Home / Tech / Naim's $900 wireless speaker isn't cheap, but it stands out from the competition with its high-end tuning and stylish design

Naim's $900 wireless speaker isn't cheap, but it stands out from the competition with its high-end tuning and stylish design

 

Naim Speaker

  • Modern and stylish, the Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation Wireless Speaker will deliver accurate, natural sound into your home with all the connections you could want and simple integration with all your devices. 
  • The wonderful sound from the Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation focuses on vocal performance, and while the mids and bass take a slight back seat, it’s all delivered in a delightfully wide soundstage. 
  • Incredibly convenient to live with due to its ease of use, simple setup, multi-room capabilities, and accurate sound, the Naim effortlessly becomes part of your everyday life.

 

Wireless multi-room speakers aren’t expensive anymore, with great examples available for $300 or less. The Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd generation, however, is a premium wireless speaker, which means you pay a lot more for it, but benefit from the brand’s extensive history and experience in tuning speakers. The question is — is the Mu-So Qb worth the $899 asking price? After all, for that you could build a decent, complete multi-room system rather than splurge on a single speaker.

The Naim has been in our apartment for a few weeks, and this is what it’s like to live with.

Design

From a distance, the black Naim cube is exactly that — a cube. Get a little closer, and the dark textured sides hide a secret — an undulating surface that wouldn’t look out of place in a scene from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. When you touch the circular control panel on the top, the crystal clear plinth glows into life as the cube switches on, and minimal touch controls spring into life on the top.  

This is the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation, a wantonly modern-looking yet carefully designed wireless speaker for your home. The simple cube shape fits in with any decor, and the customizable grille can be swapped (for an additional price) from monolithic black to an olive, terracotta, or peacock color to better fit in with your style, or to complement a more flamboyant personality. I think it looks superb, and even though it has been standing on a table in my living room for a couple of weeks, I still glance over at it and admire the shape even now.

Specs

Naim speaker specs

  • Speakers: Stereo 3-way with bass radiator system
  • Amplifier: 300 watts
  • Dimensions: 21cm x 21cm x 21cm
  • Weight: 5.6kg
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Roon, USB, optical S/PDIF, and 3.5mm jack. 
  • Remote control: Yes

Connections and setup

Naim speaker 7

The back of the Mu-so Qb is less inspiring. It’s made up of a massive heatsink, along with a selection of small controls and the main connections, including a power cable and a Ethernet port. The touch controls on the top of the unit are responsive, if a little confusing. A play button, plus a track forward and back, are joined by a series of connection options, which are illustrated with confusing symbols. It’s all very minimalist and cool, but not very practical. Surrounding the touch panel is a beautifully dampened volume control — deliciously tactile, gradually increasing lights encourage you to spin it round until the volume’s at the maximum. 

Naim has made sure that however you want to play your music, the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation has the connection for you. The list is extensive, starting with Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, USB, both digital and analog ports, Spotify connect, Internet radio, and Tidal too. Connecting the Naim Mu-so Qb to your iOS or Android device is relatively straightforward, but if you’re unfamiliar with some of the processes it can be confusing. It does require the Naim app to be installed on your phone for the initial setup, but once it’s connected to your home Wi-Fi, it’s easy to play Chromecast, AirPlay, or Bluetooth content. 

Whether using Apple’s or Google’s wireless connection, it’s quickly established using your phone, without messing around with complex pairing actions. If you happen to use both, the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation is happy to swap between them without issue. The signal is solid, and I never experienced any instability using Bluetooth or Chromecast, although on some songs using AirPlay the timing was ever so slightly off, either playing a beat too fast or slow. It didn’t happen all the time, though, and I suspect it may have been a network problem. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re home internet connection is sometimes unstable.

Naim speaker 5

Not to worry if it is. In the same way that swapping between devices is easy, so is swapping between music sources on your phone. My AirPlay-connected iPhone 11 Pro happily flipped from music saved on the device, to Spotify, and then Tidal without complaint. I’d then pick up my Android phone and connect using Chromecast, and it just worked, all without leaving the couch. If one source is giving you problems, changing to another is seamless. Other times, Bluetooth on its own was fine for playing a song quickly.

This flexibility is important, as I just want my wireless speakers to work when I want them to. I don’t want to fiddle about with connections when I want one song to play before heading out. The Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation not only has a very short startup time, but it also has a hassle-free connection time, meaning it’s ready to go when you are. 

Sound

Naim speaker 4

How does it sound when you’re ready? First, I found the Mu-so Qb to be more sensitive to the surface on which it’s placed than some other speakers. Initially, on a granite kitchen surface, the speaker lacked bass and presence. After swapping it to an oak wood table, however, the sound was transformed. It’s the stunning presence and soundstage delivered by this small cube that impresses most.

When listening to Twice’s &Twice album the vocals sparkled, giving an emotional sound that never let the busy percussion overpower the singer’s voices. There’s masses of volume too, with more than enough at half maximum to fill my apartment and likely irritate the neighbors. Even used on its own and despite its relative small size, the Naim throws its sound around the room. The soundstage focuses the vocals, but does everything it can to spread everything else around, meaning it never really sounds like a single speaker. 

Not a bass monster

Naim speaker 3

The downside for me is the slightly disappointing bass performance. Mid-bass isn’t solid enough, and sub-bass isn’t strong enough. The lack of low-end thump and mid-bass crack lessens the enjoyment of bass-heavy tracks like Tokyo Tower’s remix of KLF’s “What Time is Love.” You notice it elsewhere too. The Todd Terry Club remix of “Everything But the Girl’s Missing” is mid and percussion heavy, and the Naim doesn’t quite have what it takes to bring out the track’s best. 

Play to the Naim’s strengths, and it’s fantastic though. Extreme’s “More Than Words” is all about the vocals, and they’re wonderfully clear and forward, as is Natalie Imbruglia’s voice in “Torn.” But the muted mids still frustrate if you listen too closely. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I did find that once I noticed the dryness of the sound in some songs, I’d notice it again in others. Going about my business with the Naim playing, these aspects never became an issue, and I enjoyed the sound a great deal. It’s only sitting down and becoming absorbed in the music that I’d notice.

The Naim app does not have a graphic equalizer or any presets to alter the sound delivered by the speaker. There is a loudness control, and that’s it. Altering where the speaker thinks it is, changes the audio too. In the app, you can set it up according to whether the speaker is close to a wall or in free air. I found that the free air setting, regardless of placement, sounded best. 

Multi-room built in

Naim speaker 6

Although I did not try this during my review, the Naim is ready to be used as a multi-room speaker.  It operates with other Naim products through Naim’s app, or with any other AirPlay 2 compatible speakers ready for use in the Apple Home app. If you use Chromecast, it’s easy to add the Naim to a group inside the Google Home app. This increases the speaker’s usefulness and versatility, either as the start of your multi-room system, or enhancing an existing one. 

The bottom line 

Naim speaker 2

A fabulous design, easy setup and use, and accurate, spacious, and natural performance make the Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation a wonderful addition to your home. The muted mids and slightly lacking bass performance do disappoint when you really start to examine the sound it delivers, but under most circumstances, you won’t find this to be a problem.

Should you buy it?

Yes, provided you’re not looking for a complete audiophile experience or one that delivers room-shaking bass. This is a natural-sounding speaker with a lovely soundstage, which treats your music with respect; but it’s not what I’d call a party speaker.  

What are your alternatives?

This is an expensive wireless speaker, and therefore you can spend a lot less and still get great sound. The Google Nest Home Max is $230, for example, and the Marshall Stanmore 2 has Amazon Alexa built-in, and costs $340. It’s multi-room ready, has all the required connectivity options, and puts out more bass and volume than the Naim too.

What the Stanmore 2, and the Nest Home Max lack, is the accuracy of the Mu-So Qb 2nd generation. You’re definitely paying more for the brand’s long history and experience in tuning speakers to deliver a natural sound. The design is better than the others too. 

Alternatively, the Sonos Play:5 provides the beginnings of a great multi-room system for $500, and for the same price as the Naim, you could add a couple of Sonos One speakers to it. However, they’re all quite ugly. The Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge is also $900, matches the Naim for stunning style, and delivers a similarly room-filling sound too.

I listen to a lot of music while doing things in the house. When I don’t listen to the sound too deeply but still want great quality, room-filling volume, and accuracy, the Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation delivers. Switch it on, play your tunes, go about your business, and enjoy every moment of it. 

Pros: Modern, slick design, easy to setup, multiple connection options, natural, accurate sound with a wide soundstage.

Cons: Sub bass suffers, mids can be muted.

 

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