Small Is Beautiful
Core is portable enough to be carried around, yet is sonically among the best speakers you can buy in its price segment or size
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With the sheer abundance of portable Bluetooth speakers in all shapes and sizes, it is easy to find a decent speaker for your needs, yet is equally rare to find something that truly stands out on the only metric that should ever matter with audio gear: sound quality. Canadian startup Mass Fidelity is looking to buck the trend with the Core, a diminutively sized wireless speaker portable enough to be carried from room to room, yet is sonically among the best speakers you can buy in its class, price segment or size.
Part of what wows about the Core is its secret sauce to create the aural impression of a dual-speaker setup, via a technique the firm calls ‘Acoustic Holography’. Marketing buzz words aside, the technique, more commonly known as wave field synthesis, uses a set of front and side drivers and some ingenious algorithms to bounce the sound off walls to create a vastly bigger soundstage than the size of the speaker would initially suggest, almost a couple of feet in each direction, with impressive left/right separation. These virtual speakers may sound like a gimmick, but it actually works far better than you would imagine, and the stereo separation makes most tracks feel like they are being performed on a stage right in front of you.
The impressive bit is that unlike many other speaker setups, the Core doesn't have a “sweet spot” requirement, so it doesn't matter which part of the room you are in to enjoy the room-filling sound. Bear in mind, it works best when it is located in the middle of the room, equidistant from left and right walls, since it relies on wall reflections for the stereo effect.
All this coming from a cube six-inches square and four inches tall – this thing is tiny for the sound it puts out, so you can as well carry it to parties or outings and the battery (rated at 12 hours) will let you go wire-free for quite some time. As a bonus, you get a USB port for charging your devices.
Setting up the Core is easy, either via Bluetooth or wired, so you can connect it to your smartphone or your home theater system (over optical cable), and there is a one-button-setup to sync up to eight Cores for a multi-room setup over its dedicated 5GHz wireless network. No wireless network required, so even if your router is acting flaky, the Core’s multi-room audio wont. There is Bluetooth range of about 10 meters and support for SBC, AAC, and aptX Bluetooth codecs – no aptX HD support though, so if you are looking for the highest possible sound quality from the Core (say from your TV or gaming console), consider using the optical input. And, boy, does the Core sound good! The audio signature is balanced, with a punchy but controlled bass, stellar mids and vocals that sound natural and so in-the-moment. If you are a fan of over-the-top bass-heavy audio, Mass Fidelity sells a subwoofer that can connect to the Core, but most will be pleased with the bass levels of the Core alone. If anything, the only department where the Core could have done better was its maximum volume level – it works well in mid-sized rooms but struggles in larger spaces.
Core is an excellent companion for your phone or TV for music/movies, but it clearly targets people who are serious about their sound quality. This may not have the Google/Amazon-powered smarts of the smart speakers, but if you are looking for uncompromising audio quality from a compact and minimalist package, the Core delivers.
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