Bluesound Node 2 vs. Node 2i


I started the weekend being perfectly happy with my digital setup

I read the specs when the 2i was released and it appeared that the only thing that had changes was the dual band wifi and the Incorporation of the "Apple ecosystem"

Since I did not need to make use of either of these features I didn't bother looking into it any further.

Then I saw some comments posted on Agon detailing some other differences and they got me thinking there may be more to the 2i than I originally thought...
- first the incorporation of the new Wifi chipset allowed the design team to reorganize the circuit board such that the Wifi chipset has less impact on the rest of the circuit
- the second thing I read was that the DAC chipset had been improved.

Both of these changes triggered my upgrade-itis and so I trolled down to my local Bluesound dealer and bought one.

Setting up the unit was basically - plug it in and let it do it's thing
- it upgrades the software immediately, which took about 15 minutes
- it kept all of my existing playlists and presets
- I use Ethernet, so there was no need for any Wifi setup

So what did I hear...
- IMAGE: noticeably larger with better separation between instruments and artists and more space around artists
- DYNAMICS: crisper and cleaner
- CLARITY: you'll hear vocal phrasings and instrument details that were not as apparent with the Node 2
- DETAILS: there is more detail to the top end and the bass lines convey more texture. The mid's are noticeably more realistic
- REALISM: pretty much every track I have listened to so far now appears more realistic. You really get to hear just how good the sound engineer is at his job in studio recorded tracks and tracks recorded on location convey the delicate nuances of the venue acoustics (i.e. echoes and reverberations)

Now I don't know what they put in their "Wheaties" at Bluesound, but one thing for sure - their crew knows how to upgrade!

This was in some ways a little unexpected and a surprisingly good upgrade experience. 

But given the impact using good cables had on the performance of the original Node 2, I suppose it gave me the confidence to try the Node 2i - and I'm really glad I did :-)

 Hope you find my observations useful :-)

Regards - Steve



williewonka
Thanks for sharing your experience. Just wondering how old was your Node2 and if you use its analog output or use an external DAC?
Funny, when I asked Bluesound if I should upgrade, they said 'No'. They said the software upgrade did the trick, not the hardware.
Bob
Steve,

Your description of the physical changes, and your description of the improvement in SQ, pretty much mirror exactly the findings from the initial What Hi-Fi review from back in Oct., 2018. Thanks for providing your findings. 
Kalali - I have always used the analogue outputs on both Node 2 and 2i units.

I originally had..
- an apple computer, via USB into...
- an MF V-192 into...
- A Schiit Bifrost DAC (their first model)

The analogue out from the Node 2 was much better than the separates above.

gdnrbob - That was my initial impression also, but this 2i unit is a definite step up.

Their comments are probably based on using stock cables.
I am using cables that perform to a very high degree of resolution

reubent - yes I read that review also. I would like to know what cables they were using to achieve those observations.
Perhaps the improvements are still there with stock cables just more subtle

What I observed was very noticeable 

Regards

.
Did you perform an immediate A/B comparison between the two units (less than 0,5 sec) with exactly the same volume level (less than 0,5 db) Or were these observations just your feelings? 
Hans does a teardown in this video, and not much inside changed, but I supposed it made a difference! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIWkeXPjvyw
Gosta - I have spent considerable time (more than the average audiophile) "really listening" to my audio system, due to the many auditions of connectors and cables that I have performed over the last 8 years. So you could say I have "trained my ears" what to listen for.

I have also become acutely familiar of the various nuances of the tone of my system as well as its dynamic and sonic "signature", which can be vastly different from system to system.

The biggest improvement in the Node 2i was in the image, which was already pretty good with the Node 2, but was now larger and had more space around the artists/instruments than the Node 2. The improved details and clarity were also noticeable

But that is in MY system.

Would I hear the same improvements in YOUR system?
- most definitely not, because I am not familiar with its "sound"

So my answer to your question ...
- I DID NOT do an A/B comparison within .5 sec and within .5 db.

MY APPROACH: I have about 60 tracks across multiple genres that I use for auditioning, whose sound I am extremely familiar with (in my system) and when that sound changes (better or worse) I listen more intently to discern what the change is

Hope that helps - Steve


Thanks Steve. Interesting. However, as interested you are in working with your sound, why not setting up a A/B test environment at least for dacs. It's not that hard and may be very revealing. It has for me.....

By the way I can recommend the RME ADI-2 dac that has united the pro and audiophile world. Besides being a state of the art dac it has fine eq possibilities and a very promising loudness functionality. And not at least an honest price. Not affiliated :-)