Bluesound Node (2021) Gen 3

Bluesound Node (2021) Gen 3


This Bluesound Node (2021) is the latest incarnation of the Node range that has evolved from the initial launch of the N100 back in April 2015, ushering in the headlong rush to HiFi network streaming. At the first Node launch, I was immediately impressed with the vision, pricing and quality behind the range that still features the PowerNode, an amplified Node, and the Vault for networking and storing and ripping CDs.

Design

Bluesound Node (2021)

The Bluesound Node (2021) has it covered, pretty much apart from DSD

This latest streaming Bluesound Node (2021) is a streaming preamplifier DAC. This Node could be referred to as Generation 3 or the N130 Node. The Bluesound Node (2021) has a Quad-core 1.8GHz ARM® Cortex™ A53 processor that manages HDMI eARC, Apple AirPlay 2, aptX HD Bluetooth and USB you can stream music from most sources. Happily, for me, it has Tidal Connect too and it is Roon ready. One thing to note over the Node 2i is that this Bluesound Node (2021) has HDMI ARC.

I feel I should point out the Node does not do DSD, for me, this is no big deal.  I have yet to find a DSD recording I want, let alone have, that I want to listen to.

You can listen to your Bluesound Node (2021) music through your HiFi system, (analogue or digital out) or through wired or wireless headphones. Connections include RCA, TOSLINK optical, and a 3.5mm input jack.

The Bluesound Node (2021) can connect to the internet through Wi-Fi or Ethernet. You can control your Node using the BluOS control system which features as an App on Android or iOS or as a desktop program from a laptop. The BluOS system can be set to respond to Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant but I have not done this and it looks like a process and half.  Still, pretty cool though.

Quality

Bluesound Node (2021)

Bluesound Node (2021) has a new top panel with presets and a volume slider

This latest Bluesound Node (2021) is very similar to the 2i with a few differences on the top panel. The same blue glowing indicator light prevails at the front, but the top indicator panel is different which lights up on approach. There are now 5 presets, which are very easily set in the App and a new volume slider which is a nice touch, so now you can simply walk up to the Node, hit your preset and you’re away.

The Bluesound Node (2021) is retailing in the UK at £549. It is 220 x 90 x 191mm and is 1.84kg. It comes in black or white.

Performance

Review Equipment

I’m using the Bluesound Node (2021) as a streaming DAC mainly, with fixed analogue out to the Moor angel preamplifier, which in turn is Tellurium Q XLR’d to the Moor Amps Angel 6. The combination is a dream. I have also just received a pair of PMC Twenty5 26i floorstanding speakers and they are epic, but for most of my listening tough I’m using the now very familiar and excellent Kudos Cardea C10 speakers which are sadly returning home next week.

I’ve also been using the Bluesound Node (2021) as a transport into the iFi PRO iDSD which is also connected to the Angel pre. This improves the usability of the iFi no end as the BluOS application is a hundred times better than the mconnect App for the iFi.

Physically

The footprint (about the size of a standard paperback) of the Bluesound Node (2021) makes it a very flexible option on shelving and makes isolation that bit easier with its positional flexibility. There is no off button, still, with these Bluesound Nodes which slightly annoys me, but it is not a game-changer obviously, I have so much stuff on standby I’m past caring. In the month of COP26, I feel a certain weight of guilt with all these standbys and other lights glowing like fireflies at night-time.

General Listening

You have to say that this is still the go-to entry-level streaming DAC, and at this price, you cannot complain about anything. Here you have a perfect operating system in iOS, Android or desktop that is supplemented with a headphone output.

Since we’ve just had Halloween, I’m going to describe the flexibility, resolution, and presentation from this Bluesound Node (2021) in three versions of Ghost Town.

Derin Nauendorf’s Ghost Town (Qobuz 16 bit, 44.1kHz) has guitars that are wider than the Tasman Sea (he’s Australian!). The Kudos C10s are ideally suited to this type of track being in the treble and the midrange and the dynamic Moor Amps Angel 6 leaves nothing behind.

The Specials’ Ghost Town (Qobuz 16 bit, 44.1kHz), of course, is the most rhythmic and atmospheric track of the 80s and the trumpet solo is presented by the Node is pitch perfect. Finally, Benson Boone’s GHOST TOWN (Qobuz 24 bit, 44.1kHz) has a ton of rolling bass that the Node deals with, with ease. There is very little the Node cannot offer on the audio side.

Bluesound Node 2i

Bluesound Node (2021) I have a Node 2i alongside the Gen 3 also analogue into the Angel preamplifier, same network, similar ethernet cable. Really there is not a great deal of difference between them with this revealing set-up.  I feel as if there may be a slight lift in performance but I wouldn’t put my mortgage on it.  The output is very energetic and clear anyway.  If you have a 2i you can be quite happy you’re not being hugely outflanked by the 3, and if you don’t, just get a Gen 3 Node. If your Node is going to be part of a TV ARC type set up this Node Gen 3 has you covered where the 2i has no HDMI ARC.

3.5mm Headphone Output

I’m fixed output to the preamplifier but if I insert a headphone jack it cuts the fixed out and the volume slider on the top is in play, although, I’m finding the top touch panel is slightly too sensitive for my fat fingers. As a headphone amplifier, the output is OK and flicking between tracks in the most immersive medium is a real pleasure.

Overall

At this price and for the quality you are getting, this is certainly your go-to, entry streaming source. What it doesn’t do in streaming terms isn’t worth doing. It does not have a screen or a remote but really the operating system options are perfectly adequate. If you’re wondering what to do with an old Hifi system, you can move into the modern world with a Bluesound Node and be sure you are getting an energetic and clear HiRes solution.

Love
OS on Android, Apple and desktop
Multiple flexibilities
Decent transport option if you have a topline DAC
Like
Overall value
Dead easy to get up and running
Presents are useful if you can remember them
The idea of Alexa/Siri/Goggle voice control
Wish
At this price, nothing
 

Specification

Full details are on the company’s site.

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