After the update from the Mu-so to the Mu-So 2nd Generation it was to be expected that the compact Mu-So Qb would also be addressed. Just like with the larger wireless Naim speaker, little appears to have changed at first sight. But appearances are deceptive.
Naim Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation
The Mu-So Qb 2 is the junior in the Mu-So family of Naim Audio. The British hi-fi brand, known for expensive high-end amplifiers and streamers, offers wireless speakers with the Mu-So devices that run on the same platform as their most expensive network players and all-in-one amplifiers. They are therefore devices that promise both ease of use and better sound quality, and that at a much higher level than the home kitchen products from Sonos and Bose. It is also smart that Naim gives the Mu-so a separate, luxurious design, so that the Mu-So Qb 2 also looks more like an interior piece than a piece of technology.
The premium finish with metal and textile filling fits in perfectly with the concept, and the Mu-so speakers simply make something very special in the market. All of this also explains why you speak of wireless speakers with a higher price tag than rivals from mainstream brands such as Sonos or Bose. The Mu-So Qb 2nd Generation goes over the counter for 850 euros, which is just as much as its predecessor. For that price you will receive a very handsome compact speaker that has very extensive streaming options (AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Bluetooth, DLNA and its own app) and also has physical inputs.
Familiar, but also new
Mu-So Qb 2 is very similar to its predecessor. It remains a cube-shaped speaker, with an acrylic base on which the Naim logo lights up and with a speaker fabric along the front and sides. Typical Mu-so is that the fabric is not flat, but arched. The undulations create a shadow part that gives the speaker grille a 3D feel, which is quite intriguing to look at. It makes the Mu-So Qb 2 more an eye-catcher than average wireless speakers, which usually try to ignore themselves or simply try to be a kind of minimalist Apple clone. The top of the Mu-So Qb 2 makes it completely clear: this is a speaker that wants to stand in your interior like a design showpiece, does not want to become absorbed in something.
The top of the Mu-So Qb 2, like the larger Mu-so, is finished in a finely brushed aluminum, with a large multifunctional rotary knob in the middle. Incidentally, “large” may in this case be “immense”, because the button has the same dimensions with the Mu-So Qb 2 as with the Mu-so and the Uniti amplifiers – only the Qb speaker is much smaller. The proportions are therefore somewhat different. But this is not a real complaint, the size is not a problem. The dial is a joy to look at and also very smart. Around it it lights up to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the chosen volume level. The surface of the button itself contains a number of touch buttons. We think this is smart, because you can already largely operate the Mu-So Qb 2 via this route. Media can start / stop / jump you, inputs can be selected and there are preset buttons to start a beloved radio station or playlist with a touch. Practical if you just want to catch the radio news quickly at breakfast, without having to grab your smartphone. A nice detail is that the illuminated touch buttons on the dial only become visible when you bring a hand close. A remote is supplied that offers the same functions.
With the exception of the extra buttons on the rotary knob, most of these items were actually already present on the old Qb. What makes the new speaker “2nd Generation”? Not an HDMI input, which is one of the big innovations on the Mu-So 2nd Generation, because it is not there at the Qb. With the Qb 2nd Generation you have to cope with an optical input, USB and an aux input. A more important upgrade is on the acoustic level. The Mu-So Qb 2 gets (just like the big speaker) new speakers that were developed together with the French Focal. After all, Focal is part of the same holding as Naim, and lately the two brands are working increasingly closely together. The Qb 2nd Generation also has the new, powerful DSP chip that we already knew from the Mu-so 2nd Generation under the hood.
You can easily get the speaker layout of the Mu-So Qb 2 up close see. The textile cover that fits around three sides of the speaker can easily be removed so that everything becomes visible. That the underlying drivers are shown naked is probably not the intention of Naim; the cover is removable because you can also purchase other colors. For example, we think the terracotta edition is beautiful. Olive green and a Peacock blue are the other options that you can purchase separately.
The driver arrangement with the new Mu-So Qb 2 is quite unique, although we recognize it from the first version of the loudspeaker. The large oval “racetrack” woofer faces the listener, the two midrange drivers are in the upper corners and point to the left and right for a wider look. That is also the case for the central tweeters. That is special: tweeters are often just pointed straight at the ears, but Naim has chosen to place them under each other and have them radically radiate to the side. The result is noticeable when you listen to the Mu-So Qb 2. Despite the small size, the Naim speaker sounds like a larger device. Music is presented airy and grand, with a certain stereo experience (something that is very difficult from a single device).
The amplification part of the Qb 2nd Generation is quite large. There is approximately 300 watts under the hood. We cannot determine whether it is exactly that much, but the fact is that the Naim can play very loudly without any problems. The very solid construction of the speaker shows itself, because you do not really experience resonance sounds or distortion at such a moment. The DSP control naturally also plays a role in this, by also optimizing the sound signal at higher volumes. It is also ensured that you cannot exaggerate. When we used the Qb as a sound solution with a film on Netflix, we were able to turn the volume knob all the way up without getting painfully loud.
Conveniently, Naim provides room compensation via the app. It remains simple – but it is effective. When a Mu-So Qb 2 is close to a wall or a corner, you can indicate this and the basses will be adjusted. If you choose 'No compensation' for a totally free set-up, the Mu-So Qb 2 immediately becomes a lot heavier in the layer. Yet it remains a very civilized speaker.
Audio companies are not always strong in software and apps. However, Naim realized very early on that apps are just very important. While other brands were still struggling with streaming and operation via the smartphone, the British company therefore invested heavily in app development. Moreover, they seem to really understand the streaming phenomenon. That experience and knowledge is bearing fruit, because Naim software platform is very mature and flexible. The own Naim app is simply well thought out and easy to use, without superfluous and always easy to use. You can do a lot with it, and it is full of small things that make listening fun. For example, when playing your own files, a kind of virtual CD booklet is created with metadata from Amazon. You also see albums that match what you listen to; unfortunately you cannot easily play them via a streaming service.
Smart is that both streaming sources and physical inputs are treated at the same level; everything appears at the top of the app, so that you have the source you want by pressing once. Via the Naim app it is very easy to play internet radio – treated as a separate source, smart – and own files. Own music files can be stored on the mobile device on which the app is running, a DLNA server or on a USB disk that you plug into the Mu-So Qb 2. The Naim speaker doubles as a DLNA server in the latter scenario. The files on the USB storage will therefore also be available for other devices on the network. The Mu-So Qb 2 passed our codec test with flying colors, in which even rarer AIFF files of 352.8 kHz / 32-bit played and we noted that playback always started very smoothly. DSD also turned out to be no problem. Equally practical are the presets that you can create and that are central to the app. This way you can always set up a favorite album or radio station with one touch.
The last big function of the Naim app is the multiroom functionality. There are now a lot of devices from the British company that run the same software platform. In addition to the Mu-so speakers, this includes the Uniti all-in-one amplifiers and the latest network players from the brand. You can operate them all at the same time via the app and also link them ad hoc with each other. It is just about the only (small) criticism we have on the app: if you have several Naim devices at home, then you have to discover for yourself that you have to tap on the name of the current device to go to the device overview. . We were able to test the multi-room function because at the same time we also had a NDX2 network player with SuperNait3 amplifier from Naim in house.
Infinite streaming options
Naim is strongly committed to its own app. At the same time, it is clear that many people have already made a (different) choice about how they want to stream. That is why the Mu-So Qb 2 has many alternatives on board: Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast. With the latter two you immediately get two other ways to connect multiple speakers, via the AirPlay menu on your iPhone / iPad / Mac or via the Google Home app. Those four additional streaming options mean that you can actually listen to every possible streaming service in one way or another. Audiophiles are not forgotten either. Just like the other Naim products, the Mu-So Qb 2 is completely Roon Ready, so you can also play music via that high-end software and – yes, an option! – can build a multiroom system.
No one is going to use all those streaming options at the same time, but the great thing about the Naim platform is that all scenarios can be used. Do you want to listen to Roon and your partner via Spotify Connect? Great, you can. In our eyes, the broad streaming support of the Naim speakers also makes them more future-oriented. If, roughly, tomorrow, Google decides to chase Chromecast, you have plenty of other options to keep listening.
For our test, we've tried every option effectively, with the Mu-So Qb 2 connected to our WiFi network. We can only say that the Mu-So Qb 2 always reacted smoothly and never showed any hiccups, regardless of the streaming technology we used. If only all audio devices were like that …
Loves urban genres
Before we fully dive into the music, we first want to check whether the new Mu-So Qb 2 can serve as a TV solution. After all, people in the living room often look for one device that can serve everything. Moreover, the large Mu-So 2nd Generation with its HDMI-ARC input was very clearly intended to fit a television. The Mu-So Qb 2 has no HDMI port and is less suitable for its role due to its relatively high height. It is 22 cm high, and with most TV sets that are on their stand, the speaker will be above the lower screen edge. And yet, if you can place it and use the optical connection, the Mu-So Qb 2 proves to be interesting for TV sound. Voices in particular sound full and detailed, and the wide appearance of the woofers and tweeters also gives you a relatively large soundstage to enjoy. For example, during “Justice League” (via Netflix) we thought that the voice of the Steppenwolf had the necessary depth to appear impressive. The large Mu-so is the much better viewer for this scenario, but the Mu-So Qb 2 can take on the role.
Although we have tried out all streaming options, we mainly use Roon for our listening tests. After all, it is our regular test software that makes both the playback of your own files and streams from Qobuz and Tidal very simple and in high quality about the RAAT protocol.
Who would doubt whether a small speaker such as the Mu-So Qb 2 can fill a room with deep basses, those doubts can immediately hide away. “Weather Storm” by Craig Storm crashes through our test room, aided by the two passive woofers on the side that vibrate violently. Now there are more wireless speakers that produce many basses in themselves, but with the Mu-So Qb 2 it is low controlled and relatively detailed. That is certainly not always the case. As you would expect from the crossed driver setup, the Mu-So Qb 2 also sends this dreamy song very broadly into the room. Great if you are sitting with your entire family or group of friends in the couch or at a dining room, especially if the Mu-So Qb 2 is a few meters away. Room filling, yes! After “Weather Storm” by Craig Armstrong, Roon brings us to the soundtrack that the same composer wrote for the film adaptation of “Far from the Maddening Crowd” – something very different, much more classic and with a lot of passion. We get the ‘Opening’ really enthrallingly presented, with the strings that beautifully detach from the rest of the orchestra. It sounds pretty big and wide, but it's a bit diffuse. We especially notice that we have listened to the same track on the SuperNait 3, on speakers that cost about ten times as much as the Mu-So Qb 2. We switch to a completely different genre with 'Things fall apart' from rap legends' The Roots', we are again impressed by the sleek, well-timed reproduction that makes this unsung genre sound better. The super fast machine gun of the rap vocals in these tracks comes across perfectly, and the classic “You Got Me” – with the beautiful voice of Erykah Badu – sounds really beautiful. Urban genres, the Mu-So Qb 2 likes that, as is apparent when we play “The One” by Marika Hackman. The fact that the Mu-So Qb 2 has everything under control ensures that these more compressed, commercial tracks definitely sound better.
The Naim Mu-So Qb 2 is not the cheapest option in terms of wireless speakers. But for the extra price you pay compared to the mainstream brands, you get a lot. Design is always a taste, but no one can deny that the Mu-So Qb 2 is of high quality and finished in high quality. The sound quality is very good for a compact speaker. You will hear a hi-fi sound, balanced, detailed and (for a single speaker) very open. The large Mu-So is more powerful, certainly in terms of bass, and is slightly more suitable for a TV.