While Sonos has long been known as the king of multi-room audio setups, Mass Fidelity's Core system, which came out about a year ago, has been making a play for the crown. The Core tries to compete by offering good sound quality and a simple, "One-Button Connect" option for linking multiple speakers with a separate, dedicated network to connect devices.
Now it's back with a new speaker in the line, the raD. While the original $599 Core was meant more as an at-home speaker (despite also having a battery for portability) the raD is a rugged, battery-powered portable option that's meant to be as at home when thrown in a bag or brought to a beach as it is sitting on a table in your living room.
But the biggest advantage to the raD is that while it's a wireless speaker first, it's also still fully compatible with Core's multi-room system. Which means if you've already bought into Mass Fidelity's system, the raD works both as a good portable speaker and to help expand your speaker network further. The raD also has features that make it competitive with other portable speakers, offering Bluetooth AptX streaming, an 8-hour battery life, and NFC pairing.
Unlike Sonos, the Core system doesn't need its own app and will play whatever audio you throw at it over Bluetooth or aux input. And while it’s hard to say if the raD actually sounds good without hearing it first-hand, The Verge’s Dan Seifert had positive things to say about the larger Core’s sound when he reviewed it last year, which bodes well for the raD.
On the other hand, the Core system also lacks Sonos’ ability to play music from streaming services independently from a host device, so if you want to listen to Spotify, you’ll have to use a connected phone or computer to do it. Additionally, while the original Core offered the unique feature to output stereo sound from a single device, the cheaper raD lacks that ability.
Mass Fidelity is selling the raD on Indiegogo for an early price of $169 and an estimated April 2017 release date, and says that it will eventually sell for $299 at retail. Mass Fidelity successfully ran an earlier Indiegogo campaign for the original Core, but the usual crowdfunded warnings still apply.