Streaming digital music around the home can be a lesson in compromise, offering convenience at the expense of fidelity. British high end audio specialist Naim says that its Muso system is different, claiming it delivers "a carefully engineered step up in sound quality and concentrates on creating the best possible experience for the listener whilst still being simple to set up and use." Taking design cues from its £125,000 (US$210,000) Statement home amplification system, but thankfully not costing quite as much, the aluminum-clad Muso treats each of its six speakers to its own digital amp for 450 W of combined power and supports the playback of high resolution WAV, FLAC and AIFF audio files.
Codenamed Project Eagle, the product brief called for "incredible, class-leading sound quality whilst being beautiful and elegant, using premium quality materials ... [and] be simple to install and control whilst creating the intense and emotive musical experiences on which Naim has built its reputation." The 120 x 628 x 256 mm (4.7 x 24.7 x 10 in), 13 kg (28.7 lb) Muso features a striking solid aluminum heatsink that runs the length of the unit for optimum thermal performance, and a wooden speaker cabinet wrapped in aluminum.
Its six 75-watt amplifiers, one for each of the custom Naim drivers (two dome tweeters, two mid-range drivers and two bass drivers), are independently tuned to a frequency suitable to that driver. "Naim for Bentley systems are fully active allowing Naim to optimize performance for each car design and each drive unit," says the company. "In a similar way, Muso uses six amplifiers driving six loudspeaker drive units each designed for a part of the audio band. The small and light tweeter produces the fast moving high frequencies, the larger drive units the critical mid-range and bass frequencies."
There's a 32-bit digital signal processor running custom code to ensure that the various frequencies are precisely handled by the appropriate amp/driver, and ribbed, flared bass porting for reduced resonance and low distortion. The system is reported capable of playing all audio formats and supports playback of up to 24-bit/192 kHz resolution audio.
Naim worked with a consultant professor at Queen Mary, University of London to develop a dual channel receiver that combines with a printed-circuit slot 802.11b/g Wi-Fi antenna that sits between the bass drivers and another inside the rear heatsink for strong Wi-Fi performance. It's reported capable of UPnP Wi-Fi better-than-CD-quality digital audio streaming via a wireless home network, and supports Apple's AirPlay wireless technology. An Ethernet port offers the choice of wired or wireless connection to a home router.
There's Bluetooth too, with aptX technology support. A Muso control App for iOS and Android devices is set for release at the same time as the home music system. The app can be used to create playlists, access internet radio stations and control playback, though users can access internet radio favorites, and select standby, input or presets, via the touch-enabled, illuminated volume control to the top of the unit.
This interface is fashioned from a solid block of bead-blasted, anodized aluminum topped by a touch panel, and its volume dial goes up to 11. Two different EQ room settings are said to offer listeners rich bass and treble wherever the unit is positioned in a room, even at low volumes. Information from the volume control is transferred to the main using light rather than mechanical contact. Users also get the option to command functionality via a supplied IR remote.
The system includes a 3.5 mm analog input for feeding in audio over a physical connection, and it can be used for home cinema or gaming setups via an S/PDIF optical input. A USB port caters for playback from a thumbdrive, as well as charging of a music player or smartphone battery.
The Muso, which can be wirelessly linked to other Naim streaming music players for true stereo or multi-room performance, will be available from September for a retail price of £895 (US$1,500).