With the Mu-so, Naim built an all-in-one speaker that could easily convey the beloved sound of the British hi-fi brand. The Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker seems identical at first glance, but contains numerous improvements. Such as a better sound, even more streaming options and an HDMI input for your TV.
Naim Mu-so second generation
Those who go hunting for a wireless speaker encounter many devices on their journey. Sonos, Bose, Harman Kardon, HEOS and Bluesound are popping to seduce you with different models – and then we are only talking about the more famous brands. But despite the immense range, Naim Audio with its luxuriously finished Mu-so and smaller Mu-so Qb always jumped out of the band.
Not only the beautiful premium finish makes this Naims something special, also the many streaming functions and a better sound than the most rivals makes the wireless speakers of British origin a real success. When we asked Naim’s marketing director how many Mu-so’s were sold, she said, “I cannot reveal exact numbers, but it is a 6-digit number.” That a new version of the Mu-so appears is therefore big news.
The new model – Naim chooses “Generation 2” over a simple “2” – retains the familiar elegant design at first sight, but has been modified in many ways. Important is the new speaker section, developed with the help of French colleagues at Focal, and the HDMI ARC input. Due to its rectangular shape, the wireless Naim speaker always looked a bit like a soundbar, now the Mu-so can really claim that role.
The improvements and inflation since the launch of the first Mu-so have their consequences : the price of Mu-so Generation 2 rises to 1,499 euros, around 400 euros more than before. To see what really improved, we also brought in the old Mu-so to listen to the new and old versions side by side.
Multifunctional rotary knob
The Mu-So Generation 2 remains one of the most beautiful wireless speakers on the market. Even five years after the launch of the first version, the design remains fresh. Timeless, that’s what it’s called. The housing of Mu-so is largely wrapped with aluminum, with the large metal cooling fins at the back as the eye-catching element. Do you find it identical to the first Mu-so? That is optical deception. The housing is actually a bit deeper. It is even 13 percent larger, volume that was used, among other things, to improve layer reproduction.
The metal housing is full of technology, and you notice that when you lift the Mu-so. It weighs more than 11 kg, heavy. If we place the old and new Mu-so next to each other in the test room, we see even more differences. The new model has a slightly darker metallic color and the front grille is no longer solid black, but a more sophisticated dark gray with light gray accents that highlights a more pronounced play of light. It looks more three-dimensional than before.
The big eye-catcher of course remains the large round knob at the top of the device, a purebred Naim design element that you also see popping up at the Uniti amplifiers and even the masterly Statement amplifier (price tag: 250,000 euros, sir). It is very special to use, because when you turn it, you see the outline light up in function of the volume level. The louder the light of the perimeter. During the rotation you literally feel how well this component works. And yes, to someone who has never used the Mu-so, that may sound like a strange remark. But the button is solid, offers just enough resistance and feels like an integral part of the total device. Quite the opposite of, say, plastic knobs on the dashboard of a car from the budget segment or the cheap buttons on an unbranded mini system. Premium design is not only about looks, but also about the tactile aspect.
The button on the Mu-so 2 is also multifunctional, with more functions than before: 15! The surface of the large circle is full of touch-sensitive keys that illuminate when your finger approaches and otherwise remain invisible. Describing everything would go too far, but we do mention what we found really useful: the five buttons to quickly choose your favorites and the button to transfer a Spotify playlist from your phone to the Mu-so Generation 2.
The finishing touch is provided by the built-in lighting that shines like a glow from the base of the Mu-so Generation 2 and the loudspeaker grille with a sort of curvature that provides a sophisticated 3D effect. The lighting can be dimmed (handy when watching TV) and the grid can be replaced by one in another, trendy color. The old schedules fit. One downside that Naim can tackle for us in an app update: you can only adjust the light intensity of all lighting across all entrances. For example, we would have liked the logo in the base to be less bright, the light on the USB port off, and the volume control well lit. Except when the HDMI port is used; then everything is completely out. A bit more fine-meshed options are therefore welcome.
All this gives the Mu-so Generation 2 a very refined and luxurious appearance. The design may be a bit too “industrial” for some tastes, but we think it is very premium. There are only a few other brands, such as Bang & Olufsen, that can turn out with equally chic speakers.
Built with experience
Nowadays almost everyone offers an app with their audio devices. You would almost forget that Naim was one of the first to be convinced to use app control. They played a real pioneering role. That was a brave decision by the British, because at a point that many audio companies were still struggling with streaming, they, as a relatively small company, put a lot of money into writing software. You still notice that lead in the app that comes with the Mu-so. It is very thoughtful and intuitive. Just to be clear: this is the same app as for the older Mu-so devices, the Uniti amplifiers and the network players. Everything runs on the same platform and can be operated via this one Naim app. Yes, also in a multi-room arrangement, with different Naim products in different rooms that you can combine ad hoc.
The clear structure makes playing music very easy. From the main screen you can immediately select inputs and streaming sources. Or select a beloved internet radio station or preset (for example, a playlist on Tidal) from the list of shortcuts slightly lower on the screen. The makers have done their best to enrich the app so that you are more involved while listening. If you use Tidal, you will enjoy the full Tidal experience, including explanation of playlists and biographies of artists, for example. It is really great if you play your own music files, roughly from a uPnP / DLNA share on a NAS. The app compiles a virtual booklet in seconds with information about the artist, track listings, photos and even references to similar albums and artists. The only regret is that you cannot go much further at that point. If you tap a related album, you can only go to Amazon to purchase the CD. It would have been nice if you could listen to the recommended music via Tidal, for example. We understand that if you work with a Uniti Core you get more options here, but we were unable to test that.
Naim puts a real remote control in the box, and that is not always the case with wireless speakers. The box is reminiscent of the sophisticated remote of the Uniti Atom, but only works with infrared, not Zigbee. But that doesn’t seem like a problem to us. Unlike a Uniti, you would never hide a Mu-so in a TV cabinet.
So many alternative streaming options
The power of this device is that you do not only have to work via the official app when you go to streaming music want to listen. You can send songs in very many ways. The Mu-so Generation 2 is initially DLNA compatible, so that generic DLNA players such as BubbleUPnP can also be used. But that may not be the option that the masses think of, because all in all, DLNA remains too complex. More relevant is that the Naim device is both AirPlay 2 and Chromecast compatible, so you can stream almost any service from its own app on your smartphone or tablet. This compensates for the modest support for streaming services in the Naim app itself, which only supports Tidal and internet radio. If, for example, you want to listen via Qobuz or Soundcloud, then you just use Chromecast or AirPlay 2. The latter is limited – now yes – to lossless CD quality, but that is fine from our point of view.
Spotify is also possible anyway, simply from the Spotify app itself. Thanks to AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, you also have the possibility to connect multiple wireless speakers, including together with speakers from other brands. Speech control via Google Assistant is also included. The list of streaming options is completed by Bluetooth, the option that you can always rely on in situations where WiFi does not work.
Naim is already a fan of Roon, which was apparent at the launch of the Uniti amplifiers. That the new Mu-so also supports the audiophile software is therefore not entirely surprising. Because Roon is an important pivot in our test setup, we naturally also used this software when testing the Mu-so 2. That went without a hitch because the Mu-so Generation 2 is already certified within Roon. However, we performed most of the test through the Naim app and through AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, because we suspect that this is closer to what the majority of Mu-so owners use. Roon is, unfortunately, a niche.
Also physical connections
You don’t find many settings in the Naim app. But what is there is handy. Like the alarm clock. The Room Compensation function lets you adjust the sound according to where the Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker is placed. You usually do not have to change anything about this setting unless you place the Naim speaker very close to a wall or corner. In the latter two cases, the low frequencies are intervened so that they remain detailed.
Each input can also be configured separately or even switched off. Practically, you can set the Mu-so Generation 2 to switch to a specific input when an audio signal comes in. For example, you can determine that the speaker automatically activates the HDMI input when you turn on the TV. And since the Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker supports HDMI-CEC, when watching a movie or TV program you never have to use the supplied remote or the Naim app to control the volume. You just use the trusted remote control of the television.
The first time you connect the Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker to your television you have to dive into the menu of your TV to set the audio signal to “PCM”. Bitstream or Dolby Digital does not process the Mu-so Generation 2.
In addition to an HDMI input, the Mu-so has an optical connection (useful for a console or CD player) and a 3.5 mm jack input. You can use that, for example, to connect a music player. We find the USB input on the side much more interesting. Here you can quickly insert a USB disk with your own files (or those of a visitor), after which you can play the music. If you have several Naim devices at home, you can even listen to those files via another device via the multiroom function.
Most of the inputs are cleverly hidden in a niche at the bottom of the Mu-so Generation 2, just like at the old Mu-so. This allows the cables to be routed discreetly for a neat presentation on your TV furniture. The niche is not that wide, and we suspect that wider, special HDMI plugs may not fit. With normal cables, however, there is no problem.
Old versus new
Because we received both the old and the new Mu-so from importer Latham, we were able to compare the two speakers well. It also made it possible to finally test the multiroom function that you get via the Naim app. In the app it takes a while to find out how this works correctly, but it is not really difficult.
If you select music on one Mu-so, you can press an icon consisting of four small squares to include additional devices. Via this icon you can also control the volume, separately or in group mode. With the new Mu-so there is also the same icon on the large volume button. Tap this to take over the music playing on another Naim.
If we remove the grids on both Mu-so’s, we see that the driver arrangement has not changed. The Naim speaker has two midrange drivers on the outside, then two tweeters and two elliptical woofers on the inside. You can see from close up that the woofers are clearly made of a different material. It is not the flax that Focal is so fond of, but it is a fiber-rich material.
To hear what the differences are, we place the first Mu-so next to the new model and we play on both via the multiroom function speakers test files from USB. The Naim speakers radiate music very broadly, so we are not too concerned about sound differences because we are not directly in front of both speakers. What we hear is not suddenly another Mu-so, although the sound with the Mu-so Generation 2 is certainly different. The sound is a bit more open and detailed with the newcomer, which gives us the impression that it can bring dynamic pieces of music just that little bit better. The latter may be due to the new drivers and slightly different DSP algorithms. What is undeniably a plus with the Mu-so Generation 2 is the Room Compensation mode. It can only have three positions, in some cases (such as our setup close to a wall) it makes the basses less woolly. Even without this function, it seems to us to be much cleaner with the updated Mu-so.
As a TV solution
To find out how the Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker performs as a soundbar, we closed it in the living room via HDMI on our LG OLED55B6V. As you can see on the photos in this review, the Mu-so is relatively high, but with us wall-mounted TV that’s no problem. That may be different with certain TV sets that have a very modest foot.
The Mu-so Generation 2 arrived just in time for a binge-watch session of ‘Good Omens’, the heavenly series on Amazon Prime based on the hilarious book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and with star interpretations by Michael Sheen and David Tennant. Amazon provides a 5.1 soundtrack with the series, but the Mu-so naturally turns it into a stereo. For the many music that can be heard in Good Omens, that is certainly not a bad thing, because at that moment the Mu-so really plays at home. But it also has its strengths in other areas. The Naim speaker is a bit bigger than most sound bars, and therefore sounds fuller. The basses do not dive super deep, but the frequency response continues nicely.
With cheaper soundbars with a separate subwoofer you often have pounding basses from the corner and only higher frequencies from the soundbar, so something seems to be missing. The higher quality of the speakers and the good DSP adjustment also ensure a (relatively) open sound. This gives enough room for dialogues to sound full, while incidental sound effects also remain audible as separate sounds. So you can really consider the Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker to be an excellent soundbar – although someone who is only looking for a TV sound solution will frown on the price tag. It is clear that the Mu-so makes more sense if you view it as a total solution for music and TV.
Of course, you cannot escape the all-in-one box limitations associated with a wireless speaker. For a large stereo reproduction you simply have to go to two separate speakers. That being said, the Mu-so Generation 2 is just for people looking for an all-in-one solution. The Naim remains a high flyer in that playing field. If we place the new Mu-so next to the Sonos Play: 5 (Gen.2), we experience a clear upgrade in terms of sound quality. The broader shape of the Mu-so provides a wider, room-filling reproduction than the single Sonos speaker, which, for example, does justice to the grand, intimate nature of ‘Exit Music (for a Film)’. Even if the rest of the band jumps in and Yorke raises his voice, the Mu-so Generation 2 retains its open, dynamic display. In this comparison, we are not talking about design and build quality, areas where the Naim is in our opinion anyway higher than Sonos – but of course personal taste plays a role.
In addition to the many TV hours, we have subjected the Mu-so Generation 2 to a long playlist with test tracks (usually in lossless or hi-res ALAC format) via Roon. As we expect from the musical Naim, the Mu-so Generation 2 is never difficult, while we go from hip-hop classics such as’ Killing me softly ‘from The Fugees to the American folk from Rhiannon Giddens” Wayfaring Stranger ‘and the enchanting Gorecki project from Portishead-Beth Gibbons and the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, to end with the remaster of ‘OK Computer’ by Radiohead. Thanks to the DSP magic of Naim, music rarely sounded or compressed, but just well balanced, even at very high volumes. Kudos also for how the Mu-so Generation 2 handles ‘Angel’ from Massive Attack, without losing control in the layer and with more of the challenging layer in this track than you could reasonably expect.
Conclusion of Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker
The Mu- so Generation 2 may be a relatively compact all-in-one speaker, it can do ridiculously many things. You may have noticed that when reading the above. But much more important is that the Mu-so 2 does all those things really well. It is by far the best wireless speaker on the market, luxuriously finished and with excellent sound quality. If you want better, you have to go for separate speakers.
Compared to the previous Mu-so, the Mu-so Generation 2 has been considerably improved. The increased price tag might be less fun, in exchange you get a more detailed sound with a layer that is sufficiently fat to make the Naim speaker suitable for TV sound. With its price tag of 1,500 euros, the Mu-so Generation 2 does come into the field of good discrete stereo solutions – but then again they are very different, less compact systems.
Thanks to the HDMI input, the Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker a fully-fledged alternative to a soundbar. If you only want to use it for that, it might make less sense. For the same price you can purchase a premium soundbar that offers Dolby Atmos surround sound. The Mu-so Generation 2, however, is more luxuriously finished and is much better suited to music than most sound bars.
Negatives of Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker
- Entrances more difficult to reach
- Price increase
- More lighting settings would be nice
Pros of Naim Mu-so 2 Speaker
- Suitable for TV audio
- Greatly improved sound
- Many streaming options, including Roon, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast
- Very handsome design, premium build quality
- Excellent app