Oh my gosh, the Naim Mu-so 2 - or Naim Mu-so second generation to give it its official title - is good. In fact, not only is it good, it's T3's official Best Multi-room Speaker, of the year 2019. Yes, it's only June, but that's when we have the T3 Awards now, so deal with it.
The Mu-so 2 might seem, at a glance, like a minor evolution of the all-conquering (in the £900 wireless speaker market) original Mu-so. But it actually beats its predecessor to a pulp in terms of audio quality, while adding a fistful of useful new connectivity options. And it looks very similar, but a bit smarter, I reckon. It's great.
The first Naim Mu-so is a tough act to follow. It pretty much redefined the wireless speaker market in terms of both raising the bar for what discerning punters expected and for making people say, "£900 for a speaker? Hey, why not?" It isn't what you'd call a 'Sonos beater' because really, it exists in a different market, despite doing much the same thing. However, it is a great multi-room, wireless speaker.
Or rather, it was. Now, Mu-so 2 is here and when stocks of the original Mu-so are sold out, it will go off sale. The Mu-so 2nd generation upgrades it in every way, more than justifying its increased price.
Sure, that's easy for me to say; Naim just sent me one for nothing so I could write about it. Will it make people say, "£1,299 ($1,599, €1,499) for a speaker? Hey, why not?"
Yes, I reckon it might. Here's why…
Naim Mu-so 2 (2019 second generation): design
The Naim Mu-so 2nd gen from every angleImage 1 of 7
Yes, it does look a lot like the first Mu-so. If it's not broke, why fix it? However, enough has changed with the colour of the metal, the design of the over-sized volume/control knob and the remote control to make it easily discernible from its older sibling. It's a bit like the new Spider-man suit in Infinity Wars – still the same, but even more sleek and modern.
The big knob now boasts 15 touch-sensitive buttons, even more striking illumination, and a proximity sensor that wakes it as you approach. The remote is also a lot nicer. Personally I haven't used the remote at all, or the on-body controls very much – the iPhone and Android app is far more comprehensive and convenient – but it's nice that they're there.
The metal is now in a more 'burnished' finish, and the speaker grille, while visually similar to v1, is actually wholly redesigned. The Mu-so 2 comes with a black grille but you can pay to replace it with one in a Terracotta, Olive or Peacock finish. Pricing is little stringent at £50 a chuck but they are very attractive grilles. Naim is at pains to point out that they’re also truly acoustically transparent.
It's a very beautiful, very wide thing. I would say you might find it hard to make it fit in small rooms but if you're in the market for a £1,300 wireless speaker I am going to assume you have rooms with suitable surfaces that are big enough. Placement is also made easier with the option of Naim's 'Room Compensation' settings, where algorithms compensate for placement in corners or near walls.
Naim Mu-so gen 2: audio
Ooh-la-la. I'll move on to the myriad features and streaming methods of the new Mu-so shortly but let's start with the sound. Rather like the look, this obviously comes from the same template as the first-gen Mu-so but is so much better.
Where the first Mu-so was forceful, engaging and precise, the Mu-so 2 is bloody forceful, hugely engaging and precise. The sound stage is wider – an HDMI ARC input has been added so it can happily double as a stereo soundbar – the bass response improved and the sheer presence of it is just that much more massive. Turn it up and you'll find it will go loud. As loud as a war. But without distortion. You can have Mu-so 2 practically all the way up and not really realise how loud it is… until you try to have a conversation and find it drowning you out.
That is not to say it is built only to rock, like a Marshall wireless speaker. Play something stripped back to human voice or piano, or minimalist electronic music and it sends shivers down the spine. Whack on something like early 80s dub reggae and it sounds HUGE. 'Mu-so 2nd Generation has been re-engineered to have a 13% increase in cabinet volume, which enables bigger, better bass performance [than the first-gen],' it says here… and that is no lie.
This isn't really a traditional stereo, 'hi-fi' product; it's something more modern. Obviously for stereo separation it can't compete with KEF's LSX or Bowers & Wilkins' forthcoming Formation Duo but I don't think you'll necessarily miss it.
I mainly used Tidal for testing – that's more or less CD quality and sounds fantastic through Mu-so 2. However, another beauty of this is that it sucks every bit of detail out of Spotify streams and old AAC and MP3 rips, and can also gives a good account of itself when you go to the opposite extreme and stream 32bit/384kHz files in Flac, WAV and DSD formats.
Naim Mu-so 2: the rivals
Naim Mu-so gen 2: features and connections
As well as the optical, 3.5mm analogue, ethernet and HDMI ARC connectors here on the underside of the Mu-so, there's a USB on the side…Image 1 of 2
…as you seeImage 2 of 2
Where some premium wireless speakers lack key methods of wireless streaming, or bombard you with individual streaming services that most people have never even heard of, Mu-so 2 gets it dead right. Multi-room is possible via Apple AirPlay 2 or Google Chromecast on iOS and Android devices, or Naim's own system via the app, remote or on-body controls. Tidal is built in, although admittedly the MQA 'Tidal Master' part of it is not fully supported. Spotify is via Spotify Connect on the Spotify app.
However, Tidal, Spotify and every other mobile-based streaming service can also be sent over AirPlay 2 and/or Chromecast. Or even, if you're old-school, via Bluetooth.
There's also Naim's excellent internet radio mini app, with thousands of web radio stations ready to listen to and save to the Mu-so's presets. Spotify and Tidal playlists can also be saved for instant access.
UPnP support allows streaming from PC, Mac and NAS in resolution up to 32bit/384kHz.
Where Naim has long stood out is that is constantly updates its app, makes it run smoothly, and implements streaming services in convenient ways. One big advantage it has over KEF's LSX, for instance, is that the implementation of Tidal includes practically all the features of that service on its native apps, rather than just being a slightly ropey front end. Naim's app is not perfect by any means but it is a model of clarity compared to the one used by KEF and, in some ways, it's better than market leader Sonos'. But if you hate it, it doesn't matter; as I noted above, if you don't want to be bothered with using Naim's app, you can reliably fall back on AirPlay 2, Chromecast or Bluetooth.
Finally, Mu-so 2 is 'Roon Ready'. I'm not completely sold on Roon to be honest, but if you are a Roon user, then… this is 'ready' for it.
Naim Mu-so 2: future proofing
Despite dating back to 2014, the processor on the original Mu-so was sufficiently powerful to support AirPlay 2 when it was launched last year. The one in the Mu-so 2 has far more oomph. It's a 'multi-core' chip, capable of 2,000 million instructions per second (MIPS), compared to original Mu-so’s single-core, which could manage 150 MIPS.
As a result, Mu-so 2 should be able to support any service or streaming system to launch in the next 5 years at the very least, and a version with mics added could also support voice control, if and when Naim feels like adding it.
That massively increased processing power also explains why the digital signal processing (DSP) is improved so greatly over the already superb original. Naim's upgraded speaker drivers, developed jointly with Focal's R&D department, clearly help in this respect as well.
Naim Mu-so second generation: release date, price
Naim Mu-so gen 2 is available from 'a wide range of retailers' on May 9 (ie: it's on sale now).
Replacement grilles in peacock, olive or terracotta are £50 each.
Naim Mu-so second generation: verdict
If you have the money to buy this, I recommend you do so. It sounds fantastic, looks cool, has connectivity that's rock solid.
Maybe £1,299 will turn out to be a cost bridge too far and the Mu-so second generation will be less of a smash hit than the first one, but that's for Naim to worry about. As a human being with eyes and ears, I'd say the Mu-so 2 is a stunningly good wireless speaker that justifies its asking price in spades.
Audio product of the year? Certainly so far, and at least until the latest wireless offerings from Bowers & Wilkins and NAD arrive…