Review: Mass Fidelity Core Bluetooth Speaker
Mass Fidelity's Core ($599) looks to bring the performance of larger high-end speakers into a compact, portable Bluetooth speaker using wave field synthesis. The black and chrome speaker houses five custom designed drivers and a woofer which fires downward, all with 120W of power. The speaker comes with its own AC adapter, and Mass Fidelity claims that Core's battery life is an impressive 12 hours. Core can also connect to other Core units to create a multi-room wireless network. Mass Fidelity notes that Core is a Bluetooth Class 1 receiver, which should minimize dropouts and extend range — though the company only lists the speaker's Bluetooth range at 30 feet in its spec sheet.
Core’s design is simple and elegant, and it would probably look great in just about any room in your home. The top of the speaker is a reflective black acrylic with button controls for volume (which should be set on the unit before using Bluetooth controls), changing the source, and connecting to other Core speakers for multi-room functionality. Sound comes from three sides of the speaker, and the back reveals the power button, a USB port for charging an iPhone, an optical out — Core can be used as a soundbar — a subwoofer out port, an aux port, and an IR port. The base is chrome with two long rubber feet. While Core is portable, we wouldn’t take it too far outside. It’s not weatherproof in any way — this is clearly a premium speaker built for the home. Core comes with a remote control, power adapter, international adapters, and a carrying pouch.
Core’s sound is different than most Bluetooth speakers. Mass Fidelity touts its acoustic holography technology, which uses wave field synthesis to present a “room filling” sound and ensures that Core will sound similarly no matter where you are in the room. The result is a truly impressive sound, with excellent stereo separation besting anything we’ve heard from a speaker this small. Speakerphone performance was very good, and Bluetooth range was accurate in our testing in open spaces (walking behind walls gave us a few blips).
We found Core to be a true pleasure to listen to, no matter the musical genre. The speaker handled everything from bass-heavy hip-hop to hard rock to slower, quieter, acoustic tracks equally well. When listening in the mid-to-high volume range, Core was excellent. If you do a lot of quieter, lower volume listening, though, you’d be just as fine with a good speaker at a fraction of the price. The encompassing holographic effect is obviously minimized at such levels. It’s also worth noting that while Core can get loud, you might expect even more volume in this price range — but do keep the size of the unit in mind.
For those interested, Core has functionality beyond that of most Bluetooth speakers. While we didn’t test Core as a multi-room solution (we only received one unit), that ability may be quite appealing to some as an alternative to Sonos speakers. Up to eight Core units can be connected on their own dedicated 5 Ghz network, and the speakers can play separately or all stream from the same unit. But considering the $600 price of the Core, this functionality will be cost prohibitive to many users. Core can also be connected to wired sound source, like a turntable, or to a video source, such as a cable box or Apple TV — in this manner, Core can be used as a soundbar, and you can even connect a subwoofer. We’re guessing most users will primarily be interested in Core as a Bluetooth speaker, but the versatility is a bonus: if you own Core and ever decide to rely on a different home speaker, Core can not only be transferred into other rooms, but it can be used in other ways.
Mass Fidelity’s Core is a great-sounding Bluetooth speaker, but its price will limit its overall appeal. There are very good Bluetooth speakers on the market for half the cost—some of them get louder than Core, and most of them are water-resistant, if not waterproof. But if it’s truly top-notch sound you seek, Core has an advantage over its similarly-sized rivals. Its price tag puts it in the same region as the likes of Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Wireless, and while we still prefer the Zeppelin’s big sound overall, Mass Fidelity’s speaker offers portability and takes up far less space. Core earns our strong general recommendation.