Okay, here goes on the BlueSound Node and a Bel Canto C5i. In my setup the BlueSound Node feeds into the Bel Canto C5i. Yes, both have DAC's. Also, the BlueSound PowerNode can function as an 'all-in-one'.
Here's what you will find. The PowerNode alone will be competent, yet not truly fulfilling. Yet, you certainly have a budget and compact unit.
Now, let's say you take a BlueSound Node and connect it straight to an amp. The sound will be on the harsh side. In short, this won't work either, You can even try this with a tube amp and it won't help enough,
So, take a BlueSound Node and run it to a Bel Canto C5i. The Bel Canto C5i's can be found used for about $800. Now, do you run RCA Connect using the the BlueSound Doc or a USB connection which will then default to the BelCanto C5i DAC. There is a difference in sound. Try it yourself.
The BlueSound DAC is a very neutral one. The BelCanto DAC brings certain parts of the audio more forward and would be defined as slightly 'bright'. I preferred the BlueSound DAC, which I was surprised at. Yet, there you are.
These are with Tannoy Autograph Mini's and they sound great. The RCA interconnects and speaker cable are Nordost Heimdall 2's which were recently added and expanded the dynamic range on speakers that were already very musical. You can achieve a lot of this with Nordost Blue Heaven, yet not all of it.
I use this on a second system in a small front room. Really happy with this,
Again, surprised at how good the DAC is in the BlueSound Node. Yet, I would not bypass the integrated's contributions.
Lastly, if you want better dynamic range, you'll need different speakers. Yet, for my listening I would give up the Tannoy's.