Bluesound Node 2 Digital Music Server Review

2

Comments

  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,039
    Great! Let us know how it works out.
  • Mikey081057Mikey081057 Posts: 4,595
    Ive been looking at this too many times.

    https://mytekdigital.com/hifi/products/brooklyn/

    The SA 8004 is adequate for now tho.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    How much for that or the ManhattanII Mikey?

    Tom
  • Mikey081057Mikey081057 Posts: 4,595
    Brooklyn $2K
    Manhattan $6K
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Eh, for now I think I'll stick with the MFTV21. I simply do not know how much this will get me to the level of the physical media/Marantz combo. Thanks for answering though. Much appreciated sir.

    Tom
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,210
    Tom....wtf ?? LOL

    Just goes to show, ya live long enough and you see a few things you thought would never happen.

    My thoughts on this.....the Node is a slick unit, better dac = better results imho. Up to a point obviously like Ray suggested. The TV21 was a great dac in it's day, still is by many standards, but I'd suggest for the same coinage going Cary 100t.

    I like Cary dacs with these digital devices, they seem to get rid of any of that digital glare some of these cheaper digital devices sometimes carry....least to my ears anyway. Congrats on moving to the convenience side....but without giving up SQ.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    edited April 24
    Thanks Tony. It sure is nice to sit in the office which is 40 ft. away from the rig and enjoy music without the worry of, "How am I gonna accept a business call when the rig is playing at 100db or so?". Gotta make them think I'm working and not enjoying the hell out of my music as I work. 'Knaw mean?

    With this bad boy, I simply hit pause, accept the call and get back to the music when the call is done. THAT is convenient.

    I read up on DAC's into the wee hours of the night last night and a particular Cary DAC kept getting mentioned. Is that the one that was in the "Year of the DAC" shootout DK had a while back? If it is, I am a little hesitant toward that one. Here's why;

    I had a Cary in my rig before. It was a big boy tube amp that was simply the best aesthetically pleasing tube amp I believe I have laid my own eyes on (in person, not just a photo). I heard this tube amp on Dunlavey's, a set of Apogee Centaurus and a couple of other nice speakers that I can't recall at the moment. It sounded great. I mean it sounded freakin' wonderful.

    When I got it home and into my system? Yeah, all of a sudden it didn't sound so good. I tried and tried to swap out all cables throughout the system, tube roll every tube that was not only in the Cary amp itself but in the entire rig....just trying to get the thing to sound "good" in my rig. After 2 months of constant swapping and getting nowhere fast, I determined that there was something about that Cary amp that did not have synergy with one or more components within my rig. I returned it, much to my own surprise. Believe you me, I tried EVERYTHING to get that amp to sound good.

    Brought it back to the system it sounded wonderful in when I acquired it? Damned thing sounded glorious again. Idgit (me)

    cary_audio_design_cad_120s2.jpg

    Tom
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,210
    Tube amps and dacs are different animals. Not a fan of tube amps myself just because of the constant attention they need.

    Ray has rolled a few dacs in his day, a few were from Cary, but he never did have the 100t in as far as I could tell. He liked the Cary dac inside his SACD player for many years though. I use a lowly Cary Xciter dac with mine and I'm pretty pleased with it's sound which I picked up for 400 bones so not a lot invested there. Sound is more important to me than the latest and greatest gizmo.

    I know you like the warmer more analog sound so I can see your interest in the TV21, but dacs have made some good headway since that came out. MF M1 is a solid performer too for around 400 bucks if you like that MF sound. Like you, I prefer the older MF sound over their newer stuff.

    For me, I like the AKM chips over the Sabre and Wolfsons, obviously implementation plays a role there too. That's what drew me to the Xciter dac anyway. Getting these small digital devices to sound more analog has been my goal, might be yours too, I dunno.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Well, I hooked up the Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC after removing the temporary V-DAC and though it does sound better? This unit (Node 2) still is not where I want it to be. I swear it sounded better than this at the store down in Atlanta. I can tell the difference in the living room which is 40' away from the rig.

    I tried to adjust the tone controls in the Node 2 (I know, I know.....but don't revoke my credentials yet) to see if the sound would improve. Nope, they got worse. Much worse, so scratch that. I didn't see any other adjustments that you can make, so it looks like I have to look elsewhere to improve the sound.

    I have it set up like this;

    Phone (4G) or Wi-Fi > I-pad (Tidal control only) >Node2 > Optical out > MF Tri-Vista 21 > Transparent Reference IC's > Dodd Audio MLP pre

    What I am experiencing is good and clean sound but with the mid bass areas sucked out of the equation which as an end result, takes away from the overall "feel" of the music. All other frequencies seem to be fine. While I don't care to get this up to my liking in the sweet spot, I sure do want it to sound better when I'm in the office/LR.

    I have 2 questions for all of the experienced folks out there;

    Is this normal for a music server/steaming?

    Do you think the issue is coming from the Optical cable and perhaps I need to get a digital coaxial cable?

    Tom
  • FTGVFTGV Posts: 3,484
    edited April 29
    treitz3 wrote: »
    ... I swear it sounded better than this at the store down in Atlanta.
    What I am experiencing is good and clean sound but with the mid bass areas sucked out of the equation ...

    Do you think the issue is coming from the Optical cable and perhaps I need to get a digital coaxial cable?
    Completely different loudspeakers, different room the reason for sonic differences not digital cables IMO.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Okay, made some headway. Hopped onto Tidal MDQ and noticed that the feet on the Tri-Vista turned blue, instead of an Orange-Red color. Apparently it takes it a while for the tubes to warm up. Cool.

    MAJOR sound improvement from when I first hooked it up. Now I'm sitting in the office (40' away from the rig) as I type this and I'm honestly hard pressed to hear any differences between the Marantz and Tidal from my office chair. Some of the mid-bass frequency region is still not what I am used too but it has dramatically improved from an hour ago.

    I still have yet to sit in the sweet spot but I also noticed quite the "bloom" of a perceived sound stage / stereo separation. It sounded flat, if you will before. It seems as if now, it has "bloomed" to life.

    I'm gonna try a hard wire straight to the router if I can find a cable today that is about 150' long and I think I'll stop by the local audio shop in town and pick up a decent coaxial cable to see if that will help improve things even more.

    While I had thoughts of returning this Node 2 this week, today? This unit has garnered my respect back. Now to tweak every last bit of musical information out of it that I can...

    More later.

    Tom
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,039
    I did not experiment with connecting the Node 2 to a better DAC. However, I was pleased with the sound quality from both the Altec Lansing 2.1 computer speakers and the Bluesound Duo 2.1 speakers. In neither case did I hear a mid-bass suckout.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Nightfall wrote: »
    @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?

    Most definitely.

    Tom
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,210
    I also wouldn't discount the importance of a decent digital coax cable. Toslink in my view doesn't compare with these digital streamers. Least not on my Sonos anyway. I've tried both toslink and digital coax and the coax wins out every time.

    Never experienced a mid bass suck out though from either cable, so the only conclusion in my view has to come from the TV21. She's an old girl Tom, may need some updating on the inside which is why I suggested looking elsewhere for a dac. A more current one anyway. Many brands have surpassed that TV21 in sound quality.
  • mantismantis Posts: 14,556
    I want to check out the Bluesound Stuff as I was talking to a former co worker from Audiolab and he likes that piece.
    I'm currently messing around with Denon's HEOS which is a fine unit for the money but I'm finding some stuff about it that I don't care for.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Thanks Tony and duly noted on the digital coax information. "..it" happened yesterday with my schedule so I was not able to make it to the audio shop to pick one up. Idgit (me).
    tonyb wrote: »
    Never experienced a mid bass suck out though from either cable, so the only conclusion in my view has to come from the TV21.
    I do hear what you are saying....however, it isn't just from the TV21. With each step up I have made with the Node2, I have seen this mid bass suck out disappear more and more. Here are the basic bullet points of the progress;

    Node2 direct to pre via RCA - Pleasant sound, collapsed sound stage, worst of the mid bass suck out.

    Node2 to MF V-DAC via Optical Toslink, RCA to Pre - Better sound all over the frequency range, increased sound stage/presentation, improved mid bass.

    Node2 to MF TV21 via Optical Toslink, RCA to Pre - After the tubes warmed up in the MF TV21, Much, much better sound, good leap on the sound stage in the positive direction, much improved stereo separation/presentation, mid bass suck out lessened further but surprisingly not as dramatic as the leap the Node2 took when going from no DAC to the V-Dac.

    Node2 to MF TV21 via Optical Toslink, RCA to Pre *Using Tidal MDQ* - Now we are talking. In the LR/Office, very close to the physical media on the Marantz. One would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Media Server and physical media. (this is what I heard at the store). Mid bass suck out taken down to a minimum but still not up to my own personal liking.

    This was the first time I actually sat down in the sweet spot. It's close but no cigar. I'm actually very surprised at how well this does against physical media. The noise floor is higher, there is just a tad bit of digital glare, mid bass frequencies are not as impactful as physical media but honestly, to someone who had just walked in and sat down at the sweet spot never hearing my rig before? They would most likely think they were listening to physical media.

    Not to me.

    We still have a ways to go on that front. Perhaps it's another DAC. Maybe it's losing the Node2 and going with a different media server. It could be the loss of the Toslink cable and going to digital coax (never personally been a fan of Toslink). Maybe an upgraded audio quality PS for the Node2. I don't know. I am still popping my cherry with all of this. Heck, for all I know, I may have a slight kink I didn't see or dust inside the Toslink cable.

    Time will tell but I will say this - DK, thanks for the "Welcome to the future". While I may not be at the point to where I want to sit down at the sweet spot and listen to "the future"? While sitting in the LR/Office, you can NOT beat the convenience and for *most* people, they would be very pleased with where I'm at right now.

    Plus it's as cool as a Playboy Playmate walking by in her birthday suit when one can control the rig from 40' away, mute the rig to take a phone call, instantly resume when the phone call is done and switch songs at a moment's notice. Then there's that little added bonus of having multiple tens of millions of songs/albums to choose from.

    BTW, for anyone of you that have this thing or another media server hooked up to the main rig? Do yourself a favor and check out Yoshi Horikawa - Vapor. I dug this "strange" but well recorded LOW hitting compilation of sounds and music. Not your average music.....I'll just put it to you like that.

    More later as things progress...

    Tom
  • Mikey081057Mikey081057 Posts: 4,595
    I have my Node2 connected to my SA8004 via COAX to the out to the P5 via line level RCA's. The digi coax mad a difference for me as well.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Duly noted Mikey, thanks. I have a question for those in the know;

    Will a copper based / silver based / or a mixed metalurgy type coaxial work best in this application. I pretty much know what will work with a typical RCA cable but this is a different type of cable/application altogether.

    Share your thoughts or any experience with me please.

    Thanks,

    Tom
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,210
    edited April 30
    Loaded question Tom. Hard to say as each is not created equal across brands. Blackcat Veloce is a decent digital coax for around 60-80 bucks and holds up well against some more pricier competition. MIT makes a good one, and I'm pretty sure Skip has a nice one in the Wireworld lineup he can point you to like the Eclipse.

    That said, maybe a revisit to the RCA's coming out of the dac is in order also, believe me, it helps a lot. I have a set of Acoustic Zen Matrix 2 IC's you can try out for the cost of shipping if you like. May even take care of some of that digital glare your experiencing, and mid bass, dynamics are their strong suit.

    Your descriptions of the sound pretty much mirror my own when first getting into digital. The dac and cables matter.....a lot.
  • DarqueKnightDarqueKnight Posts: 6,039
    tonyb wrote: »
    I also wouldn't discount the importance of a decent digital coax cable. Toslink in my view doesn't compare with these digital streamers.

    I thought audiophiles had abandoned Toslink long ago due to the connector stability issues and higher jitter compared to coax and AES.

  • Mikey081057Mikey081057 Posts: 4,595
    tonyb wrote: »
    I also wouldn't discount the importance of a decent digital coax cable. Toslink in my view doesn't compare with these digital streamers.

    I thought audiophiles had abandoned Toslink long ago due to the connector stability issues and higher jitter compared to coax and AES.

    i HATE the toslink connector
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,210
    tonyb wrote: »
    I also wouldn't discount the importance of a decent digital coax cable. Toslink in my view doesn't compare with these digital streamers.

    I thought audiophiles had abandoned Toslink long ago due to the connector stability issues and higher jitter compared to coax and AES.

    For the most part, we have. Tom was using one though and I simply suggested getting a decent digital coax. Least for music anyway, HT is a different animal. When it comes to music, most of us have a discerning ear which is why sometimes these cheaper digital streamers leaves us unsatisfied when left to their own merits.

    To get them up to our standard of a decent cdp SQ wise, you need a good external dac and some decent cabling. Just my opinion of course but one I'll stick to.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Yeah, I'm not a big fan of Toslink but it's what I had on hand and the only thing I had to try the Node out with. I'll try to get to the store today or tomorrow and get a digital coaxial cable.

    Tony, I might take you up on that offer. Skip is gonna hook me up with one down at LSAF as well. The winner gets to have a permanent place to reside in the rig.....until I try more later on down the road, that is.

    Tom
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    i HATE the toslink connector
    Tell us how you really feel Mikey! LOL

    Tom
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 27,210
    Just say the word Tom, PM me your addy and I'll ship 'em out to you. Hang onto them for a couple weeks if ya want, see what you think. The spot to use them is out of the dac into the pre.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Well, some interesting developments happened today. Went by the audio shop and had a conversation with the men there. It turns out that I am hooking this thing up all wrong.

    What?

    Apparently if you use a DAC, you are not getting the MDQ decoded. They all stated that it must be hooked up to analog out in order to have the internal DAC decode the MDQ albums/songs.

    Okay......

    I told them that I can not do that. They asked why. I gave them the same story you guys already know. Here is the breakdown once again;
    Node2 direct to pre via RCA - Pleasant sound, collapsed sound stage, worst of the mid bass suck out.

    Node2 to MF V-DAC via Optical Toslink, RCA to Pre - Better sound all over the frequency range, increased sound stage/presentation, improved mid bass.

    Node2 to MF TV21 via Optical Toslink, RCA to Pre - After the tubes warmed up in the MF TV21, Much, much better sound, good leap on the sound stage in the positive direction, much improved stereo separation/presentation, mid bass suck out lessened further but surprisingly not as dramatic as the leap the Node2 took when going from no DAC to the V-Dac.

    Node2 to MF TV21 via Optical Toslink, RCA to Pre *Using Tidal MDQ* - Now we are talking. In the LR/Office, very close to the physical media on the Marantz. One would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Media Server and physical media. (this is what I heard at the store). Mid bass suck out taken down to a minimum but still not up to my own personal liking.

    They said, "That's all fine and dandy but that to get the best sound out of the unit, to use the RCA out direct to the pre".

    Uh huh.

    I went over it again in a real sweet and short version. THEN they got it. They didn't want to sell me the digital Coaxial cable because it would "degrade" my sound, even with the upgraded DAC. I told them that I was gonna buy one anyways and if it worked out, I'd keep it. If not, I made arrangements to return the clearance cable they had if the experiment didn’t work. I didn’t feel comfortable buying a cable to use it and return it if it didn’t work out, only for that cable to be on the clearance shelf as well.

    It's some kind of cheap Transparent Performance Gen5 digital coaxial cable that's rather ugly, to be honest.....but I ain't buying it for the looks.

    I have GOT to stop going into these kinds of shops. I really mean it. I spotted a pair of Transparent Audio MusicWave Ultra MM2 speaker cables and the little devil in me wouldn’t stop nudging his elbow into me……so I picked those up as well. They sound GREAT and definitely easily bested the AudioQuest CV-8’s w/the 72v battery packs but that’s another story for another time.

    Music_Wave_Ultra_BiWire_0_600.gif

    So now I’m at a crossroads. I know that the MDQ files sound better, that’s painfully obvious but that could be that they are simply a better recording or mastering. It’s also apparent that I am not even getting the one thing the Node 2 is selling like hotcakes for…..the MDQ decoding.

    But, I am NOT going back to just the RCA analog out to the Pre. That was just painful to listen too.

    They said in the history of this unit there has not been one person come in and make any comments about this unit like I have. No one has ever returned one and everyone that has one is very pleased with the end result of sound. So why am I so F’n special? Am I the lucky one that got a defective unit? Is there something I did wrong? (don’t see how that could be the case…..I mean, you plug it in, hook up the RCA’s and hit play). Something is amiss. Maybe I did get a defective unit. They swear up and down that the RCA analog out is the best way to go for sound and that the ONLY way to get the MDQ decoding is to go this route.

    Who knows, time will tell. I’ll play with the coaxial cable tomorrow and see how that sounds. It’s plugged in but I’m letting the rig run to get the Transparent SC’s get conditioned to the rig right now. In the meantime, I’ll call Alan Jones (the owner of Hi-Fi buys in Atlanta) and see if we can’t get down to the bottom of this. I’ll update once we troubleshoot/diagnose.

    Tom
  • lightman1lightman1 Posts: 8,040
    edited May 1
    It's all because you're an audio A-hole, Tom.

    But I mean that with all due respect.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,904
    Mqa isn't worth it if you take a step back in the conversion. They are right about analog only for mqa because they want absolute control from beginning to end of the conversion. It's a severe money grab to become the defacto file format and have control of any and every digital product that plays it. They want to change the hardware to their specs regardless of company.

    You do still get mqa on a regular DAC but it doesn't get unfolded. Honestly though, on my rig I'm not hearing much difference between the mqa and flac versions from tidal. It all sounds great.
  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    DSkip wrote: »
    Mqa isn't worth it if you take a step back in the conversion.

    Agreed without reservation.

    Thing is, what I heard down in Atlanta sealed the deal for me. It sounded very, very good. So good, it rivaled LP's playing on the same system (obvious differences between the two formats aside). This is with a 300K rig and about 60K of that was the vinyl front end.

    So I get the thing and it sounds way below sub-par in my rig. Something is amiss.

    I just need to figure out what it is. At the moment, I have no clue. I can hard wire the thing to the router and try that route with a CAT6 AQ cable (120'run). That's about the only thing I can try after what I've done. Gotta remember, the original RCA's I used directly to the Node 2 were the Transparent Reference IC's. These cables are no slouch by any standard.

    RSE_d4.jpg

    I know the Node 2 is not going to be up to snuff with the physical. I know I have an extremely revealing rig that's well balanced on all frequencies *but* so was the 300K rig with the big boy Vandersteen's down in Atlanta. I'm just discombobulated as to why I'm not experiencing the same thing at home.

    Tom

  • treitz3treitz3 Posts: 11,903
    Heck, just to add to this review and in full disclosure.....I ditched my old wi-fi and got a Nighthawk AC3200 Tri-Band WiFi Router and hooked the Node 2 to the 5G. So that ain't it.

    61z5Z5SVcbL._SL1350_.jpg

    Tom
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