Naim Mu-So Qb 2 Review: Stylish hi-fi boombox

d0c40782689efa6eb6a3ef5a26418352

The 2nd generation Mu-So QB builds on the iconic styling of its predecessor by adding a new touchscreen control panel surrounded by an illuminated dial with a proximity sensor that lights up to welcome you when a hand approaches it. Access to key playback controls, as well as your favorite playlists, radio station presets, Spotify, multi-room features and more, are now available from a new tactile interface.

qb2-peacock-3.jpg

At the heart of the Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation is the Naim music streaming platform, designed by 25 engineers to deliver high-performance streaming, whether you are playing locally stored digital music, internet radio or music streaming services such as TIDAL and Spotify. The Naim Mu-So QB 2nd Generation features 300W of music power and a completely new set of speaker drivers, optimized in collaboration with Naim subsidiary Focal.

The streaming capabilities of the new 2nd Generation Mu-So QB include support for digital files up to 32 bit / 384 kHz via UPnP server. Apple’s AirPlay 2 is built-in, along with native streaming for Spotify Connect, TIDAL, Google Chromecast, and Internet Radio. The device also features improved Wi-Fi connectivity for easier streaming, while the Ethernet jack remains an option for those who prefer wired connections. Devices can also be connected wirelessly via Bluetooth, or you can use USB memory sticks or hard drives to play music.

qb2-olive-2.jpg

The Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation system features a premium aluminum cabinet with a new polished gray finish, lined with a new style speaker mesh that comes standard in black, but is also available in terracotta, olive or peacock.

Structural linkages and front panel upgrades have improved structural rigidity and reduced vibration. The distinctive heat exchanger is now more compact, but just as super efficient. It also houses the Naim branded Wi-Fi antenna.

The Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation from Naim can also be used as part of a multi-room music setup. There are three ways to create a multi-room ecosystem. The first option is to use other Naim products, including the first generation Mu-So and Mu-So Qb, through the updated Naim App. The second method is to use Apple AirPlay 2 compatible wireless speakers through the Apple Home app. Finally, multi-room audio can be achieved with Google Chromecast devices through groups managed through the Google Home app.

qb2-terracotta-5.jpg

The acrylic plate, placed directly under the body of the device, has both a decorative function with illumination of the logo and a damping function, because the device’s power is high and its size is relatively modest. The next detail is a large aluminum radiator for the entire rear panel of the device. It is on it that almost all the electronic components of the system are attached, and it provides them with thermal and mechanical stability. The body itself is also made of aluminum, but also has an internal acoustic chamber made of wood.

All control of the Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation is carried out on a large round knob located in a recess on the top of the cabinet. It is a proprietary system that includes an illuminated rotary multi-function ring, multiple touch buttons and LEDs to indicate adjustment. With this wheel, you can turn on / off the device, select a sound source, switch between tracks, stop and start playback and, of course, adjust the volume. Everything is organized very logically and clearly, the handle turns with minimal effort.

naim-mu-so-6.jpg

Available for iOS and Android devices, the updated Naim App allows users to browse music by artist, genre, album, and more. You can also use the app to control volume, lighting settings, sound modes, and even create playlists.

The 2nd generation Mu-so Qb grills have been redesigned to maximize acoustic transparency. The standard black grill can be easily replaced with one of the 3 new color grills – olive, terracotta, blue – to best suit your interior.

The first version of Naim’s “cube” turned out to be almost perfect for its format, and, no matter what anyone said, even niche-forming or niche-reflective: thanks to it, equipment manufacturers began to re-rivet small high-quality boomboxes. She had a spacious, bright sound, great design and the broadest functionality. There were, of course, features that had to be put up with. But it’s not for nothing that the company released the second generation of Mu-so Qb.

Most of the changes in the small mushi, like the big one, are concentrated within. Visually, the first version from the second is not easy to distinguish: the updated model is given only by the volume control wheel, which is welcomingly illuminated if you bring your hand to it. And so – it’s all the same aluminum cube, covered on three sides by a slightly wavy protective grill and installed on a transparent base with an illuminated Naim logo. At the back are a large radiator grill and connectors – power, Ethernet, USB, optics and 3.5mm, as well as a reset hole.

a3f34a6-3fb2-4359-81c4-d7724bdd71d2.jpg

The speakers hidden under the grill look the same as in the first version of Mu-so Qb, but in fact they just have the same shape and sit in the same places. The story is similar to the big Mu-so – we worked on the speakers together with the Focal engineers. The drivers drive five Class D amplifiers: 100 watts are directed to the front panel woofer, and four times 50 watts are distributed between the tweeter and midrange pairs. All active speakers are located on the front panel, but passive radiators add to the sound on the sides of the volume.

A lot of attention in the new version was paid to DSP – it is smarter, more powerful, faster. With its help, you can adjust the sound of Mu-so Qb depending on the position in space – in the corner, against the wall, far away from them. The DAC was also upgraded, now it accepts a 24-bit / 384 kHz signal. The main difference from the previous model is the expanded network functionality. First, there is support for a proprietary multi-room recruitment that integrates all modern Naim devices with any network connection into one system. Secondly, there is a Chromecast on board, AirPlay 2, which we recently talked about in great detail, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Roon support, connection to sources via UPnP and, of course, Bluetooth with Internet radio.

6cf7a4d-7a21-4f34-aede-ebf86b5858a9.jpg

If you think about it, the list of differences between generations is not so great. The body is practically the same, except that it is slightly altered from the inside. Well, yes, Wi-Fi is more powerful, DSP is more impressive. Are these improvements really needed?

Musya played badly. At least at the very beginning of the test. The high frequencies whistled, there were too many of them, while it was almost impossible to hear even any hint of more or less tangible rhythms. It turned out that the one who listened to it before me turned on the “Loudness” function – which is just famous for raising high and low frequencies. Yes, at low volume, it allows you to better distinguish between dialogues and rhythm, but starting from about 25% it already spoils everything and creates exactly the same effect as described above – whistles, screams, loses bass and breaks all hopes. As soon as it was turned off, the sound became much closer to how the first version of Mu-so Qb, which I knew very well, played. But something was still missing. Playfulness, maybe? Joy? There was a lot of sharpness and clarity, the feed itself seemed smooth, maybe even unnecessary. You know what was the problem? Again, the lack of rhythm.

The new “musya” turned out to be quite strongly directed in the vertical plane. If she plays below ear level in the near field, then most of the dynamics disappears from the sound, which is primarily created by the rhythmic component. This point must be taken into account. Moreover, if she plays below the level of the ears, but far away, everything is fine, the whole room is filled with evenly perky sound. But at a distance of up to one and a half meters, the directionality is very well felt. We can say that my acquaintance with “Musya” did not work out for me, but after we settled comfortably in relation to each other, she completely rehabilitated herself. I started with a relatively multi-layered thing – the Watchmen soundtrack that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross worked on. It suited Mu-so Qb’s handwriting perfectly: driving, clear, varied and very emotional in itself. A correctly placed “Musya” can play all this without any problems, adding a plus to the whole volume.

da3e4dc-d5d2-4c5b-a220-d990b79764e3.jpg

But it was not easy for her to cope with Nine Inch Nails themselves – nevertheless, their sound is a little dirty for her and she cannot adequately decompose this music into components so that there is no mess. The soundtrack of “Guardians” has more minimalism, more accuracy – that’s why the “cube” has no problems with it. The bottom is a little lacking in density, but they are readable and loose. In general, “musa” is good at music, in which attention must be regularly switched to high-frequency effects located on a dense rhythmic substrate – like The Crystal Method, Pendulum, various cheerful electronic music. On Pendulum, even the lack of bass disappeared somewhere and a pleasant, soulful punch appeared. But its most important feature is that it is loud. During the test, I hardly twisted the volume above half – she calmly voiced the entire demo room, especially, it seems, without straining. The ideal volume for her is 30-40 percent.

This is where I want to step back from the music a bit and kick the Naim Android app. Maybe I was not lucky, but there were problems with the volume control. In order to change the volume, the slider at the bottom of the screen had to be poked about five times – he did not want to be grabbed and dragged along. There was also such a funny bug when listening through Tidal: if you turn on the melody, lock the phone, wait for the next track on the list to play, and then unlock the phone and get into the Naim app, Musya, after a little thought, will switch to the previous track. But this is just an application – it can always be completed, updated, repaired.

5ac975e-b84f-4bf2-a00e-4cc651967534.jpg

What is definitely good with “Musi” is the transfer of emotions. In the track “7 Billion People All Alive at Once” by And So I Watch You From Afar, guitar waltz motives were presented in a relaxed, gentle and kind manner, but another track from these guys, “Set Guitars To Kill”, on the contrary, was filled with life, power – but, however, not completely. It seems that the “musa” lacks a little foolishness, as if she is afraid to be mischievous in full force. On the same track, by the way, the hypothesis about the dislike of the device for dirty guitar sound was confirmed: when two guitars, rhythm and solo start playing after a loss, it is almost impossible to separate them from each other in the sound of “musé”, they mix too tightly.

The volume of the “cube” was perfectly revealed on the almost spontaneous vocals of Bjork and Florence Welch. Listening to the album “Ceremonials”, sitting on the floor in front of the “musi” standing on the coffee table, is an almost ephemeral, a bit ancient pleasure. The scene turns out to be wide, yes, painted with large strokes, but for such a crumb it is very serious. There is a lot of air, openness in it, which is only beneficial for such vocals as in Bjork and Flo, and for simple instrumental compositions. In such a scene, the details that Mu-so Qb gives out in full are much more accurate.

The changes in the second generation Mu-so Qb are small but important – more streaming, more signal processing power, more quality, more convenience. With the latter, I agree with caution: yes, the new control wheel is great, but the application, and especially the integration of Tidal into it, needs work. Also, by the way, the set comes with a remote control – simple but neat.

cec9222-d2d0-4547-a855-a68241883d32.jpg

Conclusion

As for the sound … Naim Mu-So Qb 2 has all the functions you need to spoil it. If you do not use them and keep the “cube” at ear height or at a distance of more than two meters, then everything will be fine. Within the framework, of course, of the format of the system. There is a lot of sound – it is big, wide, loud.

Maybe a little squeezed in the low-frequency range – but it’s still a small Naim, and not a lifestyle JBL. It is worth being careful to include multilayer melodies, as Naim Mu-So Qb 2 can choke on them. Her path is primarily, it seems to me, emotional minimalism. He can be fast, he can be calm, gentle or aggressive – but keep it simple.

We can say that Naim, with the release of Mu-So Qb 2, has revived the niche of stylish hi-fi boomboxes. The new version of the “cube” has just become more modern, without changing the principles of sound, embedded in the first model. And that is great.

All TechWeek writers are indepentent and from many different countries. Some english misspelling and grammar mistakes may occur. Report article.

We are experiencing some technical difficulties. Some articles and reviews are missing sources.

Tech Week