This week we reviewed the second generation of one of the most iconic wireless hi-fi speakers, the Naim Mu-so 2. The British manufacturer has stated that 95% of this revamped version of the Naim Mu-so, originally released in 2014, has been redesigned in order to be even more functional and efficient. Amongst the announced modifications are a faster DSP, new drivers designed in partnership with Focal, a more exhaustive tactile control interface, an HDMI ARC input, integrated Chromecast technology, AirPlay 2 compatibility and even multi-room support… Only the esthetic has remained virtually unchanged.
Naim Mu-so 2: the brand
Naim’s story began in the late 1960s when Julian Vereker, at the time a young racing car driver, left the sporting world behind to record musicians who would play at the local pub. What he thought would be an enjoyable pastime proved to be frustrating: when played back, the recordings were very disappointing compared to the original performances. Whilst searching for a solution, Julian Vereker realized that amplification was the cause. Consequently, he went on to develop what would become the world renowned Naim Audio NAP 250 power amplifier.
The design philosophy advocated by Naim is driven primarily by pragmatic thinking. As a result, the British brand has often strayed from the rules commonly established in the hi-fi world. History proved Naim right, as many manufacturers now follow what was once deemed a heretical concept, namely removing unnecessary components – such as tone settings and filters – from the signal path.
Vereker was also behind the balanced Audio Engineering concept used during the design process of Naim products, which establishes a crucial link between mechanical and electrical engineering. Julian Vereker made a point to always surround himself with collaborators who shared his relentless determination to produce nothing but the very best. Even today, several years after his death, Julian Vereker’s innovative approach still drives the company, which has received many awards from the most prestigious international labels. Each product designed by Naim is a reflection of the brand’s meticulousness and craftsmanship, such as the electronics in the Naim Uniti, the Naim XS and the Naim Reference ranges.
In 2011, Naim and Focal merged, combining their R&D departments and their quest for excellence while maintaining their own identities. The Naim Mu-so 2 perfectly illustrates the synergy between these two entities, with its exclusive drivers designed in partnership with Focal’s engineers.
Naim Mu-so 2: packaging and accessories
The Naim Mu-so 2 comes in a large cardboard box protected by outer packaging that is also made from cardboard. The speaker is covered by a synthetic fabric pouch and is protected by two large blocks of polystyrene. It comes with an elegant, compact remote control, two power cords (EU & UK), a quick start guide and a booklet about the brand and its various products.
Naim Mu-so 2: presentation
The Naim Mu-so 2 is a very high-quality wireless speaker with a sleek appearance. Its aluminum chassis lies on a Plexiglass base backlit by white LEDs. The rear of the speaker is entirely covered by a solid aluminum heatsink. From the outside, the Naim Mu-so 2 speaker is identical to the previous version.
Most of the changes can be found inside the speaker, starting with the cabinet which has been completely redesigned to provide a 13% increase in cabinet volume for the bass drivers. The goal was to achieve more intense and well-defined lows. The manufacturer also improved the solidity of the cabinet’s bracing and the baffle moulding to eliminate vibrations. New drivers have also been developed in partnership with Focal to create an even more dynamic and realistic sound.
The backlit tactile control interface with its motion sensor and rotary volume control is more user-friendly thanks to many new functions, including the possibility to memorize favorites (radio stations, playlists). Finally, connectivity-wise, the speaker features an ARC-compatible HDMI input. Therefore, the Naim Mu-so 2 speaker can be easily connected to a compatible television to be used as a stereo soundbar.
When it comes to software, the Naim Mu-so 2 features a new DSP that is more powerful and integrates new services: Tidal and Spotify Connect are included, along with AirPlay 2 compatibility. Support for DLNA and UPnP is still available, and the Naim speaker now features a Chromecast module.
The Mu-so 2 wireless speaker is fitted with six front-firing drivers oriented towards the listening area. It integrates six 75 watt amplification modules (one per driver) and therefore has a total power rating of 450 watts. The two 5.5” x 3” woofers are placed in the middle and are loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure with a port under the left side of the speaker.
The two 2” midrange drivers are placed at the left and right extremities. The two 1” tweeters with their coated fabric dome are placed in between each low and mid driver pair.
Naim Mu-so 2: configuration
Setting the Naim Mu-so 2 up for the first time is just as simple as with the first version. You simply need to download the Naim app and follow the instructions. The different steps to connect the speaker to the WiFi network only take a couple of minutes, and a few more were needed to download the update for our test model. Of course, it is possible to connect the speaker directly to the local network via an Ethernet cable, allowing you to skip WiFi configuration.
Via the Naim app, it is possible to alter the restitution according to where the speaker is placed in the room. The user can choose between three settings that compensate for the effects created by the room: close to a wall, near a corner or in an open space (no compensation). These settings guarantee a rich and natural musical experience, no matter where the speaker is placed.
The Naim app is still as easy to use as before and provides access to many audio sources. In addition to internet radios, we were able to play audio files shared over the local network, including those in high resolution. We could also play files saved onto a flash drive, as the interface lets you navigate through different files with ease. With an iPhone, the AirPlay protocol allows you to stream sound to the speaker from any app able to play music (music player, Deezer, Spotify, Youtube, etc.).
The Naim Mu-so 2 speaker now includes a Chromecast module, allowing it to be integrated into the Google Home ecosystem. In addition to effortlessly streaming sound from any music app on an Android smartphone or tablet (but also iOS), notably Deezer, Qobuz and TuneIn, this function means the speaker can be added to a multi-room audio system comprised of other Google Home compatible speakers. Consequently, we were able to easily listen to our Qobuz and Deezer playlists with a perfectly stable wireless connection.
As the Naim Mu-so wireless speaker features an HDMI ARC input, it is possible to connect it to a television that has a compatible HDMI input for audio restitution. Consequently, we connected the Naim Mu-so 2 to an LG OLED TV, taking care to set its audio output to PCM. It is also possible to connect a television using an optical digital connection.
Naim Mu-so 2: listening impressions
We started our review by playing HD FLAC audio files stored onto a microSD memory card with a USB adaptor. Navigating through the different files via the app’s interface is intuitive. With Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” (Rumours album – 1977), the Mu-so 2 displayed a general sense of balance. The metallic sound of the guitar strings and cymbal clashes were lifelike. The bass was well-positioned, the drums energetic, the vocals believable and resonant. When it came to spatialization, the soundstage wasn’t exceptionally wide, but the stereo separation was well-defined, which allowed the music to breathe without being restricted by the size of the speaker.
Our listening session continued with our dedicated playlist on the Qobuz app, this time using the Chromecast connection. The speaker responded instantly with a lot of energy. The bassline in Morcheeba’s Never Undo, without being thunderous or extremely deep, displayed great vitality, effectively adding rhythm to the track. The singer’s voice was distinctly delineated and swept us away.
We then turned our LG OLED television on and observed that the Mu-so 2 automatically switched to the HDMI input. During the episode “Lucky 13” from the Love, Death + Robots series, we were able to evaluate the Mu-so 2’s potential when used as a soundbar.
This wireless stereo speaker doesn’t feature a surround sound mode to virtually spatialize the soundstage. Despite this, the results were impressive and the Mu-so 2 provided a restitution that was much more dynamic than that offered by the television’s integrated speakers. Dialogues were perfectly centered and remained audible during action scenes. During the plane chase through the underground canyons, the spatialization of sound effects was expertly handled and the soundscape extended beyond the limits of the screen. Missiles flew from all sides, the explosions and the snap of the machine guns sounded realistic. Although it wasn’t completely immersive, the soundtrack was excellently restituted and effortlessly plunged us into the heart of the action.
Naim Mu-so 2: compared to…
Naim Mu-so 1st generation: the new drivers, the improvements made to the cabinet and the sturdier baffle have all paid off. The Mu-so 2 provides a richer and more dynamic sound, without compromising the overall balance for which it was renowned. The improved tactile interface, the more exhaustive connectivity and the new services available clearly give this new version the edge. Nonetheless, the first generation remains an excellent wireless speaker.
Devialet Phantom: used by itself, the Devialet speaker cannot produce stereo sound, but that isn’t what it was originally designed for. However, it can go a lot lower than the Naim speaker, with more authority and energy. The Naim has a brighter sound signature, emphasizing the mids and the highs, which some users may not enjoy. Lastly, the Devialet Phantom’s connectivity options are limited. The Devialet is better when it comes to the restitution of the lows, but the Naim Mu-so 2 takes the lead for spatialization, overall balance and connectivity.
KEF LSX Wireless: these speakers are capable of delivering a lot of energy, which ensures a vast soundstage that is more deftly layered than that of the Naim Mu-so 2. The sound signature of the KEF speakers is more dynamic and analytical than that of the Naim Mu-so 2, which can either be an advantage or a drawback, seeing as it is a question of taste. For us, the Naim Mu-so 2 was more pleasant to listen to: even though it falters due to weaker stereo spatialization, we found it to be more balanced overall with more powerful lows. The Naim is also more user-friendly, thanks to its tactile interface.
Naim Mu-so 2 : conclusion
The Naim Mu-so 2 offers many advantages. Its new drivers, designed in partnership with Focal, produce a more dynamic and richer sound than the previous version, but remains just as balanced. Its streaming possibilities are enhanced thanks to Chromecast technology which, along with support for the AirPlay 2 protocol, allow the Mu-so 2 to join a multi-room audio system. The revolutionary tactile interface is more comprehensive and its rotary volume control is as intuitive as before. Lastly, its range of connectors is more exhaustive with the addition of an HDMI ARC input, allowing you to enjoy the Naim Mu-so 2’s acoustic qualities during movies, TV shows and even video games, with the speaker automatically activating when the TV is turned on.
The first generation Naim Mu-so wireless speaker, which won multiple awards from the specialized press, convinced many users. With the Naim Mu-so 2, the British manufacturer has managed to improve this iconic speaker to make it one of the best on the market.
What we liked:
- The build quality and design
- The wide range of connectivity options: WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, optical, mini-jack
- The integration of Chromecast and AirPlay technologies
- The intuitive app and tactile interface
- The sound: rich, precise and balanced
What we would have liked:
- Wider stereo spatialization
- A Sub output
- A surround sound mode for movies