Mission 770 Speaker Review
This is a review written by Terry Ellis April 2022.
For my video review please see my YouTube channel link here
The Hi-Fi industry has brought back some classic speakers in recent years, and there will be a large number of audiophiles who will be reminded of when they first heard the Mission 770 speakers, pure nostalgia. I love the fact that there is a wonderful story around these speakers but unfortunately its wasted on me because I never heard the originals. So sorry Mission, nostalgia is not going to win me over that easy.
A Bit of History
For those who might not be aware of the story, Mission created the 770 speakers back in the late 1970s. They were special at the time because they were a speaker largely designed by listening more so than measurements, and they were a huge success. But what’s really important to know about the new Mission 770 is they are not just designed to look like the original, they have been carefully designed to take the best elements about how the originals sounded, while being modernised to be a speaker that is truly stand out against 2022 levels of competition. That, to me, is the part of the story I hold dear, because I know it is where the love has gone into them. In a way I wish I could pull on a forty-year-old audio memory to see if the originals made me feel how I do when listening to music on the new 770s.
I have visited and met with Peter Comeau, the speakers designer and we discussed everything from the new 770s inception to their design and build. I know how much work he put into them because of how much love he had for the originals and I created a video for this that I would encourage everyone to watch.
I have serial number 0001, the very first pair of new Mission 770s, and so I think a special pair that I also observed being built and I think this added to my initial excitement and expectations.
First impressions are WOW! that’s a stand-out speaker. Visually, you certainly cannot miss the white front. I think they look cool and particularly good in my listening room, however, for ninety percent of the time I had the speakers grills on which certainly mellows their appearance but improves the WAF.
They are heavy, very solid speakers, at nearly 20kg each, and really inert. Not even the much more expensive ATC SCM50 I reviewed last year have a cabinet this inert. The cabinet construction is a dual layer sandwich design using MDF and chipboard with a resonance damping material between to lower the cabinet resonance significantly. There is a 1.25-inch soft dome tweeter, which looks cool, and an 8 inch, treated polypropylene, mid-bass driver. Polypropylene is used to match the original 770s but its improved by adding minerals for a better performance and the driver is made to modern standards. Also significantly improved, over the original, is the flared on the outside and inside port system which according to Peter Comeau has barely measurable levels of distortion. You can really hear that or should I say, not hear that, with these speakers.
The new Mission 770 cost £3,500 for the pair, which is about the equivalent of forty years of inflation and a serious overhaul and improvement of every component compared to the price of original. Even so this is a lot of money for a stand mount speaker, but they do come with very well made stands, which place the speakers at exactly the right height. The stands, which are semi-hollow design and are not intended to be filled with any mass loading material. The stands are designed to stop any motion of the speaker front to back and also from twisting, caused by torsional forces.
My only criticism of the stands is that the way they are built, it is not possible to remove the spikes and slide the speakers around to find a good spot for them in the room. This is far from the end of the world, and I did find the stand and spike design made it easy to adjust them, so that they were nice and level through my carpet.
Musical and Vocally Engaging
I know you want to know how they sound but I think its important to first categorise what made the original 770 so popular. It was their musicality and of course that is an audiophile cliché, but I think you can define it quite simply – a speaker having musicality or being musical is when the listener forms an emotional attachment, or has a strong emotional engagement, to the music because of how the speaker is presenting it to them. I think you could quite easily look up musicality in the Oxford English Dictionary and it would simply have written ‘new Mission 770’.
When I unboxed the 770 and put the stands together, I roughly set them up where I know is a good spot in my listening room and threw on my current favourite album, Lady Blackbird – Black Acid Soul. I was instantly engaged and ended up listening to lots more music, rather than taking time to find the best spot in the room. They really do make music extremely enjoyable to listen to.
OK, you say, lots of speakers have the ability to do that, and I would throw Wharfedale’s Lintons into that category. They have a similar retro look, are similar size but about one third the price. What I am referring to here is if that was all the 770 had to offer, I don’t think, even with the all British build, they could justify their price. But there is so much more here.
The star of their show is the vocals. Male, female, old, or young, it doesn’t really matter. There is a unique character to how vocals are delivered which is hard to describe. What stands out is the tonal quality and solidity; there is a mixture of a believability and authenticity with just little bit of softening of the upper vocals to stop them sounding too strident, even when the music is a little rough in production. There is also a touch of euphony to vocals, blessing them with a more pleasing delivery that grabs you and pulls your emotion strings.
The vocal delivery of the 770 is exquisite in the main but if I am nit picking big male bass baritone voices such as from the Fairfield Four “I Couldn’t hear nobody pray” have maybe sounded bolder on other speakers I have had in my room due to the bass delivery.
I need to be really careful here in how I explain the 770’s bass delivery so that I don’t give you the wrong impression. For bass quality they are excellent, it is super clean, bass notes form in a graceful manner that allows you to easily hear the music as it is intended to be. The 770 speaker mid bass driver sounds underworked or under stressed, even when playing the crazy Hans Zimmer 2049 track from the Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack. Bass definition and timing are superb and bass extension is impressive. You can hear the 770 deliver deep bass notes, without straining, or losing any composure. Even more impressive is the transparency, the bass forms part of the stereo image in parts of the room where you might not expect bass notes to form. You soon realise that you are just hearing the music production with greater clarity than normal. There is a pleasing amount of bass for most music, but not necessarily all music. I already mentioned the Fairfield Four, but I also found these might not be enough hard bass hitters for heavy dance music where speakers that have a “fatter” less resolute bass will likely sound more “pleasing”. I listened to a good amount of dance music and I was generally satisfied.
The treble from the tweeter is excellent and it was the first thing that stood out to me about the 770 when being powered from the Kinki Studio EX-M1+ integrated amplifier. I am talking a really gorgeous treble which stands out for being clean and crisp, but also sweet because it so snappy – there and then gone in an instant. Swapping amplifiers to the much more expensive Audia Flight FLS9, the FLS9 showed me much more of what the 770 are capable of in terms of tonality, sound stage and a three-dimensional sound. However, the treble was noticeably a bit softer and maybe not quite as crisp., At first I felt a little bit of the treble magic was lost, but later realised the 700 just sounded more overall well balanced from the more expensive amplifier so the treble was less stand out. The treble is a lovely mixture of detailed, sparkly and smooth with the right music but it is rolled off just a little. I think this has been by design to more closely match the original 770 sound and is part of the overall sound balancing.
Moving on to sound stage, I found that left to right width was not quite as impressive as the KEF Reference 3 speakers I used to own, which were three times more expensive. Interestingly the left to right width of the sound stage still feels right for the size and scale of the musical delivery. Sonic stereo images are created with good size and tonally saturated always with excellent detail and resolution. It doesn’t matter if it is a piano to the right behind the speakers, or a drum back left, you get a great sense of the instrument presented in a holographic nature and, as with the vocals, there is a little bit of euphonic magic that makes each musical element just that little bit more special and engaging to isolate and listen to in the mix.
The depth to the soundstage in some music I found to be just that little bit deeper than I expected. I like that the 770 managed to get out the way that little bit more to create more of a sense of a venue, or of space the music was created in than I would normally get. I really noticed this once the Audia Flight FLS9 was in the system and I think that is likely a strength of that particular amplifier but of course the speaker still needs to be able to deliver it.
That leads me nicely onto one of the big key strength of the new 770 and that is its subtlety. These are the nuances, there are inter-plays between musicians and micro dynamics in the music and the Mission 770 do a great job in uncovering them letting you hear them just as subtle as they are intended to be, whilst being clearly and easily audible. It is not analytical so you can miss them if you are not paying attention. When you do pay attention, you appreciate the delicacy. This is a big part of where the emotional involvement comes from, you feel more connected to the music, more drawn in and engaged. There seems to be some extra harmonic content present which is good for building the soundstage. This is hard to describe but if you listen to these speakers, I am sure you will agree with me.
So that is a lot of praise but what about negatives.
Firstly, I have found the 770 to be stereotypically British – overly polite and brutally honest. I think they will sound pleasing with most good Hi-Fi systems and have a great music quality and that makes them flexible. However, to really start to hear what they are capable of I feel you will need an exceptionally good Hi-Fi system, right up the chain as far as your source, because they are extremely capable transparent speakers that will make the most of a good system and show you the truth of what’s there.
Secondly, is macro dynamics. Other speakers at similar cost will give you more bass and treble and seem as though they have more dynamic extremes, potentially making them sound more exciting with some music. The excitement with the 770 comes from the inner details and the way you are pulled into the music, rather than it hammering you with its presence. I am the type of audiophile who loves macro dynamics and big bass, yet I can happily forgo the extremes because I appreciate quality matters more and we can always add some spice in other ways like adding subwoofers and or super tweeters and both would be fun to experiment with I am sure.
The 770 are rated as 8-ohm speakers with a 6-ohm minimum impedance load and 88 dB sensitivity, so n paper they appear to be easy to drive. In real-world listening I have found them to encourage you to turn up the volume. I wondered if this was related to the very inert cabinet. It is certainly not a limit of the crossover which is a beast that I have held in my hands so know how substantial they are. I asked Peter, the designer, about this and he said the 770 are a genuine 8 ohm load to stay true to the original speakers, which makes them very suitable for tube amplification. He said that means you might turn the amplifier volume up more as a result but, technically, the speaker is asking less of the amplifier power supply than a lot of modern speaker designs which are 3-4 ohms nominal impedance.
Measurement and Comparisons
But how did they measure in my room? Very well in the main, as can be seen from the graph. The mid-range is reasonably flat with minimal variation, and you can see a slight step down roll off to the treble response from about 2khz, which is again very smooth and all part of the design. Some audiophiles might want a speaker with a little more treble extension to provide more pizazz in the highs, but others definitely will not. Again remember these are speakers designed more to sound good than measure text book good.
Lastly to discuss is comparisons. I know many of you will want to know how the 770s compare to other big British speakers such as those from Harbeth or Spendor and, speakers from across the pond, JBL, Klipsch, or KLH. All of these are big manufacturers offering retro-designed classic ‘reborn’ speakers. I want to know as much as you do and, consequently, I have asked to keep the 770s here for an extended period. Hopefully I will get a chance to make some comparisons with those other speakers. I have briefly compared the 770 to the Wharfedale Linton speakers. The Mission are much more expensive, but if you are a Linton owner who wants more clarity in your music without losing their easy-going warm nature, if your system is up to it, the 770 would be an amazing upgrade and are worth seeking out for a listen.
The new Mission 770 cost quite a bit of money but you must remember that these are not mass-produced speakers in the far East. They are hand-built in the UK in limited quantities and there is a premium associated, but they are also excellent speakers that are extremely well designed and sound fantastic. In my opinion, they are lovely to look at too, and considering that they are not the style of speaker I would normally go for, they have totally won me over. They are great speakers to listen to for an extended period, exceptionally enjoyable and, at times, with some types of music very special to listen to. They have also been great to use to review other components because they have enough clarity, quality and transparency from top to bottom. The big surprise for me is that they are now one of my favourite speakers and I think they will blow some audiophiles socks off.
Nostalgia for some, new memories for others.
Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price
For the full specification of the Mission 770 please see their website linked here