Back in hi-fi’s golden era—also known as the 1970s, when your parents roamed the Earth alongside dinosaurs, and the Cubs’ World Series drought wasn’t that bad yet—the only factor in deciding if a speaker was any good was the sound. Audio quality was all that mattered.
Those days, of course, are long gone. When evaluating a speaker now, you need to consider things like portability and versatility. Inputs matter. So do integrated streaming services, multi-room options, long battery life, and so on. It’s arguable that sound isn’t even the most important factor anymore. But the Core, by Mass Fidelity ($600), insists that you start with the sound, because it sounds great.
At six inches square and four inches tall, the Core isn’t particularly large, but it’s big enough to create a substantial sound. The first thing you notice when listening is clarity and quietness. Acoustic guitars sound acoustic, vocals sound like they’re in the room with you, and electronic beats and instruments have significant heft. The second thing you notice is that this relatively small speaker is producing an impressive sound stage.
The Core has five drivers—a left and right on the front panel, a low-frequency speaker on the bottom, and one more each on the left and right panels. The pairs of right-side and left-side drivers work together through wave field synthesis to create “virtual speakers” at the points where their respective waves intersect. Put simply, this technique helps a set of speakers spread sound around further—sound designers sometimes use it for large-scale audio installations in art galleries, theaters, and public spaces. Here, it has the effect of expanding the Core’s stereo image a couple feet in each direction, providing noticeable but natural left-right separation and a sound stage far larger than the speaker itself. Coupled with its impressive clarity and quietness, the sound is as good as I’ve heard from a system this size.
Bluetooth setup takes seconds. The ports on the back allow you to attach a wired (or wireless) subwoofer for richer sound (or to use the Core as a soundbar). You can sync up to eight Cores into a multiroom system. Though I wasn’t able to test it, the multi-room feature works without an app, and the speakers talk to each other over their own point-to-multi-point uncompressed adaptive 5 GHz wireless network, so it should work even with your flaky Wi-Fi network.
Not much. I would have liked more volume, but it’s a small speaker and higher volumes would make the sound distort. Its max volume is more than enough to fill a large room, anyway. At $600, the price will give you pause, but in this case justified by the Core’s exceptional audio quality.
9/10 – Nearly flawless.