What is the Naim Mu-So Qb?
The Qb has some wider aspirations resting on it too. Prior to the Mu-So being launched, Naim calculated that they added between 3 and 4,000 new customers a year. Mu-So has added to this exponentially, with nearer 20,000 new Naim customers as a result. Natually, only a small percentage of these people will augment their Mu-So with Naim range equipment but even so, it represents a significant growing of the business. By hitting a new price increment, Naim hopes to improve these numbers still further.
Of course, if this was easy, everyone would be doing it. The Mu-So Qb needs to appeal to new customers, compete against well thought out rivals and still sound and behave in a way that leaves people wanting to listen to more members of the Naim family and hopefully consider buying more of the company's equipment in the future. This is a fairly hefty set of challenges for a little square box and the Qb needs to deliver- can it meet expectations?
Naim has also retained the single optical input, 3.5mm analogue stereo input and a USB connection that supports direct connection of an iDevice and USB sticks. Network access can be made using an ethernet or wireless connection and in both cases, the process is aided by a multi colour status light on the rear that will give you a reasonable idea of what the device is up to.
This means that choosing between the Qb and the original Mu-So on specs alone is largely pointless. The differences are all to be found in the form factor and the audio hardware of the two products and here they differ considerably. Underneath the exterior of the Mu-So, it mixes some fairly sophisticated use of DSP and multiple drivers with a chassis made in part of MDF and a long slim conventional bass port. This is simply not an option with the Qb. The bass port would take up too much space and MDF won't work effectively for the enclosure.
Each driver has its own class D amp which is mounted in a single large board on the rear plate of the chassis along with the decoding and control equipment. The result is a very tidy use of internal space. Technically the Qb is actively producing sound on three sides of the unit but the radiators have very little active output, serving only to augment the bass. This is helped in no small part by the sole control (save for a network reset button) on the Qb being the large integrated display and control on the top of the chassis which is shared with the Mu-So- and the flagship Statement preamp. This allows for volume and input selection from a single point on the unit.
This is a very comprehensively specified unit but something has had to give, in this case, the remote handset. This is available as an option but I'd suggest living without it at least initially to see how you get on. Like other Naim streaming products, the Mu-So uses a bespoke app which is available for both iOS and Android and is excellent on both platforms. There is the standard caveat that starting the app and applying control is never as quick as simply pointing a remote at the device but if you are able to reach it easily, you can make a very quick volume adjustment using the main control.
How was the Mu-So Qb tested?
What does the Mu-So QB sound like?
Pop into the app and turn it off though and things improve considerably. As you might expect, the volume level like-for-like drops a little but this isn't really an issue because the Naim has considerable reserves of power on tap. At no stage have I really exceeded half volume on it and it is well and truly capable of filling a
This means that the performance is smooth and fast and possessed of the energy that the brand is renowned for. It takes material like the self titled Nothing but Thieves debut album and Conor Mason's vocals have the bite and attack that they need. The Qb has the fundamental ability to sound fun and to do more than simply give you a simple facsimile of the music. On a more prosaic level, it also manages to sound like a single well sorted driver rather than five active and two passive ones. The handover between the different drivers is smooth, even and well handled and even complex pieces of music are dealt with in a self explanatory way.
The Performance of the Mu-So Qb is relatively consistent across the different inputs. This does mean that while it is 24/192kHz capable once hardwired to the network and plays media of this nature without any issue, it doesn't sound radically different when you choose the same album and play it at CD quality via Tidal. What this does mean though is that everything the Qb does is possessed with the same positive qualities that the Naim displays over UPnP. This means it doesn't really matter what you choose to do - be it listen to a spot of 6 Music, check your weekly playlist on Spotify or sit down and listen to an evening's worth of streaming from your music library - it will deliver a truly excellent performance with all of it.
- Sounds big and involving
- Looks fantastic
- Excellent feature set
- No remote supplied as standard
- Slight midrange graininess
- Can sound a bit artificial with loudness selected
Naim Mu-So Qb Review
I'm also pleased to say that the Qb embodies many Naim values in the way it sounds. This is more than a device for background music but a genuinely enjoyable and involving little machine. In a more commercially brutal sense though, this doesn't matter as much as the fact that when you walk into John Lewis and look at your options at £600, the Mu-So Qb is the pick of the pack and an unquestionable Best Buy.
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