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Review and Measurements of Bluesound NODE 2i Streamer

Darwin

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#61
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.
Bummer. Seems like a great device otherwise. That and ho HDMI, kind of surprised they didn't think of this.
 
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#62
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.
Did you get any response back from the company? Maybe it was a bad unit with a faulty Toslink-in/Analog-in connecter because I have not experienced any issues when I feed my TV’s optical into Node 2i, and then optical-out to RME ADI-2 DAC.
 

amirm

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#63
Did you get any response back from the company? Maybe it was a bad unit with a faulty Toslink-in/Analog-in connecter because I have not experienced any issues when I feed my TV’s optical into Node 2i, and then optical-out to RME ADI-2 DAC.
No, didn't hear back after acknowledging the review. I agree the Toslink is probably broken.
 
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#64
No, didn't hear back after acknowledging the review. I agree the Toslink is probably broken.
Thanks Amir. I use the 2i mostly as a network streamer (to augment my Oppo 205’s lack of apps), routing everything to the RME ADI-2 DAC (or the Oppo 205), bypassing the 2i’s DAC. I only use the Toslink-in on the 2i because I ran out of digital inputs on my other gear. If I see others reporting problems with the 2i’s optical input, I may rethink my connections. But I haven’t seen any problems so far.

Thanks again for all the measurements and reviews. I bought an RME ADI-2 DAC and a Topping NX4 (for portable use with my iPad) because of your measurements, and I love both those devices. Despite a not-so-great review on the Monoprice Monolith Portable DAC, I ordered one anyway, because I like the PEQ (something I got used to using with the ADI-2 DAC) and the LCD display (I wish the Topping NX4 would show the sampling rate being recieved with an LED-color change or something, like the dragonflies). I should have the Monolith this week.

Thanks again.
 
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#65
No, didn't hear back after acknowledging the review. I agree the Toslink is probably broken.
I own a Bluesound Node 2 (not 2i) and I use its toslink input on a regular basis and have not experienced any issues with it. I actually feed the BS-N2 input toslink with my Sonos Connect output toslink. Weird - yes. The reason I do that is because I had been a long time user of Sonos Connect (I have 2 btw) and I was lazy to migrate my playlists from Sonos to BS-N2. Besides I found the BS-N2 DAC superior to the Sonos DAC so it made sense to set them up this way if I were to keep the Sonos.

I'm glad I ran across this thread here at ASR because I wanted to know the performance of the BS-N2 DAC compared to external DACs. I actually find the upper midrange harsh (in some material) in my current 2 ch setup (BS-N2 --> <analog RCA> --> NAD 375BEE --> Philharmonic BMR). The only DACs I have are Topping D10 and Schiit Modi 3. I can't use the D10 because it only accepts USB input. I put Modi 3 in the signal path (fed by BS-N2's SPDIF output) and heard big improvement in sound (subjective). The harshness was almost gone and the upper frequency detail improved a lot. For the record, I was playing a very harsh music to test this aspect. It's the first track of "The Greatest Showman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" in ALAC/M4A format (apple lossless) off my NAS.

Is my observation valid? Is Schitt Modi 3 superior to the BlueSound Node 2's internal DAC? I also use the Modi 3 in my low-cost headphone setup so I cannot pair it with the BS-N2 permanently, until I get another DAC.
 

Attachments

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#66
I own a Bluesound Node 2 (not 2i) and I use its toslink input on a regular basis and have not experienced any issues with it. I actually feed the BS-N2 input toslink with my Sonos Connect output toslink. Weird - yes. The reason I do that is because I had been a long time user of Sonos Connect (I have 2 btw) and I was lazy to migrate my playlists from Sonos to BS-N2. Besides I found the BS-N2 DAC superior to the Sonos DAC so it made sense to set them up this way if I were to keep the Sonos.

I'm glad I ran across this thread here at ASR because I wanted to know the performance of the BS-N2 DAC compared to external DACs. I actually find the upper midrange harsh (in some material) in my current 2 ch setup (BS-N2 --> <analog RCA> --> NAD 375BEE --> Philharmonic BMR). The only DACs I have are Topping D10 and Schiit Modi 3. I can't use the D10 because it only accepts USB input. I put Modi 3 in the signal path (fed by BS-N2's SPDIF output) and heard big improvement in sound (subjective). The harshness was almost gone and the upper frequency detail improved a lot. For the record, I was playing a very harsh music to test this aspect. It's the first track of "The Greatest Showman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" in ALAC/M4A format (apple lossless) off my NAS.

Is my observation valid? Is Schitt Modi 3 superior to the BlueSound Node 2's internal DAC? I also use the Modi 3 in my low-cost headphone setup so I cannot pair it with the BS-N2 permanently, until I get another DAC.

For what is worth, I had a very similar impression regarding the BS Node 2/2i dac sound 'flavour'. When using the internal dac, RCA outs to my amplifier, I found a bit of harshness on the upper midrange, which brought listening fatigue after 10 minutes. I was also able to test the Bluseound with 2 dacs: Musical Fidelity V90 and then the more expensive Pro-ject DAC Box RS. No listening fatigue when I used these two dacs. Interestingly I could not immediately detect the difference but after 10 minutes or so I noticed I was not getting fatigue.
I also used a sonos connect (coaxial out) with the Pro-ject Dac to compare against the Node 2i (coaxial out also). Using AIFF / FLAC lossless tracks and switching between the two, I could not tell a difference in the system used. Just a subjective impression with all the caveats this entails.
 

Music1969

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#68
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.

View attachment 21534
Hi again

An addition to consider: Cambridge Audio CXN V2

One of the rare streamers so far to support all of the big 3: Airplay, Spotify Connect AND Chromecast Built-in

Still waiting for one that supports the latest Airplay 2, in addition to Spotify Connect and Chromecast Built-in.

Only a matter of time I assume.
 
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#69
I just had an opportunity to listen Node 2i for few days, so I want to share my experience.

I compared Node 2i (coax out) with my CD player Sony CD XB930 QS (also coax out). Both connected with NuPrime DAC-10h (DAC i preamp) -> Nuprime ST-10 (power amp) -> ATC SCM11 (speakers).

Node 2i was connected with ethernet cable to Synology, from where it streamed flac files. Those flac files were burnt as audio CD which was in my CD player. First, I listened Node 2i and then I switched coax cable from Node 2i into CD player.

I turned off Tone controls on Node 2i and put the fixed Output level.

All in all, I wanted to have the same environment except the digital source which I was comparing.

The result: CD player sounded drastically better. Node 2i - lack of musicality, details, dynamics. It sounded absolutely boring and crippled. My wife even noticed that "something lacks" and she didn't know that Node 2i was playing.

If the CD player combo scored 9/10 in sound (where 10 is perfect and 1 is terrible), then Node 2i scored like 5/10. I didn't expected that result. I was really hoping that it would sound better so that I can resolve my personal problem with streamers and buy one :)
 
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#70
I may be a bit dense. So do these measurements just mean that the Node 2i is a bad DAC? Or would it be a bad roon endpoint as well?

It looks like the Allo DigiOne signature is the “best” budget streamer to go with, but I’m curious if the node 2i is at least decent as a streamer. I’d kind of prefer it just due to looks, as lame as that is.
 
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#71
I don't have a scientifically supported answer but based on Amir's analysis, the Node 2i dac is not that great. Whether you will actually hear this in your setup is debatable. I tried a Node 2i in my system initially with the inbuilt dac (RCA outs to my integrated) and I found it ok-ish. I needed to reduce the bass a bit (bad speaker positioning due to space constraints) and it sounded good initially but after about a week of listing I realised that the sound became a bit fatiguing (upper midrange emphasis).
I then introduced 2 DACs:
Feeding the coaxial out of the Node 2i to a musical fidelity V90 or a Rega Dac-R removed the fatigue. I compared the Sonos Connect (coaxial out) to the Node 2i (coaxial out) feeding the same dac with FLAC / AIFF (CD Lossless) and I could not tell a difference. Both good but given the choice I would opt for the Node 2i as i can use Roon to DSP it and tweak the sync with other Roon zones :). Not a blind test mind you so ...subject to all biases etc.

PS: The latest update from Bluesound seems to have fixed most of the issues I reported in my old post in this thread.
 
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#72
I do think the solution to getting very good audio from the Node 2i is to output via digital coax to a better DAC, as others have suggested.

I have the Node connected this way to a Sabaj D5 -- which I hope Amir will review at some point! -- which features a new ESS 9038PRO DAC chip. All I can say is, it sounds great, both through my speakers and with my LCD-X cans. My setup is very modest indeed by audiophile standards: Node 2i -(coax)-> Sabaj D5 -(RCA)-> Yamaha A-S301 --> Polk TSi300s. Streaming Qobuz Hi-Res over the Node 2i (ethernet connection to modem) with this setup sounds excellent.

I agree the Node 2i's native DAC is lacking, as confirmed by Amir's testing and by the experiences of others, myself included. Do we even know what DAC chip is used in the Node 2i? I haven't seen any specifics on this other than that it is a 32-bit/192kHz DAC. I believe (?) the Node is built by NAD, so I assume they're using a decent chip - ?

Still, if you're willing to spring for a good, relatively inexpensive DAC like a Modi3 or SMSL SU-8 -- and I'd also recommend the Sabaj D5 if you want the integrated headphone amp, which sounds terrific -- you can turn the Node 2i into a fantastic streaming device for a not insane amount of $$.
 

Rja4000

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#73
Hi
I use several Bluesound devices in a multi room environment. I use one Node, 2 power nodes (all gen 1) and a NAD M50 linked to my main system.
I used to play from ripped CDs (and some old DAT copies) stored on Synology NAS.
Nowadays, I play almost exclusively from Qobuz.
Sometimes from a smartphone via bluetooth.
My system is mainly wired LAN, but the system in the kitchen is linked through WiFi.

I bought the first node new, then everything else second hand, and the prices are hard to beat.

The sound from the node was not good enough for my main system. So I purchased a DAC (NAD M51) with good reviews (that was years before I discovered ASR) to do the conversion. This was obviously a big improvement.
Then I had the opportunity to get the M50, which was for me even sounding better (that may be my brain though), looks better, and integrates with remote control and other stuffs.

The multi room functionality is why I bought this system, and it works very well for me.
Is there just any valid alternative, playing Qobuz and supporting multi room ?
(Edit: digging around, looks like Roon is the answer to my question...)


(Don't shoot me Amir, but just a stupid question:
Are you sure the bass/treble controls were disabled and not just zeroed? That, for sure, makes a difference one can hear.)
 
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Rja4000

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#74
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.

View attachment 21534
I am quite later here.
It could be interesting to include Qobuz to your list...
 
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#75
How is the quality of the RCA outputs ?. I'm thinking of (for the short term) using it directly into a Benchmark AHB2, or Schiit Vidar. The nice thing is that it supports IR/learning, so you can use an remote with it to control volume/mute functions.
 

soundwave76

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#76
I would guess it's similar to the measured 3,5mm output.

@amirm, did Bluesound ever got back to you when you contacted them?

I have now had the Node2i and two small Flex speakers close to a year and I must say, I have had zero problems with it. There has also been several app and device firmware updates, which is also a good sign. There are a few things I would like to see fixed/implemented, for example:

- If you have the toslink input active (TV in my case) and you power on the Node, it doesn't switch to it automatically. This is annoying if you don't have your phone/tablet close by. If the Node is on and you activate the toslink, it switches to it automatically.
- I just don't understand, why playlists can't be sorted differently in the app. The same applies to Tidal iOS app. This would be a simple thing to do.
- The app should show the active device by default. Now it always doesn't and I don't understand why not.
 
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#77
How is the quality of the RCA outputs ?. I'm thinking of (for the short term) using it directly into a Benchmark AHB2, or Schiit Vidar. The nice thing is that it supports IR/learning, so you can use an remote with it to control volume/mute functions.
Output via RCA is fine, but if you have a good quality DAC, I'd definitely recommend hooking the Node up to the DAC via digital and using the DAC's analog output to your amp.

EDIT: it sounds like there may still be an issue with the Node's Toslink digital out -- not sure if this has been resolved. I have the Node hooked up via coaxial digital output to the Sabaj D5 and it sounds great.
 
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#78
Output via RCA is fine, but if you have a good quality DAC, I'd definitely recommend hooking the Node up to the DAC via digital and using the DAC's analog output to your amp.

EDIT: it sounds like there may still be an issue with the Node's Toslink digital out -- not sure if this has been resolved. I have the Node hooked up via coaxial digital output to the Sabaj D5 and it sounds great.
I agree with your statements from my own subjective assessment between Toslink vs coax S/PDIF of Node 2i, but was wondering if you knew of some recent objective news that make you say, “there may still be an issue with the Node’s Toslink out...” to confirm this.

I did many comparisons using the following setups:
1. Node 2i —> Qobuz & TIDAL —> Coax & Toslink —> RME ADI-2 DAC —> headphones
2. Oppo 205 (mConnect as DLNA controller, Qobuz & TIDAL) —> Coax & Toslink —> RME ADI-2 DAC —> headphones

The Node 2i only sounded as good as the Oppo setups when I sent the digital output via Coax to the RME ADI-2 DAC. I could set up a parallel test: the Node 2i —> Toslink —> RME, and the Oppo —> Coax —> RME, and then start the same song on Qobuz at the same time (BlueSound app for Node 2i, mConnect app for DLNA to Oppo) and then just switch the input on the RME (which has no delay or glitches when switching). The Oppo just sounded better (I’ll spare you the subjective adjectives/adverbs). Then I switched it up: Node 2i —> Coax —> RME, and the Oppo —> Toslink —> RME, starting the same song on Qobuz at the same time then switching inputs: no difference in sound quality. Sounded identical to me in “blind” testing using my girlfriend to change the inputs. So the Coax-out on the Node 2i was great, but the Toslink-out of the 2i didn’t sound as good.

Cheers,
Gus
 
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#79
I agree with your statements from my own subjective assessment between Toslink vs coax S/PDIF of Node 2i, but was wondering if you knew of some recent objective news that make you say, “there may still be an issue with the Node’s Toslink out...” to confirm this.

I did many comparisons using the following setups:
1. Node 2i —> Qobuz & TIDAL —> Coax & Toslink —> RME ADI-2 DAC —> headphones
2. Oppo 205 (mConnect as DLNA controller, Qobuz & TIDAL) —> Coax & Toslink —> RME ADI-2 DAC —> headphones

The Node 2i only sounded as good as the Oppo setups when I sent the digital output via Coax to the RME ADI-2 DAC. I could set up a parallel test: the Node 2i —> Toslink —> RME, and the Oppo —> Coax —> RME, and then start the same song on Qobuz at the same time (BlueSound app for Node 2i, mConnect app for DLNA to Oppo) and then just switch the input on the RME (which has no delay or glitches when switching). The Oppo just sounded better (I’ll spare you the subjective adjectives/adverbs). Then I switched it up: Node 2i —> Coax —> RME, and the Oppo —> Toslink —> RME, starting the same song on Qobuz at the same time then switching inputs: no difference in sound quality. Sounded identical to me in “blind” testing using my girlfriend to change the inputs. So the Coax-out on the Node 2i was great, but the Toslink-out of the 2i didn’t sound as good.

Cheers,
Gus

Hi Gus -- my claim about the Toslink possibly being defective on the Node 2i comes from ASR's own review of the Node. Amir found that the SINAD was considerably worse, quite terrible in fact, when using the Toslink. He conjectured that there was something defective, and based on his measurements and your own testing, it certainly seems to be the case.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...surements-of-bluesound-node-2i-streamer.6631/

I have no complaints however in my own setup, using the Node 2i's S/PDIF out to the Sabaj D5 and thence to my amp & speakers. The Node 2i's native DAC -- whatever it is, and I still haven't seen it identified -- appears to be mediocre at best.
 
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#80
Hi Gus -- my claim about the Toslink possibly being defective on the Node 2i comes from ASR's own review of the Node. Amir found that the SINAD was considerably worse, quite terrible in fact, when using the Toslink. He conjectured that there was something defective, and based on his measurements and your own testing, it certainly seems to be the case.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...surements-of-bluesound-node-2i-streamer.6631/

I have no complaints however in my own setup, using the Node 2i's S/PDIF out to the Sabaj D5 and thence to my amp & speakers. The Node 2i's native DAC -- whatever it is, and I still haven't seen it identified -- appears to be mediocre at best.
Thanks. And this is what I have read is the DAC in the Node 2i : BurrBrown PCM5122 DAC
https://helpdesk.bluesound.com/discussions/viewtopic.php?t=4675&start=10
same as in the Node 2.

Cheers
Gus
 
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