Mission 770 Standmount Loudspeaker Review

Spin some ’78s

by Ed Selley
SRP: £3,500.00
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Mission 770 Standmount Loudspeaker Review

The 770 isn't going to be for everybody. For some of you, it'll be too big and possibly not dynamic enough. For others, the looks will be an instant turn-off. For a fair few of you though, this is a speaker that makes music in a way that most things cannot get near and that delivers an aesthetic that makes everything else seem a bit dull. For those of you dialled into what the 770 does, you should accept no substitutes.

Pros

  • Gloriously unforced yet lively performance
  • Beautifully made
  • Look fabulous

Cons

  • Some rivals have a bit more top end energy
  • Need plenty of power to do their best work
  • Rather large

Introduction - What Is the Mission 770?

The Mission 770 is a two way standmount speaker that contests the keenly fought £3,500 segment which has seen a number of excellent competitors pass through in recent years. Even a cursory glance at the 770 should be enough to suggest that the manner in which Mission has elected to compete in this space is somewhat different to most notional rivals. The 770 is not a clean sheet design. It is instead a carefully upgraded recreation of the original Mission 770; the speaker that kicked everything off for the company back in 1978.

The appeal of doing this isn’t too hard to see. Across a huge spread of consumer goods, revisiting your past has been good for business. Products that subconsciously hark back to a point in history where things were a little less… awful, makes a great deal of sense (I will point out for the record before a budding historian does it for me that the Britain of 1978 realistically wasn’t an untrammelled Eden in itself but one of the more potent effects of nostalgia is that people tend to remember the good bits over and above less positive aspects). In some ways, it is surprising that the audio industry hasn’t been doing it more than they have.

Of course, one reason for this is simple enough. Material science and design has come on a long way in the last forty years. Resetting back to a notional golden age; even when the product in question has been updated (and as we shall cover, there’s effectively no part of this new speaker that is identical to its ancestor) can be read as saying that we’ve achieved nothing of note in the last few decades. Can the 770 make sense of these contradictions and justify its existence and, should it do so, does it do enough to make you want to own a pair?

Specification and Design

Mission 770

The original 770 was an extremely significant product and one that would enjoy an impressive reputation even if no attempt had been made to recreate it. The origin point of the design is the broadcast monitor type that dominated British speaker design throughout the late sixties and into the seventies. The origin point of all of them was the LS3/5 compact speaker designed by the BBC and that grew into a family of designs (many of which are still available to this day). These speakers were based on the principle of measured accuracy that emphasised midrange performance because the source formats of the time did too.

The 770 is an evolutionary crossover point between those designs and what came later. It was still a relatively large speaker that made use of a mid bass driver that used a refined hydrocarbon of one form or another combined with a soft dome tweeter. The performance of these two drivers was refined by extensive listening though and the intention was to create a more involving take on the broadcast monitor sound. It sold extremely well, established a fine reputation and put Mission on the map. As such, the decision to recreate it is not without justification.

First Impressions:

And, as noted, this new speaker is not simply a case of restarting the line and giving you a pure, unadulterated dose of 1978. The new 770 might best be seen as taking the principle and ingredients of the original and applying the ensuing 44 years of development to them. Nowhere is this more apparent than the drivers. The 200mm (or give or take eight inches in old money) mid bass driver is still made from polypropylene like the original (which was the first commercially available speaker to do so) but the mix of the new driver cone has a higher mineral content that increases the stiffness of the cone as a whole. This still has a prominent, soft rubber surround but the rubber is now a low density nitrile material that helps to match the impedance of the driver and reduce unwanted sonic reflections come back through the cone.

Mission 770

Behind the elements you can see are a host of changes you can’t. The original 770 made use of what was, for the time at least, a relatively lightweight basket assembly with a number of cutouts in it which also reduced unwanted reflections. The new model keeps the same basic basket but the driver built around it is burlier and more robust, reflecting the reality that most modern amps can deliver levels of power that were unthinkable in 1978.

The tweeter is also spiritually similar to the original in that it is a soft dome design but the unit itself is all new. It is a 28mm microfibre dome that sits in a damped chamber. This chamber takes the structural resonance of the whole assembly below the point where the tweeter operates. The understanding of resonance and reflection is one of the most significant developments of recent years and it fundamentally alters the behaviour of the speaker in a way that the original designers of the 770 understood but were not in an immediate position to act on.

The crossover between the two drivers is 2.9kHz and the crossover that performs this role is similar in terms of its overall execution to the original as it focuses on short signal paths and the use of a smaller number of high quality components. Where it benefits from modern developments is the deployment of software mapping and measurement (at which parent company IAG excels) that eke more performance out of the design as a whole. Connection to the outside world is via single set of terminals. I wait with bated breath to see if there is a nostalgic return to biwire in the years to come.

The cabinet that accommodates all this is of a similar size to the original (finding the dimensions of the first gen 770 online hasn’t been easy but I think that it was fractionally taller and narrower than the new model) but it also benefits from technical developments. Gone is the original construction of thin wall cabinet damped with bitumen pads (which did work pretty well) and in its place comes a twin layer MDF sandwich with an adhesive layer between them. If the sheer size of the horizontal and vertical size of the 770 precludes it feeling as inert as some smaller and notionally more sophisticated rivals then neither does it have that undamped feeling redolent of older designs.

Mission 770

The new 770 is being assembled at an all new facility that IAG has built in the UK, making this the first UK assembled Mission in a number of years. The review samples are absolutely immaculate in terms of their build and finish and I feel that they are absolutely competitive with other speakers available in the segment. It’s worth noting that one particular element of the 770 is good value too. The dimensions of the Mission are not conducive to use on normal stands and, while specialist options exist, being specialist, they are often quite expensive. Mission supplies the 770 with a purpose built stand inclusive of the asking price which does make a positive spin on their value calculation.

And then we turn to the looks. Let me be clear, I cannot be a completely impartial judge of this. The fifteen (15!) pairs of trainers I currently own all made their original debut between 1974 and 1982, my watches had their original launches in 1958 and 1968 respectively and I make no secret of considering that some of the best industrial design humanity has come up with in multiple fields occurred between 1965 and 1985. Even so, I still love the 770 and I love it even more than I thought I would. In the flesh, there is a fractional cream tint to that white baffle that makes it less stark and they sit in my room like they were designed specifically for the role.

Whether you feel the same way will hinge on a few different things. If you feel that the role of a relatively high end speaker is to be unobtrusive furniture, this probably won’t work for you and two people who have visited have expressed a huge dislike for the big Mission logos. The thing is, my pet theory of design is that, in order for something to be truly loved, it must be contentious enough for some people to hate it. The 770 completely delivers on that particular brief.

Mission 770

The new 770 might best be seen as taking the principle and ingredients of the original and applying the ensuing 44 years of development to them

How Was the Mission 770 Tested?

The Missions have been used on their own stands and tested with the Cambridge Audio Edge A, Chord Electronics CPM2800MkII and Naim Supernait 3, making use of a Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 and Mscaler, taking a feed from an SOtM SMS-200 Neo running as a Roon Endpoint and an LG 55B7 OLED TV over optical. The Vertere MG-1 MkII has been used via a Cyrus Phono Signature for analogue. The NAD C399 has also been tested with them via both its BluOS module and via a Rega Planar 10 using a Vertere Sabre moving magnet cartridge. Material used has been FLAC, AIFF, DSD, Qobuz, Tidal, vinyl and on demand TV services.

More: Audio Formats

Performance

Mission 770

The quoted measurements for the Mission are a classic case of numbers not telling the whole story. The +/- 3dB frequency response of 42Hz-20kHz is usefully hefty but not hugely different to the Neat Majistra for example. Where things get interesting is the +/- 6dB figure which is a rather more stirring 30Hz. Some brief measurements here suggest that, in this room at least, the 770 is down into the mid thirties before it leaves the 3dB cut. Something else that I can’t easily measure but seems apparent using the Missions around the various resident speakers here is that the 88dB/w sensitivity feels on the optimistic side. This is a speaker that does its best work with a fair bit of power behind it.

Given a reasonable amount of oomph though and the 770 goes about delivering a performance that is subtly but engagingly different from more conventional rivals. The key word that is used (over and over again) in my notes is ‘heft.’ The Mission doesn’t hit much harder in an absolute sense than more conventional offerings but the ‘fill’ from the lower midrange and down is effortless. The opening No Man on Emily Wolfe’s Outlier has a sort of resonating electronic synth line over the bass and here it is something that has a meaningful force in its own right. Everything that the Mission comes into contact with under 150Hz has a palpable weight to it.

Then, an element that made the Elipson Heritage XLS15 as fun as it was, it present here too. That relatively wide baffle means that, so long as thirty seconds of thought has gone into their positioning, the Mission produces a gloriously widescreen stereo image. It’s an oversimplification to call it a ‘big’ sound because you can play small scale material on the 770 and never get any sense of unwanted scale but there’s a fabulous element of ‘widescreen’ to how they make music that you quickly dial into and miss when it is gone. In fact, in positioning terms, the 770 is very benign in all counts. It seems little affected by boundaries and the front port never becomes audible at any stage.

Mission 770

The tonal balance and overall realism that the 770 fills this space with is consistently good too. While Mission has made impressive efforts to boost the frequency extremes of the new speaker, they have done so without losing the truly fabulous midrange performance that the original had. Enjoying Labi Siffre’s The Vulture via the 770 is fabulously involving. Siffre’s distinctive vocals are clear as a bell and the full string backing (they did things better in the seventies) is rich and dynamic. Across the various different amps it has been tested with, the Mission has been very consistent in terms of its overall presentation.

This includes the top end performance where I suspect that the Mission will divide opinion a little. Compared to both the Kudos C10 or Neat Majistra (to say nothing of devices like the Focal Kanta No1), the 770 is a speaker that errs on the side of refinement over out and out detail. It’s almost impossible to provoke it into sounding bright or forward under even the most determined provocation. This does mean that, if you exclusively listen to beautifully recorded material, the 770 doesn’t have quite the same energy and sparkle as some rivals but, when it comes to playing more rough and ready recordings, the 770 is peerless. The clever aspect for me is that there’s no real loss of detail or much perception of things being smoothed off. Instead, the Mission simply presents a top end that maintains civility even when there really shouldn’t be any.

And then there is the trump card. Remember when I said that the original 770 was an evolutionary point between the spacious, ‘correct’ presentation of the broadcast monitor and the more rhythmically involving ‘PRaT’ designs of the eighties? The new 770 still has a foot in both camps that makes for a genuinely invigorating listen. With the Vertere playing my copy of UNKLE’s Ronin, the manner in which the Mission powers its way through If We Don’t Make It is honestly as perfect a presentation as I could want for material like this. It’s big and spacious and that low end welly is well implemented here ensuring that you feel as well as hear what’s happening. There’s not a moment of sluggishness though at any stage though, just a precise, well controlled musical flow. It’s not as urgent as smaller driver rivals but it can move its way effortlessly through the most ballistic sounding material without ever sounding confused or languid. It’s a very unusual balancing act and one I suspect that many people will audition and instantly plump for. Partnered with the Supernait 3 in particular (which has the current delivery to ensure that the Mission is driven correctly), the result is absolutely sensational.

Mission 770

It’s not as urgent as smaller driver rivals but it can move its way effortlessly through the most ballistic sounding material without ever sounding confused or languid

Conclusion

Mission 770 Standmount Loudspeaker Review

This is a summary in two parts - a luxury of web copy that I will make full use of in this instance. First comes a sober appraisal of the 770; and to be clear, sober or not, it’s a very positive one. Mission has built an intriguingly different take on the £3,500 standmount but one that gets an awful lot right. This is a beautifully made and finished speaker that feels entirely comparable to other European produced speakers in the price range (and comes with stands to boot). It offers a performance that is utterly unflappable and that combines a spacious, refined and tonally realistic presentation with enough punch, drive and timing to cover off a huge spread of genres without putting a foot wrong. Some other speakers can be more superficially exciting but they can’t generally match the even handedness of the 770. The looks won’t be to everyone’s taste (although equally, some people will love them) and they need a bit of power to strut their stuff but the result is beautifully judged.

Then there’s a more personal conclusion. I love these speakers. I’ve loved them from the moment they came out the box. There is no other speaker I have tested under £5,000 that I covet like these ones because they make me happy. I enjoy how they sit in this space and their unashamed retro angle is so far up my alley as to be a point of inevitability that, come the point that I work out where on Earth I’d put them, I want a pair. Then, when it comes to making music, that heft and refinement is perfectly judged to work with the polyglot collection of randomness I call a music library.

Mission 770

As I type this up, the Missions are playing a vinyl copy of Underworld’s (they of Born Slippy) Change the Weather; one of their early albums from the eighties (yes, they’ve been around for a while). Objectively it’s not a good album and it’s not a piece of mastering for the ages either. With the 770 doing the legwork though, I don’t care. It’s huge, unapologetic good fun. Sometimes it is necessary to accept that Hi-Fi; like any luxury goods, is as much about how it makes you feel as anything else. What Mission has built is something that - for some of us anyway - nails this so perfectly that the only logical conclusion is to award it a Best Buy.

Best Buy

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
9

Ease of Use

.
.
8

Features

.
9

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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