Apple-approved iDevices, of which Naim’s entry into the wireless home market is one, often end up looking like nondescript boxes, techie eyesores from which you might be just as likely to get hi-tech toast as soaring audio, or tinny retro-styled replica units. It’s as if the designers consider that most people will be streaming compressed audio over Bluetooth and throw up their hands. The Naim Mu-so—from the British company known for its amplifiers, as well as designing sound systems for Bentley Motors—throws that dynamic on its head in any number of ways. The speaker unit is a thing of minimalistic beauty. In this case, the designers strove to do justice to what the audio engineers had accomplished. And that set a very high bar indeed.
The Mu-so is a graceful and powerful bit of electronics loaded into a wooden cabinet wrapped in anodized aluminum, with full and precise sound. Up top, the one giant dial, illuminated around its circumference, provides simple controls, and, at once clean and tactile, supplies the Mu-so’s personality. The entire unit sits on a block of clear acrylic-aluminum composite, with another illumination giving it (a dimmable) glow around the base. The serrated fins of the extruded aluminum heat sink in back give the speaker system an industrial edge, but, of course, is also necessary to offset the work of the six 75-watt drivers powering the dual three-way speaker systems elegantly concealed behind the subtle wave of the face.
All of that power packed into the relatively slim design makes the unit quite hefty (with a $1,499 price tag to match). Its density comes through in the sound—layers and texture that truly create depth, even when streaming over the aforementioned Bluetooth from an iPhone, though you also have the options of AirPlay, Wi-Fi streaming, UPnP, USB, and analog connections. Listening to electronic music reveals satisfying bass that seems to come from everywhere at once, while quieter acoustic performances and even live music gain from the sense of space the Mu-so creates in small rooms, with instruments clearly separated and distinct in the mix.
The engineers are understandably confident in their work, and the Mu-so app gives you only one sound setting to adjust—the distance of the unit from the wall. The rest is up to an internal 32-bit digital signal processor (capable of millions of calculations per second, according to Naim).
The base Mu-so comes in classic black, but synesthesiacs aren’t the only ones who should get to enjoy colors associated with their music. Though the interchangeable grills might have more to do with fitting into home decor than matching sonic cues, the choices (red, a deep blue, and orange) do give the unit a softer feel and completely change the look, further distinguishing the Mu-so, in both aesthetics and sound, from anything else on the market. (naimaudio.com)