The world of speakers or portable speakers is quite busy, but it is fair to admit that while there is a whole lot of industrial design innovation, it is much rarer to see projects that aim to bring innovation at a more fundamental level. The Mass-Fidelity “Core” speaker has been built around the concept of wave synthesis, which is the idea that it is possible to create (or synthesize) virtual acoustic sources with an array of individual speakers. Virtual sound sources are the result of sound waves colliding in midair and combining to create the final sound wave. In some sense, you could think of it as an “audio hologram”.
Obviously, this is easier said than done, and you can read about the theory if you are curious, but needless to say that the application is more complex than this. I spoke to Ben Webster, the founder of Mass Fidelity and he told me that although his speaker is based on this technique, his team had to work really hard to get some of the benefits of wave synthesis, but only with a limited number of base speakers.
Since I can’t vouch for the science behind the product, the next best thing was to listen to a demo and hear what the benefits would be to end-users. We did not have the best demo venue, but the sound output was impressive – not because it was particularly loud and powerful (it is more than sufficient), but because the sound seemed to come from about 3 or 4 feet above the speaker – Mass Fidelity’s Core is very impressive, and sounded well beyond “Stereo” as most people know it, and we were not even using the optional sub-woofer.
Like every speaker, the Core speaker remains affected by its environment. The sound is better indoors than it is outdoors. I was however surprised by the fact that I could move around the speaker source, and would not perceive any significant change in how the music was played back. Usually your position relative to the speaker does affect how the sound is perceived.
The industrial design of the speaker itself is nice, but I have seen a prototype and not the final piece, which will use different materials. I think that the one I was playing with was like a “devkit” of sorts.
On the technical side, and audio aside, Mass Fidelity’s Core is designed to work as a stand-alone unit, or as a swarm in a multi-room setup. It does not require a home WIFI because it creates its own network. It is possible to play the same audio stream in all rooms of the house, or a user can take control of a specific unit and play another stream.
There is no need to download an app, which I thought was really nice because this is an appliance which should be simple. Users can take control of a unit via NFC (proximity) and the idea is that if you can get close enough to the speaker, then you should be able to control it. It’s simple and elegant.
If you want to, you can even connect the Core to your TV and use it as a sound bar of sorts. I suspect that it will easily beat the speaker system of most televisions (it’s not designed to be used as a surround-sound setup, if you wonder. I asked.). In fact, there are plenty of IO ports in the back, from analog to optical. If you want to take it outdoors, no problem, there’s an integrated battery that is big enough to play music for 12 hours with a relatively loud setting.
I was very interested in hearing how it sounds like, and it was definitely worth experiencing. You don’t have to be a picky audiophile to feel the difference. The Core wireless speaker system is an IndieGogo project that is launching today.
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