Hands on: Naim Mu-so (2019) review

An all-in-one streaming box and soundbar

What is a hands on review?
Naim Mu-so
All Image Credits: TechRadar

Early Verdict

The previous Naim Mu-so was already considered market-leading, but the revamped amplifiers and processors, as well as the HDMI ARC addition, show that this is a company that’s able to stay ahead of the curve.

For

  • Incredible sound quality
  • Tidal and Spotify built in
  • HDMI ARC input

Against

  • Eye-watering price
  • Hidden cable ports
  • No Alexa support (yet)

How do you improve on perfection? That’s the question Naim was tasked with answering with its second-generation Mu-so speaker, a high-end all-in-one streaming box for those wanting real audio fidelity in their living room.

We’ve seen some competing Naim streaming boxes in recent years, not least the previous Mu-so model, or its smaller cousin the Naim Mu-so Qb, which we reviewed last year. Given the number of speakers and soundbars on the market though, you’ll want to know exactly why Naim’s streaming boxes are worth the price premium – even if you have the cash to spare.

In our hands-on session with the Naim Mu-so we were told Naim was “replacing a product we still consider market-leading”. It looks like Naim is managing to stay ahead of the curve once again, but what exactly has changed?

Price and availability

The second-gen Naim Mu-so retails at $1,599 / £1,299 (around AU$2,400). You can find it at Richer Sounds and John Lewis in the UK, and any number of outlets in the United States.

Design and features

The new Naim Mu-so keeps the box-like shape and general dimensions of its predecessor, and at first glance it might be hard to tell the difference. But the majority of the changes have happened on the inside. 

Naim has replaced 95% of the internal hardware, with 13 times the processing power, a total of six dedicated amplifiers (rather than just one) and a 13% larger cabinet for a more resonant sound. The added amplifiers mean that each tweeter and subwoofer gets its own amplification, minimizing distortion and supposedly retaining the character of the sound at both high and low volumes.

You can control the Mu-so in a number of ways: using the remote or the Naim smartphone app, or a stylish touchscreen display, via which you can program up to five preset playlists / stations, and change the volume by spinning a luminous ring around the display. Whether you’re sitting on the sofa, on your phone in another room, or right by the speaker itself, you’ll have a way to control the Mu-so at your fingertips.

Sadly there’s no support for Amazon Alexa here, although you can link up the Mu-so to Google Home or Apple HomePod smart speakers to implement voice controls for the speaker.

The Naim Mu-so does, however, have a number of digital and analogue inputs. It supports Tidal and Spotify, both of which are built into the Naim app, while you can also use Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, or Google Cast to stream content from various iOS or Android devices.

There’s even a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB slot to save you having to stream data-heavy FLAC and WAV files over the air. The rest of the cable inputs are hidden in the base of the speaker – a sleek design choice, but one that makes inserting and removing cables that bit more of a hassle.

One of the most important improvements is also a very simple one: HDMI ARC, which lets you connect the Mu-so to your television as a soundbar. The Mu-so will output the TV’s audio, and respond to power or volume inputs through the television remote – so there’s no need to buy a separate soundbar.

Sound

For all the internal improvements, however, what really matters here is the sound – that’s why you’re forking out a four-figure sum, after all.

We only had time to listen to a handful of tracks during our testing session, but it was clear that the Naim’s 450W output can easily fill a room, and can hit some very high volumes without sounding distorted.

The effect is like listening to a live performance, where instruments and voices are given the frequencies and amplification to really shine. There’s an incredible amount of character to the bass, with the subwoofers able to really do lower frequencies justice, while high vocals are brought out equally sharply.

Whether we were listening to Billie Eilish whisper her way through the deep reverberations of bury a friend, or Lin-Manuel Miranda belt out the soundtrack to Hamilton, the Mu-so’s complex array of internal drivers and amps deftly carry whatever you throw at them.

Early verdict

The previous Naim Mu-so was already considered market-leading, but the revamped amplifiers and processors, as well as the HDMI ARC addition, show that this is a company that’s able to stay ahead of the curve.

However, if you aren’t fussed about using the Mu-so as a soundbar, or the jump in internal power, then the older, and cheaper, Mu-so may be the one to go for.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.