Back in 2015 the British hi-fi audio brand, Naim, created its first standalone all-in-one system: the Mu-so. Far from being so-so, this magic box of tricks delivered stand-out sound quality in a bold design that we thought was a sensational surprise.
Fast-forward to 2019 and it's time for round two, with Naim - following its merger with French company Focal - releasing the Mu-so 2. The week prior to it arriving in stores we went for a sneak peek (well, sneak listen, really - but given how loud we played it at hClub in London, there was hardly any sneak about it) to see just how good the sequel sounds.
Design: What's new?
- 12mm deeper design gives 0.5l additional interior space for enhanced bass
- Enhanced internal bracing designed to minimise micro vibrations
- 95% internal components are new compared to original Mu-so
- Grille colours: Black, Peacock, Terracotta, Olive (£49ea)
- Adds HDMI ARC (audio pass-through)
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz)
- Ethernet, optical, 3.5mm
- Included remote control
At first glance the second-gen Mu-so doesn't look that different to the original. In many respects that's because it isn't. Front-on it offers the same dimensions. The external build quality comprises the same weighty mix of metal, giving an unusual yet elegant industrial finish. There's the same illuminated Naim logo, which glows in its transparent base.
But just because it looks the same certainly doesn't mean that lots hasn't changed. Most of it has just happened beyond what your eye can see. The 12mm aded depth, for example, is barely noticeable, but delivers an additional half-litre of internal space for enhanced bass output (which, as it happens, goes from already big to massive).
Then there's the composition of the internal make-up, which includes new bracing built from polymers that are used in riot shields, Naim tells us, to make it as stiff and inert as possible, minimising micro-vibrations for the cleanest sound possible. Indeed, 95 per cent of the internal components are either new or have changed since the first-gen Mu-so, making the second-gen a rather different bit of kit.
But it's with some of the simpler changes that the Mu-so 2 shows-off its aspirations. There's an HDMI port to the rear, for example, complete with audio pass-through (ARC), meaning this all-in-one soundsystem can be used as a successful soundbar if you would like. Apparently a number of Mu-so owners liked using the original for this task, albeit via optical, so the Mu-so 2 ups its game.
However, there aren't on-screen controls nor sound presets, which we think is somewhat limiting for a versatile soundbar - which is something we hope Naim will update in the future, even if it's by firmware update.
Instead, in a similar fashion to the original Mu-so, the second-gen model has a distinctive circular control wheel up top. We're all for physical controls in a world where knobs and buttons are ever more quickly vanishing, especially given the super high-quality feel of this weighted and infinitely rotating control wheel. It's an elegant solution indeed.
It's also a different solution to before, with a built-in proximity sensor that will see an approaching hand and auto-illuminate to show you touch-sensitive controls. Here it's possible to cycle through the five main options for sources, which show down the bottom. Up top of the circle is the space for three favourites - which can be saved and can be anything you please, including, say a Spotify playlist - for quick access.
There's a lot of connectivity too, with AirPlay 2 included, along with Google Cast, Spotify Connect, Tidal and more. Or if you want to feed it with physical inputs then 3.5mm and optical are available alongside Ethernet and that HDMI port to the rear.
A physical remote comes included if you're unlikely to be inclined to sign-in to the dedicated app. Even if you do have the app running with your relevant source then this remote can be handy for at-a-distance adjustments - including things like dimming the illuminated logo or turning it off - so it's a bit of a shame the build quality isn't anything like as good as the main Mu-so unit itself (not that we're looking for a 5kg gold-plated one; just something a bit higher-end would be more fitting here).
- New DSP (digital signal processor) capable of running at 2000 MIPS (instructions per second)
- Six speakers with individual Class D amplifiers, 75W each (450W total)
- AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Google Cast
- Caters up to 32-bit 384kHz native bit rates
- Multi-room functionality
In 2017 Naim and Focal merged, bringing the Anglo company a different raft of experience from its French cousin. That's led to the six front speakers - each of which are individually amplified, delivering 75W per piece - having a redesign for further enhanced audio.
As we said of the original Mu-so: it's a sonic sensation. The sound is wide, volume is potentially huge and clarity top-end.
Then there's that bass. Oh that bass. Whereas before it was big and beefy, it's now got a dollop of extra low-end that has lots of clout and elasticity - without being overbearing in any way. The balance of audio is simply fantastic - whatever you like listening to.
Naim doesn't muck about when it comes to handling high-end files either. The new DSP on board can cater for up to two billion instructions per second, which means it can handle native bit rates up to 32-bit 384kHz without needing to compress. Not that you'll ever really find such high-end files anywhere because most engineers don't utilise it - even 24-bit files are somewhat rare in a typically 16-bit world. Still, if you've got the FLAC goods and want top quality, the Mu-so 2 will do justice.
This audiophile approach is reflected in Naim's processing too. It sounds balanced throughout the volume range, ensuring the right mix of bass to mid to treble depending on how the volume is set. On the one hand that's great, on the other you can adapt for your files - which, in a soundbar scenario, would be massively useful for voice/bass reduction/movie/music and so forth.
The sequel to the sonic sensation is a visually similar beast that's almost entirely different on the inside to the original Mu-so. That makes the second-gen Mu-so a uniquely styled and superb sounding box of tricks. Believe us when we say the sound quality and sheer impact from this industrial slab is second to none.
However, with a £1299 price tag, it's far from cheap - and about £400 more than the original (and now off-the-production-line Mu-so first-gen) - which may raise some eyebrows. There is an HDMI port, though, so for a brilliant soundsystem that can double as a soundbar it's a savvy option, just a shame that there aren't adjustable sound presets to make that TV soundscape a little more user controllable.
When it comes down to it, though, we think the Mu-so 2 is worth every penny. In a world where phones are now costing four-figures, the long-term investment and sheer joy that this system's audio prowess will bring to your home is enough to bring a tear to the eye (or your neighbours' eyes, given how impactful it is). Really, it's an undeniably superb soundsystem.
The Naim Mu-so second-generation will be available from 9 May 2019, priced £1299. Colour grille accessories are £49 each (black is included in the box).
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