That is an impossible question to ask. We cannot tell you that what you hear with the Node 2i will be better or worse than what you have. Those are your ears, your brain and psychology. But the Node 2i is considered a budget component, therefore you can buy it, listen to it, compare it to your Aries and Metrum and report back to all of us. You can tell us what your ears told you!
I have the Node 2 and having experimented by connecting it to my Benchmark DAC and the Bifrost Uber DAC. Both routes sound stellar, but when playing MQA albums on the Node 2 with it’t internal DAC, it sounds the best to my ears. Others here do not hear any kind of improved sound with MQA. So it has to be your ears to decide for you.
The OP poses an interesting question. I won’t be able to fully answer it but perhaps he may benefit from my experience.
I have the Node2 and the Vault2. The weak link in both is the DAC and for both I use external DACs. None of my DACs do MQA. When Bluesound added MQA I tried a few recordings via a 10 day Tidal membership. I limited myself to recordings that were already in my collection. My DACs are the Bryston DAC 3 and Mytek Manhatten I. For MQA I used the DAC in the Vault2.
The MQA albums that listened to were compared both to CDs played on an Oppo transport with SPDIF out into my DACs and CDs that had been burned into the Vault2. I preferred listening non MQA
with either the Oppo or the Vault2 as a transport.
When I compared ripped CDs from the Vault2 via the Internal DAC compared with MQA from Tidal via the Vault2 the results were inconsistent. Sometimes it was a marginal improvement, but not always, and in some cases the plain vanilla from the Vault2 was better. In every case I preferred my non MQA DACs by a wide margin.
The OP seems more taken with MQA than I was. My advice would be to stop worrying about the links in the chain if the end result sounds good. Perhaps try the Node 2i (which is supposed to have a better DAC than my current Bluesound components) but hang on to the Aries (is it upgradeable via firmware updates) in case they embrace MQA.
I think MQA is just another gimmick to make us buy an unnecessary product. A well recorded high rez recording holds up against MQA.
As others have said the Node DAC is good, but at least you can bypass it to a DAC of you own choice.
I use an Ayre Codex and have nothing bad to say about this combination.
I have the Node2i and when I bought a Benchmark DAC3B to use with my old Onkyo CDP I also connected the Node2i to compare and to me it depended on the recording some I thought were a little better through the Node2i some the Benchmark which does a partial unfold of MQA to 24/96 but it was really hard to tell. I also thought the same recording in CD sounded better on either so Someone with better equipment and ears than me might hear a big difference I never did. To the OP all I can say is you will need try for yourself.
Obviously it's all subjective, but I had the Node 2i playing coax out to my Rotel 1572 and I thought the Rotel sounded a bit better even with MQA files.
Now, I have the Metrum Ambre with Metrum Onyx and well...that is an obvious step up in everything. However, I did have the Ambre hooked up to my Rotel 1572 for a short time and the difference was quite noticeable.
I'm thinking the higher up in performance you get with DAC's the less you will be able to tell difference with MQA. I do agree that some MQA tracks sound better than the same track non MQA. I'm still on the fence on how I feel about it. Now, i just let the Ambre and Roon do the MQA unfold. I realize I may not be getting the full monty, but I'm not worried about it.
I maybe in the minority here but I do believe MQA makes a significant SQ difference at least to my ears in my system.
I have two methods of streaming MQA right now and I find both to be superior to non MQA albums from Tidal.
Bluesound Vault 2 via SPDIF to Mytek Brooklyn letting the Brooklyn handle the MQA. You have to hear a 24/192 recording to believe it!
Auralic Aries Mini via USB to Mytel Brooklyn again letting the Brooklyn handle the MQA. Even further up the food chain imho.
But back to the OP question.
I still feel that the internal DAC in the Bluesound products is inferior to an external high quality DAC ( as it should be considering the price difference!) but the Node 2i is supposed to be improved so you may very well be satisfied with it. At least you have the option of trying its DAC or output to a higher quality MQA capable DAC down the road.
Great responses everyone! I really appreciate the perspective.
On my system I hear a significant difference on certain MQA recordings, but not all. What I hear is more energy in the room. More presence. More detail.
For my ears there's a sense of "suspense" that exists between notes when the audio chain is at its best. I believe it's a combination of attack, decay, detail and lack of noise. I get this with my TT and with certain MQA recordings. Not sure I would with the Node 2i, but may give it a try and report back.
Cheers, to all, and Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate.
What little I understand about MQA and Tidal is MQA is decoded through the software. Furthermore the only way to play MQA through Tidal is off the desktop app so I don’t see how anybody is playing these back on their streamers. If I have this wrong please somebody correct me because I’d sure love to figure out how to play and MQA on my Cocktail Audio X 50
Once Upon a time that was only way to play MQA but not for a long time.
Now any compatible streamer and DAC will do the job.
I use Bluesound Vault 2 to Mytek Brooklyn and Auralic Aries Mini to Mytek Brooklyn.
Both play full 24/192 MQA files where applicable.
Most people who complain about MQA are the 1’s that have outdated equipment and/or don’t or can’t update it to support MQA. I wouldn’t buy a dac without MQA support. Good MQA surpasses other digital formats and surpasses vinyl in SQ. Just like every other format, not all MQA recordings will be better but I haven’t heard a bad 1 yet.
As for bluesound products, you could do much better.
I am one of the MQA doubters. And, no my equipment is not outdated.
I just don't see any reason to buy into another patented codex (like Dolby), and give them my money when a high rez output will give me just what was recorded. I don't want something re-engineered, I want what the artist and recording engineer made.
Have you considered a NAD C-658 or is that even a fair comparison?
Hi, While I owned the Bluesound Node 2 (not 2i), I too was interested in comparing the internal DAC with my new Stellar Gain Pre / DAC from PS.
I first used the internal Bluesound DAC, then compared with both Coax and Optical connections into the Stellar Gain. To be clear, I did use cheap RCA connectors for the analoge out of the Node. The difference was impressive, with the Stellar Gain DAC sounding much better. I have since ordered the Direct Stream Junior. Can't believe the 2i will outperform what I heard, and am excited to hear the DSJ. Also the DSJ is Roon / MQA.
This is not exactly responsive to your issue, but I noticed that you are using a Synology NAS wirelessly. to the Auralic.. When I moved from a small hard disk near my desk-top and DAC to a wireless Synology, I noticed a drop in SQ. So I considered doing some drilling to set up an ethernet connection. Before I decided to drill, I got an inexpensive 50 foot cable from ebay and connected through a stairway as a trial. The SQ was restored and I drilled and put in a 12 foot cat 6 cable and all is well, probably better than before.
There will always be listeners who embrace the latest and supposedly greatest. But new technology only succeeds when it represents a paradigm shift for the average buyer and becomes the new standard for everything else. 78->LP LP->CD VHS->DVD Tube TV-> Flat Screen. Quad LP ? HDCD/SACD/DVD-A ? 3D TV, Curved screens ? All fell flat. With regard to sonics, technologies like SACD and DVD-A are wonderful, with a demonstrable improvement vs 16/44 CD, but the later was enough for the general buyer, and both SACD and DVD-A are essentially dead.
Incremental and marginal improvements are not enough to cause buyers to invest in new technology. With MQA you have to invest in both MQA software, and MQA compliant hardware. While there is a vigorous debate regarding the sonic merits of MQA, all parties agree that the only current beneficiary is the patent holder. You have to pay to play.
As to the original post. I have a Node 2. I am aware of its deficiencies compared to higher end digital boxes. But the Note 2 (and 2i) are better than their price points would indicate, punching far above their weight as the British would say. However, both are improved by connection to an outboard DAC, which can represent a significant additional expense. This begs the question of why not seek a streamer/DAC box of higher quality, instead of shuffling through external DACs (another box....) to find a good combination ? There are several higher end, and high end stream boxes with incredible on board DACs available...and some of them are MQA compliant for what that is worth.
It’s very clear that the Node 2i is a significant improvement on its superb predecessor.
In my system, rotating between Quad ESLs and Thiel CS 3.5s, I hear better sound at all times through the Node 2i than through my Benchmark DAC2 HGC. Frankly the improvement isn’t even subtle, MQA and otherwise.
This has totally amazed me. The Benchmark is a fantastic DAC and my original intention was to feed the Node 2i’s digital output through it. Turns out it’s better without doing that and I am able to do comprehensive A-B analysis. Anyone else who has heard to comparison agrees that the Node 2i is a winner.
A fabulous bargain.
That’s good to know. I hope my results are similar to yours. I just picked up a Node 2i to replace my Node 2. It was too good of a deal to pass up so I’m giving it a shot. Mine currently goes direct into KEF LS50 Wireless speakers via Lifatec Toslink but I’m picking up a preamp so I can go analog as well. The KEFs only have one analog input and I also have a phono preamp that’s currently using it. MQA isn't a factor for me.
I am loving my new Vault 2i.... it's an awesome machine. I will definitely pick up a Node for another room down the road. Amazing what this thing can do.
I have Bluesound Powernode 2 to my desktop KEF LS50’s (passive), a Bluesound Vault 2 in my guest room setup, and BlueOS on my NAD T758v3 in the living room 5.1.2 setup. I like them all but know there’s more to be had from the LS50’s. When my dealer gets one in, I will demo the new NAD C658 and matching C268 power amp on the LS50’s. Because the C658 had built-in BluOS I don’t lose anything, but am anxious to hear what its ESS Sabre DAC chipset can do over the Powernode 2's Burr-Brown PCM5122, and I would gain DSD.
I'm running Tidal and an SSD with AIFF files into a Node 2 and then into a Mytek DAC+ via spdif and, as decent as the Node 2's DAC is, going through the Mytek's DAC sounds way better, especially on MQA files.
Used in this configuration, it pretty much competes toe to toe with my loaded Bryston BDP-2 streamer. Also, the Node2's iPad interface is so much simpler and easier to navigate than the Bryston.
Have at it...
I’m curious about your statement about the Nod2 iPad interface being simpler and easier to navigate than the Bryston BDP2. I am currently having some problems with my Bluesound (detailed in another thread) and have been looking at the Bryston BDP 3 as a replacement. Besides the price of the Bryston, my other cause for hesitation has been the Bryston app, which I don’t know much about. Are you using their Manic Moose software? Can you elaborate on the difference with the Bluesound app?
Your findings pretty much mirror my own.I am pushing Tidal MQA through my Vault by spdif into Mytel Brooklyn and it is sublime, much more detailed and spacious than the Vault DAC brings to the party.
However the latest 2i versions are supposed to have better DAC than their 2 forbears so that I cannot attest too.
I would say right now the Vault 2 into Brooklyn via spdif is at least as good if not better than my Aries Mini into BrooklyN via USB.
I would say that the Bluesound Vault and Node products are like the Magnepan MMG speakers. Very good sounding budget audio products.
What I like about the Bluesound app is that you can easily navigate between your library of ripped files and Tidal (and whatever other streaming resources you might use). It's automatically grabs the album artwork. The Node 2 automatically finds the library attached to the Bryston but not vice versa.
99% of the time I use the MPDlluxe app instead of Manic Moose to navigate my library. The Bryston does not automatically find the album artwork despite my using the AIFF file format which includes metadata in the wrapper. Your technical abilities likely exceed mine so you might find Manic Moose easier to navigate than I do.
I will say that Bryston's customer service is exemplary. When I was having problems with my BOT-1 CD drive, I was transferred to one of the company principals on his home phone and he was able to diagnose the problem remotely and then talk me through the hardware fix at his family dinnertime.