I’m going to be completely honest: when my husband brought home a big brown cardboard box and said it was a new speaker for us to try, I wasn’t overly interested.
As Lifestyle journalists we’re often sent samples to try – whether it’s a new beauty offering, a bottle of locally distilled booze or a spec-ed up piece of gadgetry, the perks come in thick and fast so you start to get a bit jaded after a while, and as gross as this sounds, unless the ‘wow’ factor is there, neither James nor I is likely to give something coverage.
So, back to the Naim. On opening the Mu-so Qb 2 box, we found a simple black cube, with the soft fabric covering of a traditional speaker. Knowing nothing about the brand, I initially had a vague idea it was a cheaply made piece of equipment, so I didn’t expect much from it in the way of performance.
After all, it didn’t have a slick, fancy box like we’ve all come to expect from electronics companies, thanks to Apple’s domination of the electronics-packaging trend cycle. No seamlessly slidey, smooth white demi-matte cardboard here. This was bare-bones stuff.
And ‘Mu-so Qb 2’? What the hell did that mean?
Then, the set-up was fiddly as f***. Time and time again I tried to force the Mu-so Qb 2 to recognise my Android phone. There was a purple light that wouldn’t turn green, or was it white? Or should it be orange? Was it meant to connect to our wifi? What was this mystery box even for, anyway??
After sifting frustratedly through online forums, I discovered the Mu-so Qb 2 sometimes has trouble playing nicely with non iPhones. Fine. We persisted, now slightly worn down by the effort, trying various restarts and reinstalls, until: success!
At last, the little light on the back turned the right colour, and we had connectivity. And holy moly, did we have sound.
It would be hard to overstate our stunned surprise at what came out of this unprepossessing wee box when we finally got it going. It was actually comical to see James’s face – this was definitely not just a cheap piece of kit we were playing with. This was the real deal.
A quick Google told me what I should have known from the beginning: Naim is one of the UK’s premier hi-fi manufacturers – whoops. They’re the official high-end audio supplier for Bentley cars, which tells you something.
Oh, and the plain cardboard box I’d seen? That was was just the shipping container. Inside it was, yes, a sleek white package. Strike one for my observational skills, and a good reminder to never judge a book by its cover.
Giddy on the audio quality, we tried it out with a range of different music styles. And from soul, to hip hop, to driving EDM and José Carreras belting out ‘Nessun Dorma’, this little speaker delivered a clear, rich, roundness of sound that we’d frankly never encountered in any of our previous, mainstream stereos.
Remember that scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Violet Beauregarde is chewing the gum and she can taste, and feel, a full three-course dinner in her mouth? That’s the Mu-so Qb 2, but for music. It sounded like we had an orchestra in the living room. You could practically smell the resin on the violin bows.
It’s nearly a decade since Bose launched their first SoundLink speaker, so it’s easy to forget just how crap small speakers used to be. When the SoundLink appeared, it seemed like a miracle – suddenly, decent sound quality was readily available to everyone at a low price.
These days, 10 years on, portable speakers with a solid bass response are a dime a dozen, which makes the Naim Mu-so Qb 2 even more exciting; we’ve got so used to expecting ‘ok’ sound, that audio equipment needs to be something special to stand out. The Mu-so Qb 2 is that something special.
True audiophiles will tell you they can still notice the sound is coming from one place, rather than completely filling up a room. But most of us aren’t true audiophiles. Most of us just want to be able to listen to music that sounds good without it hurting our ears or sounding scratchy, fuzzy, or tinny. The Mu-so Qb 2 does so much more than that. The only thing is, it might set you off on an extremely expensive new hobby.
Which brings us to the price. This is where you may pause – it’s going to set you back a fair bit more than your typical mainstream small speaker, so brace yourself. At just under $1500, it’s definitely not a cheap buy, but to put that into perspective, consider that a typical Naim set-up of could easily cost upwards of $15K.
If you’ve aged up and out of mainstream audio but you’re not yet at the point where tens of thousands of dollars feels like a reasonable amount to spend on a stereo, the Mu-so Qb 2 could be just the ticket.