Specific Node/Airplay question

I know very little about digital and don’t have much interest in it; I bought a Bluesound Node 2i a few years ago to try Tidal but canceled the subscription shortly afterwards. The Node sat unused for years. The other day I learned I can stream Apple Music over the Node; SQ wasn’t great, but it’s coming from my phone, so I wasn’t expecting much. Here’s my question… if I only use my Node to stream Apple Music from my phone, does having an external DAC make a difference? Or, is the music so compressed, that it won’t matter? I’m asking because I’m shopping for a new preamp and considering a McIntosh c2300. But there are C2500s (built-in DAC) for the same price and the c2600 (better DAC) for a little more. The C2700 is too expensive and I don’t plan to ever “up” my digital game; I’m a vinyl guy and this digital stuff would likely be for my wife.


If you have a ‘nice’ or somewhat ‘complete’ system, I feel  everything still matters.
I use an AppleTV to airplay a few SiriusXM channels from iPad. I’ve optimized this little arm of the system with an iFi spdif purifier, an EVP footer and a top weight. It’s almost funny how much these things improved the AppleTV. Like you said, it has its flaws…BUT I can still hear almost as much change and difference between DACs as I do when using my nice CD transport. Just not to my systems full abilities but still listenable and enjoyable. 

What I don’t understand is… I assume using Apple Music via Airplay that there is a certain amount of compression happening with the files, right? (We aren’t talking about lossless files.) Like when a new tv mode is released (like 4k), but I don’t subscribe to anything broadcast higher than 1080… having  a 4k tv is no different than a 1080 tv… is that a fair analogy? If so, at what point is a DAC chip upgrade not making any difference in my lo-fi example?

Be aware that when you use AirPlay2 on an iPhone or iPad, the Apple Music app will down-sample the stream to a very lossy 256kbps (versus 1,411 kbps for 16/44.1 CD quality). This is a function of the Apple Music app and has nothing to do with the Node. According to Bluesound tech, if you stream from a MacBook Pro, you can get 16/44.1, but not from an iPhone or iPad.

I didn't know this when I first tried Apple Music via AirPlay2, and I couldn't understand why it sounded so bad on my system. I normally stream Tidal, Qobuz and FLAC files from a NAS drive and the difference is very noticeable. You can find discussions on this on the Bluesound support pages, What HiFi, and John Darko's web site.

No, Tidal has lossless cd across the board, MQA (which is comparable, but limited to the better recordings and basically dead since the company went out of business) and they recently added FLAC files which I find overall to be better than Redbook CD and MQA. Using the internal DAC of the iPhone is never going to sound good. You’ll only want to use it as basically your remote control. That said, the Node has an ok internal DAC; however it sounds great in my setup with an MHDT DAC (with tube output stage) and an external Teddy Pardo LPS (linear power supply) for the Node’s streamer. It’s a big step up from the cheap and noisy internal switching power supply the Node comes with to hit a price point.


Don’t connect your phone to the node via Bluetooth. A common mistake and major SQ reduction. 

(I don't know how to reply directly to a comment, but THIS is what I was talking about)... From dinosore:

Be aware that when you use AirPlay2 on an iPhone or iPad, the Apple Music app will down-sample the stream to a very lossy 256kbps (versus 1,411 kbps for 16/44.1 CD quality). 


I suppose I wasn't clear... this would be typically my wife playing music from her phone, or me playing music (from my phone) when we are doing chores (not necessarily in the room with the stereo). Actually, we live in NYC and don't have a "listening room" like many of the folks around here (I can't imagine what that would be like).

So, it seems that the DAC (either Bluesound or external) isn't going to make much of a difference since the Apple Music app will be killing the SQ anyway.

Thanks for the responses!

I don't get it. I haven't read much about it, but this makes me curious

How Hi-Rez is Wireless???

Use the Phone as a Remote Control ONLY! Nice

My friend did a search on his phone, picked a song, hit play. Sounded bad.  Evidently (from above) IF via Apple Music it is a low rez file going to/thru the phone via Satellite then wireless from phone to streamer?

How is a hi-rez file getting to the streamer? not thru the phone correct? Phone asks for your selection, then what/how

Doesn't the phone have to talk to the hi-rez music provider (thru streamer which is wireless to cable company's router? or phone via satellite?) which then sends the file to the Streamer (how?) ...

:to cable companies wired router, then wireless from that router to streamer??

MQA was acquired by Lenbrook, parent company of NAD and Bluesound, so it is not “out of business” nor “dead”.  My advice to the OP is to restore their Tidal subscription and enjoy their Node 2i through a new-to-them C2600 DAC. Many of my customers report the MAC DAC outperforms the one in the Node, and you can use Tidal Connect as your source for quality files. 

^ If I'm going to sit and listen to music, it will be vinyl. Tidal is too much of a hassle (and too expensive for how little I would use it).

I also use Apple Music for lossless hi res  in 2 systems, aside from my turntable and cd player. On one system, I use an iPad connected to the Apple dongle/camera adapter which connects to a Schiit DAC that connects to an analog preamp. On the other system, the iPad connects to another Apple dongle/camera adapter then connects to a musical fidelity integrated amp (that has a DAC) through the usb input. Both satisfy my digital needs. 

Sooooo many people here say I should stream, yet nobody answers my questions above.


The streamer is connected to the net by wire or wi-fi. With Spotify Connect or Tidal Connect, their apps on your phone, pad or computer will control your streamer, which will connect directly to the source for the music stream. Just choose your streamer as player within the Spotify or Tidal app. The streamer must be compatible with the Connect feature, see specs. Hi-rez can vary - see specs. Qobuz Connect is reportedly in the works.

The quality of sound, wire vs wi-fi, is a hotbed of polarized opinion. As always, better gear gets better results. Be sure the streamer software supports your intended stream source to avoid Bluetooth.  Supported sources can be directly accessed via the streamers app.