Bluesound Node 2i vs Upscale streamers


For those of you that have compared the Node 2/2i to some of the more expensive streamers like Lumin, Aurender, etc., what do the big boys bring to the table. Forget the internal DACs, I'm sure theirs beats the Node. I'm talking about using these devices as stand alone streamers into an outboard DAC. What are the differences you've heard?


Oz



211f1949 35f9 4c51 b5e0 f69b56531da0ozzy62
I have heard the Node compared with the Aurender N100 through an Ayre Codex DAC.
The Aurender combo was much, much better.
I currently use the Node with a Codex, so things are going to change soon. I am just waiting for Aurender to get the ACS100 software running so I can network my 2 systems, like I do with the Bluesound.
Bob
@gdnrbob: When you say "much, much better", what does that mean?

Were you using AirPlay, Bluetooth, BT AptX, UPnP....like the OP, I dont get it but really want to.

Some say that a Chromecast or APE can do the trick provided your DAC is not too jitter sensitive. Or, what if you put a reclocker in front of it?

You still have a streaming front end that is $200-$700 while all these others can be $2K+.

what are we missing assuming that the DACs are the same?
I have a Node 2, an Aurender N100H, and an Auralic Aries G2 in three separate systems.  But, I’ve also compared them directly.  What do they do differently?  Sense of space mostly.  The Bluesound as a streamer into the same DAC sounds “flat” front to back and side to side in comparison to the other units.  There’s more information too. The Node is a terrific value, but the better units offer more resolution and more sense of space.  Tonally, they’ll sound the same, as you would expect, but the better units are offering the data with less jitter, and less noise perceived as a lack of resolution.  My DAC is decent, not great, but certainly better than average - and it rejects jitter well.  But, it’s pretty clear that a better bitstream will result in a better sound.  
Best,
@ianrmack ,
I believe mgrif stated it quite well.
The Aurender/Codex combo bested the Node/Codex, as well as the Node/Node-no surprise.
Just a deeper soundstage, more information, yada yada.

Would the OP be happy with the Node onboard DAC- probably, yes.

But, If he/she wanted to extract as much as possible, I would recommend going the Aurender/Codex route. If finances say otherwise, I would go with the Node/Codex. 
The Node/Codex is not a bad combo. I use it to this day.
The one thing Bluesound will allow is for a greater diversity of Streaming services, which Aurender is unfortunately limited to Quobuz and Tidal.
YMMV
bob
Cool.
But, mgrif also says that "his" streamers deliver less jitter to the DAC. I get that.

What if you use a Chord DAC that does not care about jitter at all?
Or, what if you use a W4S reclocker for $350?

Surely there is more to the value proposition of a $2k+ streamer other than just decreased jitter...?

I dont quite get the streaming thing completely yet.
However, I stream 1080p video from Apple TV to multiple UHD TVs and it's damn fine video and it's data stream is massively larger than audio.

AirPlay also says that it is "bit perfect", too.

Not sure how you get better than perfect once you address the jitter issue.
Thanks for the replies. I already have a 2i running into a heavily modified MHDT Pagoda. I am running it wired with Ethernet to my network, streaming Tidal and my own files. I think it sounds pretty good, just wondering where to go from here.
Candidly, I’m skeptical of claims by manufacturers that a DAC is immune to jitter.  And, there is more to a streamer than just jitter reduction. There is convenience certainly, but also reduction of noise infiltrating the system.  I don’t mean noise in the sense of things like “hiss” or distortion, but noise in the sense of obscuring details.  For example, I compared my Aurender against a dedicated, souped up Mac mini (solid state drive, 16 GB RAM, everything else turned off and/or optimized in every way).  The Aurender smoked it. No contest.  BTW: both were outputting via USB to the DAC.  I got the same result when I converted the Mac mini USB to SPDIF through a nice converter to isolate it.  
I think the only way for you to find out if this is the way to go is to try one.  Plenty of companies/stores will let you demo them or buy with a solid return policy.  Try one.  If it doesn’t do what you want/need, return it.  My suspicion is that you’ll probably like what you hear.
I hear you. It’s a $2k+ “gamble” to install a new streamer and deploy its “workflow” methodology. Maybe there will be a difference.

however, for me, that’s where I draw the line.
maybe my node 2i feeding a chord Qutest DAC gets me to “92%” of what streaming digital can be. I,m just not willing to spend $1,000-$2000 per incremental 1% to get somewhere that is otherwise undefined and therefore not valued....for me.

sure, I bet there’s “better” out there.
but I’m happy here...;-)
@ianrmack 92% sounds like a lovely place to be. 
@ozzy62 .. similarly, I have a Node 2 and an MHDT Lab Pagoda. When curiosity got the best of me I went the Sonore route and picked up a microRendu for less cash than the Node 2. The difference in sound quality wasn’t exactly night and day but the refinement was easy to hear. The microRendu now feeds a Schiit Eitr before the Pagoda and I prefer this arrangement to a direct USB connection. With the Eitr in play there is no contest. When the time comes to update/upgrade I won’t hesitate to move up within Sonore’s line.
I have a Bryston BDP3.  Compared to the Bluesound it’s like going from 1080 resolution to 4K display.  The old standard was pretty good until the new shows up.  More bass, richer midrange, gobs of detail, more ambience
The microRendu is a good idea, but you still need a computer so it can get costly.  The Bluesound is an all in one solution. 
The microRendu is a good idea, but you still need a computer so it can get costly.  The Bluesound is an all in one solution.

@grannyring .. the Node also needs either a smart phone, tablet, or computer for setup/control, never mind a NAS if one has a library of files to stream. I would imagine most, if not all, who are looking to up their streaming game are already using one of these "computers".
This topic reminds me of the great “transport debate” of 10/15 years ago.

Given the same DAC, would a $2k+ CD transport deliver meaningfully better SQ than a stock Oppo, a stock Sony or a used Pioneer Elite...?

those seeking incremental performance improvements would invariably say “yes”. Those with systems and/or ears not attuned to the difference would just shrug...”meh”....

the argument here is subjective.
what we would love to see/hear is objectivity in the debate.

otherwise, the juice may not be worth the squeeze.


Ozzy62 great topic, However my curiosity leans more toward a server having recently purchased a three piece digital stack with a streamer that is scheduled to be released soon. However I have second thoughts of purchasing a stand alone streamer ....

i understand the immense convenience at your finger tip streaming music and if someone told me 30 years ago something like this would be part of main stream choice I would of been sceptical of it .

Anyway my apologies for the rambling though my thoughts about your question how dramatic differences are there with say an entry level streamer to one double the price and so forth ? I have no doubt’s there are .
However I view these components as just computer parts in a nice looking box with many selling for thousands and some tens of thousands , is it a fast track to diminishing returns ? 

I transitioned away from using a transport to wanting to use a server to rip the many thousands of CDs that are available to me including my own collection.

Having listened to a borrowed server in my system last year I immediately liked the sound quality over my CEC transport and this no name home built server not only surpassed the performance of my transport it did it at less then 1/2 the price and of course I wanted him to build me one for the past 18 months .

Finally I’ve been chatting with a member whom owns , by the description and looks of his system a carefully thought out expensive system .
The source he uses for the majority of listening is a very inexpensive Cocktail Audio server which had me stop and rethink what I’m doing .So over the weekend I purchased a demo model Cocktail Audio server X50 for $1,650.00 , my initial budget before ever listening to a server was 6 grand , so the journey begin’s.




Everyone has a smart phone to download the Bluesound app. It’s great they have an app for music file management and playback which Sonore does not.  Bluesound is a nice one box solution for for those  who can’t spend more than $250-$550 and want a complete one box solution. I just purchased a Node 2 for $250 used.  Hard to beat at that price. 
In my system, Bluesound Vault 2 serves as source for Parasound JC2BP and A21 driving Quatro Wood CTs. Very happy, really delighted, with sound. Note use of Wireworld Starlight 7 ethernet net cable and Mini-Electra power cord with Vault produced improvement in resolution, soundstage, and presence of sound for under $500. I know that's half the cost of the Vault but modest relative to cost of my system and to a higher end DAC/streamer.Could be better? Maybe for beaucoup bucks. But happy with sound now.
I have had both the Bluesound  node 2i and the AURALiC g1 . I loved the build quality of the AURALiC, but sold it and kept the node 2i. AURALiC is too limited for streaming services, and keeping it wasn’t worth the small sound quality improvement , which wasn’t much of any.
I'm an old die-hard vinylphile and the 2i is my first adventure in streaming.  I was an outsider looking in, researching what's best, what's necessary, what could I afford and what the heck is going with this new (to me) tech.  I jumped in and got the 2i because of reputation and wifi (a necessity for me), an all-in-one solution and a much needed learning experience.  It was a great excuse to buy an iPad too.  I needed something much better than my Sangeam WFT-1 for radio and the 2i doesn't disappoint.  Very enjoyable and doesn't hurt my ears.  I've just received an MHDT Orchid and second day I'm really impressed with it.  This may lead to a subscribed streaming service.  Of course I've got buyer's paralysis on that too.  eenie, meenie ...
I added a ProJect DAC to my Blue Sound Node 2i and found I liked the Node 2i played by itself better.  I stream Tidal and for some reason, I sense I hear something different when I play their MQA recordings.  I know most of you do not feel the same as MQA.  The dealer I purchased my REL S3's from told me the Bellcanto sounds much better.  However, it does not completely unfold MQA.  The question is does the Bellcanto sound significantly better for twice the price?  The problem is you can't take hear a component in your home system before purchasing it.  In the case of the ProJect DAC I had to sell it on Audiogon for half the price I paid for it and the same for the Audioquest Carbon digital coax to go with it.

I am beginning to wonder if most of the members think components sounds significantly better because they spend more money?  Kind of like the Emperor's New Cloths.  When I did a blind testing at the dealer on the ProJect DAC, I picked the Blue Sound 5 times played by itself.  However, because the dealer told me I should be hearing greater detail in the cymbols and in the bass I was basically crazy for not being able to hear the difference.  Perhaps stepping up to something like the two DAC's mentioned may be what I would need to do in order to really hear a significant difference to warrant the investment.  However, again if I am unable to hear it on my system before purchasing, how will I know the more expensive DAC's are worth the money.  This is why I feel dealers for the most part are useless.  Where is their skin in the game.  If the gear they are selling is worth the money they should be willing to put their money where their mouth is.  The same thing goes when wanting to hear the more expensive speakers in a speaker line up.  Most of the time, the dealer stock only the two lower priced speakers assuming a buyer will not spend the money for the more expensive.  If I were a manufacturer and had a retailer that did this, I would pull the line and find someone else to sell their line.  In this case, I think it makes sense to buy speakers from a manufacture such as SALK who sells only direct and wait to hear them at an audio show.  However, often times the manufacturer showcases their less expensive gear at a show assuming buyers will not spend the extra money on their more expensive line.  This is why I think manufacturers to either offer consigned inventory or offer extended terms to a retailer so they can afford to demo their full line up.  Many of them work out of their homes and do not have the space so this often is a moot point.

Can't wait to hear some responses on this because so many of the members of this group are dealers who in many instances do some of the things I am talking about.  Just mentioning the word DIRECT can make the hairs on their backs to stand up.  If dealers are not doing their job if I were a manufacturer I might consider selling only direct.
Had Bluesound 2i to Chord M-Scaler/Qutest DAC.  Not bad.
Changed to Melco N100/TeddyPardo LPS/Curious USB cable.
Betters my EMT948 turntable.
I have a Bluesound Node 2i on the way.  In the meantime I have been listening to You Tube through my Comcast/Xfinity cable TV box that is input to my preamp and stereo.  Note that this bypasses my smart TV computer as the TV can be turned off and the music continues.

It actually sounds quite good, wondering how much better the Node 2i will sound.
It actually sounds quite good, wondering how much better the Node 2i will sound.
Well you can bet your ass that most anything will sound better than youtube through a cable box.

That said, the performance of the Node will greatly improve if you hard wire it to your network.

Oz



I ditched Crapcast/Xfinity cable a couple of years ago so can't speak to today's sound quality, but it was poor then.  I'd be very surprised if you don't notice a substantial improvement in sound quality with the Node 2i.
Thanks, that is good news.  Although I enjoy watching the artist perform.  But will still be able to, best of both worlds.

Ok, I just hooked up a BS Node 2 I purchased used for my daughter. I hard wired it with Ethernet. I have a good upgraded power cord on it. I have a nice coax cable on it sending digital to my dac. Sounds great and a breeze to set up.
This topic is not new, it’s just in a different wrapper.

In the end, it’s all about the transport or transfer of info.

With Records and turntables, it was the cartridge.
With CDs, it was the transport.
With the first Mac servers, it was about the USB transfer (async, etc.).

today, it’s about the streamers.
same sh*t, new day.

1. With a DYI $50 solution, you get 85% there.
2. With a popular $500 solution, you get 90% there.
3. With integrated $2500 solutions, you get 92% there.
4. For every 1% from here out, you pay $1,000 each.

this hobby is sometimes about deciding and justifying price/performance thresholds and then determining if short or long term satisfaction has been attained.

the struggle is real...;-)

For me the jump from $500 to $2500 was about 30%... but my $2500 was Melco... not sure what happens with other $2500's.
Need to optimize the $500 unit to really know what you have.  
Grannyring,
Outside of a quality power cord and direct ethernet connection to high speed internet service, what more can you do to make a Node 2i better?
Don’t use its dac, but use a better external one. That’s it.  
Bluesound Node 2i   Marantz  AV 7705  with Emotiva XPA5, Tekton Electron BE speakers.

Comparing streamers ONLY  (  via coaxial out of Node 2i  to Marantz AV7705 ) Using Amazon Music HD   CD quality and above streams.

Bluesound Node 2i is very slightly better...a little better detail, better bass control, and better overall balance. Not in your face difference....you have to listen closely. 

Comparing the DACs of the two units....

Bluesound wins again. A little more obvious with the DACs but again not substantial with my equipment. Node 2i is more controlled with the high and low end and this was pretty obvious ( I have beryllium tweeters). Smoother overall sound, less fatiguing . No major improvement in soundstage or dynamics. 

My Bluesound Node 2i  is for a another setup and I would not consider it a cost effective upgrade from the Marantz 7705.( I purchased refurbished from safeandsoundhq for $420 shipped 1 year warranty) I am going to use for the front end with Benchmark DAC3/ABH2 set up with the Tekton Electrons. I was a little concerned that the Tektons with beryllium were a little too harsh/bright but this experiment revealed it was coming from the Marantz . The Node 2i produces a non fatiguing sound in comparison.

Node 2i has a much better user interface than the HEOS system on Marantz equipment ( especially if you use Amazon music HD)

All the above inmho.  




@larry5729   

I haven’t heard the Project DAC but I have read some comments elsewhere that it’s pretty sub par.  I had a ProJect headphone amp that I thought was crap and returned it.  I can believe that the humble DAC in in the Node2 bested the ProJect DAC.  I think that you were snookered by your dealer.  Always trust your own ears
I am trying to revive this thread.

I am running a BlueSound 2i into a Benchmark DAC. I find the BlueSound interface handy and reliable.

Sounds great. Most limitations come from the recording quality anyhow. 

It seems to me that the SQ originates mostly from the DAC itself (and of course the recording). Why would the BS Node or the interface impact on the SQ?

Interested to hear the arguments.
@jorgjean,
Don't ask me how or why, but switching out the Bluesound Node for an Aurender N100-while still using any Ayre Codex- made a significant improvement.
Bob
@ozzy62 — Good thread.  If I’m you I buy either an Innuos Zen Mini Mklll or even better a Zen Mklll if it’s in your budget from HiFi Heaven and try it in your system.  They have a generous return policy so you could do this with very little cost outlay and will definitively answer your question.  Also, read Darko’s reviews of Innuos models (if you haven’t already) as he compares them directly to others in his system, which I found particularly interesting.  FWIW...
Thank you for the comments. These days i listen a lot to Apple Music. How is this integrated?

Apple Music plays at 256 bps.  I assume that the Bluesound component has a tab for it as they have a tab for every streaming service.  It probably sounds just fine.  The bigger question is how a lossless recording would sound.
You have to Airplay Apple Music to a Bluesound it’s not integrated, the only service with integration seems to be Sonos.
Someone mentioned the TEAC NT-505 in another thread as an alternative to the Lumin streamers.  Anyone upgraded from a Bluesound Node 2i to that device?
The Allo Digione Signature is cheaper than a Node and is supposed to be better than much more expensive streamers.  You might want to look into them.  They are soon coming out with a battery power add on that charges the batteries during a user-specified period and completely disconnects the charging circuit from the batteries during the other period for listening.  How cool is that?
I’ve had the Bluesound Node 2i for about a month. I live in the country with only one or two decent FM stations, so don’t bother to set up my DXing tuner. After having played my CD’s and vinyl once too many times, and listening to Xfinity jazz and blues music channels and You Tube via my cable box, I purchased the Node. What a totally pleasant experience to listen to the streaming stations. Haven’t yet delved into paid subscriptions. The fun surpasses any worries about quality at this end at least for now.
Node 2i -> optical -> RME ADI-2 DAC FS
very happy with the result
Breathing life into an older thread. 
I have a Node 2 going into a Chord M Scaler/TT2 combo using an AQ diamond Toslink cable. I think it sounds very nice. Spacious, lots of detail to let my 802 D2s bloom. That said, I have been wondering if getting a better streamer will justify the cost… I have a $500 streamer in a very expensive stack, so if there was a weak link, the node would be it. I took home a Aurender  A100 from the local Hifi shop to test drive it, however it wouldn’t play with my Chord kit using USB a-b, which was super annoying…. I’d like to listen to an Auralic Aries G1 but no dealers near by to audition it, and I don’t want to spend a few k blindly. Anyhow, if anyone has used the Aries G1 with the TT2/Scaler combo, and also the Node 2 with the Chord kit, chime in and let me know. Super appreciated if you do.

cheers
Ziggy. I would look at a Lumin Product aka U1 Mini
@ziggy17 - I went from a Bluesound Vault2i to a Lumin U1 Mini, sent the Lumin back and got the Aries G1 and have enjoyed it. The Vault was a good piece but it pales in comparison to the Auralic 
I have a node 2i going directly into Primaluna Dialogue Premium. 

Will I hear a huge improvement upgrading to any of the higher end streamers mentioned. Also is it recommended to get a dac before the streamer to go to my integrated or streamer directly to integrated is fine?


TIA
For just a little money there is a road to big improvement of the Bluesound Node series. PD Creative makes a plug’n’play internal power board with external supply for the 2i and the new NODE. At about $125 US dollars delivered, anyone with an external DAC needs it yesterday - “It’s not subtle” doesn’t do it justice. My 2i is twice the streamer it was. My new NODE is stunning at it’s cost (IMO). Big words, I know. Have faith. It’s the best return for my money I’ve ever gotten in this God forsaken hobby. Period. All that’s needed is a philips screw driver. The back trim panel is held in place by magnets. Disclaimer - I am not affiliated with nor have anything to gain from PD Creative. I am stoked at getting so much for so little.
NODE > MHDT Orchid DAC> Herron 360 > Pass Xa25 > Acoustic Zen Crescendo II & REL SHO S/5
Wlutke, 

What power supply are you using with the Node?  The upgrade sounds interesting.
rotten1,
I’m using the budget one supplied by Creative (available as a package). It’s a Mean Well like this one:
https://www.alliedelec.com/product/mean-well/gsm40b05-p1j/70462532/
Very inexpensive and widely available from $20 - $25. They also offer an upscale PS but I’ve not heard it. Some say Sbooster is tops.
https://www.sbooster.com/botw-pp-eco-5v-6v/