Price (RRP): $1,475
Many network and smart speakers come from companies with their roots in IT. The Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation music system comes from a company very firmly in the British high-fidelity tradition. Indeed, Naim’s current top-of-the-line amplifier costs $375,000! And, no, I did not accidentally slip in an extra zero. So consider the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation the company’s entry level system.
Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation Features
But it is a smart speaker in that it supports just about every way music can be wirelessly delivered to a speaker, plus a few wired ways. What ways?
- Apple AirPlay 2
- Spotify Connect
- Internet radio
- Analogue audio
- Optical digital audio
- USB from mass storage devices
That covers everything. Oh, it also supports the Roon music indexing and routing system if you’re into that. And it works as a multiroom system, via the Naim app with other Naim devices, via Chromecast with other Chromecast devices, and via AirPlay 2 with other AirPlay 2 devices.
The Naim Mu-so Qb is not to be confused with the much larger Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation ($2,600). The latter is a wide rectangle. The Qb is a cube. Get it? The review model is the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation. Apparently Naim has extensively re-worked the first version.
It’s not a perfect cube, but close enough with dimensions of 210mm by 218mm by 212mm. It’s a solid lump, weighing 5.6 kilograms. At the bottom is a 2cm thick slab of clear perspex, gently lit from within, highlighting the “naim” badge. At the top is a large ring which you spin to adjust the volume. This has a proximity sensor so as your hand approaches it, additional touch sensitive controls light up on it. They cover skip, play/pause, favourites and the ubiquitous three dots for “more”. Tap that and input selections come up. There’s also an IR remote control included.
Inside the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation
Unusually, the grille of the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation is removable. It covers three sides and you can change the standard grey/black one for optional peacock, terracotta or olive ones. (Consider your colour choices carefully: they cost $145 each.) The back is fluted aluminium, which presumably acts as a heatsink for the five internal amplifiers. The two 25mm tweeters are directed to shoot somewhat to the left and right and each gets a 50-watt amplifier. The two 55mm midrange drivers are likewise directed and powered. The 60mm by 125mm bass driver fires forwards and has 100 watts available to it. On each side is a 140mm by 70mm passive radiator.
At the back are the audio inputs and USB, along with an Ethernet connection. The Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation also incorporates 802.11ac dual band Wi-Fi.
All of Naim’s network players are operated using the Naim app. I found this to be sensibly laid out and intuitive in use, at least to my mind. I did experience a couple of hiccoughs in setting up the Wi-Fi connection, but it turned out to be that the app wasn’t quite as clear as it could have been in stepping me through the process. In particular, when I’d enter something, like a Wi-Fi password, it didn’t acknowledge things clearly enough. But persistence got it set up, and then there was a firmware upgrade that may well have sorted out all that.
Is the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation reliable?
One of the great attractions of the various Echo and Google Home smart speakers is that they have reliable operation nailed. They just do what they’re supposed to do whenever you ask them to do it. I guess that’s thanks to those companies’ IT heritage. Sometimes hifi companies have trouble matching that. They may make great sounding speakers, but their systems can be hard to use, disconnect from the network unexpectedly, or be difficult for various apps to find.
That was not the case for the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation music system. All apps found it easily and rapidly. It remained connected over weeks with no dropouts. It was super easy to use. Just now I fired up Spotify on a tablet, found the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation speaker in the speaker list and selected it. The music emerged from the speaker within two or three seconds. I also used the unit with Tidal via the Naim app, and again performance was utterly reliable.
I fired up my favourite UPnP player on Android, dialled up some audiophile quality jazz recorded in DSD128 – that’s the double-speed version of Direct Stream Digital – and sent it to the speaker. Perfect. Note, that’s via the wireless connection. Likewise for 384kHz FLAC.
I plugged a 5TB portable hard drive into the USB socket on the back, selected “USB” within the Naim app and … nothing. I switched to a 128GB portable SSD drive and it worked fine. I’m guessing the difference was that the former was NTSF-formatted, while the latter was formatted using FAT32. With USB, the unit does not use ID3 tags in your music files. You just navigate, using the app, through the folder structure on the device.
Listening to the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation
If you come to the Naim Mu-So Qb Gen 2 music system from the current batch of compact smart speakers, you may be initially puzzled by the sound. Where’s the bass?
That’s because we’re used to excessive bass from so many speakers. Because Naim is a high-fidelity company, it has designed the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation to produce high fidelity sound. And that means, amongst other things, avoiding an overblown bass.