In a big departure from its more traditional audio products, Naim has today [24th April] taken the wraps off its latest creation – an £895 wireless speaker/soundbar system, the Naim Muso.
Unveiled at the Vinyl Factory in London's Soho, the Muso comes equipped with AirPlay, aptX Bluetooth and UPnP (Universal Plug 'n' Play) capability and will be available from September through John Lewis and other retailers.
Muso features six 75W digital amplifiers driving six custom-designed Naim drivers. There are two midrange drivers in their own enclosure, a pair of tweeters and a pair of 'racetrack' bass drivers. A dark grey grille comes as standard, but additional ones will be available in different colours at launch.
Inside the aluminium-covered MDF casework is DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology developed from Naim's work on in-car audio systems for Bentley.
A large, circular aluminium volume control on top of the unit also includes touch-sensitive buttons for selecting different inputs, pause, play and track skip.
Round the back you'll find the heatsink, and additional USB and 3.5mm analogue inputs are on the side. The USB connection will play music from and charge an iPhone, iPad, iPod and many other MP3 players. Underneath the unit (to keep unsightly cables out of view) are the optical digital and ethernet connections.
Additional features include two room EQ settings to optimise the sound when the unit is placed near or away from walls, and a loudness control to boost bass and treble when listening at low volumes.
The Naim Muso can operate as a standalone system or be used as part of a Naim or AirPlay multiroom set-up. A new control app for iOS and Android devices will be available from September 2014, giving access to thousands of internet radio stations.
And there's a strong possibility that the device will ship with a streaming music service on board too, although that's not confirmed at this stage.
Muso supports the following audio formats: WAV, FLAC and AIFF up to 24-bit/192kHz; ALAC (Apple Lossless) up to 24-bit/96kHz; MP3 up to 48kHz, 320kb (16-bit); AAC up to 48kHz, 320kb (16-bit); and OGG and WMA up to 48kHz (16-bit).
More after the break
A lot of development went into the bass reflex port (shown below) so the size, shape and positioning of it was carefully calculated during the early development phase. The port is ribbed to increase rigidity and is flared to minimise turbulence, which helps reduce resonance and lowers distortion.
As for the electronics, the digital signal processor is the 'audio brain' of the the system. It uses a high-performance, 32-bit silicon chip and the code that runs it was custom-designed by Naim's engineers.
To ensure strong wi-fi performance, Naim worked with a consultant professor from Queen Mary, University of London to develop an embedded wi-fi antenna system. Two hidden printed-circuit slot antennae, one between the bass drivers and one inside the rear heatsink, work in combination with a dual-channel receiver.
Other highlights include the touch-panel volume control which is made from a solid ring of bead-blasted, anodised aluminium and features 11 illuminated volume segments which vary in intensity depending on the volume setting.
Designed and engineered by Naim’s in-house R&D team, Muso measures just under 63cm wide, 12cm tall and 25.6cm deep, and weighs 13kg.
• In a separate development, Naim has just won a Queen's Award for Innovation.
Managing director Paul Stephenson says: "We are extremely proud of our British design and engineering heritage and very pleased to be representing the 'best of British' industry around the world. This is the third time we've received the Queen's Award, and it's a real motivator."
MORE: Naim Supernait 2 review
By Andy Clough