Bluesound Node 2i – Review

Bluesound Node 2i – Review


Bluesound Node 2iThis is my Review of the Bluesound Node 2i which is the top drawer Hi-Res streamer of the moment.  The specification below says it all with a huge array of functionality.  The ‘i ‘ is much the same as the Node 2 with some minor ‘fettling’ on performance, the key addition of AirPlay2, 5GHz wi-fi, 2-way aptX Bluetooth and some other operational changes through the app make it a 2i and not a 3!

Design

Bluesound Node 2iThe Bluesound Node 2i is the music streamer bit of the audio chain, the key being its huge digital functionality that includes USB and AirPlay2 as well as Alexa and other voice compatibility (see Spec. below).  In the Bluesound stable there is also a streaming integrated amplifier (the Power Node that is now also 2i) and there is a 2 TB Hard Drive Ripper and Streamer called the Vault (that is like a Node with a NAS drive built in, also 2i).  There are also various ‘Sonos’ style powered speakers.  The Node then is just the streaming bit and as anyone who has read my posts recently I am erring heavily towards separate boxes doing their thing as well as possible, this is one such excellent example.

Quality

you have the feeling this 2i has no room for any more wizardry and it is built to last

I have the Matte White Bluesound Node 2i that has a soft feel plastic case.  It feels sturdy enough, heavy enough and overall I’m delighted with the basic feel of it.  The old 1st Generation Node is very plasticky and it always feels a bit empty but you have the feeling this 2i has no room for any more wizardry and it is built to last.  My main take away is how wonderfully understated it looks, with a discreet blue light indicating sentience and a front 3.5mm jack for headphones output.  I would prefer the USB input on the front myself so you can slot it in and out with ease, particularly as I have a couple of USBs these days with varying 24 bit collections.

Specification

From the site (June 2019)

Bluesound Node 2iSupported File Formats – MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC, OPUS

Hi-Res formats – FLAC, MQA, WAV, AIFF

Native Sampling Rates – 32 – 192 kHz

Bit Depths – 16 – 24

DAC – 32-Bit, 192kHz

Supported Operating Systems
Plays music from network shares on the following desktop operating systems: Microsoft Windows XP, 2000, Vista 7-10, Apple Macintosh 7-10

Free Internet Radio – TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, Calm Radio, Radio Paradise, Slacker Radio

Supported Cloud Services – Spotify, Amazon Music, TIDAL, Deezer , Qobuz, HighResAudio, Murfie, Napster, KKBox, Bugs, Taihe Music ZONE, SoundMachine.

Integration Partners – Control4, RTI, Crestron, URC, push, iPort, ELAN, Lutron, roon, Amazon Alexa Skills, Airplay 2

Network- Gigabit Ethernet RJ45, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac, dual-band)
USB- 1 x Type-A port for connection to USB memory sticks (Fat32 or NTFS formatted) and supported peripherals, 1 x Type-B (mini) for product servicing

Audio Input – Combo – TOSLINK / 3.5mm

Audio Output – Analog RCA Stereo with FIXED option, Coaxial RCA, TOSLINK digital optical, Headphone 3.5mm Stereo, Subwoofer RCA

Bluetooth Quality – Bluetooth 5.0 aptX HD wireless built-in

Bluetooth Connectivity – Two-Way (transmit & receive)

Mobile Operating System – BluOS – Free Android and iOS App Available Online at Google Play and Apple App Store

Push Buttons – Simple top-panel touch controls.

Unit Weight – 1.12 kg / 2.45 lbs

Gross Dimensions – 220 x 46 x 146 mm (8.7 x 1.8 x 5.7 in)

Finish – Available in White or Black Matte

Performance

…this Bluesound Node 2i is a remarkably good piece of digital kit, particularly at this price.  That is a buy recommendation in anyone’s book

Set-up

Having recently said goodbye to the amazing Rega Osiris amplifier I’m back using my own Roksan K2, still not wanting for power, and supplemented by an Atlas Eos dd power supply on an Atlas Power Conditioner.  The Roksan Kandy K2 is driving my own very wonderful Jern 14 DS cast iron speakers with QED Supremus speaker cable supported by a REL 5i subwoofer.  The room is currently upgraded by GIK Acoustics sound panels.  I’m hoping to see ight of the rather exciting, if eccentric, MicroMega M-150 amp next week, that will be a combination to listen to!

Analog RCA output

This has been my main listening set-up using the RCA output direct to amplification using the BluOS Desktop App on my Dell or the Android App on my phone.   I am bound to say, performance and overall quality has been outstanding and I am really enjoying having such a clean and crisp source from which to listen to music.

With the choice of TuneIn Radio, Radio Paradise, Spotify, Amazon Music, TIDAL, Deezer , Qobuz, HighResAudio and  Napster, to mention the ones I’ve herd ofm  I’m not short of choice but I’ll stick with Tidal for the purposes of this review, I must get into Qobuz which I really enjoyed with the Auralic stuff last year.

The Roksan K2 has plenty of power and detail so it is nicely suited to this high-quality source and of course it illustrates the flexibility of the 2i, that it can be easily hooked up to a moderate amplifier and deliver such a great sound.  I suspect the 2i would slot into most old school stereo systems and deliver a quality solution to any modern digital listening need.

Dynamic Performance

The Bluesound Node 2i is a great performer here, with good crisp delivery and excellent channel separation (Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’.  It feels as if the output range is more than covered.  I’ve listened to my stock tracks and ‘2049’ has all the power and resonance you need with the Roksan just about coping.  Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’ is expertly delivered here too.

Sound stage

The sound stage set-up by the Bluesound Node 2i is excellent and the delivery with this system is deep and really rather exciting, there is a new energy in the room with the Bluesound Node 2i easily crushing my 1st generation Node; I think I’m in the market for one of these, no question.

Resolution

The detail from Tidal Masters is terrific in the Bluesound Node 2i.  I’ve had a nice play too with some 24 bit recordings, see below and I’m really very happy with the overall performance here.  I’m having a Richmond Fontaine period at the moment, on the back of falling in love with The Delines this year, and many of their tracks are incredibly detailed with guitars and vocals pushed to the front, wonderful.

USB

I’ve got a big and fast Sandisk USB Cruzer Blade with my favourite 24 bit recordings, not least OK Computer.   I’ve had a small amount of bother with the track duration not lining up properly (Desktop and Android App) but apart from that all of the resolution is there and it very easy to access.

Connectivity

Thus far, several weeks now, I have had no issues with connectivity with the 2i, I’m using it wired to my router.  The Android App is pretty good although of course I’m used to it through my 1st gen. Node.  When I plugged in the 2i I was asked if I wanted to update it which I did without hesitation and after 20 minutes or so I was on the road.

Toslink, Coax RCA Output, Sub Woofer RCA Output

I’ve not played with the Toslink or Coax out in the absence of a decent DAC at the moment. If I received the MicroMega amp next week, I’ll have a play.

Alexa and Siri, Multiroom stuff, AirPlay 2

I’ve not messed about with this functionality, mainly because I’m not into all this multi room nonsense and it just aggravates me.  I have no reason to have this attitude, but I do.  I must say, my first play with Alexa last week was fun and the idea of having decent output from Alexa does seem like fun to me!   So for me, an Amazon dot into this Bluesound Node 2i connected to my old Naim Uniti 2 would do the job in my kitchen area and it would deliver Bluetooth for me too, my Uniti 2 is pre-Bluetooth.  I’m very interested.

Bluetooth (two way)

The aptX Bluetooth is really good, connectivity has been nothing but faultless with my Pixel 2 xl.  Using the Tidal App, the output is regulation crystal clear, though I would always prefer the inbuilt Tidal interface.

Headphone output

The 3.5mm standard headphone output is good, it is not a reason to buy the 2i but it is perfectly serviceable if you didn’t have speaker output, then why not?  Using a very new (but run in) pair of very light, comfortable and airy Meze 99 Neos (review to follow after the incredible Empyreans), the resolution and control is very good indeed.  Switching to more familiar Oppo PM-3s, the sound is confirmed with control and a lovely wide open sound stage.  I’ve got a feeling these Meze 99s are pretty special.

Headphone output means, necessarily I step away from the Desktop App, however, the top side soft touch buttons on the 2i are now a necessity for volume control and it all feels rather good.  I don’t think I need a remote for this (use the Android App) but it might be nice.

Overall

I was advised the 1st generation Node I have has been improved on significantly and I was quite skeptical but I have to say this Bluesound Node 2i is a remarkably good piece of digital kit, particularly at this price.  That is a buy recommendation in anyone’s book, I’ll be making enquires for sure.

Love

Overall Sound

Clarity

Totally understated look

Like

HD aptX Bluetooth

Headphone output

Wish

The USB was at the front for ease of access

There was either an off switch or a standby mode (though it only consumes 4W idle)

The Bluesound Node 2i is retailing near £499 everywhere

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