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Bluesound Node 2i Punches Well Above Its Weight

Bluesound Node 2i Review

This Bluesound Node 2i Review isn’t some yabber yabber exercise at going through what specs mean, design, connections and sound quality, although I’ll list specs at the end. Get that anywhere else on the internet and take your pick.

This is the brutally honest view from a HiFi aficionado who has been scolded so many times as a reviewer and punter, that I’d have 99% burns by now, with only eyeballs poking out. Maybe that job might be finished of by throwing acid…which is wrong in some people’s eyes. 😉

You get all the connectivity you’ll need for a stand alone streaming box for a HiFi and so many streaming services to gander at, as well as a good control app : BluOS. The squeezebox based players that started the streaming revolution, leading to Sonos boxes like the Zone Player, then Connect, were all used with much more expensive HiFi. This was mainly a function of streaming infancy ten or so years ago, and lack of development of audiophile branded products perhaps. Bluesound however developed the original Node, an unwieldy boxy cubey looking thing. Then we had the Node 2, of same form as this upgraded model – the 2i. Out for a while – I know, but no less decent, being my first poke.

‘Bolt’ the Node 2i onto an existing HiFi amp
Bluesound Node 2i Review
Bluesound Node 2i Review

I tried the original Node 2 and had it on a par with my £1500 ish Cyrus Stream X Signature, in a different sonic way. Not hard, but indicative of a nod to the old early streaming days I mention, that streamers well designed don’t need to be over-engineered. That they can work well in expensive systems. To my ears on a £20k ish HiFi it sounds qualitatively as good as an expensive and very poor value for money Auralic Aries G1. The thing is, the Node not only sounds as good in the type of premium, but admittedly not uber premium system, that I am using it in. But also, by implication, it will sound good in budget set ups. I’ve tried the 2i across Hegel Amps, Cyrus Amps, and various speakers over about a month now (including the new PMC twenty5 23i’s) and every time it impresses for only $549 (£500).

When you start throwing in bias of products, a view expense means better, HiFi brand fanboys, and thinking an aluminium cased product looks better, it is easy to sinker people to a view the product sounds better. Not always is this the case, particularly in streaming. What HiFi said the Node 2i isn’t out of place in their reference system comprising ATCSCM50 speakers, and I’d definitely mirror such sentiments of its ‘punching above weight’ credentials. If you’ve bought one on a budget, you’ve bought an absolute steal of a product and if you bought one for a premium system then congrats with sensible thinking because it will hold its own there too. A dealer told me a customer was happy with one in use with a £8k Chord DAVE DAC instead of more expensive streamers. The mantra junk in junk out is definitely less important nowadays with well designed digital audio.

Plug your TT into the Node 2i and share across network to other BluOS devices
Bluesound Node 2i Review
Bluesound Node 2i Review

In my system the 2i sounds better streaming Qobuz and Tidal from the Internet directly and over Roon, as of course it is a Roon Ready device, than my £2300 Innuos Zenith Mk2. Noisy ethernet controllers on the Innuos are a reason bandied about. The Innuos pips it playing music off its hard drive though, with the usual greater dynamics, and relative flattened approach with the Node 2i on song. But with streaming the 2i is more clear and open in presentation with a bigger soundstage to the Innuos’ overly smoothed presentation where is compresses the mids and adds to much of a tonally thick presentation with bass. It is equally on par with the brilliant Allo DigiOne Signature, used with an Allo Shanti linear PSU. The DAC is decent in the Node 2i too, if not anywhere near standalone DAC products of the ilk of Qutest, RME. It’s in similar territory to the Musical Fidelity MX-DAC.

Recently BlueSound teamed up with Jazz Re:Freshed and MQA this Sunday gone, to bring live MQA streaming to BluOS for the first time. I watched all the way through and I’m sure such functionality will be on trend in the future. Sets from Anthony Joseph and Sahra Gure were captivating watching on YouTube on a Panasonic GZ2000 50″ OLED TV, whilst playing the live concert through my Cyrus/PMC system.

Bluesound Node 2i Review - Jazz Re:Freshed
See video on how MQA livestreams work with BluOS app

You wont be able to convert those people who say a 4x more expensive streamer like the Auralic Aries G1, sounds better to them. I’m not going to say they are all wrong, but yet again I might because how many times have we bought HiFi and then done a reality check later? Also I’m looking at it impartially. I really don’t care if a Node 2i improves on what I’ve bought because I have no ego with HiFi and products are always improving against what I own. It’s a brave person to admit a purchase isn’t VFM when they own it therefore and a lot of variables come into purchasing, as I’ve discussed. It might only be enough to think price means better because I have a £2000 budget, to place the Auralic beyond Node 2i!

In an article on Tech Radar posted way back in 2007, AVI chief Ashley James, now retired from the industry, but very interesting to talk too as prep for this article, raised criticism that some HiFi companies were ripping off customers and that the HiFi press are failing to point out price discrepancies and opinions on whether HiFi gear is value for money. I think this is still true in most online HiFi review circles. Dressing up value for money with the evergreen ‘you decide’, which doesn’t wash in consumer circles.

It means that if you can’t ever say that a component is of similar performance at a lower price, because it would offend the sensibilities of the manufacturer who is paying your advertising revenue, then you aren’t doing reviewing at all. As Ashley points out:- one of reviews golden rules, he says, is never to say that a cheaper product is better than a more expensive one. But what if cheaper bests expensive? Where do you draw the line on your own integrity, if you have one, that is? In my experience this isn’t true most of the time, probably 80-90%, since I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for, except possibly audio cables (in the types of systems I use). This approach of not cutting price corners to performance and investment in it, works most of the time. Not here though!

What does work so well here, trying to hazard a perceptive summation of this product, is that when we utilize a mass market streaming box of 2i’s credentials, a well designed and engineered, but not overly engineered streamer, is probably bound to be good and sell well. Often I just feel that in streaming many Audiophile players are scrabbling around trying to sell £2000 plus streamers for single percentage points in performance for not much value for money. The sensible money is here Mr Darko, despite the fact you’d never say it, because this streamer is a very accomplished product indeed. And yes, I am allowed to wax lyrical when HiFi is this good, at sensible prices but performing as well as some more expensive gear!


Watch my film here:


Manufacturer

Website : https://www.bluesound.com/
Support : https://support.bluos.net/hc/en-us


Specifications

  • Hi Res Formats : FLAC, MQA, WAV, AIFF
  • Sampling Rated : 32 – 192 kHz
  • Bit Depths : 16-24 bits
  • DAC : 32-Bit, 192kHz
  • Compatible with UPnP NAS drives, Windows PC’s and MAC’s
  • Internet Radio
  • Connectivity : WiFi and Fixed Ethernet
  • USB Input for music drives (FAT32 or NTFS formatted)
  • Audio Inputs – 3.5mm analogue / Toslink Digital combo
  • Audio Outputs : headphone 3.5mm, 12V trigger, Coaxial RCA digital, Toslink / Optical digital, Analogue RCA (to HiFi)
  • Bluetooth : 5.0 aptX HD
  • Processor : ARM® CORTEX™ A9, 1 GHz
  • Weight : 1.12 kg / 2.45 lbs
  • Dimensions : 220 x 46 x 146 mm

Bluesound Node 2i Logo

Price

£500 / $549

27 Comments

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  1. Hi Simon. I visit your site off and on. Most times you make sense, but I am seeing a lot more angst about Darko in your writings these days. I am no supporter of him, but I do like his presentation style without always agreeing with his point of view. He has always held the Node 2i to a very high standard in all his outputs that I have come across. But isn’t it also true that there are customers with money to spare who want something more esoteric (in a manner of speaking) and he has the right to cater to them too? There will always be space for great products at sensible prices as well as “state of the art” products at outrageous prices..a.k.a. Ferrari….and yes “state of the art” products will always need a “curated” space to showcase their performance – that’s what makes them so special. Each to their own. Well that’s my useless advice… Thanks

    • Definetely not, Good advice – thanks. I totally get your point. But sorry don’t agree…I think you’ve got to be bold enough to cater for most people and that’s the way you look at it when reviewing. Can you imagine Jeremy Clarkson trying to hedge his bets that a rubbish car is as good as one everyone else considers better? I’ve no interest in a cigarette lighter chord 2go for £1000 where the difference to a streaming phone is not there, or even if someone thinks it is, it’s still very slight And low vfm. I’d rather go on holiday. If you don’t cater to what, you think, most will think, it will be a kind of near shilling mishmash of product performance similarity. He can substantiate leaving all decisions and value for money to the buyer, because that suits the sales agenda and him getting paid. It basically means it’s not a review. I also never cater for fan boys in reviews of people who buy just because of the name and keeping up with the Jones’ approach. The products have to stand on comparative merit to other brand products. Him saying a product is good effectively does that to people who fan buy.

      • Since Jeremy Clarkson is your benchmark…..I don’t recall him finding any car below 70K worthwhile…..most times he is dissing every sensible middle of the price range car. He is forever spotted testing and speaking eloquently about performance cars from McLaren, Audi, Ferrari, Land Rover……and dissing VW, Vauxhall, Skoda, Toyota….and he too like Darko gets paid to pitch. Just saying. But never mind. Each to his own, I guess.

        • Of course he does. They drive across deserts in cars costing £1500 which they rave about, and he loves fords and the Ford Fiesta which is cheap (I drive one) which he bought for his daughter. He says it’s a fantastic car. He doesn’t diss all Vw. He drives a GTI and likes some hates others. See here https://www.driving.co.uk/car-reviews/the-clarkson-review-ford-fiesta-zetec-s-red-edition-2015/ where he says “buy a GTI”

          Sorry you’ve got your facts wrong here. He doesn’t get paid to pitch. He gets paid through the budget the show generates. Amazon pay him x and make 2 time x. But his production company with May and Hammond, is a totally different animal in the sense they derive income from Amazon (grand tour) so are independent of the manufacturers. He hates some expensive performance cars too if you watch. Darko gets paid directly by the people whose reviews he does, via ad space, and some Patreon money. Ads are typically in the thousands for the type of traffic he will drive. Largely that’s why he is independent and Darko and HiFi isn’t, because the people who promote the products are on the payroll.

  2. Great video Simon, very nicely put together. Your review is honest and objective and I’ve always thought there are much greater gains to be made by upgrading a DAC, rather than a streaming transport. The node 2i, for me, offers a fantastic solution for a streaming transport (it’s DAC is good too), with either digital coaxial or optical outputs. It perhaps just misses a usb output, for the highest sample rates etc for high-end dacs.

    I have one myself though, and am delighted with the performance, especially for the price. I do feel the app is not quite as good as some reviewers have stated, but it is certainly better than many others out there…

    Cheers, Simon.

    • Hi Simon, Thanks very much for such nice comments. So so true with streamers and unless I start spending £20k on speakers, which isn’t anytime soon, I’m unlikely to revise my position which is for most people who buy HiFi. That’s why the g1 is a bit galling as it is exactly the type of streamer someone might buy in systems like mine or lesser. When I see someone with a g1 and a modest £500 DAC I just think it’s crazy. A lot of it is miss-selling at the dealer. Bw simon

    • Great review Simon.. I have the bluesound node 2i and considering adding the chord cutest.. I guess it’s a worthwhile upgrade to the internal dac.. the system is about 8700 Canadian, monitor audio gold 100, Audia flight FL3s, and the bluesound.. ps audio audioquest cables not to expensive.. streaming tidal .
      Thanks

  3. You are a wonderful reviewer Simon. The Node 2i sounds magnificent and you promoted it like it should. Manufacturers who make this music and engineering marvel at a reasonable cost to consumers must be commended. And so are you.

    • Wow what did I deserve for that, can I modestly say. Thank you so much. Means a lot.
      I think you are right, the Video review and enthusiasm and effort into the review should be commensurate with the performance – you are so so right! Instead of the usual meh of many HiFi channels, where it’s all the same,

  4. Hi Simon,

    A very good honest review. I’ve owned the Bluesound Vault 2 for nearly four years and think it’s great. I’ve compared it to several other streamers from Auralic, Moon, Lindemann etc and pound for pound it’s very good. The internal DAC is decent although I prefer to use my external Rega DAC R. It’s a very natural, organic sound. The main reason for dropping you a line is the new “autoclock trim” setting which has recently appeared in the BluOS audio settings. Well worth playing around with if using an external DAC. To my ears it’s really taken the Vault and Node to the next level of streaming quality; a subtle but important change. Let me know what you think. By the way, the BluOS App is terrific isn’t it?

    Ed

  5. Hi Simon
    Thanks for an insightful review.
    Looking for upgrading my BOTL yamaha streamer wxad10 to make my Pathos amp and Triangle speakers a little more justice, I settled on the node2i as being what seems a sweet spot for a very reasonable money all in one box solution.
    Your review of the RME dac makes me wonder though. How would they compare sound wise? Obviously the rme needs a Transport then but the room correction features Are very appealing And the price still within reason. Tidal/spotify are my only sources.

    Thanks
    Guillaume

    • Thanks.Sound of rme a different level to the node 2i. My advice is think of the Bluesound node 2i just for a transport which is fantastic, but not as hugely accomplished as a dac (for audiophile spheres like us). Hope Bw simon

  6. Hi Simon,

    is there a difference in sound quality between Node 2 and Node 2i if you use the streamer only via digital output to a external DAC ?

    best regards
    Pol

    • I did have a node 2 once but too long ago to say and I’d need to check with a to b. You can get a node 2i on a money back thing if you aren’t happy. I’m assuming you own the node 2 and are looking to upgrade. Bw simon

  7. I have a Node 2 without the I and still gets regular updates and have also connected my TV by the toshlink mini for great sound and enjoy radio by the Tunein app in the BleuOS app, made my Stereo NAD 356 21st century, and I had a big mp3 file on my NAS-harddisc, totally amazing wat a good DAC can do to these.
    Greetings from Holland

  8. Hello, I congratulate you for the Review, what is your opinion about the cambridge audio cxn? Do you still prefer the bluesound node 2i?

    • You’ll find small differences between them as streaming transports but the CXN is really about its twin dual mono DACs. That’s what you are buying it for. If you want a streaming transport and you like your DAC, go for the node 2i.

  9. Your review reminds me of the tale of ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ You are the child who on viewing the King’s procession blurted out ‘The King’s got no clothes on!’ and all the adults heads went up in dismay that such a political faux pas..! But the child is new to this world, not yet evolved to the cynical world of adults and only spoke what he saw; the truth.

    Praise to your bravery to challenge the some would say hypocrites of the HiFi world and sometimes you may be controversial, its part of the journey. Bravo

  10. Just found your site and enjoy it already. Nice review and you got me interested in Bluesound again.

    I was unfortunately thoroughly disappointed in Allo USBridge Signature w. Shanti, that I bough for my office. I read your views on the recent Auralic gear 😉 But comparing the Allo to my Aries G2 was surprisingly easy and direct. The Allo was hands down different and worse. I had hoped for “kind of similar” because I’ve never been afraid of switching to cheaper gear. And streamers shouldn’t be that difficult to design one would think.

    Hopefully the Bluesound is better and my next contender. Sure “sounds” promising!

  11. Simon

    Have you heard any of the Sonos Connect mods (Wyred 4 sound or Magna)? Would the Bluesound 2i yield better SQ? I have the Magna mod.

    Appreciate your honest reviews.

    • Thanks very much. I don’t think I’d bother tbh re modding one personally. I did have the old unmodded connect and it was a bit thin sounding compared to the new port I reviewed, nor as detailed as a node 2i. The node 2i is a good option as it’s great for the money and for the difference between the unmodded connect it is a good upgrade.

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Written by Simon Price

I'm an audio lover who likes sharing experiences of faithfully reproduced audio in a CREDIBLE, BALANCED and ENGAGING way. I’m interested in products; their looks, functionality and features, and most importantly how they sound! My reviews keep technicalities easy, as I believe great audio is non exclusive and to be enjoyed by all! It's all about the music!

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