Hands on: Naim Mu-so Qb

Naim’s gorgeous Mu-so Qb speaker sounds almost as good as it looks

Naim’s Mu-so Qb multiroom speaker brings premium sound and style to any room.

With a knack for sleek styling and impressive performance, British-based Naim audio is turning some heads in the competitive multiroom speaker market with its Mu-so line. The latest from the brand is the Mu-So Qb, a pint-sized version of the Mu-So that offers the same posh design as its sibling, shrunken into a polished little block of sound.

The goods

It’s no secret as to why Naim’s products appear in the Apple store. Like the larger Mu-So, the Qb’s aluminum exterior and luminescent base make for a striking aesthetic that would be right at home in a luxury New York loft.

Atop the speaker is the signature Mu-so silver dial, which allows for easy on-board volume control and sports a lighted bar around the circumference to indicate the level, as well as the sound source, and even available internet radio station presets. On top of the dial are touch controls, allowing you to easily switch between the Qb’s hardwired digital and analog inputs, as well as the wireless source from Naim’s proprietary app.

The wavy speaker grill around the Qb’s exterior gives the speaker a modern art aesthetic.

The wavy speaker grill around the Qb’s exterior may look like an attempt at a modern art aesthetic — and maybe it is — but it also allows for the protruding drivers along the front face, which point left and right, to offer some omnidirectional sound. At the front face are dual one-inch dome tweeters, a pair of 2.5-inch midrange drivers, and an oblong woofer that measures around 6 x 3 inches. For good measure — and impressive bass response — the speaker also houses dual passive radiators at the sides.

As we touched on above, the Qb offers multiple ways to play. Alongside digital optical and 3.5mm analog inputs, the speaker also offers Bluetooth streaming, Wi-Fi with Airplay support, UPnP support to play music from a network drive or PC, and a USB port to source audio from a hard drive or iDevice. On board streaming services supported include Spotify Connect, Tidal, and internet radio stations. Naim even throws in an Alarm Clock for good measure.

The proprietary app is relatively simple to use. Those familiar with multiroom speakers from the likes of Sonos, DTS’ Play-Fi, and others will find plenty of similarities. One odd feature is the fact that those with iPhones will need to use the iTunes app via Airplay to source music directly from the phone.

Setting the speaker up is relatively simple — especially from an Apple device — and wireless performance is solid. You can add up to five Mu-so speakers to the system at a time, and with a $1,000 starting price tag for the Qb, that’s probably more than enough for most people.

The sound

The Qb offers a bigger, warmer sound than you’d expect for its size. Bass is smooth and powerful, while treble is beautifully effervescent, able to zing through those faster transients of your trickier tracks without getting hissy or shouty.

Bass is smooth and powerful, while treble is beautifully effervescent.

The middle of the sound is clear, but there’s also a thick, almost pulpy texture to the lower mids, which helps the Qb excel at digging out the groovier textures of instruments — especially instruments like distorted guitar, saxophone, and rock organ.

Bass is a strong point, offering much more power that even larger competitors like Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin air, and it competes relatively well there with Sonos’ Play:5 there as well. The speaker also offers better detail than Sonos’ flagship, though its boxy design means the Qb has some trouble with stereo imaging. Instruments occasionally get lost in the shuffle, masked as they fight for position at the front face. It’s not quite an omni sound stage, but the speaker does offer a wide birth of sound. Its stereo imaging is, as you might expect, far from a strong point.

That would be easier to overlook if not for the Qb’s sticker-shock price tag of a full $1,000. That puts the speaker in some mighty company, outdoing both Sonos’ $500 Play:5, and B&W’s $700 Zeppelin Air we pitted it against. Still, this speaker is steeped in Apple-style design mystique, and like its $1,500 big brother, begs a hefty price for its good looks.

While Naim’s handsome little cube may not offer the best value on the multiroom chopping block, those looking for a speaker that soups up both the sights and sounds of the listening room, study, or even the kitchen may want to give the Qb a try.

Highs

  • Smooth and powerful bass
  • Clear and detailed upper register
  • Wide birth of sound
  • Premium look and feel
  • Multiple wired and wireless playback options

Lows

  • Tight soundstage can get crowded
  • Premium price
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