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Bluesound Node Review (Streamer)

srrxr71

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My understanding why The Youtube community loves it is it's featureset and no know is checking the engineering quality through measurements to see how it compares to competing and lower priced products. It is really nice all in one package for a hifi audio streaming endpoint with BlueOS. It ticks all the digital audio endpoint boxes (bitperfect audio, Roon support, MQA, Tidal, Qobuz, DLNA, Spotify etc). and BlueOS is pretty much the best music streaming client out there for retail consumer products, in that it supports all of the major streaming services at their highest level of fidelity and generally works well with a decent UI.

I also suspect the hifi youtubers mostly don't consider the Raspberry Pi solutions competition (except John Darko) so it's cheaper than everything else out there that does the same thing.

Why I am upset about it, which may or may not be why the community is upset, is that I do consider Raspberry Pi solutions and a Topping DAC as competition and frankly the minimum bar. The Node is the right recipe for the solution we all want for a streaming enpoint but they haven't focused on improving the engineering to meet our hifi engineering standards and exceed the minimum bar and it's 4x more expensive than my minimum bar. And we all know they could improve the engineering if they focused on it as companies like Topping release DACs that exceed engineering standards consistently.

Me personally, I now know what's reasonably possible at lower price points and am not willing to accept less at a higher price point.

Can the Pi do HDMI input? Because I have 3 of them sitting around and can easily repurpose.

I intend to use one of them for CamillaDSP once I wrap my head around it. Not paying MiniDSP for outdated tech. The intention is to run multi sub (3 or 4) and crossover to Genelecs. I think in terms of CPU power these run circles around MiniDSP and i’m sick and tired of PC based solutions (but very open to them). I have an Intel NUC sitting around as well.
 

Mansinthe86

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Mine shipped and should be coming in a few days. This was the only game in town for HDMI eARC. I’ll just connect it to the eARC port on my LG OLED and with the neutrik impedance adapter connect directly to an 8341 Genelec.

So I won’t be using the DAC which should be better than it is but it is what it is. I don’t really need any of the other features either since I can Airplay to the Apple TV. Maybe it could be used if I don’t want the TV on. I don’t use Roon (no Apple Music support).

So I guess it’s a $550 hdmi audio extractor in my case. I can only hope I end up finding one of its other features useful.

Very happy to hear about lip sync being solved at least.


I'm using Airplay to stream the audio from my Apple TV to my Cambridge cxn V2.

Apple tv4k and the LG CX seem to have audio dropout issues (cracking and popping sounds) when using the optical out of the LG TV.

I didn't have this problem with the LG TV apps or a firetv. Known issue with apple TVs and LG.

Airplay fixes this problem and I get perfectly lip-sync audio without even using a cable connection.

The apple TV remote is able to adjust the volume while using Airplay.



Airplay is fine for casting music but you will only get 48khz this way.
 

srrxr71

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I'm using Airplay to stream the audio from my Apple TV to my Cambridge cxn V2.

Apple tv4k and the LG CX seem to have audio dropout issues (cracking and popping sounds) when using the optical out of the LG TV.

I didn't have this problem with the LG TV apps or a firetv. Known issue with apple TVs and LG.

Airplay fixes this problem and I get perfectly lip-sync audio without even using a cable connection.

The apple TV remote is able to adjust the volume while using Airplay.



Airplay is fine for casting music but you will only get 48khz this way.

Thank you. You made me feel better about extra $500 I spent over the optical HOSA option. Definitely don’t need pops going to my nice monitors


Also for reminding me that AirPlay 2 into the Node will be limited to 48KHz. I think Apple TV still plays with the TV off? It does to HomePods.

Just to double check. This issue exists even with the new 2021 Apple TV 4K?
 

Mansinthe86

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Thank you. You made me feel better about extra $500 I spent over the optical HOSA option. Definitely don’t need pops going to my nice monitors


Also for reminding me that AirPlay 2 into the Node will be limited to 48KHz. I think Apple TV still plays with the TV off? It does to HomePods.

Just to double check. This issue exists even with the new 2021 Apple TV 4K?

You can turn the screen off , LG settings, energy saving, screen off.

Yeah newest apple TV 4k . And LG CX65, both newest firmware
 

Beershaun

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Can the Pi do HDMI input? Because I have 3 of them sitting around and can easily repurpose.

I intend to use one of them for CamillaDSP once I wrap my head around it. Not paying MiniDSP for outdated tech. The intention is to run multi sub (3 or 4) and crossover to Genelecs. I think in terms of CPU power these run circles around MiniDSP and i’m sick and tired of PC based solutions (but very open to them). I have an Intel NUC sitting around as well.
I don't think so. I think you'd need to find either an HDMI audio extractor (about $40 on Monoprice) or find a HAT that can do that.
 

srrxr71

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I don't think so. I think you'd need to find either an HDMI audio extractor (about $40 on Monoprice) or find a HAT that can do that.

I see. Thank you. Would they extract from the eARC port? The only non HDMI 2.1 device I have is a MacMini. I suppose I could connect it to the eARC port and then extract the eARC while the woeful MacMini M1 can output it’s HDMI 2.0 to the TV. It cannot even handle HDR 4:4:4 despite the fact that HDMI 2.0 supports it.

I wonder at this point if it can accept eARC or ARC so I can use the device to do some DSP. Then output with a USB/Thunderbolt DAC. Probably not. Other option is my main PC with a Nvidia 3000 series card.

Just too many things are in flux right now and even with about 3 years of HDMI 2.1 things still haven’t been figured out. So many seeming options that turn out to not work as promised.

Edit: I will add the Mac Mini M1 won’t even do HDR 4:4:4 60 Hz if connected to the Thunderbolt port outputting DisplayPort 1.4 via the Cable Matters USB-C to HDMI 2.1 adapter. Apparently a software issue. The adapter works fine in Windows even 120Hz HDR 4:4:4. These products are so half baked.
 
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thefsb

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I see. Thank you. Would they extract from the eARC port?
My experience with cheap audio extractors is that they sometimes work with some equipment and mysteriously don't work at other times and with other equipment. At present we're using this one. It works with our Roku and old Sony DVD player. It doesn't work with a more recent version of the same DVD player.

So I think you'd have to try it to answer your question.
 

srrxr71

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My experience with cheap audio extractors is that they sometimes work with some equipment and mysteriously don't work at other times and with other equipment. At present we're using this one. It works with our Roku and old Sony DVD player. It doesn't work with a more recent version of the same DVD player.

So I think you'd have to try it to answer your question.


Given that information and that I just upgraded all my stuff to HDMI 2.1 I wouldn’t really pursue it. HDMI 2.1 changes everything. Even the signal transmission format
Thank you for that information.
 

Mansinthe86

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I see. Thank you. Would they extract from the eARC port? The only non HDMI 2.1 device I have is a MacMini. I suppose I could connect it to the eARC port and then extract the eARC while the woeful MacMini M1 can output it’s HDMI 2.0 to the TV. It cannot even handle HDR 4:4:4 despite the fact that HDMI 2.0 supports it.

I wonder at this point if it can accept eARC or ARC so I can use the device to do some DSP. Then output with a USB/Thunderbolt DAC. Probably not. Other option is my main PC with a Nvidia 3000 series card.

Just too many things are in flux right now and even with about 3 years of HDMI 2.1 things still haven’t been figured out. So many seeming options that turn out to not work as promised.

Edit: I will add the Mac Mini M1 won’t even do HDR 4:4:4 60 Hz if connected to the Thunderbolt port outputting DisplayPort 1.4 via the Cable Matters USB-C to HDMI 2.1 adapter. Apparently a software issue. The adapter works fine in Windows even 120Hz HDR 4:4:4. These products are so half baked.

Are there even movies that use HDR 4:4:4?
 

srrxr71

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Are there even movies that use HDR 4:4:4?
No but I use the MacMini for reading and photo editing and if I use 4:2:2 the text is blurry. So it matters to me. The solution is to turn off HDR. Which is valid but really makes my LG OLED look dull.

The TV is also my personal monitor. These LG oleds are better than most if not all monitors. Also the MacMini from very early on has had HDMI so people do use them with TVs.

With the PC it’s just great. Perfect text. 120hz. VRR for gaming. All the hdmi 2.1 promises delivered on.
 

Beershaun

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@Mansinthe86 I think we're getting off track from the original thread. Maybe set up another thread for your audio extractor use case?
 

freddianz

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Mine shipped and should be coming in a few days. This was the only game in town for HDMI eARC. I’ll just connect it to the eARC port on my LG OLED and with the neutrik impedance adapter connect directly to an 8341 Genelec.

So I won’t be using the DAC which should be better than it is but it is what it is. I don’t really need any of the other features either since I can Airplay to the Apple TV. Maybe it could be used if I don’t want the TV on. I don’t use Roon (no Apple Music support).

So I guess it’s a $550 hdmi audio extractor in my case. I can only hope I end up finding one of its other features useful.

Interesting, thanks for commenting here, i have the Node on the way for kinda similar setup. Basically want to make full use of the studio monitors.

My plan is to use it like so;

Apple tv 4K to the LG C1 via HDMI
LG C1 to the Node via HDMI eArc

Then I have few options I have to A/B;

Option 1
Node to an external DAC (SMSL SU 9) via COAX / Optical out
Then to the Neumann KH80 via XLR.

(This option I guess is the best sound quality I can achieve with what i have at the moment, as I'm bypassing the internal Node DAC,
However, I'm pretty sure I will lose the control volume capability of the apple tv remote, which is quite inconvenient, as I need another remote just for the volume -the smsl remote)

Option 2
Node directly to the Neumann KH80 via XLR.
(Volume control via apple tv remote intact, not sure how big of a hit to the Sound quality - need A/B)
________

What I will make use too, is Tidal streaming for higher res music directly from Node.

From what i understand, airplay from apple tv/iphone will max at 48KHz,
andd, optical out/hdmi eArc out from tv to the Node will also max at 48KHz,
so airplay here quite convenient.

HDMI eArc and airplay capability make it possible for me to use the tv remote for volume control, as long as i can accept using the internal DAC of the Node.
 

dynobot

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Its only been about a month or so for me with the Bluesound Node [N130]. Before I've used custom PC's [Mac, Windows and Linux] for audio [Roon LMS/Squeezelite and Audivana] with RaspberryPi's as endpoints. I've used USB out, and numerous converters in the $500 range. Streaming from the BS via spdif to any of my Dacs [Mhdt Havana, Orchid, Audiogd Master7, Ref7, Ref5] I can honestly say the BS holds its own to any of the [HW/SW configurations] above and even sounds richer than Roon streaming to any of my Dacs via spdif and as organic as Audivana.

The Bluesound needs to be fairly evaluated on three different fronts.....hardware e.g. RaspberryPi, software e.g. Roon et.al in terms of both sound and ergonomics.

Like many here I too have the RaspberryPi, the Node beats it in terms of hardware due to being a true zero effort, just works appliance.
I have Roon and Audirvana too, imo the Node wins in terms of ergonomics with the GUI because its straight forward and very easy to navigate. The Node also wins in terms of being able to connect to many more music services.
Finally in terms of sound [subjective] I would say it easily wins vs Roon via spdif out to a Dac and is very close to Audirvana.

The OP eval was purely on the electrical nature of the product with objective measurements of electrical oriented characteristics.
 

srrxr71

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Interesting, thanks for commenting here, i have the Node on the way for kinda similar setup. Basically want to make full use of the studio monitors.

My plan is to use it like so;

Apple tv 4K to the LG C1 via HDMI
LG C1 to the Node via HDMI eArc

Then I have few options I have to A/B;

Option 1
Node to an external DAC (SMSL SU 9) via COAX / Optical out
Then to the Neumann KH80 via XLR.

(This option I guess is the best sound quality I can achieve with what i have at the moment, as I'm bypassing the internal Node DAC,
However, I'm pretty sure I will lose the control volume capability of the apple tv remote, which is quite inconvenient, as I need another remote just for the volume -the smsl remote)

Option 2
Node directly to the Neumann KH80 via XLR.
(Volume control via apple tv remote intact, not sure how big of a hit to the Sound quality - need A/B)
________

What I will make use too, is Tidal streaming for higher res music directly from Node.

From what i understand, airplay from apple tv/iphone will max at 48KHz,
andd, optical out/hdmi eArc out from tv to the Node will also max at 48KHz,
so airplay here quite convenient.

HDMI eArc and airplay capability make it possible for me to use the tv remote for volume control, as long as i can accept using the internal DAC of the Node.

Thank you for posting. It’s nice to see both of us have gone for the same solution.

I suppose I made quite a few assumptions that are turning out to be wrong. I vaguely remember hearing the Apple TV can output hi res audio via HDMI and it turns out i’m wrong.

I really want to rant about Apple and their half baked software but I guess I’ll leave it. There is no hardware reason that the Apple TV featuring eARC cannot output 24/96. Just as there is no reason a Mac mini cannot output 4:4:4 HDR or 120Hz 4K - just software design that shows they couldn’t be bothered.

The limiting factor here is the Apple TV and not the LG correct?

Anyway while 24/96 is nice to have to the output I feel it’s major benefit is to provide headroom for processing without degradation. Considering we may be doing processing this is a sad state of affairs and Apple hasn’t promised anything.

I’m a little confused about the Apple TV remote. With connected HomePods the volume control works wonderfully with on screen display even. For everything else I believe it just emulates the volume IR of whatever device has volume control ability in your chain.

I believe the Node has IR capability as they sell a remote for it (which is out of stock). I don’t know how we will program the Apple TV remote unless we can get our hands on this remote. I believe the Node will do volume control via digital attenuation. So I believe that concern is covered. I hope it is because I can’t imagine they would design without digital volume control. They (hopefully - can’t tell with so much half baked product design these days) have provided for both fixed and variable outputs on both digital and analog outputs.

After your post I looked up how to get 24/96 from the Apple ecosystem. Apparently the only way is via USB audio from an iPhone/iPad/Mac. The node does not have USB in. So another dongle I guess.

I think for Mac use them instead of using Apple Music which would airplay to the Mac we would instead use the iTunes remote app. I’ve been confused about how AirPlay operates. Some people say it literally sends the video/audio stream from the phone while others say it just sends the source URL and the device directly streams it. In theory it would make sense that even if you use the Apple Music app and AirPlay to a Mac or Apple TV it would just use your selection and play directly from the device. I would just use the iTunes remote app to be safe.

Having said all that Apple just needs to enable proper output from the Apple TV it seems we upgraded to the new one just for eARC (no other good reason apart from the new remote) and they couldn’t be bothered to use the technology to its capabilities.

Could anyone with a Node comment on whether digital attenuation works on it?
 

Mansinthe86

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The apple TV is not capable of outputting 24 bit 96khz. This is a limitation by apple.

No way around that without using a iPad , dongle and external DAC.

Airplay is currently limited to 16 bit 44.1/ 48khz. It could be updated to 24 bit.

By using airplay to the apple TV the apple TV device Is taking over the stream. The data is not streamt from your phone. That means you will run into the same AirPlay limitations.

The remote control will be able to adjust the volume. But only if airplay is the source.

The apple remote won't work with QOBUZ etc
 

Ralph_Cramden

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Like many here I too have the RaspberryPi, the Node beats it in terms of hardware due to being a true zero effort, just works appliance.
I have Roon and Audirvana too, imo the Node wins in terms of ergonomics with the GUI because its straight forward and very easy to navigate. The Node also wins in terms of being able to connect to many more music services.
Finally in terms of sound [subjective] I would say it easily wins vs Roon via spdif out to a Dac and is very close to Audirvana.

The OP eval was purely on the electrical nature of the product with objective measurements of electrical oriented characteristics.

Haven't used Bluesound, but from everything I've read, the Sonos app beats the BS app handily. I've used Sonos extensively, but have moved to LMS and RPi. I find the Material Skin UI to be a big improvement vs the Sonos app, which means I would no doubt prefer it to the BS app.

The wide range of music services is an advantage of Sonos and BS vs LMS, but really, how many services does one require? Qobuz and Spotify (along with a few radio stations via TuneIn and the BBC plugins) are more that enough for me.

Sorry, but I'd say it's pretty much impossible to "hear" differences in sound quality via spdif between any two bitperfect sources...
 

Mansinthe86

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srrxr71

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While the node does allow you to control the volume through the BS node app it seems like it does not have a real pre-amp.

So it probably will sound better anyway to use a pre-amp or a integrated amp to control the volume.



I found this :

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/can-i-use-a-bluesound-node-2i-as-a-preamp
Why? I’m going fully digital into the Genelecs. And even for people using a DAC, the after DAC output needs a preamp or maybe it’s built into the DAC.
 

TK33

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Haven't used Bluesound, but from everything I've read, the Sonos app beats the BS app handily. I've used Sonos extensively, but have moved to LMS and RPi. I find the Material Skin UI to be a big improvement vs the Sonos app, which means I would no doubt prefer it to the BS app.

The wide range of music services is an advantage of Sonos and BS vs LMS, but really, how many services does one require? Qobuz and Spotify (along with a few radio stations via TuneIn and the BBC plugins) are more that enough for me.

Sorry, but I'd say it's pretty much impossible to "hear" differences in sound quality via spdif between any two bitperfect sources...

It is also one of the few ways I am aware of to get bitperfect from Amazon HD to an external DAC if you are like me and only have Windows or Android devices. I also use Sirius XM for sports or news.

On a separate note, just to echo what some others have already said, I dont have the new Node but I do have two Node 2is which I am very happy with. Didnt see a compelling reason to upgrade and have had zero issues using the app or getting everything connected. Both of my Node 2is are wired to Linksys Velop nodes just like all my other equipment. Even my wife found it very easy to use (she refused to use HEOS). Bluesound support is terrible though so dont expect any help from them (they couldnt even give me a straight answer on whether I could get my toslink input repaired, which should be a yes or no question and it was clear from their response they were not even really reading my email).

Appreciate the review and discussion here though as I do plan on adding some more to my system for multi-room music. I ended up cancelling Roon and just getting two of these instead as I was not using a lot of the features in Roon.
 
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