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Review and Measurements of Bluesound NODE 2i Streamer

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Thanks a lot for the feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time. I’m planning on running the A12 with my Linn Majik 109 speakers which are very similar to the LS50s in terms of sensitivity and impedance, so it’s good to know that the Rotel will be able to power them. I noticed Sound & Vision measured a 150 watt into 4 ohms from the A12
I have a Bluesound Node2i that I'm running primarily via optical from my PC, I also have a Rotel A14 [B&W 685 S2] and an RME Fireface UC, I recently did some A/Bing (not blind) with my Windows PC as the source outputting at the max supported frequency and rate (USB and optical to Rotel and RME, and optical to Bluesound) with all devices ultimately terminating via RCA into a Monolith THX 887 through a pair of Hifiman Arya via the balanced out, and what I learned is that I cannot hear a difference between any of them regardless of the track or player (Plex through browser, VLC, and Tidal). Does that mean my source (PC) is the bottleneck? Maybe, but I doubt it.

For reference I'm 31, and played in a few (loud rock) bands for a few years in my early 20s, but through a few different frequency sweeps on these headphones I can typically hear up to 16.5kHz. To volume match, I played a test tone at 1khz into the headphones and used a decibal meter app into my iPhone 7 Plus sitting atop them, matching around the volume measuring 88dB - accurate or not they all had the same meter and were matched to that the same level.

I wish I could get an understanding of the DAC quality on each the other two devices to see where they stand. I really want to invest in another DAC that rates well but, between these three (3) and not being able to hear a difference I'm not sure if it's a wise way to spend my meagre consultant's salary.

Click through for pics of my testing gear :)
IMG_5130.jpg
 
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I have a Bluesound Node2i that I'm running primarily via optical from my PC, I also have a Rotel A14 [B&W 685 S2] and an RME Fireface UC, I recently did some A/Bing (not blind) with my Windows PC as the source outputting at the max supported frequency and rate (USB and optical to Rotel and RME, and optical to Bluesound) with all devices ultimately terminating via RCA into a Monolith THX 887 through a pair of Hifiman Arya via the balanced out, and what I learned is that I cannot hear a difference between any of them regardless of the track or player (Plex through browser, VLC, and Tidal). Does that mean my source (PC) is the bottleneck? Maybe, but I doubt it.

For reference I'm 31, and played in a few (loud rock) bands for a few years in my early 20s, but through a few different frequency sweeps on these headphones I can typically hear up to 16.5kHz. To volume match, I played a test tone at 1khz into the headphones and used a decibal meter app into my iPhone 7 Plus sitting atop them, matching around the volume measuring 88dB - accurate or not they all had the same meter and were matched to that the same level.

I wish I could get an understanding of the DAC quality on each the other two devices to see where they stand. I really want to invest in another DAC that rates well but, between these three (3) and not being able to hear a difference I'm not sure if it's a wise way to spend my meagre consultant's salary.

Click through for pics of my testing gear :)
View attachment 49701
I think you are hearing the PC DAC with how you are connected. Your setup is kind of confusing. The Node 2i should be the source and you should be comparing the Nodes RCA output (the nodes DAC) to whatever you connect to the Nodes digital output (the other devices DAC).
 
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I think you are hearing the PC DAC with how you are connected. Your setup is kind of confusing. The Node 2i should be the source and you should be comparing the Nodes RCA output (the nodes DAC) to whatever you connect to the Nodes digital output (the other devices DAC).
Hmm, just wondering how am I hearing the PC’s DAC when I am connecting out of it via digital cable (USB / optical out) only, into one of three DACs (Node 2i / Rotel A14 / RME Fireface UC) and then RCA out the chosen DAC into my headphone amp.

Maybe my description above was not clear enough. Hope this clarifies that I am definitely only passing digital signal out of my PC into the DACs.
 
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Hmm, just wondering how am I hearing the PC’s DAC when I am connecting out of it via digital cable (USB / optical out) only, into one of three DACs (Node 2i / Rotel A14 / RME Fireface UC) and then RCA out the chosen DAC into my headphone amp.

Maybe my description above was not clear enough. Hope this clarifies that I am definitely only passing digital signal out of my PC into the DACs.
how does it sound? Any issues with volume control/lack of range to control the volume ?

have you tried adjusting the integrated amps bias voltage potentiometer pots?
 
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how does it sound? Any issues with volume control/lack of range to control the volume ?

have you tried adjusting the integrated amps bias voltage potentiometer pots?
They all sound the same, they sound fine. I guess. One of those situations where I’m, not sure what or if I’m missing anything, but based on the results from Amir’s testing, I am.

As for the second point, up until you asked me just now, and me doing a quick web search, I had never even heard of the concept. Without a step by step guide specific to my amp I would not feel comfortable getting under the hood to perform any such surgery.
 
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Hmm, just wondering how am I hearing the PC’s DAC when I am connecting out of it via digital cable (USB / optical out) only, into one of three DACs (Node 2i / Rotel A14 / RME Fireface UC) and then RCA out the chosen DAC into my headphone amp.

Maybe my description above was not clear enough. Hope this clarifies that I am definitely only passing digital signal out of my PC into the DACs.
OK I understand now. Try using the Node and BlueOS as the music source instead of the PC. That digital input to the node is supposedly terrible. Your PC digital out may be equally as terrible. I can tell you without a doubt that I can hear the difference between the Node DAC and the Rotel DAC on Kef LS50's. I would for sure hear it on headphones. But my music source is the Node. There's no PC involved.
 

BDWoody

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They all sound the same, they sound fine. I guess. One of those situations where I’m, not sure what or if I’m missing anything, but based on the results from Amir’s testing, I am.

As for the second point, up until you asked me just now, and me doing a quick web search, I had never even heard of the concept. Without a step by step guide specific to my amp I would not feel comfortable getting under the hood to perform any such surgery.
You aren't missing a thing...
 
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OK I understand now. Try using the Node and BlueOS as the music source instead of the PC. That digital input to the node is supposedly terrible. Your PC digital out may be equally as terrible. I can tell you without a doubt that I can hear the difference between the Node DAC and the Rotel DAC on Kef LS50's. I would for sure hear it on headphones. But my music source is the Node. There's no PC involved.
Cheers, I guess I'll give that a go. Will be a slight pain to get things level but I've already got a 1khz test tone FLAC lying around that I whipped up in Audacity. One question, can you give me a few demo tracks I can test out with? Maybe I'm listening to the wrong type of music.

You aren't missing a thing...
Thanks BDWoody, it kind of goes with my gut feel on the topic and some of the guidance i.e. "a DAC is responsible for about the last 3%" of your sound after your noise making device (60-70) and the thing that gives it power (17-27). I like to think I have a decent enough ear as a musician combined with only positive feedback from mixes I've done for friends' demos. To quell my curiosity I think I'll find a store with a good return policy and find the cheapest thing towards the top of Amir's scale and do a test. If I can't hear a difference then, I'll return it and put the credit towards another set of cans.
 

BDWoody

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Cheers, I guess I'll give that a go. Will be a slight pain to get things level but I've already got a 1khz test tone FLAC lying around that I whipped up in Audacity. One question, can you give me a few demo tracks I can test out with? Maybe I'm listening to the wrong type of music.


Thanks BDWoody, it kind of goes with my gut feel on the topic and some of the guidance i.e. "a DAC is responsible for about the last 3%" of your sound after your noise making device (60-70) and the thing that gives it power (17-27). I like to think I have a decent enough ear as a musician combined with only positive feedback from mixes I've done for friends' demos. To quell my curiosity I think I'll find a store with a good return policy and find the cheapest thing towards the top of Amir's scale and do a test. If I can't hear a difference then, I'll return it and put the credit towards another set of cans.
Good plan...

Our own @RayDunzl created the following chart to illustrate the absurdity of some of the common claims of what people can 'clearly' hear...
You really think you can hear the difference between a -110 dbfs signal vs a -120 dbfs? Really?

upload_2018-4-2_14-32-38 (1).png


https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/the-shoutometer.2555/post-72810

Take a look at that thread, and just keep pushing through the nonsense...
 
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Good plan...

Our own @RayDunzl created the following chart to illustrate the absurdity of some of the common claims of what people can 'clearly' hear...
You really think you can hear the difference between a -110 dbfs signal vs a -120 dbfs? Really?

View attachment 50032

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/the-shoutometer.2555/post-72810

Take a look at that thread, and just keep pushing through the nonsense...
Thanks a lot! It was all really good but the best was the 16 Bit YouTube video. I airplayed it to the Node from my Mac, and for whatever reason when I connected to the Node Sweet Jane started playing from Tidal and it was already at a volume I would consider to be loud. In the video I got down to 66dB. I could "squint" to make out 72dBfs but it was not easy. Then for fun, with the headphone amp fully cranked and on Gain 3, 90dBfs was slightly more audible than 72 with the headphones at the other levels. That said, at that volume with the headphones set down on my table at arms length and safely away from my ears, they are louder than my iPad!!

Then just for shits and giggles I connected the Rotel and did the same excersie (0 effort in volume matching because it's 1am on a Thursday night) and got the same result.
 

BDWoody

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Thanks a lot! It was all really good but the best was the 16 Bit YouTube video. I airplayed it to the Node from my Mac, and for whatever reason when I connected to the Node Sweet Jane started playing from Tidal and it was already at a volume I would consider to be loud. In the video I got down to 66dB. I could "squint" to make out 72dBfs but it was not easy. Then for fun, with the headphone amp fully cranked and on Gain 3, 90dBfs was slightly more audible than 72 with the headphones at the other levels. That said, at that volume with the headphones set down on my table at arms length and safely away from my ears, they are louder than my iPad!!

Then just for shits and giggles I connected the Rotel and did the same excersie (0 effort in volume matching because it's 1am on a Thursday night) and got the same result.
And just like that...it all doesn't seem so mysterious...

Most never bother to go through the trouble, and end up stuck on the audio crazy train... Feel free to jump off at any time...plenty of solid science to land on.
 
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The latest releases of The Beatles Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road are really beautiful. Try this Chris Jones, off the charts audio quality
Using my Australian Tidal account I don't have access to the 2019 version of that album, only 2013. My US account expired :( if you have access to the 2013 version can you do a quick A/B? All the MQA Beatles stuff is available though, and I had Abbey Road in my queue for this weekend.
 
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Using my Australian Tidal account I don't have access to the 2019 version of that album, only 2013. My US account expired :( if you have access to the 2013 version can you do a quick A/B? All the MQA Beatles stuff is available though, and I had Abbey Road in my queue for this weekend.
The 2013 was my only exposure to Chris Jones and I just noticed this 2019 when I looked it up to screen shot it for you.
 
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