||BluOS supporting iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS
||Wi-Fi5, Ethernet GigE1000 Mbps, Bluetooth 5.0 aptXHD, Mini Toslink, 3.5 mm analogue, Airplay 2
||HDMI, USB Type A
||32-bit, 192 kHz powered by ARM Cortex A9 @ 1 GHz processor
|Native sampling rates
||Up to 192 kHz
||RCA analogue stereo, RCA coax, 3.5 mm Headphone, Bluetooth, RCA Sub, Wireless to PULSE SUB+
|File format compatibility
||MP3, AAC, WMA, WMA-L, OGG, ALAC, OPUS, FLAC, MQA, WAV, AIFF
|Signal to Noise Ratio
||220 x 46 x 146 mm (WxHxD)
The previous gen of the now current BlueSound Node reveals a precision driven, towering digital performance. Will be hard to beat otherwise.
PRICE R13 490.00
SUPPLIED BY Audioholics 011-453-2365
In the battle for technology simplicity stakes there is a little rivalry between myself and Hugo, who is convinced that Apple is the easiest of all tech to integrate. I, on the other hand, am not so easily convinced and have moved on with life since the advent of the iPod.
And so with my mitts on this, the BlueSound Node 2i to give it its full title, the process of accessing new technology and visions of complications looming, I began.
The start was good because unboxing the unit was a pleasure. Packaging quality is excellent and the unit itself is heavy, robust and yet compactly unobtrusive. In my case attaching the Tributary interconnects and the power cable was the only hard wiring that I needed to do. Child’s play. Turning it on however does require the plug to be inserted into the power socket – which by now you would think I had mastered the ability to get right.
You’d be wrong. When I discovered that there is no power on/off switch (why would there be?) and plugged it into the best quality Eskom available, the process of installation become remarkably easier.
There is no easy way to say this. The Bluesound has been the simplest tech device I have ever encountered. Setup took me under a minute and that included downloading the app and logging into my Tidal account. I have to say it was a genuine and rare pleasure to see technology devolved to simplicity itself without making a ‘look at me’ fuss about the complexities behind it. It has set a new standard personally that all others will be measured against.
In essence, the Node 2i is a media streamer that connects itself to your wired or wireless network. It then accesses your streaming service, downloads the digital signal and then either uses its own DAC to feed into your amp, or sends the digital signal as a pre-out to an external DAC for processing.
The benefits are that now you have no Bluetooth compression or digital translation being done by your mobile, tablet or laptop connecting itself to your system. All of that is taken care of by streaming the pure digital signal from source by the Node, which theoretically, is almost perfect (i.e. lossless, if your streaming source is up to the task). In this process it reduces the role of your mobile/table/PC to that of a remote control.
I wired the system using the onboard DAC and analogue outputs via RCA to the amp. About as simple as you can get and I got stuck into some proper listening. The unit features a quad core internal dedicated processor to the task of slicing and dicing digital into analogue 32-bits at a time at 192 kHz. In other words this is a pretty big engine.
From the outset the immediate clarity/cleanliness of the sound was deeply impressive. Digital always has been, but this is on another level. There is precision hinted at here in the opening tracks that carries through each and every performance. My CSLs just about lit up, and the performance that they were now able to put forward elevated them to levels that rival anything I have heard from them in some time. The levels of detail just kept on coming with each track revealing new levels of transparency and dynamics to the point where time more or less stood still and two hours had passed in the blink of an eye.
Despite the added tonal range and dynamic range fed through to the amp it is always easy to overcook matters. A rookie mistake if ever there was one, but the Node actively encourages you by presenting such a clean source that of course you simply don’t notice the volume. Pushing my Yammie to the max was accidental!
However, it is always a sign that you are in the presence of something special when the sound pressure levels are blowing the windows out from their frames and your ears aren’t noticing…
The Bluesound was giving me plenty of everything to an unexpected level. It takes some getting used to with levels of detail that I’m used to from reference source CDs. It is quite hard to believe that a lowly fibre and wi-fi connection today blows away the best of digital from just a few years back. If I am completely honest I was expecting some digital glare – the jargon we used back when digital was sometimes a little on the bright side and one got the mids and tops being filled in with an abrupt wave termination. The exact explanation eludes me and frankly doesn’t interest all that much – if a thing sounded average, it sounded average and that was an end to it.
In my mind I half expected the Node to choke on the wireless connectivity and to ‘fill in’ the gaps on its own. If it did, I didn’t notice and with tracks that I know well I found nothing but surprise as to just how good this unit is, and how musical at that. The gap between the recording studio to the carrier (vinyl, CD, Internet) has almost closed to the point where we are getting the same thing that the recording engineer actually made. The Node makes the rest of your system sound as good as it can be and it is a bad idea to buy one because that’s where your spend will begin…
The Node 2i then. Borderline sliced bread stuff – one of those things that take music forward a few bold steps and not just at a timid pace. The onboard DAC is going to prove to be more than sufficient in most setups with a wide, believable and accurate sound stage. Pace and punch are going to be limited only by amp and speaker. All the music is there and the rest of the system behind it just needs to be able to reproduce it.
This is the very definition of the role of a good source. To get as much musical ‘data’ as possible to feed into amplification to replicate a performance as recorded, or as the recording engineer intended. Losses at source can never be recreated – they’re gone. And hence good quality source material and good quality source acquisition of this material as accurately as possible is the first but vital step in building a musical performance platform.
That the Bluesound does this, so emphatically, and adds the convenience of a streaming service to what has effectively now made any CD collection redundant, is a statement of fact. What an outstanding, musical and believable device.
Just about the only thing bad about it is that it has just been replaced by the more powerful Node, at R500 less. And yes, we’ll have that in the system soon.