Streamer Advice: Bluesound Node 2 vs Aries Mini vs Oppo


Hello,

I know a lot of these advice threads already exist, and plenty of useful info from those. I’m looking for a network streamer with a budget of $500 ($600 is my absolute max). I’ll be playing my own redbook quality FLAC files, and streaming via Tidal. The Bluesound Node 2 and Auralic Aries Mini each check a lot of boxes for me, but I’m having a hard time finding an Aries Mini for sale.

My questions are...

Is there a significant benefit to the Aries Mini over the Bluesound Node 2? If folks think I’m better off with the Aries Mini I don’t mind waiting, and continuing the search for one.

And would an Oppo BDP-103 or BDP-105 be a better choice compared to either the Bluesound or Auralic?

I can’t afford the prices that Oppo UDP models are fetching, but I’m finding a lot of BDP-103s between $300-$500 and even some BDP-105s around $500-$600.

Having a Blu-Ray, CD, SACD player coupled with streaming is very enticing. Since Oppo’s digital components are no longer in production my hesitation is software support potentially going away.

Thanks, and cheers!
- MD


bomd
I love my node 2, and Tidal masters. 
You may also wish to consider the cambridge audio cxn. You can purchase a refurbished series 1 in your price range on their website. It comes with a one year warranty.  I use it on my system at my mountain house to play FLAC, ALAC, Tidal, and internet radio. I  have been very happy with its performance. Their software also works well and is easy to set up and use.
Auralic stopped making the Aries Mini so if you want one you will have to find one used, and they almost never come up. I've never heard the Node but many here seem to like it and it does all the same things the Mini does in terms of functionality.
I have both Oppo 105 and Node2.

Sound quality streaming Tidal is far superior on my Oppo compared to the Node 2 on its own.  Both apps are quite similar.  And both are run through my integrated amp.  DAC in Oppo has much more detail, and has larger soundstage, with a beautiful musical presentation.
If you have the digital out going to a DAC, the Node 2 is superior to the Oppo. Now, the interesting thing is that the brand new Node 2i just came out and it is supposed to be considerably better than the old Node 2 and the price has remained the same. I haven't tried the Node 2i yet, but we brought in the new Powernode 2i and we're really impressed straight out of the box.
Exactly what Everest audio said!
The dac in the node2 is its weakest link imhoRunning it into a quality dac gives superb resultsIf however you do not have a seperate dac and budget does not allow for one then the Oppo MAY be slightly better and of course you get a cd/sacd/dvd/bluray player to boot!
The airies mini is great little unit but as already stated well out of production and it seems owners are hanging onto them.
Good luck!
I cannot talk to the other players on your list, but for me, the Node 2 has proven to be an exceptional value.

The sound quality improves immensly when treated to great cables (i.e. power and IC’s), to the point that I have stopped looking to achieve any further improvements in sound quality - it sounds phenominal!

The last tweak was adding brass cone feet under the Node 2 - this provided the icing on the cake by creating an expansive image with pintpoint placement of musicians.

For some interface functions (i.e. playlists) I found the computer version of the player-app to be easier to work with, but for general playing and song selection the smartphone/tablet app is very well thought out and versatile

I also have the PowerNode 2 on my TV system. Another excellent product with superb imaging and enough power for my needs. Whether streaming via ethernet or listening to the TV via the toslink input, the sound is very three dimensional and enveloping.

I have no doubt there are better players on the market, but not for $600 - well except for maybe the new Node 2i :-)

BTW - I just compared the specs of the 2 vs. 2i and the only difference appears to be the wireless capability i.e.
- 802.11 b/g/n WiFi vs. Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac, dual-band)

https://www.bluesound.com/products/node-2/
https://www.bluesound.com/products/node-2i/

So if you are not that picky about dual band, you can pick the Node 2 up for $528 (i.e. until supply runs out) or pickup a previously enjoyed unit for even less. Both are bargains in my book for theri price

Best of luck - Steve :-)
While the Node 2i specs out the same, they made changes to the layout of the circuitry and signal path which has improved the sonics considerably according to What Hi-Fi. 
All great advice, tips, and info!!!  Thanks everyone!

So sounds like it's not worth holding out for an Aries Mini.  I see one come up maybe once a month or so (searching via eBay or Hifishark), but it does seem like owners are not letting those go.

Appreciate the tips on the Bluesound Node 2 as well as it's differences to the Node 2i.  And also sounds like I'll be in good shape with an Oppo BDP-103 purchase.

Appreciate the tip on the CA CXN refurbished model.  Will look at those too.

Cheers!!
It's also worth noting that I plan on using the internal DAC of whichever streamer/component I end up with.
I own an Aries Mini and cannot speak to the Oppo or Bluesound Node2 What drove me to the Aries were comparative reviews of the units and message boards like this. The reviews were spot on, SQ is excellent to my ears on the Mini but what really tips the scales is its wireless performance which experiences absolutely no dropouts from my Nethear 1750 router  which is on the second floor of my home. 
Having said that the mini does not always synch up with the Netgear 1750 after the routers scheduled shutdown every night and I have to reboot the Aries and/or router to synch them up again. 
This forum is the first I heard of the node 2i and I will certainly give that an audition. If it has the same wireless and audio performance of the mini I would consider buying one. 
@cast

Thanks for replying!  This is good info.  I've read that the Node 2i has a step up in SQ compared to the previous Node 2.  I'm really interested in the Aries Mini, but man, it is hard to come by one for sale. 
Guys, worth noting that you aren't stuck using wifi to connect your server to dac in another room. Whole house adapters that turn your electrical copper wiring into an ethernet extender are a better sounding option. Here's an example that I use although there's plenty of others:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00Y3QYTS6/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
The consensus view of computeraudiophile users is that while direct ethernet is best, this option a clear step up in SQ from wifi with most of the devices mentioned and other similar ones. YMMV. Cheers,
Spencer
I highly advise against ethernet over power if the line is on the same circuit as that used to power your gear. You're introducing noise into the power signal that your equipment receives.
Bluesound Node 2i is absolutely stunning.  
I have a node 2. Your comment implies you’ve heard both and the 2i sounds better. Is this so?
I thought the difference between node2 and 2i, and vault2 and 2i was just connection options like airplay etc.

My understanding was that the internal DAC were the same.

So in theory there should not be much difference in SQ if any.

Hi, bomd,

The Oppo 103 is not the same as the Oppo 105 when comparing sound quality; the 105 is a better player. I have a 103 and it's fine as a CD transport but the sound quality of its internal DAC is not as good compared to the internal DAC of a Rega Apollo or the Node 2, which I also own. The Node 2/2i has a better interface than the Oppo 103 if you plan on using an external USB drive for playback and if you end up with a NAS drive for file storage (which I use) the Node 2/2i works really well.

If you need a multi-player and have a limited budget then a used Oppo 105 is probably an OK choice. Any time you buy a used mechanical device it will be an unknown risk and whether Oppo will continue to service its discontinued models is even less certain. But if you're really looking for a digital player/streamer/bridge than the Node 2i is an excellent choice for $500. If you can find a new Node 2 for less, all the better. As others have pointed out, the sound quality of the Node 2/2i can be improved with an external DAC (that's what I do) but the internal DAC is actually quite good.

Ask a dozen people for advice and you'll get a dozen different suggestions. '-)

Regards,

Tom


@tketcham 

I think this was the exact response I was hoping to get.  I've learned that if I go with an Oppo the 105 is the way to go.  But I hear what you're saying in regard to a used mechanical device, and whether software for this player will continue to be supported or not.

The Bluesound Node 2i is where I'm leaning now.

@uberwaltz - The Node 2i upgrade was more than just added functionality. According to a couple of accounts I've read, improvements in the circuit layout, due to the reduced size of the Wi-Fi chipset, produced noticeable/significant improvements in SQ.

I think you should upgrade and report back to us on the results.........:~)

Then I stand corrected on the node version.
I have the vault which is wired internet connection only so that wifi chipset improvement might not be  applicable to the vault.

I am going to go sit in a corner and be quiet now...…..
We recently got a Vault- loving it.   Interconnects and digital coax are Cardas Parsec and it’s hooked to a Wyred 4 Sound Dac2.  Also using a Ethernet extender.  Adding the  Cardas coax really added to the richness of the sound.  Had an inexpensive Tributary before that.    Took a while to load all those cds into the vault but found many treasures we had forgotten about over the years!    
Maritime51, l have the Vault 2 at my mountain home and now have the new Node 2i at my winter home.  I have not compared them directly in the same system.  There is rather large price disparity between the two systems.  I find the Vault performs very well and sounds great within the context of that system.
The Node 2i is in a 50k plus system that is very well sorted.  I might expect such a component to sound ok, or hopefully decent and that was my mind set.

The sound quality is stunning in many areas.  Soundstage is deep with excellent separation between instruments.  The piano sounds natural without the usual digital artifacts.  Top end is extended and liquid with no glare or listening fatigue.  Imaging is 3D on well recorded selections.  On many occasions I have noticed an uncanny ability for certain sounds to startle oneself into thinking “wow, what was that?  That sounded real.”  Oh, and the bass?  It goes deep with a lot of weight behind it.  

You all all know that feeling when you buy something that exceeds your expectations by a magnitude you thought impossible.  That special feeling of glee and exhilaration is a wonderful thing.

So yes, I think the 2i is something unique and special.
@rhljazz 

Thanks for sharing!  What DAC are you using with your Node 2i?

I'm definitely settled on picking up a Node 2i.

Great question. I’ve got a nuprime Evolution DAC on order. If he uses the Bluesound DAC, I’m glad to hear it. 
I’m using the internal dac which is the impressive part.  The 2i is plugged into a Shunyata Hydra.  Cabling to the preamp is Morrow MA3.  I am just now past the 100 hour mark.  My systems are on my page.
Back to the Ethernet connection on the 2i:  Do I have to use this to make it work?  I don't have a LAN line in the room I plan on installing the 2i and introducing an adapter doesn't seem like a good idea.  Can't I just use this via wifi?  I'm streaming Tidal and Pandora thru an Audioengine B1 (eg via Bluetooth) which is looking long in the tooth. 
@russellrcncom - I don't own the Bluesound, but I'm interested in their products and I've discussed this with a local dealer.....

For the Node 2i, you DO NOT need ethernet connection. You can stream wireless via WiFi. For the Vault 2i, you DO need an ethernet connection.

Actual owners, feel free to correct me if I am wrong.......


My node 2 uses WiFi....
I own BlueSound equipment.   You do need a hardwire connection to the web for the Vault2 or 2i.   The Node will work on wireless and communicate to the Vault2 via wireless, but how well both work is dependent on the internet modem you have.  I had to put the AT&T modem in bridge mode and buy a separate wireless router.  Also, before you buy, do play with the software a bit.  That BlueSound software is not the best out there, rather I consider it to be rather brain dead.  I got a Roon license and Roon is light years ahead of the BlueSound sw. 
Wi Fi setup is integrated in the BluOS app.  Node2/i requires only a Wi Fi connection.  Super easy to get it up and running.  I have zero complaints with the BluOS app.  No experience with Roon nor any desire to pursue at this point in time.  My Wi Fi is Cox Cable Panoramic.  No connection problems whatsoever.  Internet speed test results are “very fast “.  I’m connected on the 5ghz band.

No need for an external dac for me.  The 2i matches my system and listening requirements perfectly.
I recently purchased a Bluesounds Node 2i.  I have it connected via WiFi and am using Audioquest NRG-2 C7 power cable, and Audioquest Sidewinder Interconnects.

Very happy with the performance and user interface.  This is an incredible product for $500.  No complaints so far!!
I would think there would be little difference in SQ between Node 2 and Node2i since both have the same DAC.
FWIW, as a former Oppo 105 owner, although it's a real swiss army knife and well made, the sound quality of its dac is just okay. IMHE, stepping up to something like a Schiit Gungnir multibit(my choice) or Chord Hugo is a huge improvement in almost every sonic quality. Cheers,
Spencer