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Gorgeous design and fine sound, at a premium price. 4 Stars

British audiophile icon Naim has never been a company focused on producing affordable or value oriented products. Rather, Naim has always been known in the audiophile community for avantgarde industrial design, excellent sonics and premium pricing. Naim certainly has a fine grasp on what audio equipment needs to be in order to appeal to those with a design sensibility, and their products are almost universally striking in appearance, much to my wife’s delight. When Naim offered to send me a review unit of the Mu-So 2nd generation in their new wood finish to check out, I was eager to see one in person.

Naim’s solution to the soundbar and wireless speaker market is the Mu-So, a relatively svelte unit that can sit on a counter, end table, media rack or mantle with ease. The Mu-So can be connected via Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, or act directly as a streaming endpoint for the service of your choice, including Spotify, TIDAL, Qobuz and Roon, in addition to AirPlay 2 and Chromecast support.

Like Naim’s Uniti series of products, Mu-So devices can be used in a multi-room setup with audio synchronized between them. This is great news for those seeking an alternative to Sonos.

Unboxing & Build Quality

Naim’s Mu-So Wood Edition ships in a sturdy double box, well protected from even the most egregiously careless shipping service, and arrived at my home in perfect condition.

Upon opening the box, the Mu-So sits nestled next to the manual, a remote and power cord. Hooking up the Mu-So is trivially easy, requiring the power cord to be inserted on the bottom of the unit and connected to an outlet. That’s it!

The build quality of the Mu-So is superb, and the new wood finish which utilizes sustainably sourced Ayous hardwood is absolutely flawless. An anodized aluminum heatsink covers the rear of the Mu-So, while a simple waved grille covers the front.  With the exception of a single USB port, all the connections on the Mu-So are cleverly concealed on the underside, with a HDMI, optical, 3.5mm and ethernet port nestled next to the power input. In terms of size and weight, the Mu-So measures just shy of 5″ tall, by 25″ wide and 10″ deep, and weights a substantial 28 pounds. I suspect much of this mass comes from the 6 75W amplifiers inside and solid chassis. It is clear that Naim never builds a product that isn’t absolutely rock solid from a casework and mechanical engineering perspective.

Upon removing the grille, the Mu-So’s 6 2nd generation drivers become visible. These drivers were developed in collaboration with sister company Focal, and each is individually amplified by a 75W module, and performs a specific function. Two 2″ midrange drivers at the outer edges straddle a 1″ silk dome tweeter and a 5″ woofer handling lower frequencies.

The Mu-So has a very attractive control integrated into the top for those who want to make adjustments on the unit itself, and while convenient for a quick track skip or volume adjustment. I found myself largely ignoring it in favor of controlling volume and tracks directly from the streaming app of choice on my smart phone.

In Use – Listening Tests

As the Mu-So can be both a Roon endpoint and supports most streaming services, beginning my evaluation was refreshingly simple. I began by selecting the unit in the Naim app to set it up, giving it an appropriate name “Living Room”. At this point, Spotify and Qobuz both showed the device as a new streaming endpoint in my home and I was able to begin streaming music to it immediately.

While I hate to talk about the idea of a “house sound”, I’ve personally always found Naim equipment to have something of one. It’s a sound that leans towards a little bit of warmth and slightly emphasized bass. This Naim sound is clearly part of the DNA of the Mu-So, as from the get go I was immediately certain I was listening to a Naim device.  For a device of such moderate dimensions, the Mu-So puts out some very impressive bass, likely helped in no small part by the beefy 450W amplifier that is included.

I began my listening tests by listening to the Illumina Anthology album from Two Steps From Hell, a collaboration between Nick Phoenix and  Thomas Bergersen. This is an album of cinematic classical music that features a broad variety of tracks ranging from epic film score type music to slower and more delicate classical movements. This album is an excellent recording, and makes a great baseline evaluation for any speaker system.

The title track Could’ve Been features a beautiful strummed guitar melody with rich midrange. The strummed rhythm and picked melody have extremely incisive attack, and you can easily hear the pick hitting the strings as each note is played back on a competent system. Through the Mu-So, detail was somewhat lacking compared to my ATC SCM19’s in the office and Legacy Audio system in the theater room, but still had ample detail for a wireless speaker system.

I spend a good portion of my time each week listening to a radio show from Moldovan DJ/Producer Andrew Rayel called Find Your Harmony. This is a 2 hour radio show that plays the latest in trance and progressive, similar to what A State of Trance was in the golden years of the early 2000’s.

The music that Andrew plays is melodic while still having plenty of bass and percussion, making it a great test of low end extension and bass impact. With this content, the natural bass emphasis of the Mu-So really worked wonders, resulting in a very full, pleasing sound.

While the bass reproduction of the Mu-So doesn’t measure up to a great subwoofer, when one considers the listening environment the Mu-So is most likely to be found ,  it’s an extremely capable little unit. Turning the volume up does cause the Mu-So to begin sounding a little strained and congested, which is to be anticipated given the size of the transducers and the cabinet, though this doesn’t happen until the volume level is very high.

Closing Thoughts

While it will be a stretch for some budgets, the Naim Mu-So 2nd Generation like most Naim products is a beautiful piece of design with excellent sonic performance that will look at home in many spaces where conventional audio equipment would not pass muster. For the wood edition of the Mu-So, you’ll pay a slight price premium, but end up with a product that excels at reproducing music, and enables it to be enjoyed in living spaces and rooms where speakers are not an option for aesthetic reasons or due to space constraints. The team at Naim has clearly spent a lot of time considering how to combine audiophile and lifestyle products into a seamless and attractive whole, and the Mu-So 2nd Generation is not-so-subtle proof they’ve done this very, very well.

 

 

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Dave Upton

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