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Core Speaker by Mass Fidelity

Stereo sound achieved in one portable, wireless cube

by Nara Shin
on 24 November 2015

A year ago, Toronto-based audio tech company Mass Fidelity raised over $1.5 million in their Indiegogo campaign for the Core speaker. The numbers and interest make sense, because this isn't another check-off-the-boxes, cookie-cutter Bluetooth speaker joining the pretty cramped consumer audio market. Most of these compact offerings sound flat, blasting waves in a single direction and, ultimately, losing the realistic quality of recorded music. Core is trying something different: it's a small, portable system that can create the illusion of a two-speaker stereo set-up, with clear left and right distinction, filling up the room with a much more three-dimensional sound.

Inside the 6" x 6" x 4" cube are five custom-designed speaker drivers facing multiple directions. A blend of technologies, including wave field synthesis (which involves waveforms colliding to reconstruct the sound field physically) to six DSPs and an ARM processor, allows the Core to produce what they call an "acoustic hologram."

"Working with our acoustic scientists to refine the algorithms, we took advantage of every bit of processing at our disposal to create and shape the sound into something that sounds like a true 'stereo system' but without the drawbacks of requiring you to sit in the sweet spot to enjoy the artists' decisions," co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Benjamin Webster tells CH. "You'll hear exactly where the artists and producers decided to 'place' instruments and effects in the mix from anywhere in the room. Our technology produces the sonic equivalent of a hologram and packaged in such a compact form factor poised to revolutionize the audio market. The days are numbered for technologies that rely on multi-speaker set ups and a 'sweet spot' to achieve spatial effects."

No apps are required to stream the music, just Bluetooth. Behind the Core is an aux input if you're wanting to listen to your CDs or vinyl, optical for connecting to Apple TV, Roku, etc, plus a USB port to charge mobile devices (the Core allegedly has a battery life of up to 12 hours). Webster emphasizes the team's design decisions to stay as hi-fi as possible; like having the line level input be able to handle higher voltages rather than just the output from your iPhone. "Normally a speaker of this size would be overloaded by the analog signal coming from a 'real' piece of high-quality electronics, like a high-end phono preamp," he notes. "Because the Core can render a huge spatially accurate sound field, we thought it important to support the kind of equipment that can provide a high-quality stereo signal both in the analog, digital and wireless domain."

In our testing, it's almost astonishing how this compact box can fill up the room with a three-dimensional sound. Compared to other Bluetooth alternatives, which sound 'better' as you walk closer to their front pathway, the Core sounds suspiciously good even from angles. Though this first iteration's 'stereo effect' isn't as perfect as an actual two-speaker system, it still is remarkable compared to its single box competitors. Webster shares he only uses one Core in his living room—probably because it gets so loud for its size, another plus.

Core is now available to the public from Mass Fidelity online for $599. They also offer a wireless subwoofer ($399) that works with the system.

Images by Cool Hunting

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