Mission 792 (£500)

A slick performance from a slick-looking speaker, successfully building on 30 years of know-how

These new Mission 792s certainly have kerb appeal, or maybe that should be curve appeal. With their contoured sides, wrap-around grilles and sculpted front, no one could accuse them of not standing out from the crowd – even if their looks are sure to divide opinion sharply. The shiny black finish is actually genuine piano lacquer, with seven coats applied to create a truly deep and lustrous gloss. This approach is both labour and time intensive, as each coating must be dried for 24 hours before it is rubbed down by hand and re-sprayed. Most manufacturers just apply a gloss black paint and end the process there, but the finish on these Missions is in another league entirely. What’s more, white and real rosewood veneer are also offered in the piano gloss finish.
   The curves here are made by multi-layering three different materials, which are then held together with resin. Granitech – a kind of heavy stone-like material – is used to suppress resonances further. The curved sides will raise resonance frequencies, of course, which should avoid the deeper chesty modes typical of flat panel cabinets, but I suspect the choice of curved panels was as much a cosmetic as a technical decision.
   Meanwhile, the magnetically-shielded 165mm woofer has a woven cone [see box out, below], a cast chassis with a slender frame in a bid to avoid reflections, and a solid phase plug without a dust cap which is fixed directly to the centre pole of the magnet system.
   Like the woofer, the tweeter dome is also made from a woven material, called Viotex, about which Mission says little. It is effectively a 25mm cloth dome with a tiny neo magnet, ferrofluid cooling and a heat-sink on the back to keep the magnet and coil temperature down when the speaker is played loudly. The crossovers have OFC copper wire in the inductors.

Of course, the inverted bass/treble geometry will be familiar to all who remember early Mission loudspeakers, when the company’s Technical Director Henry Azima cottoned on to this neat way of improving woofer/tweeter time alignment. Mission has used the arrangement extensively ever since.
   Like the speakers, the stands are either beauties or beasts, depending on one’s taste. With their black and chrome, I think they just fall on the side of stylish. The shallow cone spikes don’t penetrate the carpet fully and so fail to stabilise the speakers completely. Yet they still dent the pile and so don’t totally avoid the distaff niggles about marked carpets. 

I first fired up the Mission 792s, single-wired, on their own stands and positioned them about 20 to 30cm from the rear wall. This seemed to suit them well, as the bass output is quite full and warm, so close-to-wall placement may not be the best location, though this will depend on individual room acoustics, of course.
   I was immediately struck by the rich and textured sound, the smooth treble and the neutral-to-mellow tonal balance. The treble was not so smooth as to lose essential clarity and attack, nor was the bass so rich as to overpower the mid and treble. Overall, the balance was an agreeable one, being quite even, with pleasing integration between the mid and treble. Maybe having a woven woofer and tweeter is a good idea, as the characteristics of the two are inherently similar, so aiding the homogeneity of the sound.
   I could not resist a blast of Debbie Harry and ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ from the re-mastered re-issue of Blondie’s Parallel Lines. Debbi’s sultry, yet occasionally guttural, multi-tracked vocals came over very convincingly, while the sizzling cymbals had energy without drilling holes in the ear drums. All in all, quite a neat compromise. Likewise on ‘One Thing or Another’ the Missions preserved enough of the cutting edge without exceeding acceptability. In ‘Fade Away’, the Missions delivered much of the all-enveloping artificial reverb. They may not have captured the last ounce, but they made a fine fist of it.  
   On these three tracks the bass was powerful, though I wondered whether there could have been a touch more attack, punch and low frequency extension. Then I remembered that these were only 11-litre loudspeakers with good apparent sensitivity – Mission claims 89dB [see Lab Report] – and that you can’t have everything!
   Meanwhile, vocals were handled superbly. Sting’s voice on ‘Miss Gradenco’ from Synchronicity – a tricky one for most loudspeakers to handle – was nicely positioned at the rear of the soundstage and I was impressed by the way it was conveyed without obvious colouration. Guitar and snares were crisp and clear, but not too much to the fore. Bass drum and guitar were again full and powerful, even if they lacked that last touch of impact, drive and aggression.

Changing gear to classical music, I played an RCA Red Seal ‘Best 100’ CD of some old Richter RCA recordings (Liszt’s ‘Consolation’, ‘Hungarian Rhapsody’ and ‘Harmonies du Soir’). These were laid down at live performances in 1988 at Lubek City Hall. While Richter was not note perfect, the playing was inspired. The Missions, with their full, weighty bass and rich, textured sound did the old recordings justice. Even when Richter was punishing the keys mercilessly, the speakers handled the resulting blast with complete poise and control, while conveying the power, attack and impact in the notes through the mid and treble.
   Playing Anton Dvorak’s ‘Slavonic Dances’ – a DG Original Image re-issue – pushed all the same buttons. This time the Missions conveyed the lush, warm, clear but slightly over-brilliant treble sound of this 33-year-old recording. The Bavarian orchestra under Rafael Kubelik was reproduced delightfully and seemingly faithfully. One could simply, relax and enjoy the event.

This Mission combines warmth, transparency, strong bass, an even tonal balance and smooth, clear treble. Vocals are a particular strength. If, ultimately, it lacks a little bass impact, this is more than made up for with its even-handed delivery and unforced transparency. It’s a sound without strong aberrations and therefore of universal appeal. The 792 handles all musical genres with aplomb.

Originally publlshed in October 2008