Bluesound Node is a great place to start. It has a solid interface and supports a whole host of streaming services as well as internet radio.
Get started there, and then if you want to take it further, take it up a notch with an outboard DAC. If you look to the used market, you can definitely put together a very nice streaming rig within a $1K to $2K budget with a Bluesound Node of any generation (N100, Node 2, or Node 2i) as your starting point.
For the money, a Bluesound Node 2 or 2i combined with something like a Chord Qutest or Ayre Codex would make for an absolutely killer combination. But hey, older kit, like a Bluesound Node N100 combined with something like a Bryston BDA-1 wouldn't be at all shabby, and that combo could probably be had for around $1K.
The Bluesound Node2i is a streamer/DAC that you can connect to wirelessly or with an ethernet cable. The BluOs app that you would download to your phone for free is a really nice app that will allow you to connect with and control Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Internet radio, etc. It is easy to set up and use. It’s probably about as easy to use as you can get. It shows you the album art, titles, and tracklists. It is just a really good basic app. Help is available from Bluesound or here if you need it.
For $500 you get good sound. For more money there is much better sound out there. You don’t seem to be a hard core audiophile, obsessed with the way you system sounds, so I think it would be a very good entry option into streaming for you. It is not the only option, though.
I see them used for sale here for $350 from time to time. I don’t know what they actually sell for, but you won’t have to take a big loss if you don’t like it. If in time you want better sound you can buy a better DAC and just use the Node to stream.
I love streaming. The ability to access so many albums so easily is just great. The week’s new albums are on your phone automatically every Friday. Read about an album that sounds interesting and just pull it up on your phone and give it a listen. A lot of music is easier to enjoy if you don’t have to buy a copy of it. It ends the buyer’s remorse problem.
I’ll let someone else give you another option.
The best sounding and most functional all in on unit you are going to find under $2000, though just barely, is the Teac NT-505. While the Node will accomplish the streaming part you would need to buy an outboard DAC for acceptable sound quality up to the standards of the rest of your gear. A far better option to the Node 2 if you don't want to go to the top of your budget may be the Volumio Primo.
Thx, guys. Question. This stuff is still confusing to me. How does something like Bluesound node2 and Chord Qutest work together? What does each do? Would the node be sort of like the front end (get and manage the streaming) and the Chord do the actual conversion?
And it's true, while there are much more hard core audiophiles out there, I did buy and sell a lot of pretty good gear to finally put this system together that worked for me. So I definitely have some hard-to-define threshold that is pretty much pass-fail for me.
But yeah, this whole world of content is just siting there for $10-20/month. That's awesome. I mean, I like playing records. Sometimes. But just to be able to play this, then that piece of music without getting out of my chair. Nice.
PS: if someone thinks, oh man, if you'd just spend (fill in a reasonable amount) it'll be a major leap forward, I'd like to know what this is, too. It's only money.
Ok, one more comment/question. So you can sort think of streaming as possibly two things. There's the 'player' - like a CD transport - that sends the digital output to the DAC. So the front end is mainly about connecting to the internet, the music service, and navigating the music (UI). The back end gets the data stream and converts it. Hmm. So if you're not married to MQA, there are a lot of great used DAC's out there. Interesting. Are there devices like Bluesound Node whose only job is to do this streaming interface without an internal DAC?
To answer your question yes there are front end (streamer only) units but they start generally in the area of the top of your budget and are from companies like Lumin, Auralic, Aurender and Innuos unless you want to buy something based on the the Pi concept like Allo. But you said you wanted an all in one unit so those units don't apply to your original ask. In the case of the Node 2ci, to my ears, it may get the front end right but not the back end.
There are all kinds of streamer/DAC combos, or you can just get a streamer sans DAC;, a DAC that only does DACing; streamer/DACs with amplification built in;
streamer-DAC-amplifiers-toasters-car butt warmers, etc.
My advice would be to check the Audio Advisors site. Products range from good midfi to lower level high end. Their sales people are helpful as well.
I would join the chorus that recommends the Node2. It sounds very good and does MQA, which is important for you, and comes in under budget. The DAC is the Achilles Heel, and please don’t be offended, but in the system that you describe, the DAC in the Node2 will sound just fine. In my experience it works better with ethernet, but you seem to have that covered. If you add a DAC, I strongly suggest the Mytek Liberty, which will do MQA.
Square one. A streamer is a highly specialized computer whose only job is to deliver the digital signal to your system. Your system, however, requires an analog signal. That's where the Digtital to Analog Converter (DAC) is necessary.
The Bluesound Node 2Ci contains both so something just under $600 is all you need to spend currently for hardware. You will feed your Node with an ethernet signal which you say you have at the ready. From the Node to your preamp you will need a pair of RCA cables and you are done. Just plug it into your preamp input labeled CD or Aux and sit back.
As a further suggestion, you might consider upgrading your phone/controller/remote from iPhone 6 to something like an iPhone Xr or an iPad Air. The larger screen might come in handy for viewing your options. As a last suggestion, I would recommend you try Qobuz. It seems more inclined toward grownups than Tidal and it does not require MQA which can limit your DAC options should you develop curiosity about how much better things can get at some point in the future.
I bought from Crutchfield where they give you 60 days to decide about your level of satisfaction, and free shipping. The unit lists for $550 but there will be tax. That's why I posted "under $600" rather than a more precise figure.
+1 MacroJack....very good advice.
The BlueSound Node 2i is like a gateway drug. It's a good way to get started, but may leave you wanting for more, especially if you really enjoy the sound of vinyl. It has a great app and is easy to use, but you may eventually find it lacking sonically. If you'd prefer to skip past all of that and have a $2K budget, start with something like the Lumin D2 or TEAC NT-505. You'll probably get some other recommendations in that price range.
Adding a DAC to the Node 2i is a band-aid that will improve the sound quality, but not as much as just buying a better unit. I added an Auralic Vega DAC ($3500 when new) to my Node 2 and while it improved the sound, that combination was easily bested by the all-in-one TEAC NT-505. The app is not as good s the BlueSound app, but you can use the Lumin or Esoteric apps or BubbleupNp or Roon to name a few, all of which are better than the TEAC HR Streaming app.
So here’s what I am hearing. I should just start with the Node 2i. Maybe that’ll be good enough for my system/ears, maybe it won’t. If not, I’ll have a decision: which streaming service (MQA, no MQA) I can test that out a little with node as some tracks have both versions. This will drive decision re what kind of DAC, if that’s important.
PS: it doesn’t hurt my feelings but it does amaze me that my system sits where it does in the universe of audio systems! I’m glad my itch is basically scratched (and don’t want it inflamed again but I have to admit it makes me curious). Ok question. Forget the table, phone pre. Just between the VTL integrated vs Electa Amator II speakers, where’s the weaker link in the chain? (Do not tell my wife I asked this question!!!)
Thx Greg. A second vote of the Teac. Sure do wish I could go hear these but in the days of the virus and being an older guy, no can do.
So you get a controller app on your phone that communicates via bluetooth with the front end functionality and these are interchangeable?
Oh, Greg. Yes, vinyl is def much better than my pretty low end CD player. Difference is musicians in the room vs sound in a box. Which is what my phone hooked into amp sounds like.
And everyone- thanks a lot. I am definitely getting a clearer idea of how to think this through!
I'm in the same boat as far as wanting to get started on a budget but wanting to get decent sound. So does the 2CI have a DAC and the 2I doesnt?
Never played with the Node but I can see the attraction to an all in one option with a great UI.
You could start there and see if it sounds good to you, if not there are external DAC's for under $500 that WILL make you happy, don't let people tell you that you should spend more. That would take it to the next level.
BUT if you already have an iPad or laptop or iPhone even, go ahead and get an external DAC and attach it to one of those and you've got a great option. You won't have that UI of the Node but if you only use one or two services for streaming then you can switch between apps easily.
I've never heard of the Node2ci as far as I know there is only the Node2i
Thanks. Will an Android Work with the better streaming services and a dac or does that change the equation?
Chuck, a few thoughts about your responses.
The TEAC NT-505 has a much "warmer/analog like" sound than the Bluesound. The other thing I noticed immediately was a much bigger and more lifelike soundstage. Not warmer at the expense of detail either, there is plenty of that.
Don't get me wrong, the Bluesound sounds surprisingly good, especially at its price point. You get a lot of convenience and very decent sound in a reasonably priced device. It may actually sound better than your vinyl in the sense that you won't have all the background noise, ticks, pops, etc. that are part of the vinyl experience. What you won't get is the "magic" that happens when you have a good vinyl setup and if you do some back to back comparisons you'll notice more "grain" and "edge" to the sound of the Bluesound.
I personally am indifferent to MQA. Qobuz is my main streaming source (I also have Tidal, Spotify, and Pandora), and to my ears, it sounds as good or better than Tidal, especially the hi-res files.
As far as the controller app, I believe it connects wirelessly, not through bluetooth, but yes, it allows you to control the streamer from your phone or tablet. Some devices have a touch screen that allows you to do it manually, but for the Node 2i and TEAC and many others, the only way to control them is from an app. Some also have apps that can run on your computer (Bluesound does). The app lets you connect to your streaming service(s) as well as any local library you might have. Not all services are supported by the different apps. Bluesound is nice because it supports a wide variety of streaming services. Tidal and Qobuz seem to be pretty widely supported, but that's something to check before you buy - what services are you using and are they supported.
Greg, thanks a lot - seriously - for your input (and everyone else - that a person can go online and get thoughtful discussion re all of this still is incredible to me). Yeah, the vinyl - well, on some albums, it's still just dead quiet; I clean records pretty regularly, etc. But invariably, little pops creep in. Album replacement starts at about $40 so vs HUGE streaming catalog at $10-20/month. That's the real power of streaming. Your description of the Teac is compelling.
@blkwrxwgn how do you get digitial out from an iphone and bypass its internal DAC? Ah, I looked it up, run cable from the lightning port to DAC. But it leaves my streamer/controller wired to the system and that defeats one of my main goals. Rats, at first I thought this might be a way to start...
Oh... qobuz. Never heard of it until this thread. I will look into it. And I never imagined maybe having more than one streaming service! I am old!
I'm the dummy who said Node 2 Ci. So, here's my correction: I should have called it a Node 2i, which is what I meant to say initially.
Now I would like to assure you that, while the Bluesound products are said to fail at tickling the upper reaches of audio purity, they have a very strong following among former purists such as myself, and seemingly, you. So, take my advice and buy one from Crutchfield or any other reputable outfit that will extend you a 60 day money back guarantee. This will give you familiarity with the whole streaming experience and prepare you to proceed from a position of some familiarity should you find that you want to take things up a notch. Return shipping on a 5 lb. item will be your only cost.
Another approach, the one I took, is to buy an NAD M-10 integrated amp to replace everything you now own. It keeps you in the Bluesound universe, gives you an ESS Sabre DAC, excellent streamer, N-Core amplification, Dirac Live room correction, and a compact, elegant looking one box solution. The only other thing you will need is speakers - and you already have great ones. It weighs 11 lbs. and delivers 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms. All the other benefits listed concerning Crutchfield will still apply. They have excellent customer service as well. They will hold your hand all the way through any difficulty or confusion you encounter. I was where you are now last September when I followed the advice I'm offering you now. Very happy with the M-10. Read the reviews. John Darko and Hans Beerkhuyzen have very good explanations on video.
@bajaed The trick is to hold on tight to your budget! So many attractive options that get pricey in a hurry. I am already thinking about options well past my $2k...
A lot of people have an iPad, so that's where a setup like I spoke about comes into play as you're not using your phone.
My short and sweet description (or opinion if you wish) of Tidal vs Qobuz rests on a couple of things.
Tidal seems to be focused on a younger audience. Think hip-hop, pop, rap, etc. It's owned by Jay-Z. Qobuz seems to appeal to a more mature (OK older) audience, with an emphasis on classical, jazz, classic rock, etc.
Their catalogs overlap a lot, although I think Tidal has an overall larger selection.
Tidal uses MQA for "hi-res" files, which requires special software AND hardware to do the full "unfold" of the file (this they MQA capable DACs). Qobuz on the other hand simply provides a lot of high resolution files (mostly 24/96 to 24/192) that play through any DAC capable of playing hi-res files, which most can.
I keep Tidal because sometimes there are things that I want to listen to that aren't available on Qobuz, but that seems to happen less and less. If I was forced to only keep one, it would be Qobuz for sure.
Greg, yeah, hip hop isn't down the middle of the plate for me! But so far, everything except one obscure album (Ry Cooder soundtrack Paris, Texas) that i have looked for, I have found on Tidal. But the MQA is the question and it drives hardward thinking....
If only spotify would offer a high rez service, their UI and AI for selecting music for you, are the best in the business.
Concerning Tidal, Qobuz, MQA, Bluesound and using Bluesound gear with external DACs.
Been both a Tidal subscriber and Bluesound user since 2014.
Have been a Qobuz subscriber since November.
Have 4 pieces of Bluesound kit in the house, including both the original Node N100 and the Node 2i. With respect to external DACs, started with a Bryston BDA-1 hooked up to an N100 via Toslink, then the BDA-1 moved to a second system where I already had another N100 when I picked up a Chord Qutest. Then a Node 2i replaced the N100 in my main rig, and the N100 moved to my office. Node 2i in main rig has been connected to Qutest by both Toslink and RCA terminated coax digital cables. The Qutest Coax inputs are BNC, so use an Audioquest adaptor BNC to RCA adaptor which goes for something like $10. I have nothing against Tidal, and nothing against MQA, but all things being equal if I had to choose, I'd take Qobuz over Tidal overall in terms of SQ.
With respect to Bluesound devices and MQA. Via its analog outputs Bluesound devices will do full unfold of MQA. Via its digital outputs Bluesound devices will do the first bit of unfolding, which gets you all the way to 96K when used with a non MQA external DAC. And I'd argue that most of the goodness is contained in that first 96K, there just isn't much material to be had above the 96K figure anyway. If I listen to the same MQA material via Bluesound device analog outputs to that of its digital outputs hooked up to quality non MQA DAC like Bryston BDA-1 or Chord Qutest, its no contest. Outboard DACs like these easily outperform the Bluesound internal DAC, even though via its analog outputs the Bluesound kit do the MQA full monty.
Having said that, I still prefer Qobuz, not just for Hi res, but for Redbook as well. And that is important, because the overwhelming amount of material out there is at Redbook (i.e. CD quality) level.
Oh, and not knocking the sound quality of Bluesound kit via there analog outputs. It's still good value for the money. But when hooked up to a good external DAC, it just takes things to a whole other level.
With respect to usability. I think the Bluesound kit is the best thing going for the money. Blu OS app is available on IOS, Android, PC, and MAC.
About the only thing that will truly beat it in my opinion is Roon, and that is a much more expensive proposition. But then again if you do go Roon (and btw I do), all of the Bluesound gear are Roon compatible and can function as Roon endpoints. And just keep in mind that Roon interface support is currently limited to Tidal, Qobuz and internet Radio; Blu OS supports far more streaming services.
I don't think anyone wanted to disrespect your system. What I meant was that it just seemed to me that you were probably not constantly chasing the latest and greatest.
Chuck, I own a bunch of Bluesound equipment and like it a lot. But if your budget is really in the $2K area, a Lumin D1 or D2 is a serious step up and should check all your boxes. I see a D1 on A'gon WITH the SBooster powersupply upgrade for under $1,500. That might be a really good fit for you. I heard a Node 2 and a Lumin D1 (without the SBooster) side-by-side. I found the Bluesound surprisingly competitive on MQA files but the Lumin D1 was far better on everything else with its upsampling engaged.
@tomcy6, you're right, I have been content quite a while. Except now, alas, I can tell, I'm getting the bug. I know what it's like to chase better. Maybe this time, I won't chase as hard! Hope not....but you get in front of a quality system, the drool starts flowing. Maybe it's good for me all the showrooms are closed.
@sunnyd I have a spreadsheet going, trying to sort through the options. I somehow missed the D1... will def check it out.
and @tomcy6 thanks. No offense taken.
Yes on the Bluesound. I am running through ARC LS 27 with ARC DS 450 and B&W 805 N Speakers strictly for Streaming ...
Bluesound is an entry level player. For the same $$, look for a used Auralic mini, will sound better and the lightning interface is better. Even this is an entry level player.
You don’t need a dedicated server like an Auralic, Aurender, etc.. These are just proprietary computers. IMO, 3 things you need to figure out:
1) do you like MQA? If you do, the most important thing to do is get a compatible dac that supports MQA. IMO, MQA sounds better than vinyl, but so does dad and sacd.
2) buy Roon. Sounds great and has the best interface and metadata. 3) you can run Roon on any computer or if you are not comfortable with computers, then get a nucleus. Then keep this computer in a separate room from your audio system and buy the best dac you can afford that has a network connection with MQA support, this gets around using the flawed usb interface and keeps the noisy computer away from your listening room
Bluesound Node2i + MHDT Orchid tube DAC = $1750 msrp. I got an open box node for 450 and the Orchid for 1100 and found a great Analysis Plus Crystal Digital used for 120. I’m streaming Amazon HD and I have a 128 gb thumb drive with ripped FLACs in the Node. Working for me.
I hesitated to spend too much on the streamer because that is a technology which is still changing very quickly. I had the same concern about the DAC but I have now come to believe that DACs have stabilized enough to spend $$ on. Streamers drop in price very quickly, so the Node’s price point is sensible.
I am a “newbie” streamer as well. I also have just down-sized from large high end separates to an integrated solution that I can seriously recommend for your consideration. The piece is a GoldNote IS-1000 which is an integrated amplifier with a high-end DAC and a Music Streamer which is Roon ready and MQA compatible with Tidal, Qobuz, and Spotify apps. Deluxe model has an upgraded DAC and retails for $5999 and the regular model is ~$5,000. I have been impressed with all aspects of the unit and the streaming aspects seamlessly integrated. This is a beautiful piece made in Italy and can be purchased below retail.
My my vote would be Bluesound Node 2 with a RME ADI-2 DAC. All in at $1600. Node gives you easy access to streaming music and RME DAC is loaded with great technology. Do yourself a favor and read up on it. It is truly a great product for the price.
@rbstehno How does a computer with Roon from another room work with a DAC? It sends control info via wifi to router then this sends via ethernet cable (or maybe thru wifi, depending DAC) to DAC? What is the noise issue? Thx...
I am a PCM guy. I use Qobuz (lots of 24bit 96KHz) through Roon using Roon’s free operating system ROCK (linux based) and a NUC 7i5 computer with a $100 case so no fan noise. You build yourself using the guide on the Roon site. If you can follow instruction you can do this; I found it a fun challenging project. $600 for streamer all in, $1,100 for a used PS Audio Perfect Wave MKII DAC, Roon is $10/month or buy a lifetime subscription, Qobuz is $15/month. Entire CD collection to FLAC on hardrive in NUC. Ethernet to NUC, USB to DAC from NUC, wi-fi for controller which is computer, iphone or ipad all. It is a utility once you have put together and the Roon interface works really well. This is my setup and I am quite pleased.
If you like to tinker with things one of the cheapest ways is to build a Raspberry Pi based solution yourself. I have done this and it works great for me. I use an external dac but you can also build a dac into the computer. With everything built-in it could cost as little as $150 and with an external dac it is around the same plus the price of the dac.
Card to make it possible to use an external dac (you also need the RPi and probably a case and of course, a dac)
Lumin U1 mini
Bluesound Node 2I
Teac Nt-505 (USD 1700)
Topping D90 MQA version (USD 800)
My best value streaming setup, and I’ve done streaming since the first Squeezebox came out, is the Allo USBridge Signature, running Moode OS, using BubbleUPNP on a cheap Lenovo tablet to control it, then into an Audio-gd R1 ladder DAC via a Shunyata Venom USB.
that will cost around £1350 and will perform beautifully, very transparent and analogue sounding.
Hi. I am in no way trying to steer this thread in another direction but am new to streaming also and on a tighter budget right now. I have an modwright oppo 105d which I will booking up into my newly downsized system. I understand there is an app from oppo that I can use to control it for my iPhone. My question is can I use the oppo as the streamer? It already has a built in Dac so that part would be covered and I believe I can hook it up wirelessly to my internet. I’m pretty sure I can at least get Pandora that way but does anyone know if I can get tidal and use it through the Oppo and is my Oppo a streamer also? Thanks for the help I really am computer illiterate. Mike
How does a computer with Roon from another room work with a DAC? It sends control info via wifi to router then this sends via ethernet cable (or maybe thru wifi, depending DAC) to DAC? What is the noise issue?
Here’s how I do it. I assembled a fanless Intel NUC i5 and I stalled Roons proprietary OS called ROCK they offer this for free but it only runs on certain NUC’s. It will save a lot of money over buying Nucleus mine cost about $700. If you have a DAC that takes USB you can attach the NUC to the DAC to your preamp. There is no problem with noise on USB from a NUC at least none I can hear. USB noise is another audiophile neurosis any modern DAC will filter it. Since you said your router is in the same room that’s the route I would take.
Router ethernet >NUC>DAC>Preamp. This is all controlled with an app on a tablet or phone I would use a tablet larger screen helps. The NUC runs the Roon core and also functions as a streamer. If you want the NUC in another room you can use something for an endpoint like a Node2i or even raspberry pi connected to DAC.
I have tried both ways and can’t tell a difference, at the moment I use a raspberry pi4 endpoint, NUC in my office they are both on the same network and I have a drive connected to the NUC with my ripped CDs on it. Roon shows them all in a library structure.
I didn't know squat a few months ago and didn't even know how to ask the questions. So I ended up buying a Node 2I refurbished for 420 and a Topping D90 for 630. Both the topping and the bluesound app have volume control so I plug the DAC directly into my amp. I already owned the 2i first and adding the Topping made every aspect of the playback better. I use a COAX to connect the node to the DAC. I ran a CAT6 cable from my router to the Node 2i. Currently, I have no desire to change.
I have Amazon HD. The interface with Bluesound app can be frustrating since lots of the functionality of the Amazon interface is lost but the fidelity is the same. I see some songs playing at 24/192.
There are quite a few DAC for around 1000 or less new. There is some debate about whether a higher end streamer is worth the money. The new one box solutions have come along way. The price can take quite a jump as with anything audio. That last few percent...
Chuck - The reason I suggested the NAD M-10 for you is your desire for a one box solution for streamer and DAC. Why not take it a step further and replace your integrated as well?
The M-10 retails for $2750 but it replaces your entire system. It also has analog inputs so you can simply plug and play your vinyl chain. With the 60 day free trial, you can listen and determine if you feel it improves upon what you are accustomed to hearing.
Do yourself a favor and read the many reviews. The only recurring complaint I have noticed is the lack of a headphone jack. The Bluesound platform is immensely convenient and reliable. This is my first move into streaming. Back in Sept. of 2019, I was as confused and intimidated as you say you are. Now all I do is tap my phone a couple of times and I have 70,000 radio stations from around the world and most of the music ever recorded at my immediate disposal. What beats that? Try Qobuz.
Do not be swayed by the purists. You learned to ignore them when you designed the system you currently love. Continuing that practice is, as you know, in your best interest. BTW - I'm 72 years old and long retired.
The M-10 weighs all of 11 lbs. and requires no wires other than speaker cables and an AC cord. You can even skip the ethernet cable if you like.It also has dual sub outs. The Dirac live comes in the package also. It is one of the best room correction systems available and comes along with a dedicated microphone. Very easy to use. All you need to do is download the app. Same thing with Bluos operating system - just download it and go.
@michaela Yes, you can stream through your Oppo 105. The newer models don't do offer that, but yours will do it. You can stream Tidal and Pandora as well as any music you might have on your network.
Some have suggested buying a Bluesound and an external DAC. If you like the Bluesound app and the Bluesound's features, an external DAC can provide better sound quality.
But like the rest of your system, everything matters. If you're looking for the best sound quality, skip the Bluesound.
Adding an expensive DAC to the Bluesound is kind of like putting a $1,000 cartridge on a $500 turntable. Sure, it'll sound better than the stock cart it came with, but you won't come close to what that $1,000 cartridge is capable of, because the turntable isn't up to the task.