Bluesound Node 2i

The ‘2i’ upgrades brought real benefits to the Bluesound ecosystem, which has been solidly sound-focused from the beginning, and now sounds even better.


One of the key advantages of the Bluesound ecosystem (and the BluOS streaming and multiroom platform within) is the company’s co-habitation with stablemate NAD. Each company benefits — NAD has produced a string of stunning smart amplifiers which use the convenienc­e of BluOS to bring in streaming and multiroom operation, while Bluesound-branded boxes have had access to NAD’s amplificat­ion expertise to help them sound fabulous. But of course this Node, from Bluesound’s ‘2i’ tweaked second-gen, doesn’t have any amplificat­ion: it’s again a streamer which plugs into an existing system to bring it into the 21st century. And yet even without that power advantage, the Node 2i proves an absolute little beaut of a product.

The Node 2i’s upgrades began with trickle-down high-end circuit design and architectu­re from those higher-end NAD-developed products, optimising the layout to fit the Bluesound chassis, with further isolation inserted between audio and Wi-Fi frequencie­s. It’s little discussed in these streaming days how the evil effects of Wi-Fi and speedy digital circuits can affect audio paths, and the company has admitted to being surprised by how much this affected the Node 2i’s audio performanc­e.

Bonus features also came with the 2i update, including the dual-band Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth which includes the aptX HD codec for better-than-CD sound if your device supports it. The Bluetooth also became two-way with the 2i update, which means you can listen on wireless headphones via the app.

Bluesound didn’t need to upgrade to handle high-res audio, as this was always a focus from the start — indeed a differenti­ator until others caught up. Here there’s a 32-bit/192kHz DAC, though file reading is limited to 24-bit/192kHz across uncompress­ed WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless and even WMA Lossless (which we didn’t know was even a thing). Better still there is MQA support throughout Bluesound, so all Bluesound devices can decode Tidal’s Master-level streaming to 24-bit/192kHz high-res as well.

The Node 2i is not exactly bristling with inputs — there’s just a single combo socket which can take either minijack analogue audio or mini optical digital, plus a small USB socket to which a stick or hard-disk of files can be attached.

But you get a full choice of outputs to feed your system — coaxial or optical digital, a 3.5mm headphone socket on the front, plus analogue outs which presented our reference system with a rich and detailed sound, able to deliver timing and dynamic expression, the subtleties which make music come to life. Add the top-notch Bluesound app, the multiroom grouping in the Bluesound/NAD ecosystem, bonus points for a remote control being available, even if it’s an extra, and the price here is entirely justified by the quality on offer.

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