It’s the tip of the highway for our favourite high-end Bluetooth speaker, the beautiful Mu-so, from British audio manufacturer Naim. But you needn’t fear, the close-out is to make means for the Mu-so 2nd Generation, now on show on the High End audio present in Munich, Germany. I had a possibility to listen to the brand new element at a pre-show demo in New York City.
The Mu-so is way more than a Bluetooth speaker, in fact, and its substitute seems to be to be much more complete. The new mannequin is “intentionally similar in looks, but 95 percent changed on the inside” in line with Naim Audio Group Director of Design Simon Matthews. Matthews says the second-gen all-in-one music maker has been in growth for 2 years, in an effort to make the speaker sound even higher and be simpler to make use of than the unique. Despite the lengthy gestation interval, the brand new unit will price simply $105 greater than the unique: $1,600.
“We reworked the power supply, all the digital architecture, the signal processing, the streaming platform and the drive units,” Matthews stated. The speaker’s inner bracing makes use of “the same polymers deployed in riot shields, and [there’s] a larger down-firing port system that now runs through the entire cabinet for better bass.” On the skin, the 28-pound steel and acrylic-wrapped cupboard bears a putting resemblance to its predecessor, however is barely deeper, measuring 24 inches huge, 5 inches excessive, and 11.5 inches deep, together with its signature large warmth sink.
The distinctively outsized and backlit quantity management wheel embedded within the prime of the unit has been improved with a slick proximity sensor that wakes the unit when your hand hovers shut, with a multi-function LCD show and operations display positioned inside its ring.
One faucet now marries the Mu-so 2nd Generation with a second Naim audio element enjoying in one other room. “We’re also newly supporting multi-room play with non-Naim products, using Apple’s Airplay 2 and Google Chromecast,” Matthews stated.
Naim positioned aggressive bets on high-resolution audio, presuming that more and more quick broadband entry would spawn elite streaming providers to fulfill the demand for immediate gratification. And these bets have paid off. Asked to touch upon Sonos’ success promoting comparatively high-end audio elements to the mass market, Matthews complimented Sonos on the success of its enterprise mannequin, however was extra important of Sonos’ reluctance to embrace high-res audio: “You can’t compare a Play 5 to a Mu-so. We’re operating on a much different performance level.”
The first-gen Mu-so supported audio recordsdata with as much as 24-bit decision and sampling charges as excessive as 192kHz (48kHz max over a wi-fi community). The Mu-so 2nd Generation will be capable of play 32-bit/192kHz music from a transportable arduous drive; 32-bit/384kHz DSD, FLAC, and WAV audio recordsdata streamed from a wired UPnP media server; and 24-bit/192kHz lossless audio from streaming providers together with Tidal, Deezer, and Qobuz. The new speaker additionally helps Spotify Connect and is Chromecast appropriate.
For demo and on the spot gratification functions, a Mu-so 2nd Generation comes out of the field with 5 high-resolution tracks already loaded into reminiscence, that includes artists equivalent to Band of Horses and Christine & the Queens. “But we’re not just serving the high-res market with this product,” Matthews stated. “A lot of care has been taken so even low bit-rate signals and MP3 files sound sweeter on the new Mu-so.”
Improved efficiency begins with a much more sturdy, 16-core digital sign course of that may deal with 2,000 million directions per second (MIPS). That compares to the unique Mu-so’s single-core, 150 MIPS DSP. The new DSP empowers extra subtle bass compression administration and refined loudness contouring that distinctly alters the best way the drivers work for optimum linearity, effectivity, and freedom from distortion “shifting the settings with every step on the volume control,” in line with Matthews.
Following the precepts of the corporate’s 1973 founder Julian Vereker (taken by most cancers in 2000 at age 54), Naim doesn’t provide customers any tone controls to mess with on the Mu-so 2nd Generation, believing the right changes have been made within the studio and shoppers usually tend to simply mess issues up. But the product does ask for a smidgen of person enter at preliminary set-up: You inform the system if the Mu-so is sitting out within the open, near a wall, or plopped in a nook. The speaker will then compensate with acceptable EQ tweaks.
The Mu-so 2nd Generation additionally boasts a extra refined streaming platform, developed at a price of $4 million and beforehand restricted to Naim’s pricier Uniti collection merchandise (just like the $7,500 Uniti Nova amp/streamer) and devoted community gamers, together with the flagship $26,000 ND5 555. “The similar engineers who work on these merchandise—and even our $250,000 amplifiers—additionally labored on the brand new Mu-so,“ stated Matthews.
Naim additionally collaborated with its French sister firm Focal on a brand new set of drivers that take full benefit of the brand new DSP and refinements made to its six 75-watt Class D amplifiers. (Naim and Focal are each now owned by the Vervent Audio group.) Unlike many all-in-one audio elements, the Mu-so 2nd Generation goals to ship true stereo, with left/proper pairs of 1.0-inch silk dome tweeters, 2.0-inch midrange, and 5.0-inch racetrack (oval) woofers. “We went by six variations of the mid-range and 7 iterations of the long-excursion bass driver till we bought to the place the place we wished to be,” Matthews stated.
Matthews defined how one Naim engineer, a 30-year veteran, spent “hundreds and hundreds of hours fine tuning the digital signal processing, the crossover point…. This engineer listens to a really eclectic range—jazz, classical, rock, pop, even EDM—and wants to understand how they all will play here. This is not a product tailored to do just one thing well. It tries to be as capable in every genre as possible.”
Naim and Focal collaborators additionally needed to contemplate the brand new mannequin’s enhanced performance as a TV soundbar. First-gen Mu-so clients took it upon themselves to push TV soundtracks to the system by way of an optical cable. The new mannequin makes that connection a lot simpler by way of HDMI with ARC (audio return channel) and quantity management by way of the TV’s distant.
I barely skimmed the Mu-so 2nd Generation’s stylistic floor in my comparatively quick listening time, however I got here away impressed by its discrete air of sonic luxurious, its unusual ease, openness, and tremendous element with audio salon standbys equivalent to Nils Lofgren’s dwell recording of “Keith Don’t Go” and Steely Dan’s breezy “Hey Nineteen.”
Sultry soul singer Janelle Monae steamed the room with “Make Me Feel,” likewise heated with a house-thumping bass, Prince-ly plucked guitar, and polyphonic synthesizer surging with such vibrancy I may virtually chew on the notes.
My solely quibble got here when one other reviewer dialed up the movie rating to How to Train Your Dragon on the Naim’s properly wrought pill app. He claimed the orchestral rating featured “real” string gamers, however to my ears the violins sounded too buffed, missing rosin-on-the-bow grit. And OK, critical stereo channel separation was barely in proof on the Mu-so 2nd Generation, although that shortfall might need been an element of the unit’s placement within the lodge demo room.