Moving up from a Node 2i


I want to keep it between 1K and 1500.00, closer to a grand if at all possible. I don't care about onboard DACs, since I have a keen liking for mine. What is out there for a streamer, new or used, that will sound better than the Node when outputting to an external DAC? I like the functionality of the Node, don't want something with a sketchy user interface. But honestly, I think my old Allo Digione (Raspberry Pi) might have sounded a little more organic and fleshed out than the Node.

What say ye, Audiogon?

Oz



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There’s an Innuos Zen available here now for $1490 that should trounce the Node as a streamer. 
Hi Ozzy, I have a magna mano ultra that I like. It's also a modified R-pi, but with a built in low noise linear power supply and a number of other modifications. It also has I2S out (ps audio standard), which is what sold me on buying one. Would also love to hear what lumin and aurrender sound like in comparison. Have heard both in quality systems, but have zero idea what they contributed to the sound. 

Apologies if any of this is repeat from another thread... 
Other than the software and user interface if you are using an external dac why would the streamer affect the sound that much isn't  it just passing the stream on to the dac to convert? It will be interesting  to read your impressions if you move up to a more expensive streamer I have  been wondering about this as well. How exactly does this Innuos Zen trounce a Node2i? I have the Node2i and use an external  dac and it sounds really nice in my system.
@djones51 — Gear Patrol reviewed several streamers including the Node 2i and the Innuos Zen Mini (the model below the Zen that I mentioned above), and this is what they had to say about the Zen Mini.  Take from it what you will. 

“There’s no better product under $3,000 that offers this level of performance, ease-of-use, upgradability, and level of functionality. The Zen Mini MK III functions as a high-end CD ripper with 1TB of storage in the base unit. All Innuos products are Roon-ready; the Zen Mini MK III can function as both a Roon-Core or Roon-Endpoint making it a hub for a single system or multi-room home audio set-up. Innuos has created one of the best control apps in the marketplace making the server/streamer very easy to use for iOS, Android, and Windows users. Roon integration gives users access to Tidal, and Qobuz, with additional support for Internet Radio and Spotify Connect. 

The Zen Mini MK III includes a 24-bit/192kHz DAC, 3 digital outputs (coaxial, optical, USB), support for DSD, and Sonus-based systems. We have heard better sounding digital sources for a lot more money, but it would take something extraordinary to pry the Zen Mini MKIII from our system; the levels of resolution, transparency, and pace make this Portuguese one-box wonder a true end-game product. Audiophiles looking to squeeze even more performance out of the Zen Mini MK III can add an optional external linear power supply (LPSU) for $700.”


I went from the Node2 to a Bryston BDP3, which costs about 7 times the Node2 and unlike the Node2 does not come with a DAC.  The Bryston blows the Node2 away when both are fed to the same DAC, but at that price difference, it damn well better sound different.
what kind of improvement can Ozzy get from spending $1500?  Probably substantial but I can’t really vouch
I have the Node2i and use an external dac and it sounds really nice in my system.

+1...same here.
I wish Inous made a Zen Mini sans CD ripper for those of us who've already ripped their CDs.
@jond — if the Zen Mini turns out to be the best streamer for the price, does it really matter if it has a CD drive?
Not really I guess I just hate the idea of buying one with a feature I would never use. I am happy with my current streamer, an Aries Mini, but since Auralic discontinued the Mini long term I will have to make a move. The Zen looks very interesting.
Why pay for something you'll never use.  I sure if you eliminate the TEAC CD slot drive and the 1TB hard drive, it would save $300-$400 dollars...no?  That would be ideal.  Shouldn't be that hard to do either.
If you could find a used Lumin U1 mini (lists for $2K), that might do the job.  I think there's one for sale here on Audiogon.
FWIW, I upgraded about two years back from using a Node 2 -> Chord 2Qute to getting a used Auralic Aries w/ Dual Femto and linear power supply, used, for I think about $700.

Replacing the Node 2 with the Aries for streaming made a very noticeable improvement and took the 2Qute to another level,  destroying my previously held notions that "moving 1s and 0s works fine from any HDD to a PC, so it shouldn't matter for music"
Agree with the suggestion regarding the Lumin U1 Mini. I recently got a U1 Mini and converted it to use an SBooster. Sounds great and has got super DSD upsampling capability. It’s a Roon endpoint too. That is how I use it. I also have an Innuos Zenith Mk3 that serves as my Roon core and server. 
Innuous Zen mini or Zen MK 3. I’m a new owner of the latter could not be happier. Ripping CD’s is beyond simple. Love Innuous, And a great Roon end-point!
Thank you Dave from Audio Doctor great service and great price!
Look at a BelCanto.  Take a look at a better DAC.  It is all about the DAC.
I tested a Zen Mini but no MQA for Tidal and no Amazon interface meant no go for me. Went with the Vault 2i and will probably add a better DAC later.
I went from a Squeezebox to a Node2 and then kept the Node as the streamer to feed a Gumby. The first change was an improvement. The adding the Gumby was more so. best investment I had made in a long time to my sound quality.
No streamer will make any meaningful difference. Get yourself a NUC and a Roon subscription, you'll spend 1K or less and be able to enjoy your music at a different level  . . .
@marklings So Roon fed into an existing streamer and dac using it as a Roon endpoint delivers an improvement in sound quality?
The streamer should make no difference to the sound. It’s all about the interface they have and the blue iOS has a great one. Save your money!
Not so sure the post below this is to be taken factually.

lots of discussions about how the streamer makes an impact and lots of reference points on how SQ improvements can be had that are superior to a Node 2i....which I have into a Chord Qutest.

sure, the app matters, and several up-market streamers make good ones: Innous and Lumin.

one of these days, there will a streamer shoot out going to the same outboard DAC.

until then,statements like the one below should be viewed as opinions only.

same thing was said of turntable cartridges and CD transports...right?

Look at a BelCanto.  Take a look at a better
DAC.  It is all about the DAC.
If I really thought that I wouldn’t be looking at anything else. I have a heavily modified MHDT Pagoda that will stack up against anything else I could possibly afford.

Oz
IME in audio, everything matters and affects the sound at some level. Always. No exceptions.
Dang, this is all very bad news!  I've been using my Vault running to my external DAC, and like a lot of people was under the impression that it was just ones and zeroes as well!  Ozzy, thanks for asking the question, and I'm eager to see how this plays out for you.
I doubt changing from that to any other good quality streamer alone will make much if any difference in sound streaming at the same (CD) resolution. The dac used is the key. I would not change streamers unless another had unique features that appeal to you and not with expectation another will have inherent better sound quality.
I’ve used many streamers over the year’s with external DACs and do not hear any significant or bankable differences between streamers to same DAC.

To those who say the streamer shouldn’t make any difference, I would suggest you try one.  I noticed a very substantial improvement in sound going from a Node 2 into an outboard DAC and upgrading to an Aurender N100.  And, again when I employed an Auralic Aries G2 in another system as an upgrade over a Node 2. It’s a very noticeable improvement.  I would suggest as important as the DAC.  
Best,
I never said it can't make a difference just that I have not heard a significant difference so far whereas no two DACs I hear sound the same. 

It certainly can sound different, especially if a device is poorly designed or not in good working order.   However my experience has been most popular streamers in the last 10'years or so tend to work well.  I'm sure there are some duds out there but I doubt Bluesound is one. 
I have the Node2i and use an external dac and it sounds really nice in my system.
+2, and fantastic customer service hotline

Not that many years ago there was a poster here going by the moniker Jaybo. Unlike many posters whose goal, whether consciously or not, is to convince others that their gear is not great and they need to go out and spend more, Jaybo would say, "hey man, your system is fantastic, enjoy it."

Miss your posts man, hope all is good.



What are the thoughts on a Bryston BDP-2? Should I hold out for a 3? Or is the 2 pretty good?

Oz



Another vote for Aurender N100. It will be a definite upgrade in SQ and App Interface over Node 2i. The only thing Aurender can’t do is Roon, but their Conductor app is superb. 

You should be able to find a used one for around $1500. 
I purchased a b-stock Sonore microRendu directly from the manufacturer for less cash layout than my Bluesound Node 2 and it clearly bests the Node 2 (maybe the newer 2i would make a sonic difference, I dunno). DACs in the mix: MHDT Lab Pagoda, Chord Qute EX, and Schiit Bifrost Multibit.

BTW, the Sonore Rendu products were recently awarded Hardware Products of the Decade by Chris Connaker (Audiophile Style) .. that’s a pretty good endorsement I’d say. Perhaps you might want to check out their offerings.


+2 for the Aurender.
I heard the difference between the Node and Aurender at Audioconnection. Both used the Ayre Codex as DAC.
The Aurender sounded much cleaner, bass was better defined.
The only thing I don't like is Aurender only offers Qobuz and Tidal, while Bluesound has a number of streaming services.
The Bluesound also allows for multiple room playback.
Bob
Regarding streaming services, do these streamer apps have Internet browser functionality? Specifically, the Lumin App uses TuneIn to list radio streams, but Radio Paradise requires direct interaction with their website to set your stream quality to FLAC.  Would you have that navigation and interaction with these Streamer apps?
The BDP-2 works very well, particularly as a Roon endpoint. If the BDP-2 includes the upgraded audio board, then there isn't much sound quality difference between it and the BDP-3. The latter has a bigger power supply which might provide a slight improvement, particularly in the bass. If your running the BDP as a server, then the 3 will offer faster performance and more capacity. 
I’m upping the budget and considering the Lumin U-1 mini. Any thoughts?
Just received the updated RME ADI-2 DAC from B&H, connected with Mogami 2964 coaxial to Node 2i's output and the sound improvement is quite substantial! Not to mention all the controls that I still have to learn.
The same AQ Colorado cables take line output to MF M6si.

Streaming HiRes Qobuz + own FLAC files from USB connected WD external disk.
I have the older RME ADI-2 DAC (AK4490 vs AK4493) connected to both the Node 2i and the LUMIN U1 Mini. Node 2i uses coax into the DAC; U1mini uses USB.

I love them both. I think the LUMIN app is better than the BluOS app and I like the OpenHome implementation of UPnP/DLNA that is uses. But I also use the Node 2i because it supports many more streaming services.

IMHO I do believe the LUMIN sounds better (but it’s not a huge difference), so I use the U1mini for all my TIDAL and Qobuz streaming. I don’t have a Roon core and therefore don’t use Roon (I don’t have a local library of ripped CDs or downloaded digital purchases so I don’t see the value in Roon).

FWIW, I don’t think the U1mini is an upgrade as much as a nice side-grade to get a great app and excellent support. Upgrades to DAC, amp, speakers/headphones would yield more significant improvements.
I've been told by Bryston that the BDP-2 sounds basically the same as the BDP-3. The 3 has more processing power.
I really like my BDP-2. I just tried Roon with it and the sound quality is the same.


ozzy
Have you compared the Lumin to anything else?


I have been in the process of simplifying my system and selling off unused gear.  I recently purchased a Naim Supernait 2 and a Node 2i.  I am running the Node into my MHDT Labs Orchid.  It sounds really good.  I would definitely like to know if changing out the streamer would make an improvement.  My local dealer loves the Innuos, but I don't need to rip CD's and I already have a NAS for music storage.  I'm sure he will let me borrow one and it would be interesting to see if the SQ is better.
One of the better upgrades I've made to the digital front end of my system was getting a Roon Nucleus to feed my DAC. Anyone who says the streamer makes no difference is speaking from lack of experience (or lack of resolution in their system). In my case, I'm using the Nucleus as both server core and end point, as my Ayre Codex is pre-Roon. I did build a linear power supply to run the Nucleus and my router - eliminating wall warts made a small, but noticeable improvement. The only network transports I've heard (and I've heard many) are part of Ayre QX-5, QX-8 or DCS BartoK, Rossini, Vivaldi DACs. The best streamer, by far, is the DCS Network Bridge! I've seen jaw drops at how much better it made a Berkeley Reference DAC (and others) sound.
Regarding streaming services, do these streamer apps have Internet browser functionality? Specifically, the Lumin App uses TuneIn to list radio streams, but Radio Paradise requires direct interaction with their website to set your stream quality to FLAC. Would you have that navigation and interaction with these Streamer apps?
I'm not sure about Lumin, but with my Bluesound Node 2 streaming to my Sony headphone amp / DAC it shows the signal as 44.1 kHz which is CD / FLAC quality.
Here you'll find the music services Bluesound supports (including the Radio Paradise flac stream):

https://www.bluesound.com/music/

Incidentally, there's actually 4 Radio Paradise flac streams .. Main, Mellow, Rock, and World/Etc. built into the Bluesound platform. Nice sound quality.
Thanks for all the input. I bought a Lumin U1 mini today. We'll see how things shake out.

Oz
Please report back when you get a grasp on the difference.  I'm curious...