Two years ago Naim launched the sensational streaming table radio Mu-so, a product that differed quite dramatically from everything else that Naim has made previously. But also from any other streaming product, which are dominated by players in the more volume-based segment. While most streaming Speakers most plastic structures with design often below pari, Naim went to the other extreme. A direct searing cabinet, which is topped by a control module taken from Naim`s prestige Project, the Statement amp. The flagship amplifiers Statement was developed and launched in roughly the same period as Mu-so.
The original Mu-so is a multi-room product that sets a new standard for wireless multi-room solutions, and works with Naim`s more conventional streamers. Like UnitiQute 2, that I reviewed a year or so ago.
My immediate's reactions when I had my first breef acquaintance with Mu-so some time ago, was that it would have been incredibly nice if Naim also could be able to make a kid brother in their assortment. It could form the basis for a rather broad distribution of a multi-room setup in the premium segment, not to say in the Bentley class. For there might be a person or two who think that the full version of Mu-so will be slightly too much at the bathroom.
Now I do not believe for a moment that it was my thoughts that have inspired Naim to og for Mu-so Qb, but it is nevertheless a fact that they have developed a kid brother. And my first physical encounter with this sounding dice at the opening show at Duet Audio in Bergen inspired me to making an agreement for a test, with the present Isak Strand from the distriutor Multiroom.
When the design team for Mu-so Qb took on the task of constructing a little brother to Mu-so, they had the three main goals for the new product. It should have a significantly smaller footprint than the original model, it should be clearly less expensive and not least important: it had to deliver genuine Naim sound. The team consisted of technical director Roy George, chief engineer Matthieu Guillox and chief designer Simon Matthews. They could benefit from a couple of different solutions from Mu-so, but in many areas it was necessary to come up with completely new solutions.
One issue was that they thought the box is too small for a bass port with adequate size. Therefore, they landed on a solution that is completely new for Naim, both in streaming speakers and other speaker designs. For Mu-so Qb has two slave basses - one at each side of the chassis. But this again leads to a different challeng. Although the chassis is produced in a strong and rigid material, it has a total of seven elements With such large openings that it was necessary to plan for aditional stiffness. The massive base plate in clear acrylic is an obvious positive contribution to the stiffness, in addition to that it has other great qualities that I will return to. The same applies to the backplate, which has heat sinks which also serve as antennas for WiFi and Bluetooth.
But speaker elements have been obliged to have additional functions within Molds - midrange elements, for instance, a back cover made of aluminum, which in addition to contributing to the stiffening of the chassis also allows the utility to shield acoustic of woofers.
I have mentioned the two slave radiatos earlier, while the main bass has what we somewhat oversimplified may call an elliptical shape and sits at the lower end of the front. Both midrange and tweeters are found in pairs, and they are placed in inclined surfaces to ensure a good spread in the room.
There is also a pretty hefty use of DSP in this construction. This, in combination with an active solution where each element has its own amplifier is almost a necessity to allow for reproduction of such high quality in such a compact chassis. Mu-so Qb has similar amplifiers to Mu-so, and performs here a tota ofl 300 watts - divided as 4x50 watt midrange and treble and 1x100 Watt Bass. The solution using DSP opens for that improved sound tuning may be part of future firmware updates. Mu-so Qb is tuned to match brother Mu so - an important parameter to provide optimal integration into a multi-room setup.
Mu-so Qb is really something to live up to when it comes to design. The development team at Naim have chosen a completely different shape this time. But at the same time the relationship is not to be mistaken. And there are three parameters that do this.
We start with the illuminated shelf in clear acryl, a component that looks as if it is made of glass and gives the impression that the dice hovering. The illuminated Naim logo engraved in acrylic directly pig leaking, and sets the standard for design together with the control panel. We find this at the top, and is a giant volume control that is even more appealing to touch and operate, than it is to watch. A high-precision mechanics in the rotation gives the right Mercedes Feeling (here it is of course tempting to use the term "Bentley feeling" but I have never put my legs in a Bentley). Integrated into the core of this volume wheel we find the pressure-sensitive control screen, which fortunately does not rotate with the wheel.
The cabinet is surrounded by a cloth-covered panel on three sides. This black panel is detachable, and can be replaced by a panel of three selectable colors. Like most other speakers, one may of course also play the Mu-so Qb without front cover. But in this case I think definitely that the speaker do their best with the cover on. It is certainly an interesting exercise to undress them in order tot to study the anatomy, but once that this is done, the covers should return.
As with streaming loudspeakers most also Naim Mu-so Qb has many opportunities for input source. We start with the physical - one optical and one analog audio jack ensures flexibility, and allow for both digital and analog signal source. There is also a USB type A..
But it is of course the wireless signals that are most interesting for a speaker in this category. Bluetooth (aptX) and WiFi are providing access to anything one may desire, and it is particularly pleasing that TIDAL now in place. TIDAL was not available when I reviewed UnitiQute 2 a year ago, but during autumn 2015 the joyful message came obaout that we had seen coming for some time. Also Spotify is integrated, and of course you can also stream your music collection via UPnP. Certainly in HighRes.
Internet radio is also one of the important sources, and here it via vTuner.
Streaming Loudspeakers in general, and especially multiroom systems are very dependent on having a good user interface. It may be repeated into the boring that Sonos is particularly good in this area, so it's not going to get past that this is the benchmark that all products in this category must be measured against.
Naim has developed a very thorough app. I have not been able to find any particular weaknesses with it, and it is quick and intuitive to deal with. I also think that the menus may be even more intuitive to navigate than Sonos`s. In addition, it has a very good graphic design, and on top you may select the color of the menu. And this with exquisite design of the app is an essential requirement when you want to mingle with people in the Bentley league. I also appreciate that both TIDAL and Spotify may be operated via these streaming clients their own apps. But then as an AirPlay source.
But if you wangt optimal sound quality, you enter via the Naim app. Then the sound is streamed directly to Mu-so Qb, giving the best possible result.
You also have the opportunity to preset automatic start via the function "alarm". But here Naim must accept being beaten by Sonos, which may have many simultaneously saved "alarms." I say yet, since this can be easily changed via a firmware update. And yes, Naim may like to interpret this as a call from an automation freak ... ..
But when it comes to operation via the device itself, it is completely in a league in Naim's favor. I have mentioned the volume control which is a sensual pleasure to operate. It gives such a good feeling to turn up the sound that just as easily choose to rise from his chair, instead of using the app.
And the control panel placed in the center of the Wheel has very much better control possibilities than Sonos, and also gives more feedback about the status. A very important detail that is highly missed on the Sonos is that by double clicking on the radio icon, Mu-so Qb jumps to the next favorite station, where it alternates between five pre-selected stations. Excellent!
And as a pure bonus, you can also obtain a classic remote control. This is optional, but I'm guessing that some users will want to have it. I would obviously have done it even if I was the owner of one or more Mu-so models.
It's not to be denied that there are certain expectations when it comes to sound quality from a streaming speaker at this price point. It's not quite enough to observe that the bass is playing surprisingly deep for the size. That exercise we have been through with some other models, such as B&W's Zeppelin models, Denon Heos 7 and Sonos Play:5.
I got a little surprising first impression. The bass was very good but there was some hammock here, with a little conspicuous "loudness effect." And then it was just what it was all about. A little dive into the menu revealed that previous testers of this demo model naturally had completed test session With turning on the loudness. This was of course then switched off, and simultaneously I checked other parameters that may affect the sound balance. Here it is possible to select the distance to the rear wall. Since I placed the Mu-so Qb with far greater distance to the back wall, I chose that setting.
But after a lengthy period of testing I found that the other setting was even better, giving an even more neutral tone. In other words - I preferred no extra boost in the bass range of DSP.
The sound overall Mu-so QB is very pleasing and musical. You are served a good immersion into the music, and although it is difficult to compare the sound With a full-scale Naim setup, we still find some of the Naim spirit here. It is a slightly more cautious in the top than the Play: 5, which in turn may emerge as a bit more analytical. However, it is a good detailed sound provided from the Mu-so Qb, although of course we do not get any real stereo perspective from only one speaker.
I`ll remember You, When I`ve forgotten all the rest . This verse is taken from a song on Bob Dylan's album Empire Burlesque, and describes very well how I experienced my marriage during a few weeks with Naim Mu-so Qb. Naim has done everything right here. Great sound is combined with a very good user interface, and with quality feel and design to die for.
If you are looking for a compact multi-room streaming speaker in the Bentley league, this is your destination!