The original Mu-So was a phenomenal-sounding speaker with a great control scheme that was ultimately packaged into a form factor that didn't quite make sense to me.
You might find it strange, but my problem with it was its size. Hear me out: the Mu-So's width meant it didn't sit nicely on a side table, and its depth and top-located control panel meant it couldn't work underneath a TV either.
For those with a living space big enough, and had the budget for a £1,099 ($1,499) speaker, Naim's Mu-So was a wonderful piece of kit. But, at that price point, most audiophiles would be considering a hi-fi system comprising two or more high-quality speakers, rather than one large cabinet.
All this is a long-winded way of saying that I think the Qb makes so much more sense as a product than its older brother, due to its much smaller size.
- Check out our review of the newest Naim Mu-So audio system
Dimensions and connectivity
Measuring just 210 x 218 x 212mm (W x H x D) the Qb might be taller than the original Mu-So, but it more than makes up for this with its significantly reduced width. This new form factor enables the Qb to fit perfectly on a side table, which makes more sense for a streaming device.
The extra height isn't a problem, either. Since the controls are located on top of the device, that vertical space wasn't going to be useful for anything else.
The Qb's connectivity ports are located on the rear of the device (another improvement over the original's weird bottom-facing ports); you'll find analogue, optical and USB inputs alongside an ethernet port and power connector.
However, the bulk of users are probably going to connect to the Qb wirelessly, and here the speaker is compatible with most standards out there. You've got UPnP support for streaming files from a computer on your home network, aptX Bluetooth and Apple Airplay support.
Supported files range from MP3s to hi-res WAV, FLAC and AIFF tracks at 24-bit/192kHz, but know that any Wi-Fi streaming will result in these tracks being downsampled to 24-bit/48kHz (for reference, CD quality is 16-bit/44.1kHz).
You can also use the USB port to play files stored locally on an external hard drive, and if you have a second Mu-So these files can be wirelessly streamed to that device, even if they're currently being played on the first Mu-So.
Just don't expect to be able to pair two Mu-So's together in stereo like you can with a Sonos system. This is a system meant for multiple rooms, there's no option to sync a single song across two speakers.
There's also the Naim app for Android and iOS that you can use to listen to iRadio on the speaker. From the app, you can also set five preset stations which can then be accessed later at any time, even when you don't have your mobile device laying around.
It's worth taking a moment to just appreciate what an amazing piece of design the Qb is. The review sample provided to techradar included the 'Burnt Orange' speaker grille, and although I usually prefer my equipment in a neutral color that blends into its surroundings, I was really pleased with how the Qb ended up looking in my living room.
While it might not stand out to some, I thought the transparent stand is another great addition to the look of the device.
But it's the capacitive touchscreen volume dial that really sells the Qb as a piece of high-end electronics.
The Mu-So Qb's physical buttons, like those seen on Ruark Audio's R-series of music systems, are slightly more responsive. But, for the most part, the Qb's controller is purely aesthetic since this is a device that you're going to mostly be controlling with your phone.
The setup of the Qb, like the original Mu-So, happens through Naim's app, but it's not quite as clever as I'd have liked it to be.
The Qb has a single LED light which changes color based on what stage in the setup process you're at. You then report its color to the app, and it tells you the next stage in the setup process.
This process more or less works, but you might have a problem if your thumb slips at any point during the setup process.
I managed to accidentally select my neighbor's Wi-Fi network. This sent the Mu-So happily attempting to connect to a network which it didn't have the passcode to, and since all the Naim app does is read the Mu-So's LED light it was powerless to stop the process.
Resetting the device a couple of times allowed me to start the process afresh, but it took longer than it needed to.
Of course, if you manage to escape the setup process error-free you might only have to spend about five minutes total, as I found out when I was setting up my second Mu-So.