English hi-fi audio manufacturer Naim (you’ve experienced their expertise if you’ve ever driven a Bentley after 2008) revealed the newest addition to their line-up last month at CES. The Mu-so Qb is a compact version of Naim’s rectangular Mu-so, which was their debut attempt at a completely wireless music system. “Qb” is pronounced “cube” and its shape comes forth—with distinct, curved grilles.
To clarify, this is not a portable speaker running on a rechargeable battery. The term “wireless,” in this case, describes how the music can be be played off phones, tablets and computers, plus the capability for multi-room audio—like how Sonos’ system works. The Mu-so Qb stays plugged in at all times, and it’s pretty heavy. (For something similar yet portable, give Mass Fidelity’s Core Speaker a look). However, the cabinet is perched on a clear acrylic base—where the logo is illuminated, and might annoy a few folks (it can be dimmed or turned off through the Naim app)—which does gives a deceptive sense of buoyancy and lightness. While Naim’s higher end equipment is made in Salisbury, England, note that the Mu-so range is produced in China to meet the demand of larger quantities.
The touchscreen interface on top controls volume via a dial, as well as letting you select between inputs or internet radio presets. The two ways to start are either to connect immediately via Bluetooth, or take a few extra steps to link the Mu-so Qb to WiFi or ethernet. The Naim app can help with this (in addition to configuring room position) so the Mu-so can compensate for walls and large surfaces. Spotify Connect is built-in, and there’s a bevy of other options: Airplay, TIDAL, iRadio, UPnP and inputs (including a USB port for phones).
Underneath the grille’s curved sides are carefully angled custom-built two mid-range drivers and two tweeters; the offset placement allows for even and expanded sound dispersement. The (also custom-built) woofer, driven by a 100W amplifier and two passive bass radiators (which increase the low frequency response), satisfies the growing thirst for bigger and better bass—and brings the total to five drivers. A 32-bit digital signal processor, aka the “brain,” runs the software to get the most out of the your music. It’s the same DSP used in its bigger sibling Mu-so, so you’re not compromising too much on sound with the more flexibly-sized Qb. We love how the snare drums in Here We Go Magic’s “Make Up Your Mind” punched through—almost as if they were pushing out blocks of air—and we discovered more of Grimes’ polished reverb tails on one of her latest songs, “Kill V Maim.” Running through our regular playlists, however, we noticed that the midrange can sometimes feel blurred and muddy. Set it up at ear level and use Bluetooth as a convenient, but not go-to option, when possible.
The Mu-so Qb launches in March 2016 for £595 (approximately $1000 USD) from Amazon, and specialty audio retailers. More information is available on Naim, though they haven’t released specs or product manuals yet. Stay tuned.
Images by Nara Shin