Bluesound Node 2021 DAC - I sold my Denafrips Ares II

I assembled my system last summer, after 20 odd years in the hifi wilderness. I’ve never been a vinyl guy, so wanted all the convenience of streaming, plus a CDP for my old collection.

I went for the latest iteration of the Bluesound Node - N130, a Naim Nait 5si and a pair of Quad S2 speakers, and Audiolab 6000CDT.

From reading various forums, watching YT videos, you know the script; I convinced my self that I needed an external DAC, as the majority view seemed to be that the BS Node DAC wasn’t very good. As I hadn’t owned hifi since the late 90s (Naim Olive) bi-amped system and Audo Alchemy DDE, I had no reference for how DACs sounded these days.

Anyway, in my new found conviction that I must purchase an ext. DAC, I purchased a Denafrips Ares II. Got it, plugged it in, and didn’t look back. I was content, it sounded good.

Then, about 2 months ago, I was fiddling around inside the Bluos app, with the subwoofer crossover, with a mind to buying a sub to supplement the LFs on my little Quads, and I had the belated brainwave to a/b the Node DAC and the Denafrips. I whipped out some spare ICs and off I went.

OK, I felt like such a fool, really stupid - I a/b’d for literally hours, trying to convince myself that the Ares II was night and day difference - it must be right? The Node DAC is sub-par, not good enough, mediocre, if things I read were correct.

But, in my system, to my ears, this wasn’t the case; I had difficulty discerning any significant improvements, certainly not £800 (£600 pre-owned) worth of difference.

I’m not knocking the Ares II, but in my system, the cost and the difference it made - and the difference between it and the much maligned Node DAC could not be justified sitting in my system at that cost.

Feeling like a complete tool, for rushing headlong in to the DAC game, I re-sold the Denafrips, bought a REL T5x and here I am.

I’m not going to look a further fool and say the Node DAC is the best, but i feel it is criticised unduly, at least the newest version at any rate.

Thanks for reading, I’m not sure this is a cautionary tale, but I just thought the experience worth sharing





Good job trying things out and being open and neutral. I respect your conclusion too--you limit it to your ears, your system and your experience. As others note, so many here chime in without ever hearing anything they are talking about. 

There are others still who seemingly don't care about how something sounds.  Why?  Because they believe you/I cannot tell much with our ears and brains--they think it's subjective. So, they buy based on test results and stats. 

I've chosen lesser expensive or respected gear before.  That's a great spot to be in.  The other side--when you say, darn it I have to have this because it sounds soooo good--stinks because you have no way out of the purchase. 

By the way, I owned 3 (count 'em, three) Nodes over the years.  Damn fine product.  The DAC inside is good and probably better than many of us give it credit for.  I have to remember this is a $600 product.  It does just fine if not great for that price, considering its feature set and overall build quality. 

Now, I'd be curious if you can hear the difference by adding in a second REL T5i. :). I bet you can!

I recently purchased the Pontus, been in my system for 2 weeks. I also have the latest blue sound node. I bought the Pontus to replace my project DAC and the internal dac on the Node.  I was also happy with the node internal dac for a while, but got the itch as you did. After about a week with the Pontus I was a bit underwhelmed, could not figure out why it wasn't sounding as good as the reviews made it out to be. It wasn't until I switched to the USB out on the node and sent the signal directly to the Pontus, instead of coax, that this thing really started to shine. I emailed Alvin about the issue and he suggested using the USB with this combo. Made a huge difference in clarity, soundstage, all of the above. Just wondering how you connected your blue sound to the Pontus, cuz this could be why you were underwhelmed. 



I've done A/B comparisons with internal DAC on Bluesound with Bryston BDA2 and  Topping D30 pro and am unable to hear any difference. When I run the DAC's into various preamps I am able to hear some subtle differences, so I'm not completely tone deaf.