Blue­sound Node 2i £499

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

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

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