Naim Mu-so Second Generation Review
Mu-so 2nd Generation
All-in-one Sound System
All-in-one systems are great whether you are short on space or just don't want the hassle and inevitable rat nest of cables oft associated with separates. Naim spotted this back in 2015, and so the British hi-fi audio brand created its first standalone all-in-one system and named it Mu-so.
What helped make the original Mu-so stand out from the crowd was its bold design. Furthermore, its sound quality was far more impressive than most people were expecting. However, we all know the dangers of trying to follow an exceptional debut with the next release.
Mu-so 2nd Generation Design
Looking at the Mu-so 2 sat in our A/V rack and a quick game of 'spot the difference' kicked off.
You see, at first glance, the second-gen Mu-so doesn't scream “hey! I'm the new version!” But then, there's plenty of good reasons for this. Firstly, it's practically the same size as the original gaining a mere 12mm in depth.
Secondly, the Mu-sos both share the same substantial metal construction and tasteful industrial aesthetic nicely finished off by an illuminated Naim logo glowing through its transparent base. Granted, the new kid has got a slightly darker hue.
More than skin deep
However, just because a cursory glance across its external hardware states nothing has changed doesn't mean that there isn't more to discover below the surface.
For instance, that minimal-sounding extra 12mm of depth actually translates to an additional half-litre of internal space which improves bass output - and the original Mu-so was no slouch in that regard anyway.
Moreover, 95% of the internal components are new for the second-gen Mu-so or have been changed since the first iteration.
Additionally, Naim has also tweaked the cabinet bracing which has been built from the same polymers used in riot shields, so it's as stiff and inert as possible.
The Mu-so lends itself to being used as a somewhat feature-packed soundbar. With the original, owners utilised the optical port for this activity. However, Naim has added an HDMI port with audio pass-through (ARC). Don't worry, though, the optical port has been retained.
Where most of the Mu-so Second Generation is controlled via an app, the device boasts a rather excellent physical control. Complete with a built-in proximity sensor that auto-illuminates the dial when it sees you coming, the control dial is a work of art.
The touch-sensitive controls are responsive, and the dial smoothly spins with the right amount of resistance.
The dial displays five main options for sources, and there's space for storing shortcuts to three favourites - these can be anything such as a Spotify playlist, for instance.
The Mu-so 2 isn't short of connectivity options. Firstly, there is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, and Google Cast. You also get direct access to Spotify Connect, Tidal and internet radio. Furthermore, it's Roon ready too for multiroom shenanigans.
If wired is still your thing, then the 3.5mm and optical options should make you smile. These sit alongside Ethernet and that ARC-packing HDMI port. These physical connections are neatly hidden away under the right side of the Mu-So 2 and are handily set at an angle too.
At the heart of Mu-so 2nd Generation is Naim's music-streaming platform, developed by 25 engineers over 3 years, and is shared by the Mu-so's illustrious siblings in the Uniti range and dedicated network players, including the £20,000 flagship ND 555.
As the whole point of having a compact music system is that you can fit it into a potentially tricky space, the Mu-so Second-gen has some flexibility built-in.
Selecting Room Compensation from the app menu enables you to tailor your listening experience to best suit your area. You get to choose from three different settings - Near Wall; Near Corner; No Compensation [In Free Space] to adapt Mu-so 2nd Generation to your room.
Mu-so 2nd Generation's 450 Watts of music power is joined by all-new speaker drivers. Thanks to Naim merging with Focal in 2017 the system benefits from the French company's speaker savoir-faire. Additionally, there is also 10 times more processing power available on tap than before for even greater musical accuracy.
The original Mu-so won many fans for a good reason. It's an attractive proposition not only aesthetically but performance-wise from a one-box solution. The Second Generation Mu-so lives up to expectation.
The fact that some evenings we have chosen to spend a few hours listening to tunes through the Mu-so 2 via Roon or the Naim app instead of our main system speaks volumes. And, talking about volume, the Mu-so 2 can get loud - very loud.
However, it's not purely volume levels that impress. You get an unexpectedly wide soundstage thanks to the talented speakers. Additionally, the high end is crisp and clear and, as for the low end - wow!
In 1984 I went through a phase of loving heavy metal. That phase has lasted 35 years so far. Slinging tracks over to the Mu-so from such artists as Metallica, Nile, Strapping Young Lad, Megadeth, Slayer, etc. and the double-kick drums favoured by these musicians pounded through the room. Thankfully, the Mu-so 2 is heavy enough not to be sent waddling across the surface.
One thing that became quickly apparent is that as you raise the volume, the balance remains equalised. So, instead of the bass becoming boisterous at higher levels it's checked by the mid and treble. The upshot here is that even at top volume the music doesn't become distorted. Additionally, it means that listening at quiet volumes doesn't lose any definition.
Moreover, the Mu-so 2nd Generation is happy with any of the hi-res files you send it. It will actually handle up to 32-bit 384kHz natively and without compression. So, feel free to sling the chunkiest of FLACS at it, it won't mind one bit.
Using the Mu-so to improve the audio from our skinny panel TV worked remarkably well. We usually run a soundbar and wireless sub, but the main thing we noticed through the Mu-so 2 was that the bass in film soundtracks was more than the low rumble that some subs rely upon. Granted, dedicated subwoofers are going to go lower but, with the Naim, the bass registers remain musical, taut and punchy.
Having fed the Mu-so 2 with a range of hi-res tunes from our NAS as well as Qobuz and Tidal, it was time to put Spotify to the test. Funnily enough, Spotify's standard 320kbps still sounded pretty darned fine. In fact, it was fun going through playlists created pre-2014 and the Tidal-age.
The Mu-so 2nd Generation appears unshakable and genuinely a Jack-of-all-trades.
We have chucked every genre and file type we have at the Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation and have yet to find a reason why we wouldn't buy one. Some might point at the £1299 asking price but, in these days of flagship smartphones costing £1100, we're looking at you Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and iPhone XS Max, a couple hundred more for a spanking sound system ain't that bad. Furthermore, you're less likely to drop the Mu-so 2 down the toilet.
No matter whether handling music or audio through the HDMI ARC port from our telly, the Mu-so 2 provides a full, rich and detailed output at levels that can get the neighbours complaining.
Additionally, we think that the large slab of industrial design is quite beautiful. There is also the option of different coloured grilles if you're into coordinating/contrasting your gear with your decor.
Finally, we have yet to hear an all-in-one system in our room at this price point that can beat it so, for that and all the other reasons we have given, we have to hand it a StereoNET Applause Award.
For more information, go to Naim Audio.
StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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