By Don Lindich
Week 8, 2015
Q. I recently read your column about the Mass Fidelity Core, the small single-piece Bluetooth speaker that sounds like a pair of speakers placed eight feet apart. I have also read reviews on their site, which are all extremely positive.
If you were to pair the Core with their wireless subwoofer and Relay Bluetooth digital-to-analog converter, where would you rank the quality of sound compared to bookshelf speakers you recommend, like the Aon models from GoldenEar?
-Steve Setzer. Lafayette, CA
A. I should first mention that so far I have only heard preproduction samples of the Core. Performance of production models may vary slightly and I will report once I have heard them. The bright side of this is my Mass Fidelity PR contact, who has always been extremely open and straightforward with me, assures me that the production samples are even better.
In my column I said that the Core sounded as good as any $600 bookshelf speakers I had heard. The GoldenEar Technology Aon 2 and Aon 3 bookshelf speakers are $799 and $999 per pair, respectively, and need an amplifier or receiver to power them. They are my favorite bookshelf speakers and play in a somewhat different league than the Core. They will also play much louder and more effortlessly than any portable speaker.
This is not meant to take anything away from the Core at all. If you are looking for sweet sound, the Core definitely has it and given my reaction, I think that most laypeople who do not work in the industry are likely to be both shocked and pleased when they hear the Core for the first time. You just happened to pick some extremely tough competition when you asked your question. As I said in my prior column, the bookshelf speakers can play louder and reproduce deeper bass, though adding the Mass Fidelity wireless subwoofer will certainly go a long way to covering the bass aspect for you.
I own a Mass Fidelity Relay myself and count myself as one its biggest fans. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Relay is a very high quality Bluetooth receiver and digital-to-analog converter that is used to add streaming audio capabilities to conventional sound systems lacking built-in Bluetooth or wireless connections. Though I am a fan, I think I would try the Core on its own before spending another $249 on a Relay to use with it. I connected my own iPhone 6 Plus to the Core via Bluetooth and did not find the performance or sound quality to be lacking in any respect. If you have a high-end sound system and want to add Bluetooth to it, I can strongly recommend the Relay.
The Mass Fidelity Core is $599, with preorders starting at $449. See it and the Relay at www.massfidelity.com.
Q. I have a Denon A/V receiver that has HDMI as well as several digital and analog connections, but no Bluetooth. Overall I am happy with it, other than the fact that it lacks Bluetooth, which I really want to have. What would be a good receiver for $600-$800 to replace it?
-C. France, Bridgeville, PA
A. If Bluetooth is all you need I would not spend $600-$800 on a new receiver. You can add Bluetooth using the Mass Fidelity Relay, listed above. There are less expensive options available also, such as the Outlaw Audio BTR-100, which is only $39. www.outlawaudio.com