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March 21, 2012 10:33 PM. "Long time no talk. Now we're launching at SSI 2012 with a bunch of products. Some will be shown in public, a few behind the scenes. Here's a press release for your site." - Ben Webster
The final production Model 1 integrated amplifier

"Canadian-based audio tech start-up Mass Fidelity has chosen Salon Son & Image 2012 to unveil the first in a line of reference quality audio products designed to bring massive sound to urban spaces and to officially release a beta version of an operating system that was purpose-built to aggregate and network disparate music collections: stereOS. The Model 1 speaker system and Model 1 integrated amplifier are the first in a line of traditional reference-quality audio products and are being billed as 'compact high-fidelity power houses'. 

"Mass Fidelity will also be showcasing a device targeted at software developers and early adopters interested in the stereOS platform. The Sum'd plug computer ('your digital music collections - Sum'd') ships with stereOS and is a compact ARM-based computer system with versatile networking capabilities. It will allow developers to design exciting applications focused on getting the most out of your digital music collections. Mass Fidelity created stereOS to inspire a new product segment in the consumer audio market - Smart Sound Systems. It all started out with some simple questions. Why are we spending so much time finding our music? And once we find it, why do we need several different interfaces to engage it? These questions led to stereOS' unique architecture. stereOS utilizes a web-based remote control allowing any device with a web browser to access the system. This easy-to-use web-based interface connects behind the scenes to all of your music sources. Regardless of where your music is stored—be it the music you have at home, the music stored in your online music locker or music from a subscription-based streaming service—stereOS amalgamates them all so you can spend your time enjoying your music instead of organizing it.

Sum'd sterOS interface

"Mass Fidelity has decided to open-source stereOS and is actively encouraging other consumer audio manufacturers to adopt the platform. Because of the way the software is licensed, all features developed by corporate interests must be put back in the pool. This will allow a new generation of Smart Sound Systems of every shape and size to proliferate quickly and leave the consumer as the hands-down winner. stereOS is not just about networking your music. It's about intelligently aggregating all of your music collections and presenting them to you in a friendly way across all the devices you use on a daily basis. Developers interested in the project can dig in further online."

28 March 2012 04:08. "Regarding our Montreal launch one thing was a bit disappointing. Nobody really got stereOS. I can't really put my finger on why. Not even the basic awesome features, forget about the more esoteric stuff we're doing. I'm thinking it's a mix between us not demoing it properly and industry convention. I need to work on how to communicate it properly. I've attached two screen shots from an iPad.

"This first one demonstrates what happens when an artist or song you've searched for isn't in your library. At the point the screen shot was taken I had a USB drive physically attached to the Sum'd while it was scanning a laptop elsewhere on the premises over wifi. After looking at both available collections and not finding what was being asked for, it quickly went online where it scanned Grooveshark, Soundcould and YouTube. What you're seeing are the aggregated results of that mission.

"This second screen shows what happens once you've added your online result to the library. StereOS has pulled it all into a database and presents it in a unified library with the local network stuff. Also note that in the screen shot the interface exists in the iPad's browser. No app install is required. The Sum'd has a built-in web server that broadcasts an HTML5 app in your home network that can be accessed by any device with a web browser and used to interface with the system." - Ben Webster
Final production Model 1 in all white as one of 8 possible finishes - solid black, solid white, 2-tone schemes with silver, bronze or copper

The Model 1 integrated amplifier comes in black, white or silver machined aluminum and uses Burr-Brown opamps and solid-state switches in the preamp stage. The 85% efficient class D power stage is based on Abletec technology just like Mårten Design's M.Amp but without their massive linear power supply and using the smallest ALC0180 module. It produces 50/90wpc RMS into 8/4 ohms. THD+N of 0.05% combines with a frequency response of 20Hz-60kHz, an input impedance of 47KΩ and damping factor better than 4.000. Comprehensive over-current/voltage and thermal protection is built in as is a low-power standby mode.

"We decided to omit the XLR and preouts on this model and move them into a different product."

The vertically conceptualized Model 1 speaker combines a coated 22mm soft dome tweeter with copper-clad aluminum voice coil and ferrofluid cooling with two 3.5" anodized aluminum midranges with copper pole caps and Conex spiders. The upfiring woofer is a 5.25" paper-cone unit with 90mm magnet and Conex spider. Crossover filters at 100Hz and 3.500Hz run 6dB/octave slopes. Sensitivity is 90dB, nominal impedance 4 ohms and claimed frequency response 55Hz to 26kHz±3dB.

Industrial design an apple could love. The implications are plain. High-end hifi acknowledges the need for what audiophiles—Steve Jobs was arguably the world's most famous one—call bridge products. Those must be fashionably styled and sized to appeal to the iGeneration yet still deliver a solid chunk of high-end sound. The obvious challenges needn't be spelled out. Bridge product cannot be priced too high. Yet no startup or ordinary hifi firm can compete with Foxconn's manufacturing infrastructure and per-unit costs. Now add the need for fresh cosmetics. To speak to the target audience, those must seamlessly integrate with Apple's aesthetic and continue the Mac theme of intuitive interfaces (yet pull this off without actual assist from Apple's Industrial Design Group). The website presentation too must meet buyer expectations for hipness and relevance. For the initial eye want! response, perception is everything.

For traditional hifi firms these seem like nearly insurmountable hurdles. Yet Mass Fidelity's long gestation period and open-source mentality appear to have overcome many of them. Distribution of course remains a big question. Any product is only as good as your ability to know about it, desire it and conveniently acquire it. With the first of those three points covered, we'll cover the second by talking performance. As always, the third will be for you to sort out.