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Bluesound NODE 2i Wireless Multi-Room Hi-Res Music Streamer

March 10, 2021

As many of you know, I have a huge music collection of vinyl and CDs, but out of convenience I find that most of my listening these days is via streaming. I prefer Tidal to Spotify because Tidal is high resolution – at minimum CD quality and in many cases higher than CD quality via MQA (more about that here).

Catchgroove’s collection and listening loft

Streaming is great for portable listening, but more challenging if you want to listen via your big boy stereo. You can use a computer and a DAC as an input to your stereo – great sound but not as convenient as DJing from your phone. You can stream via your phone and Bluetooth to a receiver hooked to your stereo – convenient but not great sound. So I have been in search of a solution that is high resolution and convenient.

Turns out there are several options and they are called streamers. Entry point is about $500 and like all things audiophile you can spend plenty more. I chose Bluesound’s NODE 2i because it checked all my boxes, it had solid reviews, was endorsed by my local reputable hifi store (Stereoland) and was in my price range ($549).

First the Bluesound sounds great and I love sitting on the couch wirelessly controlling content – exactly what I was hoping for.

Set up was easy:

  • Plug it in (no wallwort)
  • Connect RCA cables to your amp
  • Download BluOS Controller from App Store (I am an Apple guy)
  • Configure (app leads you through this – discover device, join your WiFi network, log into your streaming services, etc.)
  • Enjoy

Both Spotify and Tidal (the only streaming services I have experience with and subscriptions) have a “Connect” feature that allows their app to control the Bluesound. However, I have found the Tidal app is glitchy and the BluOS app is more reliable – which is too bad because the native Tidal and Spotify apps are better UIs. On the other hand, the BluOS app can do more – for example play music off your computer.

The only significant setup challenge I had was accessing files on my MacBook. But after doing some Googling I discovered it was permissions issue on the MacBook (AKA user error).

So what exactly is the Bluesound NODE 2i? The NODE 2i is a wireless music streamer that connects to any existing stereo. You can access audio streaming services (for example Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Prime Music, Internet radio, etc.) and even your own digital music library. The device is controlled by an app on your iOS or Android device. It has a two-way Bluetooth (stream from your phone to the NODE or stream from the NODE to Bluetooth headphones for example). It has AirPlay and you can connect it to Amazon Alexa. It is also capable of linking with other NODEs and Bluesound powered speakers to create a multi room sound system. You can upgrade the sound by using an outboard DAC that is of higher grade than the onboard original. My needs are simple: stream Tidal off the internet and FLAC files off my MacBook through my big boy stereo.

Big boy stereo: Croft Phono Integrated (amp), Oppo 105d (Blu-ray/CD), Pro-Ject RPM 1.3 Genie (turntable) with an Audio-Technics VM540ML cartridge, Schiit Vali 2 with a vintage Amperex ECC88 tube (headphone amp), Dragonfly Black (DAC), Bluesound NODE 2i (streamer)

So how does it sound? Great! I decided to compare the NODE 2i to my MacBook and the Dragonfly Black DAC. I used Pat Metheny Group’s eponymous album from 1978 – I know it extremely well. The album was originally analog and is now available as MQA via Tidal. They sound between the two sources was similar, but the NODE 2i sounds slightly better than the Dragonfly – but this could just be my bias with a new toy. The point for me is that the NODE 2i is as good if not better than the MacBook/DAC combo and I have the convenience of controlling from my phone. It is significantly better than Bluetooth – so mission accomplished. I am only a few weeks in, but so far no disappointments with this product. Actually, I found one disappointment, it does not have a USB input to allow you to use it as a DAC (but this is offset with the fact you can read files off a computer). Overall: highly recommended.

Since I am focused on streaming and I am a vinyl guy – which sounds better vinyl or digital? I can give you a definitive answer: it depends on the specific recording. How an album was recorded, how it was mastered and how it was transferred to the final state (a vinyl record or a digital file) can make a vinyl record sound better than the digital file and vice versa. Don’t forget your mood upon listening. I find I am a more attentive listener with vinyl because the format demands more engagement: pull the album off the shelf, clean it, drop the needle, flip the record, etc. But in general, a well recorded digital album (and most everything recorded in last 20 years is a digital source anyway) that has been well mastered to digital generally wins over its vinyl sibling. Ultimately the last steps in production is an art form. Those final steps in the production to form the final product, whether vinyl or a digital file, are an artistic expression too. They are susceptible to the skills and taste of the engineer. All that being said, I love vinyl and despite the great sound and convenience of the Bluesound NODE 2i, I will not be giving up on vinyl any time soon.


From → Audio

  1. Jeff permalink

    I had a decent stereo, Jadis amp, audio quest cables, Marantz 1cd player, Michell Syncro turntable. And about 600records + 1000 CDs.
    I played this for about 25to 30 years. On my opera callas sp speakers.
    But since February I sold everything, I only kept the speakers.
    Now I use a bluesound powernode 2i.
    It gives me so much more rest in my head.
    No more CDs records tweaking etc.

  2. Juanjo Brutman permalink

    Excelente y coincido plenamente en todo lo que dices… yo le encuentro algo malo…. no lee DSD o DSF. Teniendo que tener si o si un Dac externo y una pc. (Nuc o notebook). Aprovecho para preguntarte, que capacidad de disco duro externo acepta el node2i? Yo he probado hasta 2TB.
    Un saludo desde España

  3. Max Molenaar permalink

    I would have been very surprised if you would have said the Dragonfly Black would have sounded better or even equal. I have a Dragonfly Cobalt which definitely sounds different but only in some cases better (more natural) But it all depends on your original recording. Great review! I enjoyed reading it.

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