Bluesound Node as streamer vs Audirvana - My experience

There’s a lot of debate on this topic, so I thought I’d post my personal experience comparing Tidal playback on a dedicated Mac laptop (one of the vintage ones with a DVD-Rom) with Audirvana to a Bluesound Node as a streaming source.

The rest of the digital system = Audioquest Coffee USB Cable -> RME ADI 2 FS DAC. I listened both using headphones and using my two loudspeaker. One is an all Linn Akurate system, the other is Schiit monoblocks -> TA Criterion Speakers. So both systems are $10k-$20k.

Audirvana was set to not oversample or mess with the files at all. I tested on Tidal only, on both MQA and non MQA tracks (which didn’t make much difference). I spent about 3 hours comparing the two.

I was struck that these streamers sounded different. The Bluesound had slightly crisper microdynamics, and with slightly darker backgrounds. A touch dryer and with more details. More PRAT.

The Audirvana had a much larger soundstage with noticeably more air and deeper bass. I preferred it on most tracks. Vocals sounded more natural at times.

I’d say if I just listened to Jazz, I’d give the edge to the Node, but for other types of music the Audirvana playback was richer and had more width and depth and was more extended on the top and bottom the frequency range.

I tried the Node with other connections. This was using basic cables....nothing fancy. The coaxial sounded similar to USB, just with less top end. The optical out sounded great and had a lot of rhythm to it... but sacrificed even a bit more air. I’d say that the optical connection distilled the differences between the two playback sources even more.

They both sound great, but I’ll keep with Audirvana since I think it sounds a bit more pleasing to my ears and it’s easier to navigate the HiRes files on my hard drive. The Node app is, unsurprisingly, much better than the Audirvana remote app, and it looks nicer on my rack than an old laptop, but I don’t mind stepping to the laptop and using the keyboard to play things.

Hope this helps. Obviously all these differences are very system dependent. At the very least it puts an end to the myth that a dedicated streamer is always better than a laptop playback.



Nice write up on each. Thanks. I am using the Node 2i connected via digital coax to a separate DAC and use Qobuz so MQA isn't really a factor. I differ from you however in that I would hate to have to get up every time I want to hear something different!

Thanks - I rely on forums a lot, and am trying to better about sharing information so it can be helpful to others.

@mahler123 It is the most recent Node, not the 2i.


I was also looking at getting a node 2i to replace my laptop as a streamer. I use qobuz within the audirvana software. I have the remote app installed on an iPad so I don't need to get up and type on the laptop when I want to change music. I'd rather not have my laptop tied up streaming which is why I was considering a node 2i. Also thought that any streamer would be at least as good as my laptop and probably better. Now I'm not so sure.

@jc4659 Yes - I was surprised by how well the laptop held up.

I don’t know what type of USB cable you are using but that made a big difference for me. That’s an easy upgrade if you haven’t done that.

Also, listen to to your system with the laptop plugged in and then disconnected- the Apple power supplies are notoriously noisy and it helped to put it on a different circuit than my phono preamp. That’s pretty dependent your system.

I’ll install the Audirvāna remote on my iPad - good idea.

I used to use a laptop-a first edition MacAir- with Audirvana.  I eventually switched to the Node2, which is now in a secondary system, then on to other streamers.  Audirvana sounded fine, I just wanted the computer out of the system .  Streamers are just computers made to look like audio components so there is no reason that a PC running a program like Audirvana shouldn’t sound good

The Bluesound app works well.  I personally didn't want another subscription service so Roon is out for me. I upgraded the power supply on the Node 2i.  Huge bang for the buck.  Lower noise floor with space and better transients. Most streamers that are better are double the price. I use an OCC COax interconnect.  Any place you can add a linear power supply will help your sound.

@mrmichaelp I am using the Curious usb cable from my laptop to the DAC. It sounds good to me and don't want to lose anything going to a dedicated streamer.  A little more clarity would be nice if possible.  I do not have the laptop connected to power when I am streaming from it.  It's running off its battery.

@mahler123 I am happy with Audirvana. I run it straight with no upsampling to my DAC. May I ask which streamers you have tried besides node2 and how they compared to each other? Another I had been considering was the iFi Zen stream.

+1 on the power supply upgrade for the Node.  It delivers everything you like about each, mrmichealp1.  

I used a Windows PC with Fidelizer for a Roon endpoint and it sounded good enough. I stopped using Roon and then tried Amazon HD on the same PC. Not bad, no complaints. Then I bought a Bluesound Node (2021) and used the coax out to my DAC (Schiit Gungnir Multibit) and I thought it was less clear, with singers somewhat out of focus... ever so slightly. Perhaps the USB implementation on the DAC is better than the coax... So now with the latest firmware on the Node I am using the USB output and I think it is better than the coax... hard to say... 

What I do know is that I would not mind using a Windows PC for my transport if I had nothing else. Foobar2000 + Fidelizer was fine for local files. Spotify and Amazon HD apps through the Windows sound driver seemed okay, too. However, nothing beats the iPad for control of Roon or BluOS from the listening seat. This was the main reason for buying the Node.


Nice writeup.  Thanks for this.

However, as I understand it, you are comparing the digital processing software from Audirvana to the digital processing software on Bluesound node. 

To compare the hardware only, you would compare the two pieces of equipment using the same digital processing software (such as Roon or Audioirvana). 

Did I understand your test correctly?


@carlsbad This was a test of the Bluesound as a streamer only vs Audirvana from a mac.  So just sending data to my DAC from Tidal. 

So is a streamer a piece of hardware?  Just trying to get things straight.

@carlsbad Yes - a streamer is a piece of hardware that pulls the music data from Tidal, Amazon, Qobuz or your hard-drive and sends it to your DAC.  Sort of a streaming version of a CD-Transport.

OK, but I google Audioirvana and all I get is software.  I'm having trouble understanding what we are comparing.

Audirvana is software that makes your computer sound better if you use it as a streamer.

I have used Brystonh on BDP3. Fantastic sound, terribe

Controlling software. I currently have a Melco N100, which is both a NAS and a player, and then added Cambridge Audio CXN 60, the latter for its Chromecast, AirPlay , and fantastic Internet Radio