Have you ever fancied a studio-grade, connected speaker made of custom concrete? If so, Master & Dynamic has you covered: its MA770 nearfield soundstage speaker is encased in concrete, weighs 35 pounds, and comes with an equally hefty cost of $1,800. Now, before you reach for a jackhammer, ask yourself what you’d get for your money and heavy lifting. Firstly, you’d get the luxury of different connection options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and Chromecast, plus aux and optical ports for all your legacy hardware.
Every MA770 is technically a stereo experience enclosed in a single box, but it can be paired with another MA770, so you can stream your stereo(s) in true left and right channels. (Talk having about a full soundstage!)
The MA770’s connectivity chops don’t stop there. If you’d like to use Google Assistant, you can even enable it via the Google Home app and let your voice handle the music playback. You’ll find playback controls and track info within the app as well.
Before you ask: there’s no AirPlay. According to M&D, its omission was a design decision, but it was also partly due to restrictions set by Apple.
Besides being made of a composite concrete (designed in house), the MA770 is the first speaker NYC-based Master & Dynamic has ever produced. M&D has been manufacturing and selling personal audio hardware since 2014 — to positive acclaim from critics — but this is its first attempt at making a speaker.
Besides the clean sound with healthy amounts of supplementary bass, what would M&D have to offer that would be genuine and original? Being one of the first Google Chromecast-enabled, third-party speakers is a good place to start — but, it’s not enough.
Truthfully, design is what differentiates the MA770 from most other high-end / luxury speakers. It was designed by Sir David Adjaye, a renowned architect and designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Internally at M&D, the creation of the MA770 was treated as a passion project due to the choice of materials, but regardless Sir Adjaye touts the results as, “a new geometry of sound."
Within this concrete block, designed by mathematics and sound engineering, are dual 4-inch, woven Kevlar long throw woofers and a 1.5-inch titanium tweeter right above and below diamond-cut anodized aluminum controls. It’s equal parts art piece and speaker.
This hyper-connected luxury concrete speaker is a niche product, don’t get me wrong. But even at the lowest volumes, the MA770 is a pleasure to listen to. Being loud isn’t indicative of fantastic sound quality, but this speaker carries both those traits, and the results are great.
Out the box, M&D suggest you use the MA770 with Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, SoundCloud, or Deezer. The reasoning is that those are all Chromecast / Wi-Fi-supported apps. Most of my week spent testing the MA770 revolved around connecting it via Bluetooth to a gaming rig, or using an iPhone 7 Plus with iOS 11.
I’m stressing the version of iOS here due to the fact that some bugs in both Spotify and the always-on Wi-Fi elements have caused some disconnections, volume de-syncs, and the like. M&D tells me this is mostly out of their control and will most likely be fixed with app updates. But until they are fixed, they tarnish the speaker’s experience.
Switching over to my Google Pixel, I had no such issues streaming over Wi-Fi or Chromecast with the MA770. So, I’ll also chalk it up to bug fixes for iOS and the Spotify app.
So, what does music on an $1,800 concrete speaker sound like? Well, at full-blast and up close it feels like you’re in a recording studio. From another room, it sounds like someone is having way too much fun.
The short version is that everything sounds incredible on the MA770. Similar to the sound profile on their headphones, M&D emphasizes clarity, distinction between the mids and lows, then finally, the bass.
I’m not saying the MA770 lacks capability for cochlea-rupturing bass the younger generation (including myself) seems to have an unhealthy obsession with. Rather, it’s tastefully inserted where you’d expect it.
From the soulful crooning of SZA’s vocals on “Drew Barrymore,” the braggadocios cadence of the Migos on “Too Hotty,” or the distinct chorus of Lorde’s star-studded “Homemade Dynamite” remix, your attention span is always at risk of being drawn to the sounds being emitted.
It’s a great experience. However, I wouldn’t expect anything less for the price tag, otherwise there’d be problems and questions.
Who is the MA770 really for? If you’re an audiophile ready to spend $1,800 on a single-unit speaker, then you’re in for one. But for most people, it may not be the most intelligible investment. Regardless, the MA770 is an impressive piece of audio hardware that can rock the whole house — and maybe invite a few noise complaints, too.
Now, if you must experience the M&D sound profile for far less of an entry fee, look to the MW60 wireless headphones. (You could buy three for the price of one MA770.) Or you could invest in more aggressively priced, connected speakers from Bower & Wilkins, Sonos, Sony, Google, and Amazon — there are many to choose from.
If you’re in the camp of being in love with this speaker, then I’d recommend it. Just be sure you’re playing music at a high bit-rate. Also, don’t get the cops called on you. That’s all I ask.
Photography by Stefan Etienne for The Verge