New Bluesound Node – First Impressions

I'm new to streaming. To get started, I ordered the new Bluesound Node, the just-released successor to the Node2i. It arrived Friday. System: Sonus faber Olympica III speakers, McIntosh MC402 power amp, Magnum Dynalab MD208 used as a preamp, Denon DCD-1600NE SACD/CD player, and various cables, mostly Audioquest. I offer my first impressions, FWIW. I don't claim any particular expertise.

I connected the Node to the pre via Audioquest interconnects. It doesn't accept my aftermarket power cords. Used wireless, not ethernet. I have free trial subscriptions to Amazon Music and Qobuz.

First, Amazon Music. Tried some Beethoven, and some Rameau, with poor results. Compressed, tinny, and unlistenable. 10 minutes of Amazon HD was more than enough.

Next, Qobuz. Brahms, Schumann, Led Zep, Bowie. A very substantial improvement on Amazon HD. Notably, on the same tracks, the Qobuz high-rez sounded significantly better than the Qobuz CD-quality. Differences were immediately apparent on Led Zep's Dazed and Confused, available in both formats.

But the Qobuz high-rez can't compare with CD quality sound on my system as currently configured. On the same recordings, CD quality is clearly superior to Qobuz high-rez played through the Node. Detail, presence, dimensionality – there's no contest.

As a means to explore music to purchase on CD, the Node, playing Qobuz, may or may not suffice. As a substitute for CDs, I very much doubt it will do.

Let me re-emphasize that these are only my first impressions. I don't know how the Node will sound after further break-in, or with an ethernet connection, or with an external DAC, or with different interconnects/preamps/amps/speakers, or with other streaming services. I hope this post is helpful to other forum members considering this or similar equipment.

Node's weakest link is its internal DAC. They include it for convenience, but honestly anyone buying a Node should also budget for a separate DAC, especially if you're planning to stream hi-rez music.

I cannot say whether a quality external DAC will exceed your CD player performance, but it will surely narrow the gap by quite a margin.
Used wireless, not ethernet.

You really need to use an ethernet connection for best SQ. I'll be surprised if it isn't a noticeable improvement.
node onboard dac is dull... they obviously haven’t addressed that in the newest version

for 500 bucks you can’t ask for the moon

the update seems to be mainly for lower cost manufacturability...
The new Node has a DAC that is, per mfr, 32-Bit, 384kHz.  The previous Node 2i was spec'd at 32-Bit, 192kHz.  
I'm beginning to wonder if there is a hard upper limit for most audiophiles when it comes to digital?

I apologize because it's harsh, but it needs to be said. 
I went A/B between the Node 2i's DAC and my MHDT and there was no contest. However, between the Node's DAC and the older Peachtree DAC IT, it was hard to tell a difference. 
@gg107 I can’t comment on the NODE, but my Node 2i when fitted with exceptional cables excels in every way. The improvement is night and day.

I would believe the NODE would probably respond in a similar manner when connected using great cables

The sound quality is exceptional, with superb dynamics, very wide image, deep and textured bass and one of the cleanest and most detailed reproductions I have heard on any similar component, that I would certainly not describe as "Dull"

The onboard DAC actually blew the doors off of a Modified Schiit Bifrost that was also treated to the same excellent cables - so that’s not bad for "a Convenience"

I use ethernet to stream, but I also have the Pulse Mini speaker and the onboard wireless receiver is exceptional
- but there is a caveat
- but NOT with the Bluesound
- you need to have a good Wireless router to get the best results

Do not rely on the wireless feature installed by your ISP - they tend to be very bad with a very poor range.

Several of my neighbors require repeaters when using the ISP provided wireless offering - I have the one wireless router and it even covers half of my neighbors property.

In fact one friend just got Bell Fiber optic and his wireless range did even cover half of his property.

So, don’t buy a DAC, save your money and invest in the very best cables you can afford - the NODE will reward you :-)

KLE Innovations makes some very nice Interconnects and power cables

Or there is an exceptional DIY option, i.e. if you are of a "handy" nature
Duelund conversion to DIY Helix Geometry Cabling | Audiogon Discussion Forum

Regards - Steve
To get the best out of Node, you need to use,

1) Ethernet with decent quality LAN cable, like Supra CAT8,
2) External DAC as @hilde45 pointed out,
3) Decent power cord, try Cullen PC with figure 8 IEC,
4) Decent quality Digital Coax cable,

The only thing (IMHO) Node has it going for is, its entry price and a nice app interface that allows access to multiple streaming options.

Good luck!
node 2i to Pandora Sig Dac via AQ Optical ( Diamond ) sounds great, Qobuz Mingus at Carnegie….i am running Ethernet

My server sounds even better. IF i use the CD players ( Mac or Marantz Pro ), they are only as transports…

have fun, enjoy the VAST amounts of music available to you.

Any guesses on the BOM for a device that lists for $549 retail?

If we are bypassing the DAC and analog outputs, which I fully endorse, can we also assume the functional / usage BOM is one half of device BOM?

I agree that DIY cables and aftermarket cables will elevate performance of the unit.

@tomic601 ’s excellent choice of the Audioquest Diamond Optical cable comes in at $499 list for a 0.75 meter run. Adding a custom power cable and an aftermarket LAN cable leads to my question:

For those of you using the Bluesound Node / Node 2i, what are your reasons for not moving up the network server / streamer chain (commensurate with your cable expenditures)? Thanks!
@lalitk +1. Cables can be a major upgrade to the BS. Start with a Cullen C7 power cable, the sound will really open up.

The new Node has a DAC that is, per mfr, 32-Bit, 384kHz. The previous Node 2i was spec’d at 32-Bit, 192kHz.

sure, ok, gotcha ... have fun listening to your 32bit-386k source material 😆-- part of being experienced and knowledgeable in this pursuit is to know what matters and what is marketing drivel

oh ... and the dac will still sound lifeless and dull... those saying it doesn’t don’t have a properly resolving system... better cables help but don't make it competitive to other good sounding dacs

the bs node is a very nice dedicated streamer with very well designed friendly gui... no more, no less
I am using a node2i to an external Border Patrol 2ei DAC through a Quicksilver Integrated and it is fine for listening while I work.

David : considering that Bluesound is relatively low margin stuff…. Let’s just agree it  ( the BOM ) isn’t that much $. All that work and you didn’t discover the > $10 k DAC. I wish Jim White built a streamer…all the other bits I had in the junk drawer… leftover from various projects and experiments 
Best to you
always appreciate your input and rational approach 

 Unfortunately your Denon SACD/CD player doesn't have a digital input that would allow you to connect a digital out from the Node to it  That would solve your problem with its sound.  I owned the original Node 2 and its DAC is just not that good, as many others have said.  Qobuz can sound at least as good as your CDs with the right equipment.
Get a decent DAC, then run both the Disc spinner and the Node into it to begin to start comparisons.  Then perhaps rip files to HD and compare the same files on the disc spinner
I have had a Node 2I in my audio setup about a year and yes does benefit by having direct Ethernet connection.  There is also a noticeable improvement using external dac connected via toslink cable. I have since moved off Node 2I to  a roon nucleus with farad lps.  I have compared node 2i to my roon nucleus and IMO feel that I have improved sound from my roon nucleus connected via usb to my denafrips pontus which is connected via balanced outputs to my integrated (Yamaha A/S 2100)
@tomic601    Jim, thanks for your response. 

I didn't want to complicate my question by adding your DAC into the mix. : )   

I was also reaching out to others who mentioned upgrading cables.

I'm with you on the DAC. On a similar thread to this one, I advised the OP to focus on a standalone DAC (and minimize the streamer spend), since he's coming from analog and has a decent setup.

If you are curious, I encourage you to consider other streamers given the level of your DAC and cabling (not to mention your interests and experience).

I'll let Michael Lavorgna make my point (as he moves from a Raspberry Pi 4 and up) with the Primare NP5 Prisma Network Player...via this review and write-up:

There are options above the Primare which would deliver, for a slightly higher spend.

Here is a somewhat dated and partial list from Lavorgna:

And that is why I went with the grace digital link....$159 on sale... to spend more on a streamer is foolish, especially if you are going to use an external dac. It can stream up to cd quality, which is really all you need...and it has a nice lcd screen so I can observe what is playing and enjoy the album art. Why the node chose to delete an lcd screen is beyond me. The grace digital link is connected to a musical fidelity v90 dac. Streaming is a convenience feature at least to me. Any serious listening is done firstly via lp’s, secondly cd’s, lastly cassette tapes. You would be surprised how nice a cassette tape can sound on a solid 3 head cassette deck (Aiwa AD f770). I still find FM radio to be very satisfying, in particular 89.7 wgbh, and 99.5 wcrb, Boston. I still own 4 of which is a creek t43. Large winegard antenna in attic pulls in stations crystal clear.
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I’ve got the Node2. When I first bought it I used the internal DAC. It was ok with high res Tidal streaming. However, when I hooked it up to a MHDT Orchid tube DAC it was a massive upgrade. I also use a digital coax (Node2 to Orchid) and RCA to Balanced XLR to my BAT tube preamp. All cables are from Silnote Audio. Excellent quality via direct sales, very affordable prices with great build quality. I took the setup to my dad’s recently when I visited for a week. He has always been very skeptical about streaming quality compared to cds and that is not the case anymore. He thought this setup sounds better than his CD player and I have to agree. He is still startled with how good it sounded. Every aspect of the sound quality was exceptional through his Martin Logan hybrid speakers (BAT tube preamp and BAT solid state amp). CDs he has listened to for decades he thought emphatically sounded better than he’s every heard them before. Quite an endorsement. Bottom line, upgrade to a separate DAC and only use the Node for the streaming itself.
I have the Node 2i and made a crucial upgrade.
I replaced the Node 2i's PSU borad with a PD Creative PSU upgrade board(sold on EBay) and bought a 5V/3A SBooster Linear Power Supply(Upscale Audio). I was then able to use a Vertere Acoustics Redline power cable with a 15A IEC.
The sonics quality jumped immensely. Tremendous improvement. I imagine you could do the same with your Node.

You can find forums where folks did what I did and it is unanimous how great the improvements are. I am not using the Node 2i's DAC. I'm using my Classe processors 24/192v DAC with a Blue Jeans Belden 1694A coax with Canare RCAP connectors. Although I just bought Canare LV-61S cable with Canare RCAP C4A connectors from B&H Photo that are supposed to sound better than the Belden.
I have a Vault 2i and it sounds great .  Quality silver digital coax to my RME adi-2 DAC sounds excellent.  Connected to network via CAT 8 cable.  I have used the Vaults RCA and it sounded decent , not as good as the RME , but sounds pretty good with good source material. 

I am perfectly content, I am curious how much REAL  improvement would cost.   I bought the Vault to mainly rip CDs but it quickly became my most used source due to its streaming capabilities. 
I've used a Node 2i for 18 months and I agree with many here that it's a great, easy to live with streamer with a mediocre DAC for a modest price.
An external, higher quality DAC definitely improved my SQ. A Morrow coaxial cable and $150 power cable helped a little.
I've had it set up on cat8, gigabyte ethernet originating from my Google Fiber Switch from day one.... didn't want to compromise the data stream with wifi. I think a good, fast, wired connection is important.
I have Spotify & Tidal and just started a 4 month free trial of Amazon. The Node 2i navigates the different sources very well.
For my modest system and my 66 year old ears, the Node 2i with better DAC is quite satisfying. 
Didn't see it mentioned in the discussion yet, but another new feature on the Node is an HDMI-arc input, which is intriguing. The idea of routing TV sound through my main system and outputting to a spare set of speakers at the TV might be an interesting project, since they are in the same room. The arc connection would allow the TV remote to control no extra remotes or pointing a remote to another part of the room where 2 channel audio resides.

Every one above is dead on as the internal DAC is the weak link. Ethernet hardwire with Supra Cat 8, build a power cord with cable and Furutech plugs from VH Audio, and a quality coax cable. Lots of great DACs out there that will walk all over the BS DAC. I went with a RME ADI 2fs DAC with Teddy Pardo power supply and I find with Qobuz it’s so close to CDs, good luck telling the difference.

If I compare my BS Vault 2 with RME/TP to my Cambridge 851C with its internal DAC which I was running my Vault through, then the first is superior. The RME/TP is in another league over the DAC in the Cambridge which is much better than the BS DAC. A quality stand alone DAC will make a world of a difference and then don’t skimp on the cables.

 All the cables on my streaming setup probably cost more than the components, as that’s what it took to pull everything I can out of equipment. Once you get it dialed in and if your DAC has preamp out, then go direct to your amp. Not sure before adding the Teddy Pardo power supply I’d prefer running my DAC direct, but with the Teddy, I prefer going direct. 
My first step when I picked up my Vault was power cord and even with the internal DAC it was noticeable. The Vault has to be hardwired so at first I used the ethernet cable that came with, then upgraded to the Supra which again was better. Next with a Nordost Silver Shadow coax I went through my Cambridge 851C and that was the biggest difference to that point. Next the RME DAC, pounced on the Cambridge, and to another level with the Teddy Pardo. Also added a SR Orange fuse to the Teddy. It’s sounds very good and I’m on the fence about pulling the Vault 2 out and look at a Lumin U1 mini with probably another Teddy Pardo power supply.

To wrap it up, don’t expect too much out of the NODE on its own. It can become a really good streamer but it will take more of everything which you can take your time with. Have fun.
I was disappointed with the Node (2i) DAC and cured that with a Schiit Bifrost. Great sounding thing.
You compared a 500$ streamer to a $1000 or so disc player, not a fair comparison .....
The Bluesound is a wonderful piece of kit for what it cost and probably better than a disc player of the same price range and yes, the dac can be improved but the same is true for a cd player.
 The equipment that you have deserves a much better streamer than the Bluesound. There are numerous posts on Audiogon which mention  appropriate options. I have a Pure Audio Lotus 5 that I am happy with but you might like to look at streamers even higher up the food chain.
oops I forgot to mention the streamer I have is actually an Elac Discovery running through the Pure Audio DAC. 
I use a Mac book pro wireless and usb to a pagoda balanced, will a node 2I deliver more than the Mac? I would of course use a wired Ethernet with it!  also nice cables and power cord! 
I have a node 2i and enjoy the entry level streamer. I did however connect the digital output via digital coax cable to my CD player digital input. The CD player has a Saber DAC and the sound is great. Big difference from the node DAC. 
Stream Tidal, Radio Paradise and stream local radio through the bluesound app. 
Not the ultimate in pure audio but you can’t beat the convenience of great sound at your fingertips. 
It appears most here are actually discussing their standalone DAC's performance and impact on their systems; NOT the Node's performance and contribution.

Has anyone done head to head comparisons with another streaming device against the Node?

Has anyone used their phone to stream to their DAC?
I use a Mac book pro wireless and usb to a pagoda balanced, will a node 2I deliver more than the Mac?

@brunomarcs If you mean sound quality when you ask "deliver more"...

Then NO, the Node will not deliver more. You can push sound quality further upwards from your Mac Book Pro chain if you add a galvanic USB isolator in the chain. This is a simple example of how to optimize sound quality. Another is the use of a USB reclocker. There are other device / hardware options as well.

Then there are software based approaches to optimize the laptop for sound quality ’delivery.’ Audirvana is an example.

Ideally, one uses both (software and hardware). You will be surprised and thrilled with the results. : )

If you are referring to usage features, the answer would depend on the specific feature on the Node versus the Mac Book.
The use features are fine using the Mac and streaming Tidal hi-fi. The mhtd Pagoda is the key in my system. you say a reclocker or galvanic isolation, I'll do some research. Thanks. 
@brunomarcs There are reclockers that also offer galvanic isolation.

The easiest (and least expensive) option is to try a non-powered galvanic isolator first. This will improve sound quality.

As you are doing your research, check out Audirvana. It is optimized for MacOS / Apple Silicon (and Windows 10). It also hosts Tidal. But it is much more than that!
Has anyone done head to head comparisons with another streaming device against the Node?

search my posts in digital section from last year... i tried 5 dedicated streamers against the node
You have a great set up with the superb amp and speakers. Your weak link is the streamer/dac, and the fact that you are here asking is your own realization that this is the problem. Adding equipment means adding cables and complicating your setup. Sell the Node or leave it home for a secondary system and upgrade.
I can recommend Auralic Altair G1 (without braking the bank). I've had it for a year, started looking for an upgrade and tested at home several dac's up to 6 times it's price, not finding anything worth the change. Thus, Wednesday I will get my new Auralic Vega G2.1, which is the Father of my current Auralic. An Altair G1 will run you about 2.000 dollars in the used market. You can keep your cables, etc. If you add to the Node (cables, etc) you will end up close to the cost of a new dac, but with small improvements and a more complicated rig.
Just a thought....
When I purchased my Node 2i the dealer convinced me to purchase a Project 2 DAC.  When I got it home I felt the DAC made the sound too thin.  I also wanted to play MQA via Tidal.  Maybe MQA is a gimmick, but there must be a reason why they offer this.  I preferred the bass response of the Node 2i played by itself.  I almost purchase a Belcanto DAC.  I wonder if you can hear a significant sound quality difference between the Bluesound Node 2i and a high end DAC.  If so, what is the difference in sound quality and how many participated in a blind test.

I personally think a lot of achieving a perfect very expensive system might be over done.  This seems to reserved to a very few who are very rich and don't know how to spend their money.  I must admit I wouldn't mind being one of them.  The dealer also sold the Cutest DAC and he said that was a really high quality DAC.
Steaming alone is not hard and need not cost much. I have yet to hear any decent quality streamer in the last 15 years sound bad and have heard some of the the best systems for reference to compare. The dac makes all the difference when it comes to the sound. I find Streamer differences alone are much more subtle if it even matters at all. Been streaming for a long time now and it really does not matter. Choice of interface technology USB versus coax versus optical matters more I find. Now just go with modern asynchronous usb and any good quality dac of your choice and forget about it.
@mapman I agree with that. Gots to have a great external DAC. A streamer is just a computer.

The Node 2i was $500. The PD Creative PSU board interface was $100. The SBooster LPS was $350. The Canare coax cable was $20. $1000. But having a great DAC is the cherry on top.

It all sounds great. I was advised to get a Benchmark DAC3B to bypass my Classe's DAC. Maybe that is the last frontier.
Hello OP,

You said:
As a means to explore music to purchase on CD, the Node, playing Qobuz, may or may not suffice. As a substitute for CDs, I very much doubt it will do.

If your listening skills and system are as good as what you say in this sentence, then I’ll just suggest my ears would agree with yours. My system, including the most important part–the room w/ treatment–shows that CD signals into my DAC have superior transparency, dynamics, and PRaT over streaming local files from my server. Nevermind Spotify or blind test needed. Streaming is convenience. It can be excellent, but unless you're spending on power quality for the streamer (this is why it seems to me, that there aren't many streamers in the sub-$1,000 range, not many for $1,000, but lots $2,000 and more. Auralic dropped the low end of the market entirely and their Aries G1 and G2 line *start* around $2800, I believe. Providing clean signal and clean power are the main reasons, it seems to me.

Even a very good streamer will likely still fall just short if you’re used to listening to music at the forefront of your attention with CD quality playback. The exception might be if you're upsampling with software like HQPlayer.

If you can hear when a person’s voice sounds like they’re sick during flu season, you surely can hear the difference on a resolving enough system.

Stream to explore, stream to headphones maybe, but buy CDs and play those or local files streamed to your DAC (via a streamer with a LPS) to enjoy the highest quality playback. The LPS is, in my opinion and experience, the most important part, not the sample rate or other distractions. Quality audio is quality power.

Good luck!
The Bluesound Node 2i used a Texas Instruments PCM5122 DAC chip.  This is several years old and quite inexpensive, I believe sold in quantities at around $3 each.  It is the same DAC chip as found on the Raspberry Pi iQAudio DAC+ board, which sells for $20 chip, board & all.
The new Node 2 uses the Texas Instruments PCM5242 DAC chip, which is a small upgrade from the PCM5122.  This is the DAC chip as found on the iQAudio DAC Pro board, which sells for $25 chip, board & all.  Heck, at $25 it even includes a headphone output.

These are considered to be very low-end DAC chips.  Equivalent to what one might find in a $75-$150 external DAC.
The analog output stage of the Node 2i and new Node are also of mediocre quality.  So when one connects a Node to their system via the RCA analog outputs, you are listening to a low end DAC being played through a low end analog stage.  The provided power supply is also a budget solution. 

The strength of the Bluesound Node is that it handles 24-bit streaming, provides MQA support, has a very good user interface, is reliable, and is backed by a solid company. It has 24-bit digital output and now has a decent processor. 

It is too bad that in this latest upgrade that they still went quite low-end in key areas.   Clearly they wanted to stay at the $549 price point. 
I have the Node2i and am currently using a Schiit Gungnir.  I previously used the internal DAC in an Audio Research GSi75 and then auditioned the Mark Levinson 5805 and 585.5.  All this to say the Schiit is an excellent performer compared to those highly regarded built in DACs.  I just now pulled out a pair of RCAs and connected the analog out of my Node2i to my preamp and could easily A-B.  It makes me laugh how awful the internal DAC on the Node2i sounds.  The bass was similar but all the mids and highs drop out.  It seems most here are in agreement.  You absolutely MUST focus on an external DAC and do NOT waste money on cables as your next step.  This Gungnir is only $899 new and I would say is a great value.  I got it in a trade so knew nothing of it but am impressed.  Good luck!
If you were to upgrade, would you connect a DAC to the Node 2i or would you just upgrade the streamer that has a better DAC.  Also you did a blind test would most people hear a significant sound difference and if they heard a difference what would they.  What also would be the sound difference.
I meant to ask what changed did BlueSound make with the new BlueSound Node 2i ?  I would think BlueSound would by now offer a higher end streamer so they can expand their market share.  Seems a bit crazy because it sounds like the more expensive DAC chips are not significantly that more expensive.
I would think BlueSound would by now offer a higher end streamer so they can expand their market share.

They already do that by way of their sister brand - NAD. Sort of like Toyota and Lexus.
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