What comes to mind when you think of the term "wireless speaker"? Is it a $50 Bluetooth speaker? Maybe the $200 Bose SoundLink Mini? Or perhaps something even higher quality like the $500 Sonos Play:5?
Above those popular conceptions of the wireless speaker lives in a select group of "high-end" models which start at about a grand in the US and continue climbing from there. In these loftier climes reside models you've never heard of, like the Devialet Phantom ($1,990), the Raumfeld Stereo L ($2,400) and the Naim mu-so ($1,499) -- all rich in design and sound quality, but too rich for most shoppers' blood.
Now Naim is aiming just under the $1,000 barrier with the mu-so Qb. It's a more compact version of the original mu-so, but still keeps much of the same technology and design elements. Arguably, it also sounds better.
The Qb is the perfect size to slot into the corner of most rooms. But it's no shrinking violet, and can also take the limelight with a gripping musical performance. Of course you can do a lot better (with a dedicated stereo) for the money, and one major competitor, the Sonos Play:5, sounds just as good for half the price. But it's also twice as big and not nearly as cool-looking. If you want a beautiful, compact wireless speaker and have a grand to spend, the Naim mu-so Qb stands out.
The Mu-so Qb retails for $1,000 in the US, £595 in the UK and AU$1,295 in Australia.
What's in a Naim?
While the original mu-so resembles a TV soundstand, the Qb is much smaller at about 8 inches square. Despite its diminutive size it still manages to pack in five drivers, with an angled "stereo" midrange and tweeter pair in addition to a low-end woofer. Naim says it wasn't able to build a bass port into such a small speaker, so instead it includes dual pistonic bass drivers to work in tandem with the woofer.
As with the mu-so before it, the Qb is gorgeously designed, with an all-metal chassis and the same iconic control console at the top of the device. The console is reportedly milled from a piece of aluminum and has a great, smooth feel when used as a volume control. The front and sides are covered with a removable grille, and you can buy other colors such as orange and blue.
As part of the mu-so wireless family, the speaker supports multiroom playback for up to five other networked Naim devices, and will play music up to 24-bit/192kHz. The system supports 802.11b/g wireless, though it's disappointing not to see N or even AC.
Of course this wouldn't be a 2016 music player unless it included Bluetooth (with aptX) and AirPlay as well, but it also bundles a 3.5mm analog, a digital optical and a USB port.
Naim was one of the first high-end brands to fully embrace digital media, and the mu-so line is capable of linking the company's Uniti products into a multiroom system with the use of an app. The Naim mu-so app for Apple and Android offers streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal, as well as streaming from your network over Wi-Fi. Disappointingly it can't play music from your phone unless you use Bluetooth (competitors can use Wi-Fi), and this is especially annoying given the company's audiophile heritage.