KEF Muo Wireless Desktop Loudspeaker System

Honey, I Shrunk the Speaker

Equipment report
Categories:
Floorstanding,
Stand-mount
|
Products:
KEF Muo
KEF Muo Wireless Desktop Loudspeaker System

I experimented some with placement for stereo playback, varying distances between the speakers. Distances of up to 6 or 8 feet between the Muos with just a little toe-in seemed to work well for stereo, but I found I did as much nearfield listening at just a few feet. Though I listened less in dual-mono or party mode, up to 10 feet apart seemed do-able there.

Setup is quite similar with computer sources. As I’m a Mac gal, I used both a MacBook Pro (mid-2012) running OS X 10.9.5 and a MacBook Air (2015) running OS X 10.10.5. (The folks at KEF informed me that the connection process is quite similar for PCs—as expected.) In contrast with my iPhone source, I encountered a couple of minor glitches along the way—hardware-related as it turns out. I found I needed to reboot the laptops once or twice for the Bluetooth to “find” the Muo. In stereo mode, the Bluetooth connection was dropped in the right channel a couple of times but only very briefly. My MacBook Pro was running an older OS that didn’t support Bluetooth aptX, but I was able to find a workaround. If possible, I’d recommended updating to El Capitan or Yosemite, which both seemed to work fine.

Sonically Speaking
How does the Muo sound? What struck me most was how engaging the presentation was; I didn’t expect the degree of detail, coherence, and immediacy. How they packed this remarkably clean- and clear-sounding configuration into this sleek, petite form is a wonder—and a testament to the Muo’s clever design.

I mostly listened to Tidal streaming (hi-res version in Chrome) and tracks from my library ranging from lousy mp3s and Red Book CD rips, to high-resolution tracks. The Muo certainly made the most of the lossy/low-res files, presenting them with better sound than they had any right to have. Cuts from Tori Amos’ Under the Pink (2015 remastered version) streamed via Tidal (in its hi-res version) revealed excellent midrange prowess and presence. The Muos were able to convey the emotion behind her plaintive, pleading vocals. Sibilants seemed spot-on. Tori sounded like Tori, and her Bösendorfer piano also sounded quite true-to-life (though miniaturized). A listen to Miles Davis’ “So What” and other cuts from Kind of Blue via Tidal delivered pretty quick transient attacks and delicate decays, particularly on Paul Chambers’ double bass, and pacey energy throughout. Cymbal taps were quite clean and nuanced, with effortless loud-to-soft dynamics across all percussion. As one would expect of such small speakers, soundstaging in stereo mode wasn’t huge; nevertheless, some sense of the musicians’ distances from each other was maintained.

The Muo is light and quick in balance, which lends it a pleasing sense of effortlessness—an advantage of certain smaller speakers. But the Muos can also rock out, as I discovered on the White Stripes’ heavy-duty, brash and bluesy “Ball and Biscuit,” where the speakers flexed their muscles to reproduce Jack White’s growling guitar licks admirably. I was told the Muo goal was to maintain cleaner sound over louder sound, even if that means sacrificing a little dynamic headroom or bottom-end. Obviously the Muos don’t sound like floorstanders, but they sound larger than they are, and their ability to image in stereo is more than respectable, albeit miniaturized. Careful placement also helps.

Priced at $350 each, the Muo might not be the cheapest in its category, but its sound and robust build-quality would give a good many compact, portable, and wireless speakers a run for their money.

Conclusion
In the areas the Muo is designed to play in, it plays very nicely indeed. As I’ve described, it’s a scaled-down “mini-me” version of the Muon. Though it contains many of that flagship model’s materials and technologies, the little Muo could hardly be expected to deliver comparable sound. But the point here is about leveraging what can be reapplied—such as the design of the driver array—to elevate the portable and wireless speaker experience. As such, it’s an overachiever in many aspects. It’s no small feat to make a speaker of this size sound as big, expansive, and remarkably detailed as it does. I’d enthusiastically recommend the Muo (probably a pair) to non-audiophile friends who are music lovers. I’d even give it a thumbs-up for certain audiophile friends (those who listen to digital, that is). Further proof that great things can, and do, come in small packages.

SPECS & PRICING

Drivers: 2 x 2" tweeter/midbass, 1 x bass radiator
Inputs: Bluetooth 4.0 aptX codec, 3.5mm aux
Dimensions: 8.3" x 3.1" x 2.3"
Weight: 1.8 lbs.
Price: $350 each
kefdirect.com

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