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




"Just wondering how you connected your blue sound to the Pontus, cuz this could be why you were underwhelmed. "


Sorry meant to say the Aries. What did you use to connect the Node to the Aries?



@jin78 ​​​​​​


Hi, I tried 3 different cables, all digital coax RCA cables;

Wireworld Silver Starlight 7

QED Reference Audio 40

VDH The First (the first iteration of this line)

I tend to scour auction sites, scooping up any good used or stock clearance cables I can find. Only cables I've paid retail for are my speaker cables and a pair of Chord entry level, C-line? 

@painter24 you were definitely using some good quality cabling, however, if you would have used the USB out to the Aries it may have made all the difference. I'm only assuming this because that's what happened with my Pontus. Not sure if the USB implementation is the same on both models. As others have said, there is definitely a compatibility issue between the node coax out and the denefrips dacs. Signal voltage coming out of the node coax is lower.  Anyway, the node is a great little device. The app is nice. The internal dac sounded pretty darn close to my project S2 plus dac. Enjoy that new sub, might want to snag one of those one day!

FYI, the Mhdt orchid has a built in linear power supply, so adding one makes no sense. 


FYI, The Sbooster replaced the Node’s external smps. It was not added to the Orchid.