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Review: Naim mu-so Qb

Naim mu-so Qb

Two years ago, Naim launched the Naim mu-so, a wireless speaker with an unusual design bringing solid aluminum, glass and Plexiglass together with several drivers as well as an assortment of digital amplifiers. We tested this model and very much appreciated it, especially with regard to its neutral, high-fidelity restitution. Naim’s craftsmanship proved as much a pleasure for ours eyes as for our ears. The Naim mu-so Qb is a compact and cube-shaped version of the original mu-so. But does it live up to it’s big brother’s shining reputation?

Naim mu-so Qb

The Naim mu-so Qb speaker’s touch screen is encircled by a volume potentiometer

Naim mu-so Qb: design and electronics

The Naim mu-so Qb is a cube measuring approximately 21 cm (8”) on all sides, composed of solid aluminum and set upon a Plexiglass base fitted with white LEDs (whose intensity can be controlled using a smartphone). The rear panel features a heat sink under which is an array of connectors (line-in, optical, USB) as well as the speaker’s status LED. The side and front panels house the drivers, which are concealed behind a curved plastic grill covered with acoustic cloth. This removable cover is offered as an option in several dashing colors (Naim mu-so Qb acoustic grill).

Naim mu-so Qb

Naim mu-so Qb

The Naim logo and the Plexiglass base is lit with LEDs: an elegant touch

Naim has equipped this speaker with no less than 7 drivers. As required for stereo listening, a pair of 1” soft fabric dome tweeters is combined with two 2.5” mid-range speakers. Lows are entrusted to a transducer measuring approximately 5.5” x 3”, which is in turn paired up with two passive drivers installed on either side of the speaker. The lows are thus not delivered in stereo, which isn’t really a problem as lows are most often recorded in mono. The load of the passive speakers is such that bass frequencies are efficiently produced regardless of the limitations inherent to a reduced internal air volume.

Naim mu-so Qb

The front panel of the Naim mu-so Qb speaker is fitted with 5 active drivers, with 2 additional passive drivers situated on either side.

Naim announces an amplification of 4×50 W (mids and highs) and 1×100 W (bass). These amounts of power are certainly the peak outputs measured at 1kHZ, as such small speakers cannot normally produce such an abundance of power. Minor detail, as we can’t exactly suspect the manufacturer of equipping this speaker with anything else besides a high-performance amplification system.

Lastly, the top of the speaker is fitted with a round touch screen composed of black glass, which is in turn encircled by a large, high-inertia volume control: a true delight for the user.

Naim mu-so Qb

One touch is all it takes to turn on the speaker, and a second touch will launch immediate playback: of an internet radio station, for example. The speaker can be fully controlled using a smartphone.

Naim mu-so Qb: possible sources

Internet radio stations
Hundreds of Internet radio stations are accessible and both MP3 and AAC formats are supported.

Spotify
With a paid subscription to Spotify Premium, millions of tracks are made accessible. The Naim mu-so handles the Spotify Connect protocol and can be operated directly via Spotify’s official app. Perfect.

Tidal
Here again, a paid subscription is required in order to gain access to Tidal’s lossless online music service. Navigation is made possible with the Naim app.

UPnP/DLNA servers
The Naim mu-so Qb automatically detects all DLNA servers present on the domestic network. Most set-top boxes and routers propose a DLNA server to share audio files in lossless quality with other devices. Installing server software on a computer, a NAS or even a smartphone is possible.

Périphérique de rendu DLNA (DMR)
Most smartphones and tablets propose an audio playback app to play audio files stored in their internal memory via a remote DLNA server. The Naim mu-so is one of the latter. Playback via a computer is possible, for example, via Foobar2000 for Windows.

Bluetooth
If no WiFi or Ethernet connection is available, wireless audio streaming is possible within a radius of about 10 m (without major obstacles, walls, ceilings, etc.). The most common transmission formats are supported, from the universal SBC format to the apt-X codec.

Naim mu-so Qb

The Naim mu-so Qb’s USB port for iPod/flash drive, RJ-45 Ethernet jack, Toslink optical connector and mini-jack line input are located along the speaker’s base.

USB port
It is possible to connect a flash drive or a hard drive, on the condition that its partition is in FAT format. The MP3, ALAC, AAC, FLAC, WMA, WAV, AIFF or Ogg Vorbis formats are supported. Content is displayed in Naim’s mobile app. iPods are also supported.

Digital optical input
Compatible 24 bit/192kHz, the Toslink optical input situated at the back of the speaker allows users to connect a CD player or a television to the Naim mu-so Qb.

Analog input
The 3.5 mm mini-jack analog input is useful for connecting analog sources: portable player, turntable (with integrated pre-amp), etc.

Naim mu-so Qb: user experience

We borrowed the Naim mu-so Qb speaker used for demonstrations in our store in Nantes, without bringing along the packaging. A deliberate decision in order to see if it would be easy for us to install this wireless speaker without referring to the instruction manual. All it took was to install Naim’s mobile app on our Android smartphone, available from the Google Play Store.

Naim mu-so Qb

When first started, the app invited us to turn on the Naim mu-so and verify the Status LED, located at the bottom of the speaker’s rear panel. Purple blinking: all is well, the speaker is not yet connected to a WiFi network.

Naim mu-so Qb

A few steps of the installation process

The app next invited us to connect our smartphone to the speaker’s WiFi access point, then name the speaker before choosing which domestic WiFi network to connect to.

Naim mu-so Qb

Once we entered the WiFi password, the app transferred the configuration data to the speaker, which rebooted. That’s all there was to it; the installation process was complete and the speaker was up and running.

Note: installing and controlling several Naim mu-so Qb speakers is possible. In such a configuration, the Naim app will send commands to the different speakers in multiroom mode.

Naim mu-so Qb: first steps

The Naim app proposes a set of preselected internet radio stations, allowing users to listen to music immediately. Even though adding new stations is very easy, having immediate access to a source of music is a nice touch. Searching for stations is intuitive, by country, and adding or replacing favorites is just as intuitive.

Naim mu-so Qb

Quickly, we set the Naim app aside in favor of our smartphone’s audio player in order to verify that the Naim mu-so Qb speaker is detected as a DLNA peripheral device. It is indeed. Playback of a 24 bit/96kHz FLAC file begins immediately. The speaker reacts in the blink of an eye.

Naim mu-so Qb

If your Android smartphone’s audio playback app is DLNA compatible, you may use it directly to listen to your music with the Naim mu-so Qb speaker.

Naim mu-so Qb: listening impressions

The Naim mu-so delivers a perfectly balanced sound, without ever trying to be over-the-top. This means that no specific part of the sound spectrum is emphasized, but all are equally well integrated. Few wireless speakers can claim such prowess, as most play the card of exaggerating the highs in order to create the illusion of a detailed sound. Much to the contrary, the mu-so Qb finely distills highs while favoring mids and especially the lower mid-range. Lows are characterized by a slight bump around 60Hz, which is pleasant with respect to the other registers. The speaker boasts an excellent frequency response from 50Hz to 20kHz and is very linear. In terms of precision and warmth, Naim is right on target. Listening to internet radio stations is calm and detailed, while listening to HD FLAC files is clearly more dynamic. You might consider this normal, but in the end, few wireless speakers are capable of making the difference between a compressed (MP3) and a lossless (FLAC) audio stream so clearly audible.

Naim mu-so Qb : conclusions

What we liked: the neutral and warm listening experience, the audio playback in 24/192, the design, the functionalities and the intuitive user experience.

What we would have liked: hard to find fault with this speaker

The Naim mu-so Qb speaker is the unquestionable descendant of the Naim mu-so. Its ultra-compact dimensions and relaxing musicality make it all the more desirable. A real master stroke.

Naim mu-so Qb

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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