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Review and Measurements of Bluesound NODE 2i Streamer

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Bluesound Node 2i Streamer. It is on kind loan from a member and costs $499. I am assuming their target market is where SONOS dominates if you are familiar with that brand.

From the outside, this is one looking and feeling unit!

IMG_0294.jpg

The unit is pure white with a luxurious rubberized paint. It ranks way up there as something Apple would design.

It is mains powered with a removable 2-conductor cable.

It has both wireless and wired connectivity. I tested it with the latter. Being a network-centric device, the only digital input is a combo 3.5 mm Toslink optical input. For output though there is S/PDIF coax and Toslink optical digital outputs. Analog outputs is a set of RCA for left and right plus a subwoofer output.

There is external IR input for integration in home automation although I hope it also has IP control (have not checked).

There is no display on the unit. The only controls are through classic transport ones plus volume. For my testing I opted for fixed volume.

There is integrated Bluetooth which I have not tested.

I did not have a remote for it so I downloaded their app which instantly recognized and connected to the unit. I selected the input there.

I am more focused on the performance of the unit so seek out other reviews for its functionality.

Measurements
I was so happy there was a Toslink input capable of 24-bit input as that makes my testing a lot easier. It allows my Audio Precision analyzer to directly control the signals it sends out for measurements, giving me full set of capabilities. I found my one and only 3.5mm Toslink cable that I had used for testing Google Chromecast and connected the two units. What greeted me was quite surprising. The 1 kHz sine wave would shift left and right and its frequency would jump back and for a bit every second or so. Needless to say, this played havoc with all the measurements:

Bluesound Node 2i Toslink Input Measurements.png


I hooked up a coax cable to S/PDIF and measured that and got the same results:
Bluesound Node 2i Toslink Input Coax output Measurements.png


It could be the cable or its end points have gone bad causing the unit to get data error. I don't think it is losing lock as would likely interrupt the digital stream to coax which it did not seem to do. I tried to test the cable with my Chromecast but did not succeed in getting the darn thing on the network to connect to it.

I decided to stream the bits to it and was pleasantly surprised when Roon showed it as an end-point, albeit, with a red warning saying it is not certified. I streamed my 1 kHz tone to it and got stable, and proper output:
Bluesound Node 2i Networked Playback Measurements.png


Bluesound specs the unit at 0.005% and measurements are actually better in both channels. Resulting SINAD though (signal over noise and distortion) is not great at just 88 dB. This is well short of the dynamic range of the CD so the statement that the unit supports high-resolution, 24-bit playback is moot. The SINAD lands in out lowest quarter as far as DACs/streamers tested:

Bluesound Node 2i SINAD Measurements.png


Next I ran my jitter test the same way and got this:

Bluesound Node 2i Networked Playback jitter Measurements.png


Not broken, and nothing audible but not great performance either. The measured noise level is some 15 dB higher than the best DACs we have tested for example.

From here the testing gets more difficult in that I have play special signals that the Audio Precision needs to correctly capture and sync up since it has no control over their playback cadence. So don't run home with them but I thought I share them as I need to use them with more devices of this type in the future. I hope to refine them and build more confidence in them.

The test squency is a 7-tone multi-tone similar to the 32-tone one we run on DACs:
Bluesound Node 2i Networked Playback Multitone Measurements.png


We see quite a bit of distortion spikes which makes sense given the SINAD figures we had.

Using the same signal, the AP software is able to compute the signal to noise ratio:

Bluesound Node 2i Networked Playback Signal to Noise Ratio Measurements.png


This is quite a bit worse than the specified 110 dB. It may instrumentation error though. If trusted, it is shy of CD's dynamic range on noise basis too although not much.

I have been asked about pure noise level before. That pops out of this test too so here it is:
Bluesound Node 2i Networked Playback Noise Measurements.png


That's it I think.

Conclusions
The industrial design of the Bluesound Node 2i is fantastic, easily earning A+ in my book. You would just look at it and touch it as well! :) Going after SONOS market requires that and they have nailed it. Networking functionality worked perfectly in the limited testing I gave it. Things like subwoofer output are nice touches too. Overall, I have nothing to complain about.

The complaining however, starts at pure performance of the unit and potentially a broken Toslink implementation. I may buy another cable to test but for now, if the company is reading this, I highly suggest testing the Toslink input to see if this is a problem or not. Toslink input is important from integration with TV sound for example.

On performance front, it is disappointing to see such low SINAD ratings even though it beats their specifications. I like to see something in high 90s even in budget products. As far as I can tell, playback of high-resolution audio is one of the advantages they tout so would be good if they delivered that objectively.

Until the Toslink issues are sorted out, I can't recommend the product. It is a shame because this level of fit and finish from a branded company at such a price is a great combination.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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maty

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#2
https://www.google.com/search?q=Bluesound+NODE+2i+Streamer+test+review

-> https://www.whathifi.com/reviews/bluesound-node-2i Five stars

  • Impressive timing and dynamics
  • Superb sense of scale
  • Lots of features
https://www.amazon.com/Bluesound-2i-Wireless-Multi-Room-Streaming/dp/B07H232VNC?th=1

Sorted by most recent. We can read: quality, sounds incredible, great quality sound, stunning sound quality...

I suppose the reviews will be made with modern music, so poorly recorded and with low / very low DR or...
 

MZKM

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#3
This is a bit disappointing.

How does it impact the performance when hooked up to a say a Topping D10 or better? Are you able to test the picosecond/nanosecond levels of jitter from its digital out? Trying to see just as a digital streamer of its better than the similarly priced SONOS Connect. Roon saying it’s not certified is odd.
 
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jtwrace

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#6

miero

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#7
@amirm I think several people are using this as an USB streamer for connecting an USB DAC.

Can you connect & configure Topping D50 for its output and make some basic test (dashboard) using it please?
 

Darwin

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#8
I would be tempted to use power node version of this instead of the new Sonos Amp I am currently using if it had HDMI. But I'm not too interested in connecting my tv via optical.
 

vatoman

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#9
This is disappointing as I was hoping for a AIO solution for streaming/dac etc. I have read a lot about node 2i/2 I do believe any connections out to a dac only result in 24/96 no mqa unfolding.

*First post here and this site is exactly what I have been looking for all of your input is very valuable, Amirm your reviews are the best I've seen. Love Science!
 

amirm

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#10
This is a bit disappointing.

How does it impact the performance when hooked up to a say a Topping D10 or better?
Then it should be as good as any DAC you connect to it.
 

D700

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#12
Then it should be as good as any DAC you connect to it.
Very timely amirm, thanks much. What was your opinion of the software integration, did you get a chance to play around? When I downloaded their iOS app, there was no Demo mode, unlike HEOS and MusicCast. I see they do their own Mac OS X app in house, which is definite good flag for me.
 

jtwrace

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#13
Very timely amirm, thanks much. What was your opinion of the software integration, did you get a chance to play around? When I downloaded their iOS app, there was no Demo mode, unlike HEOS and MusicCast. I see they do their own Mac OS X app in house, which is definite good flag for me.
The HEOS isn't Roon Ready though which to me, is a deal breaker.
 

D700

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#14
The HEOS isn't Roon Ready though which to me, is a deal breaker.
The HEOS players I'm looking at show Tidal as a service...so that must mean Roon can see them but you'll have to control it through other software instead of HEOS? Have I got that right? I'll be shopping for a music service once I get the hardware setup in the new office.
 

jtwrace

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#15
The HEOS players I'm looking at show Tidal as a service...so that must mean Roon can see them but you'll have to control it through other software instead of HEOS? Have I got that right? I'll be shopping for a music service once I get the hardware setup in the new office.
You would have to use a chromecast or something like that to use Roon. Tidal would direct with their app however.
 

amirm

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#16
Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but what about the ~67dB SINAD when using the coax out? Or is that only when using a Toslink input to the Node?
Correct.
 

amirm

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#17
FYI the owner confirms he too was hearing static/drop out on Toslink input so that issue is real and not anything to do with my testing. I just reached out to the company and hopefully I hear back on what may be going on here.
 

amirm

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#18
Very timely amirm, thanks much. What was your opinion of the software integration, did you get a chance to play around? When I downloaded their iOS app, there was no Demo mode, unlike HEOS and MusicCast. I see they do their own Mac OS X app in house, which is definite good flag for me.
As far as Roon was concerned, it was reliable and worked as well as any other remote DAC. I did not play with their native app other than playing a track or two. With Roon integration, you don't need to use their apps other than controlling the device itself.
 

gvl

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#19
Is it DLNA/UPnP compliant? Thinking you could in theory get some mileage testing in a closed loop with the AP through the JRiver ASIO input out to the UPnP renderer, if such a redirect possible in JRiver (I haven't tried). In a similar fashion you can probably use JRiver instead of ASIO4ALL for DACs that don't come with ASIO drivers.
 
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D700

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#20
Sharing for anyone interested, this is data I collected, couldn't find a comparison anywhere. The Node 2i stacks up well for features I want...except for lack of Pandora...got to think they'll add that at some point. Kind of silly not to have it. Denon and Marantz are only ones with displays though, what's up with that? Would have to imagine Sonos and Yamaha will catchup in the next iteration.

Streamer Comparison.png
 
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