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Bluesound Powernode Streaming Amplifier Review

Rate this streaming amplifier

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 98 43.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 102 45.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 16 7.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 7 3.1%

  • Total voters
    223

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Bluesound Powernode wifi and ethernet streaming amplifier with digital input. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $949.
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier digital review.jpg

The design is apple-like and gorgeous as usual. Alas, I miss some kind of informative display on what it is doing instead of using the app. The blinking colored LED gets kind of old.

The core of the unit is a hypex UcD class D amplifier module. Here is the back panel:

Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier digital back panel binding posts ethernet wifie...jpg


There is a subwoofer output with programmable crossover frequencies (for both mains and this output). Whether it was pilot error or not, I could not get proper output from the sub out even after I enabled it. Notice the dual combo Toslink and line in.

The control app on my Samsung S23 Ultra was much easier and reliable to use than competing products from Sonos. I like the way it detected that I had Toslink input so would not show me the same analog input to select.

Bluesound Powernode Amplifier Measurements
Let's start with analog input after setting the gain close to 29 dB:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier analog input measurement.png

Wish we had lower distortion and noise as this is below average performance (see below). Let's switch to Toslink digital input using the same volume control settings:

Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input measurement.png


Distortion is the same but noise floor is lower allowing SINAD to improve a bit. Still, we land below the competent class:

Best stereo streaming amplifier review 2023.png


Best stereo streaming amplifier review zoomed 2023.png


You can see the impact on noise when we measure that directly:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier snr measurement.png


But again, even with digital input we still have sub-par performance. My target for 5 watts is 96 dB and we are way, way away from that. Even at max power we don't get there:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier snr max power measurement.png


On the positive front, we have no load dependency and wide bandwidth in this class D amplifier:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier frequency response measurement.png


Crosstalk is again better with digital vs analog:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input crosstalk measurement.png

Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input crosstalk measurement.png


Multitone and 19+20 kHz show the modest levels of distortion:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input Multitone measurement.png

Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input 19 20 kHz intermodulation...png


Company only specifies power at 8 ohm and it basically gets there:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input Power 8 ohm measurement.png


Unusually so for an amplifier, it doesn't produce more power at 4 ohm:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input Power 4 ohm measurement.png

Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input max Power 4 ohm measurement.png


There was some oddity when testing 5 kHz where distortion jumped up to same level as 15 kHz:
Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier toslink digital input Power 4 ohm vs frequency ...png


I could not figure out how to turn the unit on and off so no pop tests for that. The amplifier was stable on power up:

Bluesound POWERNODE stereo streaming amplifier warm up measurement.png


Conclusions
The general message is "good enough" measured performance. Alas, nearly $1,000 is above the point where this kind of performance would be acceptable. Yes you get an elegant package from a well-known company but let's have good objective measurements go with that.

I can't recommend the Bluesound Powernode streaming amplifier.

1690993053315.jpeg


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nyxnyxnyx

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It's quite expensive and for the money there are indeed options with better performance. Alas, this one could also be a decorate piece and the size is compact enough. Measurement matches the specifications from the company and I can respect that.
 

DoctorRobert

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Interesting. I think this is a direct competitor of the SONOS Amp that Amir did not like either, but that seems to do better as a fully digital device. (I do own the SONOS and am happy with it.) However, on the hifi-forums, you get the impression that you must hate music if you're happy with the SONOS and did not go for the Bluesound.

It is nice to have some hard evidence if I end up in another dispute about this. ;-)
 

Chrispy

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If the price were lower and the amp had better performance power wise maybe, but....
 

polmuaddib

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i have never seen optical in doubling as analog line in. If it was coaxial, I would understand, but optical? How does that work?
 

MrOtto

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i have never seen optical in doubling as analog line in. If it was coaxial, I would understand, but optical? How does that work?
Chromecast audio has analog out and optical out in the same plug. It's a 3.5mm jack, where also a mini toslink fits. The optical sensor/transmitter is at the end of the socket.
 
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polmuaddib

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Also, I know of only Toslink connector for optical in consumer audio. Ia there a banana jack for optical? News to me...
 

Jeromeof

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Chromecast audio has analog out and optical out in the same plug. It's a 3.5mm jack, where also a mini toslink fits. The optical sensor/transmitter is at the end of the socket.
Same with the venerable Apple AirPort Express (the one with Airplay2 support)
a384338c-6505-4421-af37-f99aaff2e19e
 

Guralex

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Jeromeof

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Its a shame that the Wiim devices only have mediocre/poor analog out otherwise a Mini plus one of these bad boys would destroy this on all counts https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/audiophonics-mpa-s250nc-amp-review.45306/
I have a feeling that the new Wiim Pro Plus solves most of the problems with the analog output (though I am waiting for @VintageFlanker review).

This is just speculation but I would imagine in the next year we will get:
1. Future Wiim Streamer device with HDMI E/ARC (and possible a screen)
2. Future Aiyima / Fosi Audio Amp without load dependencies (and possible a Sub-Out)

At that point I think the Bluesound only has its looks to rely on as the combination above would probably be $400
 

Rja4000

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Thanks for this review.

I own 2 first gen Power Nodes.
They are working fine for what they do (kitchen and secundary room music).
BluesOS is quite pleasant a system.
Multiroom is working very well.

The first gen Nodes and Powernodes are also quite cheap second hand.
I should measure them at some point.
I expect similar performance. Just less power.

I'd be curious to see how good the digital or analog inputs work, independently from the power amp, but to measure that, we'd need an additional node with digital output.
 
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Rja4000

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