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Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd gen Bluetooth speaker reviewed: Is it worth the price tag?

From design to sound, we tested the high-end audio band’s new model

David RS Taylor
Thursday 04 March 2021 17:30
<p>It screams solidity and luxury, but does the audio quality match the looks? </p>

It screams solidity and luxury, but does the audio quality match the looks?

In every rom-com, there’s a character that has their life seemingly completely sorted, if only they could find the partner of their dreams. They have the swanky 10th-floor apartment, a job that they love at a high-flying advertising agency/law firm/investment bank, but also do charity work at the local homeless shelter at the weekend. 

They have a Bonsai tree. A kitchen island. Floor-to-ceiling windows with automatic blinds that open at 6am every day, greeting the fresh, warming sunlight of an early spring New York City morning.

Everything’s made of glass, and there are no smudges. They enjoy all genres of music, especially from artists no-one has ever heard of, or Miles Davis. They definitely own the Naim Mu-so Qb. 

Read more: We review the Transparent Small Speaker to find out if its performance match its looks

Wireless speakers are sometimes an exercise in compromise: for added versatility, you can expect a drop in sound quality, surely?

That’s normal, we understand the pitfalls. High-end audio company Naim, whose other speakers can cost eye-watering amounts, has attempted to create a speaker that upholds both versatility and quality in the Mu-so Qb 2nd generation, seen to be a notable upgrade on the original.

Its price tag will immediately attest to the tech inside, and its look screams solidity and luxury. Does the sound match the looks? We sat down and pricked our ears.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd gen bluetooth speaker

Output: 4x50W 1x100W

Audio performance: Up to 24bit high-res, up to 48kHz low-res

Weight: 5.6kg

Wireless options: Bluetooth (SBC, AAC), speaker pairing, in-house app, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast Built-In, Roon ready

Buy now £749, Audio Affair

Design

The Qb’s design is certainly bold. It’s a pretty big machine, 5.6kg, and its semi-Bauhaus aesthetic is sure to divide opinion. You can’t deny that it looks every bit the high-end product it is. The subtle waves in the fabric face design offset some of the sharper elements of the speaker, and add a nice finishing feel. The LEDs under the control and at the base lend the Qb an appealing Tron vibe in our opinion, particularly with the proximity sensor illuminating the control dial with the wave of a hand, but can be switched off if you don’t feel like having fun. 

Naim has tried to find a balance between traditional and modern listening styles. The big control dial on the top is intuitive and clean: cycle through connectivity options, external inputs, pause and play music, navigate favourite tracks, control the volume. You get the idea. The Qb also comes with a remote control, which was an oddly refreshing experience, keeping us away from our phone and any potential accidental doomscrolling. 

However, control from your smartphone is also possible – use the apps you like and connect quickly via Bluetooth, or use Naim’s dedicated app, available on Android and iOS. The app is easy enough to use after a little bedding in, and collects all your streaming services in one place, along with controls for switching between streaming and analogue. For any radiophiles, there’s the option to choose five favourite radio stations for easy access via the control dial or remote, and for wired connection, there’s an analogue input for any devices without networking capabilities, which had us contemplating a search in the attic for our iPod mini. 

Read more: 8 best soundbars for cinematic audio in your home

Sound

The Naim Qb offers a sensational sound. It’s a cliché, but it has to be said: the listening experience is almost as good as having the musicians in the room, a rarity for wireless speakers. The loyalty to the original studio sound is stunning. It’s not really a surprise, however, as this second-generation speaker improves on the original Qb’s market-leading sound technology, thanks to its partnership with Focal, a world-leading audio manufacturer. A multicore digital signal processor apparently provides more than 13 times the power and accuracy of the previous version, and new custom mid range and bass speaker drivers have been optimised for refined bass and distortion cancellation. High-res audio is welcome here.

While there isn’t as refined a system for sound compensation as other speakers, there are still three sound options, depending on where you decide to place it – near wall, near corner and “no compensation” (free space) – to help the Qb adapt to its surroundings, especially useful for dialling in any bass that could bounce back from nearby walls with a little too much verve. The speaker also performs magic by automatically tinkering with bass and treble levels, ensuring the track sounds its best, whether you’re having a quiet moment with Bob Dylan or blasting Barbie Girl across half your postcode. 

Read more: 11 best noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus when working from home

Pairing is an option, with the chance to combine the Qb with other Naim products for a stereo sound, but the quality difference between the first and second generation Qb is so stark that a single Qb is probably preferable, especially as the sound fills the room almost perfectly anyway with its meaty collection of four 50W and one 100W amplifiers. The Qb can also be linked to other non-Naim speakers through Apple Home or Chromecast – but that seems a bit like mixing champagne with Shloer.

The verdict: Naim Mu-so Qb Second Generation bluetooth speaker

With all the Qb’s design and audio tech comes a hefty price tag. However, what you get for your money is a deeply impressive speaker, capable of close to studio-level audio. The myriad listening options are welcome, from analogue input to the latest streaming services, its control options – both dial and app – are easy to use, and its design is a real statement. 

The Qb’s design is not for everyone – hardly anything is, and its industrial look will suit some rooms much more than others. However, as soon as you switch it on, any thoughts besides the sound quality melt away. Put simply, it’s difficult to go back to any other wireless speaker after trying the Qb.

If it's time for an audio upgrade, read our round-up of the best bluetooth speakers for every budget

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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