Bluesound Node 2i £499
To think of the Node 2i only as a component of Bluesound’s multi-room suite would be a horrible mistake. Simply, it stands on its own as the best-sounding hi-fi steamer available for less than half a grand.
Despite its identical appearance, this is a different animal altogether to its predecessor. The richness across the frequencies is retained, but the soundstage appears further opened and with even more granular detail fed in. It feels far from out of place in our reference system, which merely offers the Node 2i a canvas to display its copious talents.
A lust for life
Most striking is the improvement in this streamer’s organisation, timing and dynamic expression. Bluesound has not only cleared the confusion within the previous Node’s presentation, but made musicality one of its most alluring fortes.
It is in the subtleties of a composition that the Node 2i really thrives, showing its ability to pick out the varying intensities of a fingerpicked guitar, arpeggiated piano line or call-andimpact. answer arrangement that may provide rhythm as much as hold a melody.
There is greater life to the performance as well; the Node 2i shows not only an increased level of expression but also enthusiasm. Its considerable bass weight, while always supporting a full-bodied midrange, now also adds kick and drives forward proceedings.
Better across the board
Bonus features have been added, too, including dual-band wi-fi, Apple Airplay 2 and two-way Bluetooth, which means you can use wireless headphones via the BLUOS 3.0 app, as well as a faster processor for an all-round more seamless user experience.
The 32-bit/192khz DAC remains, as does its long list of connections, including RCA, coaxial, optical and subwoofer outputs, with physical inputs for optical, analogue and USB-A alongside those wireless capabilities.
The Arcam rplay remains a fine streamer for the money, but that really serves to highlight just how far Bluesound has come since its previous generation. Though the space between them is not massive, the Node 2i betters its rival pretty much across the board.
As far as sub-£500 wireless streamers go – whether incorporated into a Bluesound multi-room system or not – you almost certainly won’t achieve sound quality superior to this.
Though it looks the same as its predecessor, the 2i is better in every sonic respect