Farad Azima launched Mission Electronics in 1977, and in 1978 the 770 loudspeaker debuted – the first ever to use a polypropylene mid/bass driver. It garnered much praise, and gave an image of a bold, innovative, modern company in a traditionally very conservative market sector steeped in tradition. Farad’s brother Henry was a gifted engineer and developed a string of great designs, from the first DC-coupled transcription tonearm, the Mission 774, to the Mission 700 loudspeaker with its exotic, inverted driver unit array. In 1981 came the Mission 776, the world’s first DC-powered preamplifier, and the 777, the fastest MOSFET power amplifier of its day. In 1985 the Cyrus range of amplifiers appeared, also winning great acclaim.
The plaudits didn’t stop coming; in the early nineties Mission launched the 760, which was a quantum jump over the budget loudspeakers of the day. It looks rather blocky and agricultural now but in May 1990 it seemed the height of budget speaker sophistication. The key feature was the the injection-moulded baffle of mineral-loaded polypropylene, which locked into a 15mm thick high density particleboard cabinet; the idea was for it be light and stuff, so as not to store energy. At the time, no one else had done such a design, and the 760 looked like the shape of things to come.
As per Mission’s first ever budget speaker – the 700 – it sported an inverted bass/mid and tweeter arrangement. The idea was to make the two drivers properly equidistant from the listener’s ear without the need for an elaborate stepped baffle. The upper 130mm driver used a doped paper cone and the lower 19mm treble unit was a Ferrofluid-cooled polyamide dome. At 89dB/1w/1m (quoted sensitivity), it was surprisingly efficient for a small (180x295x200mm) speaker of just 6.5 litres; doubtless the choice of paper for the mid/bass cone helped here, instead of the heavier plastic drivers many rivals were using, and the front mounted reflex-port.
The £119.95 760 instantly sold like hot cakes on a cold evening, but Mission – being the company it was – pushed hard to keep it at the top of the sales charts. A number of revisions arrived, with the 760i getting a larger magnet on the mid/bass unit and small crossover tweaks in 1991. In 1992 the £149.95 760iSE arrived with better polyester film capacitors, thicker internal wiring and a biwirable crossover layout. All models had a quoted frequency response of 70Hz-20kHz ±2.5dB and a nominal impedance of 6 ohms.
The sound of the 760 was a revelation; it was the first smooth and musical sounding budget standmounter I had heard. It seemed to combine the benefits of the old generation of early eighties KEF Codas (warm, effortlessness) with a tighter, tauter sound that seemed incredibly modern at the time. In essence, it sounded more expensive than it actually was, and not in a boring way. Despite being really rather small, it seemed to have a very big heart and imaged way better than the eighties speakers it was beginning to usurp. This ability to give an ‘out of the box’ sound won it many friends.
Only at very high volumes did you hear it was compressing the sound, and even then it did it gracefully. In absolute terms the midband was a little opaque too, but the clever thing about the 760 was the way it covered its tracks. You always knew it wasn’t the best small speaker ever made, but it was never immediately obvious why not! The tweaks improved things, the 760i getting a slightly tauter bass and a little more clarity in the mid, and the 760iSE sounded bigger, smoother and more open – especially when birwired.
The great thing about this speaker is that it is now on sale for pennies. £50 should buy you a good boxed pair of 760iSEs, while I have seen the original 760s sold for under £10. It was a fine budget buy when new, but now a quarter of a century old it has aged gracefully and is a brilliant bargain.