Everyone knows about Mission loudspeakers – for a long time in the nineties the brand was ubiquitous, omnipresent and virtually synonymous with ‘speakers in the way that Wharfedale was back in the seventies. Some people know about Mission amps too – its Cyrus range of electronics (that name is long since a completely separate company, of course) hit it big back in the eighties and went from strength to strength. Some will even remember that the first Cyrus grew from the Mission 778 amp, and that before that the company had even made a separate pre-power combination…
It’s quite surprising therefore, that Mission turntables have practically vanished off the map. From the late nineteen seventies until the mid-eighties, the company made a range of decks called the 775, all designed and crafted from its immensely talented designer, Henry Azima (the man, lest we forget, who did all of the company’s classic loudspeakers and the first Cyrus amps). They featured a range of arms, including the 774 which was itself something of a design classic and often found on Linn Sondeks as a budget Ittok alternative in those empty days before the Rega RB300.
The 775S, which is the variant we’re looking at here, was the company’s ‘budget’ integrated deck costing a trifling £300 back in 1981. Considering that Linn Sondeks of the day – admittedly minus a tonearm – cost little more than this, the entry level Mission vinyl spinner was hardly from the same origins as your average Japanese semi-automatic direct drive!
Its main distinguishing feature from its Thorens, STD, Ariston and Dunlop Systemdek rivals was the fact that it did not have a suspended subchassis. For a high quality late seventies belt drive, this was almost akin to marketing a car without wheels. Of course, Rega had been cleaning up with the Planar 3, but it was still regarded as more of a budget design on steroids, rather than a fully developed product in its own right. Rather, the 775 was said to provide a ‘totally rigid’ link between the stylus and record via the arm/plinth/platter loop.
Without a conventional suspension system, the only way it was able to escape the pitfalls of room-borne vibration and resonance (which cloud and colour the sound) was by a combination of sheer mass and isolation feet made from Sorbothane, that lossy rubber compound so beloved by the tweaking fraternity. To wit, the 775S sported a very thick and dense MDF plinth together with its crowning glory, a 6kg aluminium-topped lead platter with a 1 degree concavity machined into it. In conjunction with the supplied Michell record clamp and a thin Mission felt mat made a valiant stab at supporting the record.
Any bearing asked to support a 6kg platter has to be a sturdy affair, so Mission opted for a 70mm steel shaft running in a PFTE sleeve, tipped by a tungsten carbide ball running against a similarly finished thrust plate. The supplied 774LC arm was an unusual looking device, complete with vestigial ‘cartridge carrier’ and simple (but less resonance prone) thread and lever bias compensator. Without any tracking weight calibration, setting it up required a decent stylus pressure gauge – still, at least there was a trough for silicone damping fluid to play with! Effective mass was on the lowish side at 5.5g.
Even today, a well fettled Mission 775 is an impressive sounding device, with a very smooth, full-bodied sound with solid bottom end (thanks no doubt to that massive platter) and sweet, mellifluous highs. Soundstaging is wide and bold and there’s a good amount of detail. In absolute terms, this deck is a little too euphonic and laid back sounding, but in a digital world this may come as a welcome relief to many.
Prices are wildly variable – the more upmarket 775SM goes for upwards of £250 in mint condition, assuming its complete with box and accessories. Whether you’re after a quick bargain or an audiophile rarity, these mostly forgotten, out-of-vogue vinyl spinners are well worth a look.