Bluesound Node 1 (original) only has toslink optical out. Node 2 has toslink optical + coax digital output. Node 2i has 5Ghz wifi, a reportedly better sounding setup for the internal DAC, and supports Apple Airplay 2. If you don't need the faster wifi (I run mine over wired ethernet), Airplay 2 wireless capabilities, and won't be using the internal DAC, spring for the Node 2 since coax digital output has lower jitter than toslink optical.
FWIW, I run coax digital output to my main system, and toslink optical to my bedroom off the same Node 2. It is connected via wired ethernet. Considering that my wifi router literally sits a few feet away from where the Node 2 is, wifi speed would not be a problem.
If you are looking for something simple to set up and use with USB output then the three top choices divided into two price categories for each company would be the Auralic Aries G1 or G2. the Lumin U1 Mini or U1 and the Innuous Zen Mk III or Zenith Mk III. For each company the first choice is in the $2200 range and the second in the $4500 range. Each is a reputable company with solid software and support. With the rest of your gear avoid these cheaper options unless streaming is just an afterthought.
I have tried unsuccessfully with "just" streamers, Not only sound quality varies a lot but ease of use with the app. I have ended up, and I am currently happy with my Bryston bdp2 ( I have 2 of them!) and DCS upsampler (streamer included)
DCS do just a streamer (Network Bridge), which is one below the upsampler which is very good. In my view the only Naim product to compare is the top of range £10k + version (not the lower ones) but I don't think that gives such "value".
The bdp2 prices will have dropped to make it an absolute steal 2nd hand as the bdp3 is out and not a sonic improvement apparently.
I looked at the Bluesound and have been put off for reasons which escape me at the moment. From memory it was quality of sound and connectivity in my particular system.
What do you intend to use as your music source and/or control app? That may play into recommendations. Most network streaming hardware does not include storage, and there are a fair number that don't include analog outputs, although I would say most of the less expensive ones do since most people would prefer to get more features than less.
I upgraded from the Node 2 to the Auralic G1 and couldn't be happier. It was a significant audio improvement but also added useful features like IR remote connectivity and an LCD screen to display album art via Roon.
I use digital coax to connect it to my Brooklyn DAC+. Coax sounded better than USB, not sure if it's attributed to the G1 or Brooklyn.
Lastly, I researched the Lumin U1 Mini as well but there is so little info on it. It's $2k while the G1 is a couple hundred dollars more. Something to consider.
Edit: I see your updated post. I use a NAS (Network Attached Storage) to store and stream my ripped movies, music, pics, videos, runs roon server, etc. I use a QNAP 453B mini.
NAS' can sound overwhelming but think of it as an external hard drive with ethernet for connectivity. Of course, they have many more features and uses too.
For anyone interested there is plenty of info available on the Lumin U1 Mini on Computer Audiophile and AudioSharks where the software head also hangs out and answers questions daily. The G1 and U1 Mini are comparable units with all four standard outputs so it comes down to styling and which app you prefer. The Innuous is supposed to be a great unit also but USB output only.
@ecat026 also you can play around with the LUMIN mobile app before purchasing a unit. The only thing that won't work is choosing a target device or setting preferences for a device.
We ended deciding to carry LUMIN based on the quality and design of their hardware and software, after trying a few other options.
jeenam70 's suggestion of the Bluesound Node2 is an excellent recommendation.
New they are $399 (were 499, but now that the Node 2i is out they 2's are 100 less)
Also, not only do they seem bulletproof as far as having any issues, they are also kept in house by Roon. They are Roon certified, and MQA enabled and tested. And the Roon/Tidal combo is the most organized way, and user friendly way to not only keep track of your Music and Meta data,
it is also an incredible way to expand your music exposure, because the bio's shared on Roon let you see every artist , your artist has played with.
Bluesound node 2 or 2 i is a great , reasonable price , streamer that connects to a network in less than 30 minutes.
@tatyana69 have been using Bluesound for the past 3 years but while sonically it’s wonderful, it’s been a buggy troublesome experience. I just had another frustrating 2 days where one of their frequent downloads screwed everything up.
I tried the Bryston BDA2 as a demo and sonically thought it was a tie with Bluesound. Does it work well, though? Have you had difficulties at all? I’ve been lusting after the bdp3 but it’s really pricey...
@thyname I’ve streamed from my Oppo BDP-105 and 103 and a Marantz NA6005 and listen to a lot of digital music from my network using a number of different DACs.
Have you streamed from a Node 2?
There’s always something "better", but the Node 2 is very satisfying.
I'm not sure where the "all streamers sound the same came from". I didn't say that. I said the Node 2 sounds great.
I was skeptical about the Node 2 because of its low price, but I was able to pick one up for $200 and figured I could flip it if it wasn't that great. It's not going anywhere and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.
All I was saying @big_greg is that there are better streamers out there. A resolving systems (DAC, speakers, amp, etc.) will highly benefit by a good streamer. The better the streamer is, the better the system will sound. Not a knock on Node2.
I used to have a Node 2 a long time ago. I have moved on...
Top notch streamer without a DAC is simply a renderer like the Interchange:
The Interchange interfaces with Ethernet and delivers data with 10psec of jitter at the end of a 4 foot S/PDIF cable, lower than any other server you will buy. Not for USB.
I use Interchange with my Mac Mini and Linn Kinsky/Minimserver, all freeware. The SQ from this far exceeds Roon. You will need to use Linn Kazoo for streaming low-res from the web. Hi-res is from local storage only. You can also use Jriver, but SQ not as good as Kinsky.
For optimizations, do these things:
1) AQVOX switch
2) 2 Wireworld Platinum Ethernet cables, 0.5m and 2.0m
3) EMO EN-70e isolator between the two Ethernet cables, 0.5m cable at the AQVOX
It is critical that you connect it as described for best SQ.
If you must use USB, then get a USB converter like the Berkeley and this reclocker:
You will also need a good USB cable, like the Wireworld Platinum.
If you want to eliminate your Mac, then maybe the Antipodes servers or Aurender N10. You wanted the best.
Would this be what you're looking for?
I don't know a thing about PC audio but try to keep up on it and came across this while reading reviews.
All the best,