When we think of compact, portable bluetooth speakers, one thing that comes to mind is average sound quality with almost nonexistent bass. A Canadian brand, Mass Fidelity plans to change that perception with their compact wireless speaker system called Core. Ease of use is also their central theme for this product. Let’s take a closer look.
Core: Design and bundle
The Core has a minimalist design but looks quite premium with a metallic base and a black acrylic top that bears the company logo, one multi-coloured LED and four buttons. The tiffin box sized Core measures 6 inches each in breadth and depth, and 4 inches in height. Despite its compact footprint, it is surprisingly heavy and weighs about 2 kg. The top is a fingerprint magnet, and the company recognising that has provided a microfiber cloth in the bundle to clean the surface without scratching it.
The bundle also comprises of a power adapter, coaxial to 3.5mm stereo audio cable, a wireless remote control and instructions manual/leaflets. Oh and there’s a carry pouch too for the speakers. All of this comes packed in a neat compartmentalised box.
Core: Specifications and features
The Core is essentially a Bluetooth speaker system but has optical and auxiliary audio inputs too. You can also have a multi-room setup by placing one more Core unit in a different room and syncing the two by merely pressing a button. The two Core units communicate with each other over a built-in 5GHz Wi-Fi frequency. The compact speaker system comprises of fiver speakers including a down-firing woofer unit that claims to produce better than stereo sound and a broader soundstage. More on that later. The total rated sound output stands at 120 Watts. It supports a frequency response of 44Hz to 20KHz and a Bluetooth range of up to 10 metres.
On the top surface there are four buttons — two for volume control, one to change the audio source and one to sync with other Core units in the house if any. All these options are available on the remote control too along with a mute and power button. The multi-coloured LED indicates the status of the device or input source. For example, blue indicates Bluetooth input, Orange indicates Optical input, flashing red is an indication of low battery and so on.
Other than the Aux and Optical inputs mentioned earlier, you also get USB port and subwoofer out at the back. The sub-out lets you connect a wired subwoofer unit to the Core if you don’t find the bass sufficient. The USB port may disappoint a few; just like some of you, even I was under the impression that it was meant to play music via USB flash drives. But no, its purpose is to simply charge devices. In other words, the Core can act as a big powerbank too.
Core: Setup, battery life and performance
Setting up the Core is as simple as setting up any other Bluetooth speaker. Just turn on the speakers, switch the source to Bluetooth by pressing the respective button, find the device on your phone or tablet’s list of Bluetooth devices and connect. Once connected, choose the soundtrack and you are good to go. Be sure to charge the speaker for a couple of hours before starting off. Speaking of charging, the company claims a battery life of up to 12 hours. It lasted for about 10 hours on a full charge with 2 hours of daily usage. Bluetooth range wasn’t a problem either. It worked perfectly fine till a distance of 6 metres (20+ feet) with a solid wall in between. Beyond that the Bluetooth signal started to get a bit choppy. But that’s a more than decent range.
Time to talk about its sound quality and answer the question – does it sound better than similar sized speakers? If you happen to visit the product page of the Core on Mass Fidelity’s website, you will come across phrases like “stunning cinematic sound” and “bone shaking bass”. Take that with a pinch of salt or two pinches may be. Having said that, my answer to the above question is an overwhelming yes. No, the sound isn’t a cinematic marvel nor does the bass shake you to your bones, but what the little box manages to deliver is better than anything I have heard from a speaker that size.
The highs are decent, the mids are clear and the bass is tight with a definite thump that’s hard to imagine from a speaker this size. The built-in 5-speaker setup is meant to deliver an immersive sound experience that the company claims is better than stereo, and it manages to do that with a great degree of success. The Core manages to produce a broad stereo sound field that at times makes it hard to believe it’s the doing of a single compact speaker unit. The sound system is loud enough for a mid-sized room (12 x 15 feet) and the bass doesn’t crack even at full volume. But don’t expect to throw a party outdoors with one of these. You won’t feel the same effect outdoor, certainly not the bass. The manufacturer suggests using a separate bass unit in such situations or another core unit simultaneously for a boost in sound. I haven’t had the opportunity to try either and hence cannot comment on the same.
The Core also claims to eliminate the traditional acoustic sweet spot for a listener located at the centre of two stereo speakers. Using an audio rendering technique called Wave Field Synthesis, the speaker claims to create a holographic sound image that can be experienced from any part of the room. Technical jargons aside, I did find the experience fairly similar in most parts of the room, irrespective of the position of the speakers and the listener. As for the placement of the speaker, you can place it anywhere in the room on any solid surface and it does its job well. But ideally place it next to a wall and make sure there are no obstructions on either side of the speaker for at least a couple of feet. I tried placing it on a wooden surface and on a glass table too, but there was hardly any difference in sound quality.
While I had very little to complain about the sound output, there are a couple of minor issues that I would like to bring to your notice. Firstly, if the speakers are inactive for more than 10 minutes or so, they simple turn off. You cannot even use the remote to turn them on. You have to walk up to the speakers and press the power button at the back to turn them back on. What’s even more weird is the remote has a power button that you can use to turn the speakers off but you cannot turn them on using the same button. Now, that’s a first. I understand speakers going into a standby mode when inactive to save power, but switching off completely is unusual. Mass Fidelity needs to fix this little bug at the earliest. Also, the volume resets to 50% everytime the speakers are switched off. While that can be a good thing at times, it can be a cause of irritation too.
Core: Price in India and verdict
Now comes the part that may burst a few bubbles and shatter a few dreams. The Core is priced in India at Rs 34,000 with a one year warranty. Yes, it is quite expensive for a Bluetooth speaker, and that’s an understatement. But the Core is not just any Bluetooth speaker. There is some serious engineering that has gone into this thing and the results are there for all to see… well, hear. Producing a broader frequency range from smaller speakers has always been a challenge for sound engineers, and the only other speakers that I have heard that tend to tackle that with aplomb are from Bose. Incidentally, the Bose SoundTouch 20 are also available in India for more or less the same price, and they sound a tad clearer than these in term of pure audio quality. The soundstage (if I may use that word here) seems clearly broader on the Core. So take your pick; either ways you won’t be disappointed.