The Auralic Aries Mini would be your other choice in the $500 range that I’m aware of. I’m still on the fence on getting it or the Bluesound Node 2. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer as it sounds like they are both great products with some different features/capabilities. I’m hoping others chime in here as well.
I have had a Dell laptop, quad core I7, 16 gigs of RAM, 1 tb internal disk drive, 4 tb external disk drive (to store AIFF files from recording CDs on iTunes, plus hi-res AIFF files purchased from HD Tracks), USB out to my DAC. A few months ago I started a subscription to Roon, whose "core" runs on the Dell, iPad app to control.
I purchased a dedicated music server a few years ago, don't use it anymore.
I’ve been very happy with my Node 2 particularly the flexibility that it provides. I have used it as a "Streamer" as well as a preamp/streamer directly connected to my amplifier. The mobile app supports basically everything a preamp can provide - volume control, balance, tone control, including a subwoofer connection. The question to ask is what else is out there that is WiFi capable and provides all this in a single box, with decent quality, and supports MQA content for under $500. Bluesound reliability and on-line support has also been excellent.
I use the Bluesound Node 1's, but only as streamers.
Though the Node 2 is supposedly better DAC-wise, I would keep the Node 1's and get better DAC's. For the money, I can't think of anything else comparable. Also, directly connect via ethernet rather than Wifi.
I don't know if you can do your own DAC
How does the Sonica DAC fit in with the Node 2 and Aries Mini?https://www.oppodigital.com/sonica-dac/sonica-dac-Overview.aspx
Is it Roon ready?
I have a question then. Would I be better served to ditch the node and just use the Tidal With an iPhone and mac, get a nice DAC, and a decent cable?
Good question amritash and one I answered for myself a while back. I replaced my Mac mini with a Bluesound Node 2 and have been much happier without the endless round of updates served by Apple/Amarra/Audirvana/etc. The sound quality of the Node 2 is at least on par with my Mac. The DAC in the Node 2 is pretty good and if/when you want to upgrade, you can purchase an outboard DAC as funds allow. I think the Node 2 is hard to beat at its price point.
For Hifi: Android phone -> Chromecast Audio -> Audio GD Interface -> DAC.
The Bluesound makes it so easy to connect different rooms and also stream high quality music.
I had Airfoil previously, but the Bluesound is much better.
I've found out that the bluesound node 1 and 2 have the same quality sound. I should have said that I was interested in getting the most out of their new MQA Masters. So, if the bluesound node 1 can open the MQA which they can then perhaps I can upgrade the sound by adding a nicer DAC to it?
I know many music lovers use a pc/mac to stream music but in my opinion they are a terrible choice and a lot of people spend all kinds of extra money trying to fix the "dirty" USB or jitter issues, buying USB isolators, reclockers, purifiers, silver USB cables...etc. Funny thing is that many end up paying the same amount of money as buying a quality music server like an Aurender or a Melco. My advice is to save the trouble and invest in a good music server/streamer with linear power and a built in audio quality USB bus. I stream Tidal through an Aurender N100H connected to an Ayre Codex via AQ Coffee USB cable and I get excellent sound, no USB isolator or purifer needed. Not as good as the Aurender but the Bluesound devices seems to be pretty good as well. Good luck!
I use the Node 1 and output to my DAC. So using the Bluesound App, I will connect to Tidal and use Tidal's MQA unfolding (which isn't a complete unfolding). The Bluesound does no MQA unfolding itself.
The alternative is to get a DAC with MQA capability, but, for me, I don't find the upgrade in sound reproduction to be worth it. In fact, I find Spotify (Premium) to be more than enough for my needs.
If I want to pursue higher fidelity, I would play my CD's. But, I have to say, I haven't played any for almost a year. I find the convenience and the completeness of the Spotify catalog outweighs any fidelity shortcomings.- And, in probably a couple of years, sound reproduction will have improved even more.
If you want to ditch the PC, then get a Bluesound Vault for streaming local music. In fact, I may be going that direction, too.
I hope those Vandies are keeping you happy. And +1 for the Ayre Codex, when I stopped by Audioconnection, Johnny played music through the Bluesound Vault and the Codex. It was so impressive, I bought a used on here on Agon.