Bluesound Node 2 Digital Music Server Review


The "year of DACs" is lasting more than a year. With this latest audio system revision, all of the CD-based music systems in my home and office have been replaced with computer-based music file server systems. This report discusses the replacement and downsizing of my master bedroom audio system. The music server chosen was a Bluesound Node 2. Bluesound is a collaborative effort between NAD electronics and PSB loudspeakers, both of which are owned by the Lenbrook Group.

The Node 2 plays digital file formats up to 24 bit 192 kHz, as well as popular streaming services like Tidal and Spotify. Internet radio is also included. I have no interest in subscription streaming services at this time, althougy I do have a free Spotify account that I use to preview albums.

The Node 2, which retails for $499, has received very favorable reviews. I found its packaging, features, and construction quality to be excellent, and its sound quality to be much better than expected for a $500 component. The Node 2 had a little more clarity and detail in the midrange than the Sony BDP-S9000ES Blu-ray player ($1,300) it replaced. The Node 2 was also a little better in midrange clarity and detail than a vintage 1988 Yamaha CDX-1110U CD player ($1,200) I brought out of storage for comparison.

Figure 1. Bluesound Node 2 in black (white is also available). Chassis measures 8-5/8"W x 1-13/16"H x 5-3/4"D and weighs 2.5 pounds.

Figure 2. Node 2 rear conections.


Figure 3. Former master bedroom audio/video system.

Old regime:

Sony TA-E9000ES 5.1 preamp processor
Adcom GFA-5400 power amplifier (125 wpc - 8 ohms)
Sony BDP-S2000ES Blu-ray/DVD/CD player
PS Audio Power Plant Premier AC Regenerator
Polk Audio DSW MicroPro 4000 subwoofer
Magnepan MG 12 speakers
Signal Cable MagicPower cords
Monster Cable Z3 Reference speaker cables
Monster Cable Z200i interconnects
Monster Cable Zbass100 subwoofer cable
Furnitech FT76RL audio credenza
Audio Research HDMI cable (Blu-ray to TV)
Radio Shack optical cable (TV audio out to preamp)
Samsung HP-4273 Plasma HDTV

Figure 4. A cleaner, sleeker look: downsized master bedroom audio/video system. My bedroom seems twice as large without the big stereo system soaking up a lot of visual space.

New regime:

Bluesound Node 2 digital player
Altec Lansing ADA745 2.1 computer speakers (11 wpc-satellites, 54 w-sub)
Dell Venue Pro 11 7140 tablet computer
Sony BDP-S2000ES Blu-ray/DVD/CD player
Audio Research HDMI cable (Blu-ray to TV)
Samsung HP-4273 Plasma HDTV
Polk Audio CRS+ speaker stand used for Blu-ray player stand
Monoprice RCA to 3.5mm stereo adapter (Node 2 audio out to ADA745 speakers)

In the future, when I am more dedicated to audio than I am now, I will replace the old computer speakers with a higher performance small 2.1 speaker system.

Figure 5. The Node 2 is tucked out of sight behind the television.

Figure 6. The Node 2 is controlled via the Bluesound app on a Dell Venue Pro 11 7140 tablet.

I really appreciate the Bluesound app's ability to control volume level, make playlists, and dial up a variety of Internet radio stations. Internet radio sounded very good.

Figure 7. Bluesound's cell phone app works very well.

Proof Of Concept

The desire to downsize the master bedroom system came about because, over time, I seldom used the speakers and subwoofer when watching movies. Music listening was almost always done in the background. Even with that, there was some concern that I wouldn't be satisfied with smaller speakers. That concern was quickly dispelled by setting up an old Altec Lansing ADA745 2.1 computer speaker system playing compressed WAV music files from my cell phone. The AL speakers ($100) were purchased with a Dell PC system in 2003, and had been in storage since being replaced in 2009 with a Polk Audio SurroundBar IHT speaker system.

Figure 8. This sounded surprisingly good, and sounded even better when set up in the master bedroom.

Audio Evaluations

Critical listening was done after the Node 2 had been running for 168 hours straight.

Music files totaling 104 GB (45 albums) were loaded on a Sandisk Cruzer CZ36 128 GB USB stick. This was the most tedious part of the evaluation process as it took 2 hours and 12 minutes to load the USB stick due to its slow write speed. I already knew this was a shortcoming of this particular USB stick, but I didn't want to spend the money for a faster stick or a solid state drive. It took the Node 2 only 53 seconds to index all of the music files. The Node 2 can stream music from any computer or music server that conforms to Windows or Apple file sharing protocol. Therefore, the Node 2 was able to access my entire CD and hirez music collection on the solid state drive of the Bryston BDP-2 digital player in my two channel system. The Node 2 took 36 minutes to index the BDP-2's 13,744 music files.

The Node 2 can be setup and controlled via a wireless or wired Ethernet connection. I chose wireless. Music playback was 44.1 kHz, 176.4 kHz, and 192 kHz FLAC files from a USB stick, and the same resolution FLAC files streamed from the solid state drive of the Bryston BDP-2 digital player, and and the same resolution FLAC files streamed from the hard drive of my home office desktop computer.

Digital files from the Node 2 were compared with CD versions played from the Sony Blu-ray and Yamaha disc players and 44.1 k Flac files were compared with higher resolution versions. The Node 2 was resolving enough to easily hear the differences between the 44.1 k Columbia CD rip, 44.1 k Mobile Fidelity CD rip, and the 192 k hirez download versions of Miles Davis' "So What". Likewise for the 44.1 Columbia CD rip and 176.4 hirez download versions of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five". This was true with the Altec Lansing computer speakers, and even more so when the Node 2 was installed in the higher resolution two channel system, former master bedroom system, and work office system.



  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    Audio Evaluations, Continued

    I perceived no differences between a music file played from the Node 2's attached USB stick and the same file streamed wirelessly from the BDP's solid state drive in the living room. Replacing the Blu-ray player, and the Yamaha CD player, in the old regime master bedroom system with the Node 2 resulted in clearer and more detailed midrange sound. The highs and bass ranges were not as clear and detailed as the disc players. The Node 2 presented a narrower, shallower sound stage with significantly less image weight. However, for this background music application, imaging performance is not a consideration.

    After the old regime bedroom system was taken down, the Node 2 was again compared to the BDP-S2000ES Blu-ray player and the CDX-1110U CD player using the Altec Lansing 2.1 computer speaker system. Again, the Node 2's midrange performance was better than the Sony and Yamaha players, but not as good as either player in the high frequency and bass ranges.

    Figure 9. The Node 2 goes up against some stiff competition in my two channel system.

    I initially had no intention of auditioning the Node 2 in my other audio systems, but, as usual, my curiosity overruled my common sense. As would be expected, the $499 Node 2 didn't fare well against the $20,500 Bryston BDP-2 digital player, dCS Puccini U-Clock word clock, and dCS Debussy DAC combination? The sound was comparatively "listenable". Sound stage depth shrank from 10 feet deep projected well in front of and well behind the speakers to 2 feet deep beginning at the front plane of the speakers. Sound stage width shrank from several feet beyond the edge of each speaker to the space between the center of each speaker. Sound stage height was reduced from the tops (and higher) of the speakers to just above the vertical midpoint of each speaker. Overall clarity, detail, tactile sensation, and image weight were significantly reduced. The Node 2 was connected to my Pass Labs XP-30 preamp via Monster Cable Z200i RCA-terminated interconnects.

    Figure 10. The Node 2 puts in work in my office system.

    Finally, the Node 2 was installed in my audio system at work and compared to the Bryston BDP-2 digital player ($3,295) and Bryston BDA-3 DAC ($3,495) combination. Similar to the case with the two channel system, sound stage shrinkage and diminished clarity, detail, and tactile sensation were noted. Again, the Node 2 didn't sound bad, just less good by comparison to a digital solution many multiples of its price. The Node 2 was auditioned in my office system with the generic quality RCA interconnects that came with it. I forgot to pack a set of better quality interconnects before leaving.

    I once considered going with a smaller computer audio system for my office, but I didn't think I would be satisfied with the smaller stereophonic presentation. I was right...I wouldn't have been.


    Kudos to Bluesound for the thought and care they put into the packaging of their products.

    Figure 11. Thick, heavy cardboard outer box.

    Figure 12. Thick, form-fitting inserts.

    Figure 13. Another layer of form-fitting inserts. Under this layer the Node 2 is wrapped in a thick cloth bag.

    Figure 14. The Node 2 comes with all the required cables, that audiophiles will throw away, except for maybe the Ethernet cable if they decide not to use the wireless interface.

    I would have ditched the power cord, but I don't have, or even know of, an upgrade cord with the proper termination to fit the Node 2.

    Further Study

    Based on the results of this pilot study, and if nothing better comes along, there is a strong possibility that I will upgrade to Bluesound's PowerNode 2, which is essentially a Node 2 digital player combined with a 60 watts per channel integrated amplifier. The PowerNode 2 would be used with Bluesound's Duo 2.1 speaker system which includes a 110 watt continuous/280 watt peak subwoofer.

    Figure 15. PowerNode 2.

    Figure 16. PowerNode 2 connections

    Figure 17. Duo sub/satellite 2.1 speaker system.

    Associated Equipment

    Two Channel Audio System:

    Pass Labs XP-30 preamp
    Pass Labs X600.5 monoblock power amps
    Polk Audio SDA SRS 1.2TL loudspeakers (extremely modified)
    AudioQuest Sky XLR interconnects
    AudioQuest Everest speaker cables
    RAL Prophecy Cryo-Silver USB cable
    RAL Prophecy Cryo-Silver AES/EBU cable
    Bryston BDP-2 digital player
    dCS Debussy DAC
    dCS Puccini U-Clock word clock
    PS Audio P10 AC Regenerator
    PS Audio AC 12 power cords
    Dell Venue Pro 11 7140 tablet computer

    Office Two Channel Audio System:

    Bryston BP-26 preamp with MPS-2 outboard power supply
    Bryston 4B3 power amp
    Bryston BDA-3 DAC
    Bryston BDP-2 digital player
    Polk Audio SDA CRS+ loudspeakers (extremely modified)
    PS Audio Xstream Transcendent interconnects
    RAL Prophecy Cryo-Silver USB cable
    Douglas Connection DCF92 speaker cable
    PS Audio P10 AC Regenerator
    PS Audio Premier SC power cords
    Dell Venue Pro 11 7140 tablet computer


    The Year of DACS - Review:

    Pure Overkill Computer Audio Office System-Review:

    Bryston BDA-3 DAC-Review:

    dCS Debussy DAC-Review:

  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,202
    Cool Ray, glad you like it and it's nice to see they are finally stepping on Sonos's toes. These small music servers are decent enough for casual listening but when you want to sit down and lend an ear and be more critical it's easy to hear where they fall short.

    Pairing them however with some decent playmates can be rewarding though.....and not everyone can shell out what you did on your office system or 2 channel, so it becomes a real option for a lot of people looking to dump the cd spinners.

    Excellent review as always. How's the software ? The original BS node had some hiccups but since you mentioned none I assume they worked it all out.

  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    I didn't have any operational software issues.

    The only glitch was the cover art of two albums wouldn't display in the Node 2's app, but they displayed in the BDP-2's app. Searching Bluesound's support archives provided an answer. The Node 2 cannot read image files over 600 kB in size. I used Mp3tag to read the metadata of the problem albums songs and each song had embedded cover art that was 2 MB in size. I could either replace the embedded cover art in each song file with a smaller weight version, or put a smaller version of the cover art in the same folder as the album files and name it "Folder.jpg". The "Folder.jpg" file supercedes embedded artwork. I chose the latter.

    Another thing I found, that was not mentioned in the setup guide, was that having the Node 2 do other tasks, like playing music, while it is indexing files can cause errors. I did the first index operation while listening to music. Some song files had the wrong cover art. I repeated indexing while doing nothing else and all song files were properly labeled. I repeated indexing two more times while listening to music and the cover art errors occurred each time.
  • txcoastal1txcoastal1 Posts: 7,408
    I still have a little buyer's remorse as I bought a V1-Bluesound Vault and the GUI sucked. Still had a lot of issues at LSAF with latest update firmware/software.

    Most of these issues have been resolved the the V2 versions. The sound quality has been good with the V1 stuff it was UI issues.
  • NightfallNightfall Posts: 6,841
    I'm surprised that you could hear differences between 44 and 192kHz files as well as the Node 2 vs Yamaha CD player with those PC speakers.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    Nightfall wrote: »
    I'm surprised that you could hear differences between 44 and 192kHz files as well as the Node 2 vs Yamaha CD player with those PC speakers.

    I was surprised too.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,202
    txcoastal1 wrote: »
    I still have a little buyer's remorse as I bought a V1-Bluesound Vault and the GUI sucked. Still had a lot of issues at LSAF with latest update firmware/software.

    Most of these issues have been resolved the the V2 versions. The sound quality has been good with the V1 stuff it was UI issues.

    That's what turned me off to them early on. Hopefully they worked out the bugs because I think they have a great product in general.
  • txcoastal1txcoastal1 Posts: 7,408
    They worked it out in the V2 stuff. I would buy again just sux that a blew $1k on the V1 unit
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,202
    I don't recall it being that expensive....did you have Texas sized horns put on yours ?
  • txcoastal1txcoastal1 Posts: 7,408
    It was a Bluesound vault with built in CD to Vault 2

    It was supposed to make it easy rip and play for LSAF and shows

    ripping and filing was fine but the UI for playlists is what sukked +vault +2&awmt=b&awnw=g
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,202
    Gotcha man, you had the ripper too. Which is nice to have but at 1K, I dunno....overpriced in my book.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    edited September 2016

    The Duo 2.1/Powernode 2 combination got off to a rough start, but I'm very pleased with the sound after a few days. The satellites were very bright at first, but smoothed out a lot during the first 6 hours. After two days of continuous play, they sounded great and were well integrated with the sub.

    The fit and finish of the speakers and sub was excellent. I did not like the Powernode 2's flimsy plastic binding post nuts, two of which popped off of their metal barrels when I tightened down on the speaker cable spades. I had to switch to bananas for the Powernode 2. The Duo satellites had all metal binding posts and presented no problems with the spade connectors.

    Figure 18. Bluesound Duo 2.1 speaker system and Powernode 2 ready for installation.

    Figure 19. Much thicker and more stereophonic sound than the Altec Lansing 2.1 speakers.

    Figure 20. The Powernode 2 is tucked behind the television, in the same place as the Node 2.

    Updated master bedroom computer audio system:

    Bluesound Powernode 2 digital player and integrated amplifier
    Bluesound Duo 2.1 speaker system
    Dell Venue Pro 11 7140 tablet computer
    Sony BDP-S2000ES Blu-ray/DVD/CD player
    Audio Research HDMI cable (Blu-ray to TV)
    Samsung HP-4273 Plasma HDTV
    Polk Audio CRS+ speaker stand used for Blu-ray player stand
    Monster Cable Z3 Reference speaker cable, 10' pair
    Monster Cable ZBass100 subwoofer cable, 18'
  • Great review... I have and have been using the Node and the Node2 for sometime now and the convenience is great and the SQ is good to very good... The udates they have made to the UI are great.
  • Joey_VJoey_V Posts: 5,701
    edited October 2016
    Good overview of the BS system. Were you reviewing it partially based on the Altec PC speakers?
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    The reference was the larger bedroom system shown in figure 3. I was happy with the Altec 2.1 speakers, but, considering the age of the system and its build quality, I was not confident that they would be a good long term solution. As I mentioned earlier, the Altecs were just set up to see if I would be satisfied with a much smaller sound presentation.

  • erniejadeerniejade Posts: 3,631
    I am late getting in on this convo. @txcoastal1 The vault2, has the UI improved? @tonyb at k1 for the vault2, it not only rips but it has 2TB of storage built into it. I think 1k for a music server with that kind of storage is about the same price as a laptop / desktop and cheaper vs something like the Sony that only has 1tb but a built in dac.

    This unit or vault2 was in the running for my next piece except it doesn't do DSD or at least none of the specs say it does dsd. Granted, I don't have a lot on DSD yet but, it was something I was looking into when my tube vi dac finally gets done.
  • Mr_HzMr_Hz Posts: 110
    With digital in & digital output, I am considering purchase/use of Node2's for multi-room sound capabilities. An expensive solution for sure, but I'm drawn to their 24bit-192k flac transfer capabilities AND the fact that you can deliver the signal digitally, and let your expensive end equipment DACs do all the D/A conversions.

    I also understand that BlueSound is suppose to be Roon ready by year's end. Another bonus!

    Any thoughts on other comparable/less expensive solutions?
  • erniejadeerniejade Posts: 3,631
    If roon isnt an issue, I have had great luck wkth a google chromecast audio, digital out from the chromecast audio to my dac running BubbleUPnp on my droid. BubbleUPnp even has tidal support, runs other srrvices like spotify, or my nas from up stairs running flac or wav uncompressed.
  • NightfallNightfall Posts: 6,841
    edited January 6
    @DarqueKnight Have you tried using the digital out of the Node 2 into a higher quality DAC? If so did it affect the sound stage size?
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    @Nightfall I have not tried that.
  • steveinazsteveinaz Posts: 17,657
    Has anyone used the windows based UI with this yet? Looks like a cool solution if run into a good ext DAC.
  • erniejadeerniejade Posts: 3,631
    When I had one, I ran it coax out to my dac. While it sounded better then the node2 internal dac, for some reason the sound stage was narrowed and did not sound as good as my laptop running with a w4s recovery to the same dac. My wife even made a coment on it being mote narrow sounding. Now it could be the loaner I had was defective or maybe it wasn't broken in as much as the dealer said????
  • kevhed72kevhed72 Posts: 2,754
    I wonder if the Vault 2 can be set to start downloading / recording music at a certain time and date, as in a specific HD radio show every week? If so.....I'm in. There is a slightly discounted new one for sale on Audiogon right now......
  • steveinazsteveinaz Posts: 17,657
    This looks very interesting, but one thing I really like about using the oppo 103 is that it needs no network if your HDD is plugged into it directly. The downside of the Oppo is the extremely limited UI.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,902
    edited April 23
    Hello DK and others that have chimed in on this thread.

    I'm just gonna go ahead and admit it...


    There, I said it. Everyone who has known me over the years, without exception, knows full well that I despise the "convenience crowd". I am a die-hard, tried and true physical media type of guy and I am very stubborn with my thoughts on that. Always have been and always thought I would be. Up until I was shown this product and listened the MQA files through Tidal (of which I am now a member).

    These music servers have gotten so convenient that I could not offer any excuse to not try it out on the rig while I'm out in the LR working in the office. I heard this unit on some very expensive systems this weekend, the top system had $64,000.00 Vandersteens and with all of the other associated gear, that system topped out at over 300K.

    Needless to say, I was extremely impressed at not only the convenience of pulling up pretty much any album one could think of with your phone, I-pad, I-pod, desktop or laptop.....and with the MQA selections, I was also very impressed with the sound quality of this, shall I say, relatively cheap server. I heard it by itself and I heard it hooked up to many different DAC's. Even put it up against a vinyl rig that was rather impressive and the sound was STILL impressive.

    Not sit in the sweet spot and perform critical listening type listening (although with the right DAC/set up, could sound really surprisingly close) but as DK mentioned, listening when it is just for background or entertainment purposes.

    DK, I think you might like Tidal. While I haven't been privy to Roon or any of the other services other than literally Pandora on my phone, I found its software to be virtually flawless, very easy to maneuver, find, search or do whatever with very little coaching. I found that the learning curve on one that is set up already was virtually zero.

    I'll be hooking mine up initially with Transparent Reference IC's straight into my pre. For experimental purposes, I'll go optical out (or get a coaxial cable) into a cheap DAC I have sitting in the closet that I used to use on my old satellite box. I think it's a V-Dac from Musical Fidelity. It may or may not improve the sound/imaging but it will be fun to try. I'll chime in later on my observations with that.

    Long story short? I was very impressed by this little thing and I can't believe I'm typing these words. I actually own a music server now. *shutters as an audiophile*

    I can't believe I just said that.

  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,902
    This unit responded well to the V-DAC. Definite improvement on almost all aspects of the reproductive effort.

  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    treitz3 wrote: »
    I am a die-hard, tried and true physical media type of guy and I am very stubborn with my thoughts on that. Always have been and always thought I would be.

    Physical media? You mean those little silver disks and big black discs that you have to hand carry to a player and put in a sliding tray or lower a *gasp* *choke* *cough* "needle" onto? Those things are a distant memory similar to my days in elementary school. :)

    I do like to keep physical media for backup purposes. I still use physical media for video, and I am in no hurry to transfer my DVD/Bluray collection to a server based system.
    treitz3 wrote: »
    Needless to say, I was extremely impressed at not only the convenience of pulling up pretty much any album one could think of with your phone, I-pad, I-pod, desktop or laptop....

    Welcome to the future. In addition to the hyper improvements in playback convenience, I was surprised by the improvement in sound quality that high quality non-mechanical playback systems can offer over CD transports and turntables.
    treitz3 wrote: »
    DK, I think you might like Tidal.

    I did a one month trial of Tidal. It's not something I'd want to subscribe to. I also did a one month trial of Spotify Premium. I didn't want to subscribe to it either. I did keep the free Spotify service. I use it to preview albums I am interested in purchasing.

  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,902
    Fair enough. I've never used any server before and Tidal was easy to take too (for me).

    I'm looking at the MF Tri Vista 21 DAC on the 'gon right now for this unit after hearing the change when I hooked up the V-DAC. Do you think it would be a good combo or am I not looking at the right kind of DAC for this unit?

    I am completely new to the DAC world as well. I will say that I do love the DAC that's in the Maratz SA-S71 I have. That whole unit sounds great. I was just wondering if I could get this unit to get a little bit closer to what I have with physical media and the Marantz.

    Any words of wisdom from those who have been there and done that would be appreciated.

  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,035
    Bluesound has done an amazing job at the $500 price point of the Node 2. At that price point, you are not going to get the best, low-noise power supply and the best low-noise digital circuits. A better DAC is not going to overcome the Node 2's design compromises, but I'd say try it and see if you like what you hear. You might be pleasantly surprised.

  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,902
    TBT, they sounded pretty damned good at the shop I heard them in in Atlanta. I wouldn't have purchased it otherwise. I think I'll pull the trigger and hope for the best.

    Their amps are right up my alley.....let's see if the DAC's are too.

Sign In or Register to comment.

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!