Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
A few days before I sat down to write this review, I thought about what I’d say in the opening paragraphs. Should I outline the release of the original 770 in 1978 and the motivation for this “reboot”? How about a history of the brand, from its founding by Farad Azima to its acquisition by International Audio Group (IAG), which is based in Shenzhen, China? (IAG owns five other British brands—Audiolab, Castle, Leak, Quad, and Wharfedale—as well as Luxman, which is Japanese.) Another idea was to describe designer Peter Comeau’s reliance on listening as opposed to measurements. As I outlined in a Real Hi-Fi episode published on YouTube in July 2022, the rebooted model’s crossover went through 174 revisions before the design was finalized.
Any of these angles would’ve chewed up at least 500 words. In the end, I nixed those ideas, deciding instead to focus on what matters most to the people reading this review—the new 770’s design and, more importantly, its sound. So read on to find out everything you need to know about the modern-day 770, which sells for $5000 per pair (all prices in USD), complete with matching stands.
Except for Luxman, whose products are made in Japan, manufacturing for most of the IAG brands happens in China. That includes Mission-branded speakers—but not the 770. Mission has a facility in the UK, in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, which was recently expanded so that the 770 could be manufactured on its home turf. The result is a British-made standmounted speaker that impresses for its build quality, imposing size, and retro 1970s styling.
The 770’s beefy cabinet, without stand or binding posts factored in, measures 23.5″H × 11.75″W × 11.75″D. The supplied matte-black stand adds another 17″ to the height, including the floor spikes. The cabinet’s walls are constructed from a sandwich of MDF and particle board, bonded together by high-damping adhesive. The front baffle is finished with a white laminate; the sides, top, bottom, and back with real-wood veneer. There are just two options: black, and something that Mission describes as a “rosy-tinged walnut.” My review sample had the black finish, and the speakers looked fine. But if I were to buy a pair of 770s, I’d get that rosy-tinged walnut, because these big speakers look blockier in black than they do in walnut.
The 770 is a two-way bass-reflex design with a 1.25″ soft-dome tweeter and an 8″ mineral-loaded polypropylene midrange-woofer. Both are reminiscent of the original 770’s drivers, even down to the midrange-woofer’s white cone. But they’ve been completely redesigned using modern parts and know-how. Below the midrange-woofer is a large, flanged port to augment the bass. The crossover point is specified as 2.9kHz, which is quite high; this could negatively impact the off-axis response of the midrange-woofer, since its dispersion would be much narrower at the crossover point than the tweeter’s. But the high crossover frequency could also help with power handling, as the tweeter will be less stressed. As with all aspects of speaker manufacturing, there are pros and cons to pretty much every design choice.
The black-and-white midrange-woofer and all-black port and tweeter contrast dramatically with the white baffle. The dark Mission 770 logo above the port enhances the contrast and completes the retro vibe. However, the drivers, port, and logo can be completely concealed with a magnetically attached black-cloth grille that covers the entire front baffle. Since the speaker looks and sounds better with the grille off, I think most listeners will use it that way, and will only use the grille for driver protection. Near the bottom of the rear of the cabinet is a single set of binding posts, below a sticker, adorned with the British flag, bearing the brand name and the model and serial number.
The 770 is a big, bulky two-way with a seriously wide front baffle—just like the original design. As a result, its “baffle step” frequency (the frequency at which a driver’s output increases by 6dB as it transitions from operating in 4pi to 2pi space) is low compared to a speaker with a narrow front baffle. A speaker designer should always compensate for the baffle step, regardless of its frequency. When I talked to Comeau in May 2022, he told me that he liked working at the lower frequency provided by the 770’s wider baffle, because it allowed for a better midrange sound.
The 770’s supplied specifications include frequency response of 42Hz–20kHz (±3dB), bass extension to 30Hz (-6dB), and sensitivity of 88dB (2.83V/m). Nominal impedance is 8 ohms, with a minimum of 6 ohms, which should make for an easy amplifier load. Specified peak output capability is 117dB, which is unbelievably loud, although no specific frequency, frequency range, or distance are supplied for that spec.
I listened to the 770s mostly in my reference room, a large space measuring about 16′W × 36′L. Only half of the space is used for listening; the rest is used for storage and photography. I placed the speakers with their tweeters 7.5′ apart, which put the outer edges of the speakers about 4′ from the side walls. The rears of the cabinets were 7′ from the walls behind them, and my listening distance was about 8′ from the front baffles of the speakers.
All music was played from local files on an external solid-state drive connected to an Asus Zenbook UX303U laptop running Windows 10 and Roon. The Zenbook was connected via an Anthem STR DAC-preamplifier to a Purifi Audio Eigentakt “engineering sample” power amplifier, which I’ve written about a few times before. The USB cable to the STR was a Shunyata Research Alpha; the interconnects from the preamp to the amp were Crystal Cable Standard Diamond; and the speaker cables were QED Supremus. Additional power-related products are listed in the Associated Equipment endnote.
It happened 35 years ago, but I can still vividly recall walking into Sam the Record Man in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in the spring of 1988 and hearing “Talkin’ bout a Revolution” for the first time. The distinctive voice of the singer, who was relatively unknown at the time, stopped me dead in my tracks. I listened for a few more seconds, then spun around to the store clerk and asked, “Who is that?” He pointed to the now-iconic cover of Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut album.
The CD I bought that day (Elektra Records 9 60774-2) is ripped to my music drive in 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV format. While I’ve known the album for decades, I was unaware until recently that the researchers at Harman International found track 2, the mega-hit “Fast Car,” to be ideal for assessing the quality of a loudspeaker. This is something I also realized years ago, though I don’t know if Harman’s engineers use this track for the same reasons as I do.
Regardless, I played “Fast Car” through the new 770s. For a set of standmounted speakers, the bass was spectacularly deep and articulate—extending to about 30Hz in my room, which is well into the bottom octave of the audioband (20Hz–40Hz). Granted, the 770 is much larger than most standmounted designs, so deep bass should be expected. But I didn’t expect the bass to be that deep. When the drums slam in at the 2:01 mark, the 770s reproduced them with such weight, dynamics, and clarity that it sounded like the kit was right there in the room.
But it was Chapman’s unmistakable singing voice that stood out. The tonality was dead-on accurate; there was plenty of ambience around her voice, and it was so well focused on the soundstage that I could tell that these speakers were revealing a lot of detail. The highs are a little crisp on this album, and the 770s conveyed this quality but commendably did not exaggerate it.
I also let the next two tracks play out in succession. Track 3, “Across the Lines,” has a darker sound than “Fast Car,” with heavier drumming and guitar strumming throughout. Here, too, the drums had plenty of weight and power, while Chapman’s vocals again stood out with ideal tonality and clarity. Soundstaging was good, too, with great separation and placement of the instruments, both left-to-right and front-to-back.
I then focused on Chapman’s unaccompanied singing in track 4, “Behind the Wall.” This showed me that despite the large cabinet and the big, flat baffle, the speakers could project sound quite freely into the room. I was as surprised by this as I was by the bass performance—big, boxy speakers usually have telltale sonic cues that let you know the sound is being projected from them, rather than appearing to come from around them. The 770s projected a razor-sharp center image, with no pulling to the side, which, again, was a very good thing. Although you can’t make speakers disappear visually, you want them to disappear sonically—and the 770s did.
I’m not much of a Neil Young fan; but because so many audio companies use “Old Man” from his Live at Massey Hall 1971 (Reprise Records) for demo material, I have purchased a 24/192 AIFF download from ProStudioMasters.com so I could compare what I hear at home to what I’ve heard when I’m on the road. I think audio companies use this track because it contains some interesting things to listen for. For example, Young bumps his microphone stand repeatedly near the beginning, setting off some loud, deep bass sounds. The 770s projected those mike-stand bumps very powerfully, making these speakers sound more like fairly large floorstanders than very large standmounts.
I know some people focus on the sound of Young’s guitar, which can be spirited in the treble, but robust and warm in the midrange. The 770s delivered that top end with no more and no less spirit than is required. Along with the 770’s performance on the Tracy Chapman album, this led me to conclude that the treble is neutral—neither emphasized nor subdued—despite Comeau’s supposed nonreliance on measurements. Lower in the audioband, Young’s strumming had a little more robustness and warmth than I’m accustomed to from standmounted speakers. This made his guitar sound more real than I’ve previously heard through any standmounted speakers.
But what I most listen for on “Old Man” is the sibilance that appears to be inherent in the recording—I can hear it every time it’s played. That sibilance can be exacerbated by the speaker’s voicing. The 770’s clarity made the sibilance obvious; but it wasn’t pushed up in level the way I’ve heard through some speakers that have a brighter treble voicing. It wasn’t pushed down in level, either. Through the 770s, it sounded exactly right—that is, as it was recorded.
Lately, one of my personal favorites for demoing speakers is the Tragically Hip’s “Long Time Running” from the 2021 remaster of 1991’s Road Apples (MCA). I purchased the album as a 24/96 AIFF download from ProStudioMasters.com. This entire album sounds like a live band playing in a small club. “Long Time Running” is not as raucous as many of the other tracks, which is why I like it—I can concentrate on the individual elements more effectively.
The way the song is mixed, Gord Downie’s voice is placed dead center and Rob Baker’s guitar is on the right. When Johnny Fay’s drums finally kick in hard, those are placed toward the left and a little back on the stage. The band’s two other musicians are there in the mix, but not nearly as prominently—the vocals, guitar, and drums are what stand out. I played this track more loudly than I usually do, and the clarity of the 770s—a defining characteristic of this speaker—still wowed me. The 770 might have a 1970s retro vibe, but there was none of that fuzzy, indistinct sound that I associate with speakers of that era—it reproduced music clearly, even at high levels.
The 770’s deep and powerful bass, another of its defining characteristics, was again obvious as I listened to this track through the beefy pair of British speakers. But it was so powerful that I wondered if there was a little too much upper bass, which can obscure the midrange on some recordings. To figure that out, I brought out my best recording for assessing the balance of bass with the rest of the frequency range: the original Canadian CD pressing of The Trinity Session (RCA 8568-2-R) by Toronto’s Cowboy Junkies, which I’ve since ripped to 16/44.1 WAV. This album is the subject of a recent Real Hi-Fi YouTube video.
I first played “Sweet Jane,” then “Mining for Gold.” With these two tracks, I was able to conclude that the 770’s bass level is ideal. I could hear it easily, but it did not cloud Margo Timmins’s lead vocals or the other instruments. But the big surprise happened when “Mining for Gold” came on. On this track, my big, full-range Revel Ultima Salon2s can pressurize my room with bass weight down to 20Hz, so that performance level has been my reference for this room for many years. The 770s couldn’t deliver bass frequencies quite that low, but they got closer than I thought they would—most of the bass region was present and there was some of the pressurization that the Salon2s provide. The 770 is a big standmounted speaker; nevertheless, I consider its near-full-range performance amazing.
Finally, I cued up a recording that sounded so good through the 770s, it resulted in a holy-shit moment: Bruce Cockburn’s all-acoustic, instrumental Crowing Ignites (16/44.1 WAV, True North Records). Every track sounded great through the 770s, but the holy-shit moment came with track 6, “The Mt Lefroy Waltz.” Initially, I marveled not only at the robustness of Cockburn’s guitar, but also how real it sounded. I could visualize him playing the instrument. That special moment came while I was focusing on Roberto Occhipinti’s stand-up bass, which again sounded so robust and so real that if someone had told me that they recorded and mastered the album specifically for these speakers, I would’ve believed them. This was the best I’ve ever heard this song sound in my reference room.
At $5000 per pair, I don’t think the new Mission 770 can be classified a screaming-hot deal. It’s a little too expensive for that. But that doesn’t take away what it is—a 1970s-inspired loudspeaker with an old-school look but a thoroughly modern and engaging sound. To me, that alone justifies the price.
From its deep bass to its extended highs, the 770 proved commendably neutral, which is quite an achievement if it was truly designed more by ear than by measurements. But perhaps the ear-tuning is what instilled the performance aspects I liked most—the rich, powerful bass combined with a midrange that blossomed with realism with all the music I played, yet still provided detail akin to the best speakers I’ve heard. I was also surprised how well the 770 gets the sound out into the room, without those telltale big-box colorations that can make old-school speakers sound muffled rather than open and spacious. That sort of thing is tough to suss out with measurements, so maybe that’s what Comeau and crew used their ears for. That could be a lesson for those who rely more on charts than their ears.
No matter how those performance attributes were achieved, they combine to create a speaker I could happily live with for a very long time. And the fact that the 770 looks cool and is made in England adds icing to the cake. If you’re going to recreate a classic, it makes sense to make it in the same place as the original. So kudos to Peter Comeau and team—in every respect, their new Mission 770 really is a job well done.
. . . Doug Schneider
- Speakers: Revel Ultima Salon2.
- Amplifier: Purifi Audio Eigentakt.
- Preamplifier: Anthem STR.
- Integrated amplifier: Kinki Studio EX-M1+.
- Digital-to-analog converter: Denafrips Ares II.
- Computer: Asus Zenbook UX303U laptop running Windows 10 and Roon.
- Digital link: Shunyata Research Alpha (USB).
- Analog interconnects: Crystal Cable Standard Diamond, AudioQuest Forest.
- Speaker cables: QED Supremus, QED XT25.
- Power distributors: Shunyata Research Sigma S12 and Venom PS8 with Defender.
- Power cords: Shunyata Research Venom HC, Alpha NR, E-Tron Alpha HC.
Mission 770 Loudspeaker
Price: $5000 per pair, including stands.
Warranty: Five years, parts and labor.
13/14 Glebe Road
Huntingdon PE29 7DL
Phone: + 44 (0) 1480 45256