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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Exquisitely high-end design and build
Deep, rich sound
Tons of connectivity options
Soundstage is a bit small
The app could be better
As long as you can stomach the price, this beautifully designed speaker will be the focal point of your living room.
Naim provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test. Read on for their full take.
The Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation is a speaker that aims to offer immersive, smart-connected sound in an elegant package, and the limited-release Wood Edition brings with it a more organic visual look.
Naim is a brand that fits alongside higher-end audio manufacturers like Bang & Olufsen or Sonos. And that’s for two key reasons: First, they all focus on a premium design and build to provide an elegant piece of decor, not just a speaker. Second, there’s a keen focus on high sound quality, specifically tuned to the at-home audio experience. I got my hands on a Wood Edition Mu-so and added it to my entertainment setup for a couple of weeks. Read on for my in-depth review.
I think the sound quality, design, and performance are commensurate with the price point, but for those on a budget it might be tough to justify.
The only discernible difference between the standard Mu-so 2 and the Wood Edition is the design. Both this edition and the standard are designed as sharp-edged rectangles sitting on a lucite, LED-lit base. The front cloth grill is designed with a three-dimensional wave pattern, which is nice, but only noticeable from the side. When you go with the Wood Edition, you get a light, natural-oak enclosure with a textured tan speaker grill. I like this lighter, warmer look than the starker aesthetic provided by the standard black edition, but both designs look incredibly high end.
The attention to design detail doesn’t end at the shape and coloring. I mentioned the lucite base, which I didn’t think would provide a lot of visual value, but it actually gives the Mu-so an interesting look. Because this part of the design is clear, it makes the speaker enclosure itself appear like it’s floating about an inch above whatever surface it’s on.
And, when you turn the speaker on, the etched Naim logo glows with a nice, bright LED, which adds a modern touch. Even the volume and touch screen controls sit in a large, partially inset dial on the top of the unit, visible only when you’re looking down on it. The whole enclosure is covered in a thick, mirror-shined lacquer finish, meaning that even though the coloring looks like raw wood, it still has a nice finesse.
Because the speaker is designed to look high end, with a high-end price tag to match, it’s expected that the build quality offers premium touches. From the thick, solid lucite base to the impressively polished surface, there’s a level of glossiness that makes this speaker feel very high-dollar.
The smooth, satisfying volume knob offers just enough resistance without feeling rough, and the circular touch screen looks premium—even when it’s off, as it reverts back to a mirror-black surface. Because the front grill is textured and curved to look almost like an ocean wave, it’s actually a little more rigid and protective than a flat cloth grill would be. This grill is also built with a rugged plastic covered with a fine mesh fabric.
Finally, the back of the speaker (the part that allows airflow) is finished with a thick, metal grill-style radiator that feels super durable. While many high-end products give you the impression that you need to keep them at arms length to preserve their pristine look and feel, there’s something about the Mu-so that feels more resilient. To be fair, I don’t recommend putting a TV or other heavy components on top of the speaker as they will likely mar the mirror finish, but the enclosure can certainly take a lot before breaking.
The actual sound of the speakers, whether listening via Bluetooth or wired in, is impressively loud and full. The sound is produced by a couple of 1-inch tweeters, some mid-focused drivers that I found to be pretty powerful for their size, and some larger, oval-shaped bass woofers. These six drivers are powered by an amp array that, all-in, provides about 450W of power.
This is an impressive volume level for an enclosure that’s really not all that much bigger than a large soundbar. There does appear to be a port hold on one side firing down, which I think helps a great deal toward giving you some low-end support. In essence, the sound quality will end up being a lot louder and fuller than you would likely expect.
Where it’s lacking, for me, is in the soundstage. Because these speakers are all placed close together in a line, firing forward from a comparatively smaller grill, there is a tight, almost closed-in feeling to the sound. Most people who are in the market for this level of speaker will likely be comparing it to higher-end stereo systems, and while the volume and fullness is certainly commensurate, the stereo spread is lacking. It’s not a deal breaker, but an important consideration nonetheless.
These six drivers are powered by an amp array that, all-in, provides about 450W of power.
Then there’s the other piece of the puzzle: the signal processing. It comes down to how you’re transmitting your music. This is a speaker that has options, which I’ll get into in the connectivity section. As far as sound quality goes, you have a few different levels to consider. First, there are some wired inputs (including HDMI and digital optical) that will give you the purest, cleanest representation of audio—ideal for audiophile sound libraries.
Then there’s Bluetooth, which is all the way on the lower end of the sound quality spectrum because of the inherent codec compression required to transmit audio conveniently. But Mu-so, much like other wireless systems, also offers app-controlled Wi-Fi connectivity.
From here, you can get much better wireless sound quality, without as much heavy-handed Bluetooth-style compression, through AirPlay, Chromecast, and the proprietary Naim app. I did notice a decent amount of difference when using Bluetooth versus wired and Wi-Fi means, so it’s great that Mu-so has taken the time to perfect lossier transmission, because at this price point the speaker is certainly meant for more discerning ears.
Just one look at the Naim product site, and it’s clear that this is not a speaker built with simplicity in mind. With compatibility to AirPlay, Chromecast, Spotify, Tidal, and even more niche services like Qobuz, Naim has taken the time to give you basically any protocol you’ll need right out of the box. With that, the remote control that comes with the system is pretty simple. On the one hand, I like this, but on the other hand it nearly forces me into the app to customize my experience.
I’ll get into the app later, but I can’t help but think the remote and the touchscreen interface on the speaker itself could have been just a little more full-featured. I do really love the giant volume adjustment wheel, as it’s satisfying to control and provides a solid degree of precision when dialing in the volume. But, the icons and toggles that Naim uses as physical controls take a little bit of getting used to (for example, the “source” button has three unlabeled toggles, each assigned to a wired input). A bit of trial and error will get you there, though.
Another standout feature is Naim’s “multi-room” and “room-tuning” options. Using the app, you can work this speaker into a larger Naim system (I’d recommend taking a look at the smaller Qb system for offices and bookshelf setups), and control your music in dedicated zones. The speakers also allow you to tune their sound quality to match your room, depending on whether it’s close to a wall, or closer to the center of your space. This allows the system to compensate for unwanted resonance—an important and often-overlooked aspect of a system’s sound quality.
Much like products from Sonos, this speaker has a fairly straightforward setup process that’s guided through the Naim Music app. The goal here is to get your speaker synced up to the Wi-Fi network you’re using. You can use the speaker only via Bluetooth, but as I mentioned in the Sound Quality section, you’re leaving a lot on the table if you do that.
I like that Naim is extra clear in their app about troubleshooting. My setup, for instance, was delayed because my speaker was somehow locked into a purgatory, but because the app was very clear about what the indicator light color meant, it was easy enough to use a pin on the reset button and get it properly working.
At first glance, the software seems like it’s going to be great. But the deeper you dig, the less exciting it becomes. There aren’t a whole lot of sound controls, no real EQ to speak of, and even the “room-tuning” that Naim advertises lets you choose only whether your speaker is near a wall, near a corner, or not. I was also disappointed to find that there’s no full Spotify or Apple Music integration. Naim does advertise Spotify support, but I just couldn’t get it to work on my iPhone. Once the system is on your Wi-Fi network, you can send music via AirPlay or the built-in Chromecast functionality.
As far as I can tell, the only way to control music directly through the app is to use the Naim radio stations built in, opt for the couple of services Naim is compatible with (Tidal and Qobuz), or actually keep audio files on your phone. If you have a high-resolution audio library, this can be a great feature for you, because it lets you stream the best quality music wirelessly. But for those who prefer streaming services, you’ll have to use your phone or computer’s wireless compatibility outside the app. Otherwise, the app is just a vessel for updating your speaker and checking connectivity—not entirely useless, but certainly not as well-executed as what Sonos brings to the tablet.
One thing that Naim does extraordinarily well is give you basically every connectivity option you could ever want. When brands like Sonos often leave Bluetooth completely out and when lower-end speakers don’t give you the less-lossy Wi-Fi functionality, it’s nice that Naim has given you both options here.
If you want to run your whole system via the Naim app for full lossless audio, you can do it. If you want to get the most out of your stream, using AirPlay and Chromecast have you covered. If you want a quick-connect way for guests to stream music at a party, you can set them up via Bluetooth. It’s nice to see everything at play here.
Then there’s the wired connectivity. I’m happy to say that Naim gives you anything you could want in a speaker or soundbar. A simple aux input lets you connect with a 3.5-millimeter cable, while the digital optical input lets you easily set up this speaker with your TV or surround sound system. There’s even HDMI ARC functionality to fit more seamlessly into a full entertainment system.
One thing that Naim does extraordinarily well is give you basically every connectivity option you could ever want.
There’s also an ethernet part if you’d prefer to keep your speaker wired, rather than taking up bandwidth on your Wi-Fi network. My only (admittedly minor) gripe is the fact that all these ports are located in a small cavity on the bottom of the unit on the right. This hides them visually, but means you have to awkwardly tilt the whole unit upward on one side to plug anything in.
The standard Mu-so 2nd Generation goes for about $1700 at most retailers, which is, on its own, an incredibly high price tag to pay for a consumer-oriented wireless speaker. This limited-run Wood Edition goes for over $2,000.
It’s true that the wood tone makes this speaker look quite a bit more special than anything else I’ve seen on the market. But there’s no way around the fact that this unit is certainly in the “premium” space. I think the sound quality, design, and performance are commensurate with the price point, but for those on a budget it might be tough to justify.
Because of the price point, one of the only true competitors of this product is B&O. The Stage—B&O’s mountable soundbar—is an interesting alternative. You’ll get something a little thinner and sleeker, making it slightly better than the Mu-so for a TV setup. But I think the design and music functionality of the Mu-so Wood Edition make it a better all-around buy.
An incredibly nice speaker for a niche buyer.
The Wood Edition of Naim’s well-tuned Mu-so is a really extravagant speaker. Just like the Bentley version Naim also produced, this limited-run unit mainly offers a unique aesthetic over the base model. But it was a really nice way for me to test the Mu-so second generation at large. In general, I’m giving this speaker high marks because it delivers on almost everything you could want: full, rich sound quality, extremely premium design and build, and a nice overall user experience.
The sound stage is understandably a bit closed off due to the compact size, and the app leaves something to be desired, but these are minor issues for the right buyer. The biggest drawback, then, becomes the somewhat prohibitive price point. But if you want a truly unique, truly premium audio device, this is a great bet.
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