If I am being truly honest, despite having access to more or less the whole audio toy shop, the product that has logged the largest number of listening hours in my house is the Naim Mu-so Qb. Why? Because it’s so damn convenient; it’s the streamer-meets-radio that lives just beyond arm’s reach from my computer keyboard. It’s small enough to take up minimal space (it sits on a side cabinet) but is considerably more powerful and better sounding than the ‘pencil case’ sized Bluetooth soundbars and smaller one-box systems that currently dominate the market.
All of which meant that when Naim announced a replacement – the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation – I had an initial touch of the jitters. Naim isn’t known for ‘change for its own sake’ updates and has a very good track record of making a Mark II that’s better than the original, but when something is a constant companion, you get to fear change. Will it still look as good? Can it sound better? Will they accidentally throw the baby out with the bathwater? In a product as important to Naim – and to my personal listening experience – the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation has to get it right. There’s no opportunity for failure, and if they mess up my enjoyment of The Now Show or I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, I’ll go all Guy Fawkes on them. Actually, I’ll just keep the old model, but the potential for miffing is high.
I shouldn’t have worried. Naim made a good thing, better. Starting with the look; I find the Qb a timeless design, with its large central control wheel on the top, the gently undulating grilles, and the illuminated clear Perspex base. Naim clearly also thinks this is timeless, because where the design is changed, the changes are subtle and for the better. The grilles are more elegantly scooped. The darker grey top plate gives it a more refined aspect, and the control dial just looks more ‘right’ in context. The original Mu-so doesn’t now look like the runt of the litter, but if saw the two side-by-side and knew nothing else about the product, you’d go with the 2nd Generation. It’s just more attractive.
That intelligent controller is seriously improved upon its previous iteration but is designed to be a similarly easy-to-navigate dial with active touch controls. The two big changes are the haptics are improved, and it wakes and illuminates as you approach it. As this is essentially the only control surface on the Mu-so Qb (the rest is on a tablet), the way that panel shapes itself according to function is vital, and in this version, it always seems to correctly second-guess what you are doing. It has more ‘tap to display’ controls, includes a ‘favourites’ button and indicators for when you are using Chromecast or Airplay. However, despite a surprisingly long laundry list of functions, the new controller is every bit as easy to use as its predecessor.