Bluesound Powernode 2
The Powernode 2 is Bluesound’s just-add-speakers solution — it has internal amplifiers as well as delivering all your networked music and streaming services. And these are high-quality amplifiers — Bluesound quotes the power rating at 2 × 60W, but the interesting figure is distortion level (THD+N) down at 0.02% — hi-fi stuff, and better than most of the Class-D implementations in rival equivalents.
Listening is the proof — indeed there was a moment of revelation after we switched the music stream over from the Pulse Mini. Listening to the Powernode 2 running a pair of high-quality German standmount speakers — well it kinda put the whole wireless speaker market into perspective as things went from Wi-Fi to hi-fi (appropriately bewitching us with a 24/96 of Nina Simone’s ‘I Put A Spell on You’). It sounded just like a good traditional hi-fi system. So instead of a CD player, integrated amp and speakers, you can have just a Powernode 2 and speakers, delivering everything available from the Bluesound app, whether internet streaming or network streaming from a PC/NAS drive.
That does make things very network dependent, of course — but there are two other ways. The first is the Bluetooth now built in, so you can use any app and beam it to any Gen2 Bluesound product. It has quirks — we often had to return to the Bluesound app either to turn Bluetooth on, or to turn up the volume, which concatenates with the app in use. But it opens up a world of possibilities.
Also new to Gen 2 and just wonderful is the ability to learn remote commands (see list, right). We’ve long thought more multiroom products should have their own little remote controls, and here you can allocate a range of commands (mainly track and volume controls, but also the optical input selection) to any remote you like. Doing so with a remote already in use would be a recipe for confusion, so we dug out a dusty old remote from a drawer and soon had it controlling both our Bluesound units. Please forgive us a quick ‘hallelujah’!
Lastly, among all this newfangled streaming, don’t forget the merits of simply plugging another source into the back of the Powernode 2. It’s true that the single combined minijack/optical is a tad limiting in this regard, but we plugged our TV optical output into the Powernode 2 and thereby enjoyed a high power TV and music system (just add speakers). Teach the Powernode 2 your TV volume commands, and have ‘TV power on’ select the optical input, and it’ll always be ready for any idiot who turns the TV on. Top work.