(Pocket-lint) - Hi-fi systems in the traditional sense are a bit of a dying breed. But Naim, a company which makes some incredible (yet eye-wateringly expensive) systems, isn't shying away from the new order.
The Naim Mu-so is the company's first all-in-one wireless speaker, coining the industrial design aesthetic associated with the brand, while adding an abundance of connectivity. Bluetooth, wired/wireless network connectivity for AirPlay, iRadio, UPnP; Spotify and Tidal support via the downloadable app; USB, 3.5mm and optical inputs can all be found.
Mu-so, therefore, is effectively the new-wave hi-fi for the 21st century. But can its mix classic-meets-quirky industrial design, physical controls and all the mod cons of connectivity forge together for one of the best speakers out there, or is it more form over function?
Naim Mu-so review: Industrial design delight
We've lost count of the number of glossy plastic speakers we've seen over recent years. Naim bucks that trend with the Mu-so, delivering a rare glimpse into high-end hi-fi design. But it comes with a price to match: at £895 it's far from cheap, but to look at and use it feels a million miles away from the typically plasticky market. We applaud it for that.
Lugging the Mu-so out of its box and the first thing that's apparent is just how heavy this oblong speaker is. It weighs no less than 13kgs, which is perhaps no surprise considering there are six 75W amplifiers on board, one for each of the drivers tucked inside this metallic box.
An aluminium shell wraps around a wooden speaker cabinet frame with a large rotary display dial that's sunken into the top of the unit. This all sits atop a transparent base with light-up Naim logo (the brightness is adjustable), fronted by a 3D-wave-shaped grille (which is black by default, but available in red, orange and blue) that complements the overall look.
At first glance Mu-so looks almost simple, but this is the kind of design that keeps on giving. You won't spot exposed screws, for example; the minimal USB, 3.5mm, status light and pin-reset to the side of the product are by-and-large out of view; while the Ethernet, optical in and power port to the underside are sunken to keep everything neatly out of view.
In short, it all looks brilliant if the industrial aesthetic matches your personality.
Naim Mu-so review: Simple setup & controls
To get the most from Mu-so you'll want to download the free app (iOS or Android for the time being). This connects directly via Wi-Fi to Mu-so to ensure the two components are talking to one another, downloads any necessary firmware updates, and, in our setup experience, was all done and dusted with a few minutes without issue.
Within the Naim app are iRadio, UPnP, USB/iPod, Bluetooth, Spotify, Tidal, Analogue (3.5mm) and Digital (optical in) sources. A press on any one will switch to that source, without needing to touch the Mu-so itself. Nice and easy - and housing Spotify and Tidal within the app is a great touch.
So however you want to source your music, there are plenty of solutions here. The only bug that's irked us is when switching out from Bluetooth to a different source, as re-selecting Bluetooth after requires manual pairing between devices. Also if you're a hi-resolution fan then you'll need to use the Ethernet connection for 24-bit/192Khz, as wireless is restricted to 48kHz.
If you're away from a paired device then a small remote control is included, but it's a plasticky little thing that seems lost in among the Mu-so's superior design and finish. We've left that in the box, instead opting to use the physical rotary control on top of the Mu-so itself.
The rotary control glides super smoothly when adjusting volume, accompanied by light-up bars to show the volume level. There's also a trio of input sources that can be toggled between by pressing, which sit alongside the play/pause and skip forward/back virtual touch buttons.
Naim Mu-so review: Sonically sensational
If you're contemplating forking our almost £900 for a speaker then you're going to be looking for something pretty special. Naim nails it in this regard, as the Mu-so sounds sonically sensational. It really isn't a case of design over delivery.
Whatever we've thrown at the Mu-so (not literally) it's impressed, delivering a spacious soundscape that lesser speakers simply won't be able to match. The 450W combined output means volume can be very loud indeed, capable of filling even large rooms without distortion. There's only so loud we could crank things before we got the neighbour fear.
We've tried all manner of genres to test out the Mu-so, drifting from classical via iRadio, with soaring string arrangements, through to underground bass music where sub-bass seemingly comes out of nowhere without muddying the wider mix. Pop, rock, ambient - it all works a treat, given Naim's individual amp treatment of drivers.
But the bass. Oh, that bass. It's of that level where you can feel it, without it becoming a distraction. It sounds lively and elastic, but separated enough from the rest of the output to ensure an almost life-like sound, depending on what you're listening to.
However, there's no on-board equalisation adjustment (only a positioning option selectable within the app to determine if the Mu-so is closer/farther than 25cms from a surface behind), so if you do want to tweak output then you'll need to depend on software from within apps, as applicable. Not that we've ever felt the need to: Mu-so sounds balanced, not too bright, not too flat throughout.
Ok, so we've got no idea what the name is all about, but that's easily forgivable because the Naim Mu-so is one seriously standout wireless speaker. Sure, its £895 price tag is going to deter its fullest possible audience, but the Mu-so is so good it's worth saving up for.
The industrial design aesthetic mirrors some of Naim's higher-end hi-fi products, sound is sonically sensational whatever tracks you happen to throw at it, and with so many sources available it's a piece of cake to get your favourite audio output in high quality.
It's a wonder why it's taken Naim so many years to create its first wireless speaker, because as first attempts go the Mu-so is a stormer, with but a few exceptions: the remote control feels miles away from the rest of the otherwise high-end design and we're sure Bluetooth connections could be remembered and automated for easier reconnection.
Otherwise the Mu-so is one great-looking, great-sounding product with plenty of input sources and a decent app to boot. Hear it and believe: the Mu-so is the new-wave hi-fi for the 21st century.