it can double as a soundbar for your TV. Plus, you can connect up to nine Cores for multi-room audio bliss. After my ears-on demo, I'm a believer.
With its glossy glass, cloth and chrome design, the 6 x 6 x 4-inch Core is definitely a looker. The top of the speaker is made of gorgeous black acrylic glass that picks up fingerprints as soon as you touch it. The panel houses a NFC chip for quick touch-to-pair action and a thermal gesture sensor that lets you skip tracks with the wave of a hand. Three of the Core's sides are wrapped in jet black cloth mesh while the base of the device is made from chromed steel.
You'll find a slew of ports along the black plastic rear panel, including a USB port that can charge your devices, an optical audio port, the power button and jacks for Sub Out, Aux, a Control output for home automation systems and power. These inputs can be used for a number of gadgets, including Apple TV or a Roku Box. The Core could also be plugged into TV to act as a soundbar or used with a turntable.
Specs and Tech
Remind me to call Mass Fidelity when I need to pack. Somehow the company managed to squeeze a bunch of components in a relatively tiny frame. The Core features four custom speakers to handle mids and highs and a downward-firing subwoofer. Inside, there are six digital signal processors (DSP) and an ARM processing core. A 120-watt digital amplifier helps create booming audio.
The hardware is sound, but it's the technology that makes the Core stand out from the pack. The Core utilizes wave field synthesis technology, which creates a sonic image that sounds like you have two well-spaced high fidelity speakers. The audio emanating from the Core travels around the room, colliding to create sound that is surprisingly rich and deep. This multidimensional audio can be heard anywhere in the room, eliminating the sweet spot effect you get with normal speakers (they have a fixed point for optimal sound).
The Core also uses Absolute Bass Technology (ABT) to produce impressive lows for the bass aficionados. Speaking of lows, in the event you want to hook up a subwoofer to the Core, the device has Dynamic Re-tuning Technology, which automatically re-tunes itself, focusing on producing the mids and highs.
I heard several songs on the Core during my demo and was impressed with the depth, clarity and volume on each track. The demo started with Pink Floyd's "Money," as the telltale cash register intro started. The clanking of change and the opening and closing of the register sounded like it was firing from different points in the room. The bass guitar was deep, while the drums had a nice punch. The electric guitar asserted itself throughout the demo, but not enough to overtake the twangy vocal, which had plenty of time to breathe.
That wide soundscape continued when the demonstration switched to Dawn Penn's reggae classic, "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)." Penn's sultry, throaty moan filled our medium-sized office, coasting along on the crisp brassy current created by the horn section and guitar.
They say that two is better than one, but how about nine? Similar to Sonos, the Mass Fidelity Core features a multi-room solution. However, the Core doesn't require any extra components or apps -- just one press of a button and every system in the house (up to nine) is connected. Best of all, you don't need to connect everything to Wi-Fi.
According to Mass Fidelity, the Core can last up to 12 hours on a charge and takes less than two hours to fully recharge.
The $599 Mass Fidelity Core has the potential to appeal to a wide swath of consumers. The elegant good looks combined with the clear, balanced audio and spacious soundscape will appeal to audiophilies while the sheer volume that the system is capable of producing will draw in the people looking for a good party system. It's a handy solution for apartment-dwellers with limited space to spare as well as home-owners interested in multi-room functionality.
However the biggest obstacle the company will have to overcome is the pricetag. Early adopters can currently snag a core on Mass Fidelity's Indiegogo site for $349, but once that campaign has ended, $599 is a steep entry fee. Still if the consumer models sound anywhere near as good as the pre-production version, Mass Fidelity might have a winner on their hands.