Review: Naim mu-so

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When a prestigious hi-fi brand, which specialises in the production of high-quality electronics, launches a new range of speakers on the market, we’re obviously delighted. We’re intrigued even. With the mu-so, can Naim succeed in offering exceptional musical speakers where most other brands fail’

   

On paper, the Naim mu-so wireless speaker is an attractive prospect. The photos, included in the packaging contents invite you to discover the quality finish and convincing technical features. These features include an anodised aluminium skin, a circular touch screen, AirPlay, DLNA, Internet radio, HD audio file support, Android and iOS app control, Spotify Connect support, a Bluetooth controller and no less than six drivers powered by as many 75 Watt (450 W in total) digital amplifiers. Last but not least, there’s the reasonable price for a Naim product, guaranteeing its entry on to the English-made hi-fi market.

Naim mu-so
The touch screen is surrounded by a solid aluminium volume control

First impressions

After reading the Naim mu-so’s list of dimensions, we were expecting a massive speaker but it wasn’t the case. The mu-so admittedly measures 60 cm in width but its shape, like its choice of materials, has been well thought-out. To soften its sharp angles and flat panels, Naim has chosen a flat wave-shaped fabric grille cover. Fitted to the bottom is a Plexiglass mirror base with the engraved Naim logo. An LED system illuminates the base stand when the speaker is turned on (can be deactivated).

Naim mu-so
The Plexiglass base is lit up by white LED lamps

The cabinet is made of MDF, finished off with a titanium-coloured brushed aluminium coating.  The upper panel has been pressed to encase the control touch screen. The screen is fitted with an aluminium circular surround which also acts as the volume potentiometer.

The back panel is covered with an extruded aluminium heat sink to keep the speaker cool and to maximise thermal performance.

Connectors are well distributed. On the right side of the front panel, you can access a USB port (for iPhone, iPod, iPad and flash drives/hard drives) and a mini-jack analog input (for any stereo source). The remaining connections are well hidden in the inner panel ? optical digital S/PDIF input, RJ-45 connector and a power supply connection. These three connectors are housed in an artificial flared laminar port, which is identical to the genuine bass-reflex port which is positioned symmetrically.

Naim mu-so
On the left is the bass-reflex port

Drivers and enclosure

The Naim mu-so speaker is a 3-way stereo model incorporating 6 drivers. Naim hasn’t played it safe with a 360° diffusion, which is a growing trend, but has opted for a direct and coherent sound dispersion. The only concession made concerns design because in order to conserve its low height (10 cm excluding the stand), the Naim mu-so speaker features two oval-shaped bass drivers with carbon fibre cones. What’s important here is maintaining a significant emitting surface, which is absolutely essential for bass, without having to use large diameter circular drivers. Medium and treble drivers are round and use a standard design. Tweeters are small cloth dome models.

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The medium drivers are located at both ends of the front panel in order to widen the stereo sound

 

Getting started

Naim has done well. You just have to connect a network cable to the Naim mu-so to listen to a selection of pre-programmed Internet radio stations, which can be accessed directly or by using the touch screen. Even without a smartphone or tablet, you can operate this speaker with ease, thanks to its remote control.

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The WiFi connection configuration, which drives many users around the bend, has been highly simplified for this speaker. We downloaded the Naim application for Android, which then guided us through the different stages of connection. A diode located on the right of the speaker informs users of the current state of the speaker. Depending on its colour, the application defines the instructions to be followed. We chose the longest method, i.e. typing in our WiFi router’s code. The same operation can be carried out via the WPS protocol, by pressing the WPS connection button found on most WiFi boxes and routers.

Naim mu-so
USB and analog inputs are situated on the side of the speaker

A straightforward control app

The Android version of the Naim application is easy to use. There was no difficulty accessing our computer’s DLNA server and wirelessly playing MP3 or FLAC files. It becomes more complicated with HD audio files (coded in 24 bits and 192 kHz for example), which require an excellent WiFi connection to be played without any interruption. Naim indicates that the support is limited to 24 bit files / 48 kHz in WiFi. In practice, we were able to read 24 bit / 96 kHz files without any difficulty but there were interruptions with high resolution FLAC files. This isn’t a flaw in the speaker but simply a fundamental constraint on the WiFi bandwidth. Playing HD audio files via Ethernet or USB doesn’t pose any problem. With an iPhone, AirPlay’s direct playback from any application which can play music (audio player, Deezer, Spotify, Youtube etc.) is flawless.

Listening impressions

The musical performances of the Naim mu-so are superior to what competitors on the market have to offer, at a lower cost admittedly.

If this speaker is two times the price of what its competitors have to offer, it’s because it’s two times better.

With a 10 litre volume capacity and small drivers, we were expecting a balanced delivery from bass to treble, as the emitting surface / enclosure seems perfect. The Naim is perfectly balanced in this respect. No range is prioritised despite the loudness activation by default.

Tone balance is appealing, without any emphasis in medium or treble, to create an artificial sensation of clarity. At a high volume, the music doesn’t come across as being stripped.

Whether you listen to Chet Baker or Daft Punk, the Naim mu-so is completely at home with both. Give it some ?powerful’ tracks like Haunted by Beyoncé and it will surprise you by delivering a coherent and deep bass, playing under 60 Hz without any difficulty. This is remarkable for such small diameter drivers.

Naim mu-so
The solid aluminium heat sink covers the speaker’s back panel

Conclusion

With its 13 kg, the wireless Naim mu-so speaker is a real hi-fi speaker equipped with a quality built-in amplifier. Just as functional as its competitors ? Yamaha, Denon, Pioneer or B&W to name a few, the Naim mu-so sets high standards in terms of musicality. You don’t need to have well trained ears to enjoy a complete listening experience, the mu-so will appeal to all listeners. Hats off to the mu-so.

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Naim offers optional fabric covers in a range of different colours

 

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