Is it worth it? DAC question

I have a simple second system consisting of a Sugden A21, a Bluesound Node and  Tekton Lore speakers. I have a spare Ifi Zen DAC V2 that I used about a year ago when I used my MacBook. Is it worth it to try and connect the Ifi as an external DAC or is the Node better as is? If I did try it, how do I connect the Node to the Ifi?

Post removed 

Ignoring the broken record poster above.

The only way to answer the question is for you to answer it yourself by trying it. Finding someone who has your exact equipment is likely relatively low. There are online threads about setup with an external DAC but since I don’t know which year/model of Node you have I didn’t provide links - try googling - connecting a bluesound node (add in specifc model) to an external DAC



My experience is the DAC in the Blue Sound Node is shite. Now it has been years since I have used one, it was night and day when I went to a Simaudio 230HAD and then 10 times better with the Simaudio MiND 2 Network Player.

iFi makes some very nice products. Give it a shot. 

You’re likely to get a meaningful upgrade with the iFi, but you’ll likely need a decent SPDIF digital cable to run from the Node to the DAC to be able to realize the advantages. If you can spring for something like this Acoustic Zen MC2 cable I think you’d be in for a real treat.

Best of luck. 

Thanks for the responses so far--I had to order a 5v adapter so hopefully it'll be here in a couple of days. Will keep you posted.

I also recommend strongly considering the Teddy Pardo external linear power supply for the Node. The DAC on the Node is mediocre. The Node’s streamer is very good. It sound great with my MHDT Orchid DAC with both the digital coax (Node -> MHDT Orchid DAC with output tube stage) and RCA to balanced XLR (DAC -> BAT VK-6i tube preamp) interconnects from Silnote Audio. They only sell direct, based in Roanoke, VA. Their line of cables are all top quality, great sounding - clean, tight, dynamic with no hard sonic edges - and affordably priced. They also have great customer service.

You already own the iFi, so plugging it to try it will cost you nothing, so just do it.  That said, I've never listened to it, but I've heard the BlueSound DAC isn't very good.  I own the iFi Zen DAC Signature V2 and the iFi Zen One Signature and I find their somewhat muddy performance lacking.  You might find the iFi's affect works well with the Tektons.

Ifi makes some great products, so does NAD. I’ve recently put a ifi zen signature dac and streamer in my vintage system and am very very pleased with it. I would say they are both in the same league, so it will come down to your preference. However, I’d bet you’d really like the ifi dac. Good luck.  

Good advice here. Experiments are fun and with a DAC, telling. I added an Orchid to my Node 2i and it was a huge improvement. Huge.

That said, which "Node" matters. They recently upgraded the DAC.

I did an external power supply on my Node 2i via PD Creative. Teddy Pardo is a nice unit but nearly or equal the price of the Node itself, I believe.


The iFi Zen appears to have only a USB input. You can only use it if you have a Node N130 or Node X.

Thanks again for the good advice---I've got the cables to connect just need the 5v adapter then I'll try it. @parker65310 Good to know about Silnote Audio--I'm in VA, will def check them out.

I have a Bluesound Node 2i that I use as a streamer only. I  have it connected to a PS Audio Directstream DAC, and the SQ is magnitudes better than the internal DAC.  I  would have purchased a more expensive streamer,  but I can't find one that supports both Amazon music and Idagio.  So I upgraded with a TeddyPardo LPS; I was very surprised by how much the lps improved the sq. Better bass, wider and deeper soundstage, and improved imaging. And a quality digital cable does make a difference,  despite the " it's just 0's and 1's, so it gets it or it doesn't " argument. 

Hook up a USB cable from Node to DAC. You don’t even have to go into Node settings to enable USB output. Listen and you decide. 


It really depends on which Node you have. The Node 2 and Node 2i DACs aren't very good as previously mentioned, the DAC in the Node 130 is better. Some have recommended the Teddy Pardo LPS, but at $425 is rather expensive. I use an LHY LPS which at $279 is more cost effective, and for me yielded surprisingly good results.....however I have a Node 130. Only you can tell which DAC is better on SQ

+1 kmcong

I have had a similar path with my Node 2i

I have moved through 4 different external DACs.  Going RCA out of the Node to my Preamp makes my system sound so dry, dark and without detail.  My progression of DACs all gave an improvement.  I also went through 4 different RCA cables, a 30 year old Audioquest to a new Audioquest Carbon which was a huge improvement.  I next got a Cardas Clear with was noticeable but not as huge...kind of what you would expect from the law of diminishing returns...sometimes those mid-level leaps have the most bang for your buck.  I recently moved to a previous gen Transparent Reference 75ohm and it again gave a noticeable improvement over the Cardas.  The Node N130 and new X both have digital out of their USB port where previous models it is only a file input connection.  Some claim USB is a better way to transfer the signal to the DAC.  I called Transparent and while they cannot speak to specific models and configurations of a system, they feel 75 and 110 ohm RCA is superior to USB.  I have decided to stick with what I got until I am ready to make the leap to Aurender or dCS to have an all in one and eliminate the need for this cable.  Have fun experimenting with external DACs...they will be great upgrades.

Both are very poor dacs ,at minimum buy a Denafrips Aries 12th


or Audio Pegasus dac both are musical R2R dacs the Pegasus has better build quality using Name brand parts just compare .

Have Bluesound Node 2i and iFi ZEN One Signature DAC.  The ZEN sounds better (richer/fuller).  

Hi @dancub and others--I need some help. I connected the external dc adapter and the HDMI to the Zen DAC V2. It's lit up. But on the Bluesound Node app (version 4.0), the external DAC switch will not let me turn it on. No sound from the Zen DAC headphone amp either. The Node is working fine, but not the external DAC. What am I doing wrong???

There is no HDMI input to the Zen DAC that I can see so not sure what you’re talking about here.  You need to run a USB cable between the Node and the Zen DAC. 

Seems incompatible- The Bluesound Node manual shows RCA, COAX, and Optical outs, while the iFi Zen DAC manual only has USB input.

Maybe similar to different species, it’s impossible for reproduction ;)

Ditto on the "no HDMI" connector. Not sure what you mean by "external dc adapter" , . . maybe the power wall wart for the DAC? 

@soix is right, need to connect a USB cable 'tween the Node and DAC.

@kennyc  also right. Even if current set up breeds, the offspring will be sterile. 

My bad---it is USB, not HDMI. Sorry about that. I connected everything as directed and was able to toggle with the Node’s app and was able to activate the toggle to turn on the external DAC. However, once connected, there’s no difference in sound---everything is still going thru the Node. I tried headphones on the Ifi and nothing. The yellow light on the Ifi stays on for a bit then goes off. The true bass doesn’t work either so something is still not right. Do I need to do something with the RCA cables??

You’re likely to get a meaningful upgrade with the iFi, but you’ll likely need a decent SPDIF digital cable to run from the Node to the DAC to be able to realize the advantages.

I recommend ignoring advice from anyone who has speaker cables that are more expensive than their speakers and who recommend a digital cable more expensive than the DAC

Take the RCA cables out of the Node and insert them in the DAC. Your node will then send a digital signal to the DAC over USB and your DAC will convert that signal to analog and send it to the amp over RCA. 

@nealkot Thank you! That works when I play through my MacBook. When i disconnect the cable from my MacBook and connect it to the Node---nothing. I was beginning to think the Zen Dac wasn't working but it works fine with my computer, just not the Node. About to give up at this point. 

I am likely missing something, but it seems the Node isn't recognizing the DAC.

Call Bluesound, there must be a way to instruct the node to do that. 

That works when I play through my MacBook. When i disconnect the cable from my MacBook and connect it to the Node---nothing. I was beginning to think the Zen Dac wasn’t working but it works fine with my computer, just not the Node. About to give up at this point.

Well, continue using your MacBook with the Zen, if it sounds good...You could use your bluesound for a secondary/bedroom rig etc instead. If you don’t have more speakers, you could plug your headphones into it. You could even Bluetooth stream from bluesound into some quality wireless headphones and become a dancer...dancing all around the house wirelessly. So, as you can see, bluesound could still be beneficial to ya.

Bluesound song: