On paper, the Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation Wood Edition and I are not a great match.
I’m a vintage separates guy. Vinyl, turntables, big amps and even bigger floor standing speakers. The only things in my audio system made post-1987 are my beloved, late ‘90s Klipsch KLF30 loudspeakers and an Oppo BDP-93 universal disk player (for SACD playback). I don’t stream, but occasionally play music wirelessly via Roon from my laptop (using an Apple AirPort Extreme). Other than that, I’m very much stuck in the ‘70s.
The $2,290 Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation Wood Edition on the other hand is an ultra-modern, wireless streaming loudspeaker system.
The features list in the beautifully created promotional materials has me imagining a musical Ginsu Knife.
It slices, it dices. It’ll even julienne fries.
All kidding aside, it integrates digital streaming services in a manner that makes me want to spend a lot more time searching for obscure albums that I can’t find anywhere. It’s very addictive.
The Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation Wood Edition integrates Spotify Connect, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Google Play, internet radio and Roon, and plays all common audio formats (WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, MP3, AAC, OGG, WMA, DSD) via AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Bluetooth, HDMI and USB.
The only things I had in common with the feature set were FLAC and AirPlay.
In a weird way, I’m probably the ideal customer for Naim. I’m so obsessed with music and better sound quality that I would take a hard look at the Mu-so. With that in mind, I decided to take the road less travelled to Mu-so Ville.
A Bit about the Mu-so
The premium wood edition of the Mu-so 2nd Generation builds on 7 years of research and development since the first Mu-so wireless music system was released in 2014.
The Mu-so can be grouped with Naim’s Uniti and high-end network players for multi-room play, streaming the same song in sync or different music in different rooms.
This new iteration, dressed in sustainable hardwood, treated and lacquered for a light oak appearance, matches and pairs with partner Focal’s luxury light oak finished speakers (like the Sopra N2). It can also be paired with AirPlay 2 or Chromecast devices.
Naim clearly understands where the market is headed and that it has to offer compatibility with as many services and platforms as possible.
Even the most stubborn Luddite would have to admit that the Mu-so is forward thinking technology that makes sense.
Mu-so is controlled via the built-in jog dial, supplied remote control, or the Naim App. You can also use Google Assistant or Apple Siri voice control. Room compensation optimises audio to suit Mu-so placement – near a wall or corner, or in open space – for a satisfying experience whatever the setting.
The Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation Wood Edition is stunning. The wood finish, aluminium rear heatsink, and flowing front grille are a perfect example of form follows function; industrial design that is both timeless and truly functional.
The grille can be removed exposing the speaker set: two 5.3” x 2.6” oval bass drivers, two 2.4” conical midrange drivers, and two 1” soft dome tweeters, jointly developed by Naim and Focal.
The connection with Focal and access to its world-class driver technology is a huge benefit for Naim; the ability to integrate custom drivers designed around its amplification creates synergy and a high-end wireless loudspeaker system that is ahead of the curve.
When powered on, the jog dial on top of the unit emits a pleasant glow. Power and audio inputs are all hidden out of sight on the bottom of the unit.
As a long-time Apple user, I can appreciate the clean, minimalist design aesthetic.
Set up is straight forward and seamless. Install the Naim app on your phone and add the Mu-so to your network. Once added, Mu-so becomes a wireless output option for phone, iPad and laptop, along with Roon on all devices.
Connectivity and system flexibility are huge selling points, and something to really think about when buying a wireless system like this; especially one that is $2,300.
Don’t be seduced by power, fancy marketing buzzwords, or a slick remote. Buy streaming products that are easy to integrate, upgradable, and easy to use with a comprehensive app. Naim has succeeded with all three items and that’s important information to remember.
With Roon, setting multiple audio device zones is easy; I had three different albums playing at the same time on my upstairs and downstairs systems, and Mu-so in no time flat.
My cat wondered what the hell was going on.
Mu-so powers up automatically when selected as the output device. Play, volume and loudness are controlled remotely. Mu-so sits back, looks after itself and delivers your sound.
No fiddling. No fuss. Set it and forget it.
Music and Mu-so
The Mu-so had a good workout in the month since it arrived. Jazz, classical, pop, dance, electronic, folk, rock, female and male vocals; you name it, I’ve played and enjoyed it. I also used it as a soundbar with our television.
I was surprised at the sound produced by the six tiny speakers. Not having much experience with modern, miniature driver technology, I wasn’t prepared for the volume and fullness of the sound rendered by the Mu-so. There are of course, limitations and trade-offs with a one-box system and small speakers, but I was impressed.
The sonic signature is pleasantly but not overtly V-shaped, with emphasis on mid and upper bass and some on the upper midrange and treble. Not much sub-bass to speak of. Female vocals shone, while male vocals were ever so slightly recessed.
One of the limitations of small units and speaker size, is the ability to recreate the soundstage and the ability to fill a room with music, particularly a bigger room. No matter the volume (and I had it pretty loud on occasion), the sound was clearly localised to the Mu-so.
The Mu-so performed strongly with classical chamber music. Pierre Fournier playing Bach’s cello suites and the Jerusalem Quartet performing Beethoven’s Op. 18 string quartets sounded wonderful. Timbre and texture of strings were rendered accurately and with detail, sounding warm and engaging.
Orchestral works were pleasant but lacked body. Part of the charm of the Brahms’ symphonies with the Columbia Symphony and Bruno Walter is the pulsating rhythm of the double basses and cellos; the Mu-so’s six small speakers had a hard time delivering that level of energy.
Jazz was generally satisfying. On Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Miles’ trumpet and Coltrane and Cannonball’s saxes were detailed and warm, and Bill Evans’ and Wynton Kelly’s piano notes were crisp and sparkling. My only gripe was a lack of body and slam to Paul Chambers’ bass.
Ryo Fukui’s “Early Summer” (from the Scenery album) is a great test for complex, multi-instrument playback, with long passages of energetic piano, bass and drums. While Fukui’s piano sounded fine, the bass and drums got a bit muddled and muddy.
With modern music, the Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation Wood Edition delivered warmer, sweeter, mid-forward recordings like Natalie Merchant’s Tiger Lily, Bryan Ferry’s Boys and Girls and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories beautifully. Dryer recordings like Joni Mitchel’s Blue, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and Rush’s Moving Pictures were not unpleasant, but sounded somewhat distant and thin.
Mu-so as TV soundbar
My wife and I are not big movie buffs. Ian White, don’t fire me.
We mostly watch news and Japanese TV dramas, and for two weeks every two months the daily highlights of the Grand Sumo tournaments in Japan. Occasionally, we watch a movie on Netflix.
He’s totally going to fire me.
Our TV is a TV. No sound system hooked up. No surround. Mu-so might change that.
An online live concert (Keisuke Kuwata of Southern All Stars at the Blue Note in Tokyo) and a couple of Japanese movies benefitted greatly using the Mu-so in place of the built-in TV speakers. Much bigger and more dynamic. Not Theory Audio Design 5.2.2 surround system big, but significantly better than we’re used to, and impressive enough that it has me thinking of wall mounting the screen and installing a Mu-so directly below.
Now to convince my better half.
If we had a bigger house, I’d gladly get a Mu-so (or four).
Certainly, one for the TV (and that could happen without a home move).
One more for the kitchen, one for the bedroom, and one in the bathroom. I’d put them in rooms where space is at a premium, and where the music would certainly be enjoyed playing in the background.
I’d love to hear what the Mu-so does hooked up to a pair of larger Focals. That could have me rethinking my commitment to vintage altogether. Okay, maybe not, but I bet it’s impressive.
Wikipedia reports that in 2013, Consumer Reports reviewed the Ginsu Chikara knives in their comparison of fifty knife sets and rated it as their “Best Buy.” I don’t have fifty wireless audio systems to compare, but certainly give the Mu-so a huge thumbs up. I could live with four of these systems and be quite happy.
Still not selling my vintage system but Naim has done it homework. I would recommend this without hesitation.
- Apple-grade styling. Beautiful. Massive SAF (spousal-approval-factor) points.
- Easy to get up and running with streaming and other wireless devices. Set it and forget it.
- Integration with other Naim units and Focal speakers.
- Perfect for small rooms lacking space or surfaces for separate components.
- Great substitute for a TV soundbar, and way more versatile.
- No substitute sound-wise for a full-sized system, particularly in a larger room.
- $2,290 would get me a set of early edition Klipsch Cornwalls.
For more information: naimaudio.com