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




I bought a node 2i and it plays into a NAD preamp out to PS Audio S300 amp to Tebrl performas.  If you just run coax or Optical to the preamp usually that does the trick. 

I believe the Bluesound Node to be exceptional for the price.  I used a friends for quite a while and yes my Denafrips Ares II was used as an external DAC and yes it sounded better. However I recently returned the Node and installed a Stack Link (1). It is more than day and night difference, the combination cost me less than half of a Lumin, Aurender, Moon or other brand name streamer solution. I haven't heard anything better. The Link has now been upgraded to Link 2 and adds $1000 to what I paid, however it is still what I would buy. My system includes 2 subwoofers and the Bluesound didn't seem to cope with that too well on any setting. Bass was either poor or boomy, in fact lumpy would be a better description. Each system is different but I can assure you that my Naim streamer now resides in another room.

I am also happy with my Node 2i’s which live on 2 secondary systems. I tried one of them with external DAC’s, a Cayin and Arcam II I had lying around. In both cases i preferred the native node 2i sound. I have since upgraded both with a external LPS kit and to me that improved the sound. It took a costly upgrade (Lumin/Accuphase DAC) to better them on my primary system so as others say, Node's are great bag for buck.

Well I did the same thing, except with a Venus to Denafrips and a couple year-old note 2i … There wasn’t really any comparison for me the Denafrips was superior.

Excellent outcome.   Other people’s opinions matter not.   Only your ears matter.   Trust them.