For those that use an external DAC with node 2i

Please describe the shortcomings of the node2i dac, as well as what to specifically expect to hear as an improvement with a truly better (not just different and external dac). My node seems to have what I'd call a bit dark smoothed sound. Cymbals seem a bit faint, but trying another dac that presents a more forward louder cymbal seems to sound less recessed and smoothed; thereby exchanging a bit of dark(warm?) smooth depth for more forward brighter presence that is more forward enveloping but with less depth. It's weird, because depending upon the song one may sound better than the other. I'm not sure which sound is truly more accurate, or even which one I prefer consistently, but I would like to make a choice and start listening to my music instead of critically analysing each component back-and-forth. Perhaps I'm not using enough of a drastic improvement dac, but I'd like to figure that out too. I do realize a lot of what sounds better to one person is different than what another likes, but so far, I'm leaning towards the dac where the cymbals seem louder/brighter even though it's at the expense of what seems to me to maybe be a darker smoother (illusory lower noise floor?).
Also, I was unable to level match this comparison,  so that adds another variable. The external dac I compared to the node 2i was an old parasound zdac version 1. Perhaps if I sampled a higher end dac like a denafrips or an Ayre coda, etc. I'd see what direction was better for a reference point, but if anybody here has actually done their own evaluations, I'd welcome your input, experience and perspective. Thanks.
”You can not be certain of the source of the music available streaming. That is why I only listen to physical media.”

So every pressing, every reissue, every care regime, etc etc is exactly the same when the media is physical?  I’ll bet my physical copy of DSOTM sounds different to yours. (Mine was used as a coffee mug coaster for much of the ‘90s. The CD hung above my veg plot to scare away the birds.)
My first exposure to steaming was a simple BT receiver which went to my pre and I just streamed Pandora and iTunes from my phone. Not the best sound of course but I was hooked by the convenience. So I upgraded to a Node2i and really enjoyed the uplift in SQ and convenience. Next step was a Jolida Glass external DAC. It was an improvement in detail and soundstage. Finally I recently upgraded my DAC again to a Border Patrol SE-i and am delighted by the improvement in dynamics and soundstage. Taking into account my current system and budget, I'm content to enjoy this setup for now. There's a Jadis/B&W system in my future however so depending on how the Node and BP DAC sound with it, I might be looking into something more commensurate. We'll see.
Happy listening.
+1 big_greg. I’ve got exact same experience with switching from node 2 to NT-505, perceptible upgrade in SQ. My next upgrade in SQ was switching to cat8 shielded Ethernet cable. 
I ran my Node 2i into my Willsenton R8 integrated amp to my Tekton Perfect Set 2-10’s and the sound was glorious. Then I purchased a DENAFRIPS Pontus. Oh my god! There’s no going back. Everything sounds better. It was like I had my ear canals professionally cleaned. The only way I could possibly imagine a similar jump in sound quality would be going to a live show. I’ve heard great things about the Aries DAC, which is the little brother to the Pontus. Also, I thought Spotify was great, then I got turned onto Gobuz. It’s not a night a day improvement but Gobuz clearly has more information, more dynamics, and blacker backgrounds, depending on the quality of the recording of course.

happily listening
Also added external dacs to the BS nodes...SMLS400, Topping D90...much improved sound...the Teac NT-505 streaming DAC, also big improvement