The original Naim Mu-so swept all before it, winning a T3 Award and selling like hot cakes from prime retail outlets such as John Lewis and the Apple Store.
That's despite a price (£895) that was well on the high side for a wireless speaker - rivals such as Sonos and B&W have pitched their approximately comparable offerings at around £400-£500 - and a very large footprint.
Now Naim is releasing the Mu-so Qb, which is cheaper, though still pricier than most rivals at £595, and far easier to place in your home. Sounds like a surefire winner. Is it? I won't beat about the bush: yes. There, you can skip the rest of the review, now.
Naim Mu-so Qb: operation and sound quality
Oh, you're still here.
Okay, there are two great things about the Qb, and they're fundamental to how a modern, one-box streaming speaker should work: it's versatile, the connectivity is wide-ranging and stable, and the sound is superb. This is all as it should be for just shy of 600 notes.
Now, Naim has its own streaming app, which is, how can I put it? Not universally loved by its iTunes Store reviewers. Current ranking is 2.5, sample review headlines include: 'rubbish', 'very, very poor indeed', and 'Ah, c'mon!'
I found it works perfectly alright, so I'm not quite sure what the issue is, there.
However, more to the point, if you don't like the app, you can bypass it almost entirely, because the Qb is also an Apple Airplay speaker, a Spotify Connect speaker, a UPnP speaker and even a Tidal speaker if you're one of the six or seven users of that particular, sadly underrated service. It also has analogue and digital inputs, and a USB port for your phone (it charges your mobile, too) or any USB drive.
The physical inputs allow you to play HD music files, another must-have option in this day and age, even if amny won't actually use it.
After some initial problems, wireless connectivity has generally proven to be very solid. As you can see, there is ethernet, if you require a more stable connection.
The Mu-so Qb also allows multi-room, if you've got other Mu-sos - look at you, mister Moneybags! - or other Airplay-compatible speakers (that's from a Mac or PC only, not your iPhone).
And, as is now commonplace with expensive one-box audio systems, it supports humble Bluetooth, of the Apt-X variety. In my view, you would be CRAZY to buy this just to use as a Bluetooth speaker, but it's there if all else fails, or perhaps for guests to use.
And so to…
This thing sounds superb. Cracking. As Jim Bowen would say, super, smashing, lovely, great. It's a rich, delicious, chocolatey sound with plenty of well controlled bass and even a reasonable stab at stereo, considering the small size - that's due to the speaker placement you see here, which also has the effect of making it look like an Afro-futurist fetish mask. No, not THAT type of fetish.
In one way, there's not much point comparing it sonically to the first Mu-so because of course, it doesn't sound as good. But it is clearly its father's son in terms of the quality of sound. Similarly, while there is less maximum volume because again, of course there is, it goes easily loud enough to work as a party speaker. It sounds stellar at just about any volume.
You can usefully compare it to the B&W Zeppelin Wireless, and personally I would be very hard pressed to say which I prefer. That's testament to how good the Zep is (to my ears), given that it's almost £100 cheaper. On the other hand, the Mu-so QB is far smaller and somewhat less challenging in terms of looks, what with it being a cube, as opposed to a massive, black cigar.
One other advantage the Qb has, for some listeners at least, is support for HD audio, albeit over the wired connections only. The only thing I had to test it with was a copy of Roxy Music's Avalon on SA-CD, and it sounded suitably lush, but I wouldn't buy this specifically to listen to hi-res sounds. Firstly becasue I'd eventually get bored of Roxy Music's Avalon, and secondly because, like the Zeppelin Wireless, one of the Qb's main strength is elevating decent-but-compressed files to greater heights and really-quite-crap, highly compressed files to listenabilty.
It's hard to overstate how good the muscial performance of this cuboid speaker is. It can work as very sweet background sound, but turn it up and concentrate and it won't disgrace itself. It can pack a real punch, but there's also subtlety, and it doesn't become tiring to listen to.
Naim Mu-so Qb: build and design
I won't exhaust my lyrical powers describing this: it's a cube, floating on a layer of transparent, light-up perspex, with a super tactile rotating control knob with a touchscreen on top of it. It carries over all the design cues of the first Mu-so apart from the shape, with a very noticeable heatsink array on the back, a subtle wave pattern to the grill cover, and that iconic knob.
So granted, the Qb doesn't make the same kind of bold statement as the original Mu-so or the B&W Zeppelin Wireless, but on the other hand, it's far smaller, with a footprint of 20x20cm (it's about 21cm tall, with the clear base).
The Qb has considerable heft and looks rather beautiful in a Bauhaus industrial kind of way. If you find the black on grey too austere, you can shell out a further 20 quid for a coloured grill cover, such as this rather fetching red one.
Naim Mu-so Qb verdict
Having lived with this for several, I conclude that the Qb is sexy (in a square, industrial sort of way), versatile and sounds fantastic. It's also easy to place due to its shape and size - the app also has a setting that alters the sound depending on whether it is more or less than 25cm from the wall, although I couldn't discern much difference, to be honest.
The only caveat is that it is on the pricey side, though that's not the same as being over-priced like, say, the Technics Ottava. The Zeppelin Wireless sounds comparably good for less - it's always hard to compare these things; let's say the Zep has a punchier, bassier, 'bigger' sound that happens to suit my tastes. I also really like the look of the Zep, but I get the distinct impression most people would prefer this, visually, and it's definitely easier to fit in your bedsit.
There's very little to complain about with the Qb. Given how well its £895 big bro' did it should absolutely fly off the shelves, and it deserves to. It's a pleasure to listen to, and a square-faced miracle of miniaturisation.