Bluesound Node 2i - Interesting observation

francois_27

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I have a Denon 4500 which I use as my HT receiver. Just ordered an integrated amp (VA Predator) with ht-bypass for better music experience.

Got a bluesound node 2i which I will use as my dedicated streamer/dac through the Predator.

Thought I'd do a quick a/b test through Spotify Connect using the Denon. Ran the node into cd input of Denon via rca's. I was very suprised to find that streaming through the Denon sounded a lot better than using the node. More detail, better vocals, better separation. Even when comparing MQA through the node to Spotify Connect, I prefered the sq from the Denon.

Will be interesting the listen to the node through the Predator. A/B testing will be a bit more challenging as I would have to change around cables.

Anyone able to provide some insights/opinions?

 

TimbaLand

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My system is similar to yours but I use my Node only for streaming via a dedicated DAC
 

kamikazi

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A lot of the feedback on audio forums around mirror your sentiments around the Bluesound Node 2i regarding its ability as a DAC, but seems to be a decent digital transport.

On the higher end of the range AVRs, the DACs are usually of pretty decent quality, especially the mains L/R stereo pairing. It is usually with the power amplifier where you hit limits (so the Predator is going to give you a nice bump), though much of the choice in DAC might just be down to sonic preferences.
 

francois_27

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kamikazi said:
A lot of the feedback on audio forums around mirror your sentiments around the Bluesound Node 2i regarding its ability as a DAC, but seems to be a decent digital transport.

On the higher end of the range AVRs, the DACs are usually of pretty decent quality, especially the mains L/R stereo pairing. It is usually with the power amplifier where you hit limits (so the Predator is going to give you a nice bump), though much of the choice in DAC might just be down to sonic preferences.

Thanks for the reply. I am intending on using the Node as a streamer and saving up for a better DAC.

[member=746]chrisc[/member] no sorry :(
 

chrisc

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Its for my friend Clive Hartsman in Mowbray.  Something to replace his dodgy 11 year old laptop with tape holding in the power plug
 

Drifter

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The Node does not have the best internal DAC. It is a pretty decent streamer though. That said, I'm surprised that the Denon sounds a lot better.

Just make sure you compare apples with apples though. On my Denon (6700) it engages the Direct mode when using it as a streaming end point. Just make sure that you use the same sound settings on the Denon when using the Node via the CD input.

You can also bypass the Node's internal DAC by connecting it to the Denon via either the coax out or optical out. That way you can compare just the streaming ability of the Denon vs the Node.

Spotify Connect is limited to 320kbps. Why not try some higher resolution audio as well? Airplay 2 supports full CD quality (44.1kHz) and both the Denon and Node 2i are Airplay 2 compatible. If you have an iPhone or iPad do the same comparison using Airplay 2 as the streaming protocol.
 

francois_27

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Drifter said:
The Node does not have the best internal DAC. It is a pretty decent streamer though. That said, I'm surprised that the Denon sounds a lot better.

Just make sure you compare apples with apples though. On my Denon (6700) it engages the Direct mode when using it as a streaming end point. Just make sure that you use the same sound settings on the Denon when using the Node via the CD input.

You can also bypass the Node's internal DAC by connecting it to the Denon via either the coax out or optical out. That way you can compare just the streaming ability of the Denon vs the Node.

Spotify Connect is limited to 320kbps. Why not try some higher resolution audio as well? Airplay 2 supports full CD quality (44.1kHz) and both the Denon and Node 2i are Airplay 2 compatible. If you have an iPhone or iPad do the same comparison using Airplay 2 as the streaming protocol.

I used Pure Direct for both tests. The difference is not subtle, it's actually quite noticeable, especially with vocals and detail (subtleties like bells played on cymbals and high-hat sound). Vocals are a LOT better through the Denon.

I compared MQA from Tidal to Spotify Connect at 320kbps and still preferred the Denon DAC.

Will try bypassing the Node's DAC, that's a good suggestion.
 

Drifter

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francois_27 said:
I used Pure Direct for both tests. The difference is not subtle, it's actually quite noticeable, especially with vocals and detail (subtleties like bells played on cymbals and high-hat sound). Vocals are a LOT better through the Denon.

I compared MQA from Tidal to Spotify Connect at 320kbps and still preferred the Denon DAC.

Will try bypassing the Node's DAC, that's a good suggestion.

That is pretty interesting.

Please do keep us updated on your findings.

The Node 2i has a Burr-Brown PCM5122 DAC chip while the Denon uses an AKM AK4458VN DAC.
 

tptb

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The Node 2i DAC is very average (at best - I wasn't impressed with it before hearing it on my own system which just reinforced my view) - but makes a wonderful streamer when used with an external DAC.
 

mr_b

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I too was very disappointed with the Node 2i DAC. Many online reviews sing the praises of the Burr Brown chipsets, but I suspect the iffy supporting implementation is a fail. I found the upper mids harsh & fatiguing, and the sound stage very forward and pretty narrow. Yes, the streaming software is great though. I returned the unit and ordered a much better DAC in the RME ADI2-FS, which really wasn't that much more expensive when imported direct.
 

francois_27

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mr_b said:
I too was very disappointed with the Node 2i DAC. Many online reviews sing the praises of the Burr Brown chipsets, but I suspect the iffy supporting implementation is a fail. I found the upper mids harsh & fatiguing, and the sound stage very forward and pretty narrow. Yes, the streaming software is great though. I returned the unit and ordered a much better DAC in the RME ADI2-FS, which really wasn't that much more expensive when imported direct.

You say you returned it. What do you use to stream through the RME?
 

mr_b

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francois_27 said:
You say you returned it. What do you use to stream through the RME?

I'm running a Raspberry Pi4 with Volumio installed as streamer. Volumio connects directly to my Tidal account, and the latest iteration of Tidal's android client can now control the Volumio instance, so it's all pretty slick and reliable. Here's a pic of the temporary setup on my desk... my system is packed away while home alterations are underway...



 
 

TimbaLand

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mr_b said:
I'm running a Raspberry Pi4 with Volumio installed as streamer. Volumio connects directly to my Tidal account, and the latest iteration of Tidal's android client can now control the Volumio instance, so it's all pretty slick and reliable. Here's a pic of the temporary setup on my desk... my system is packed away while home alterations are underway...


How?s the RME?
 

Drifter

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TimbaLand said:
How?s the RME?

+1
[member=21859]mr_b[/member] I would also appreciate some thoughts on the RME.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISfEqtPX4kk

I've heard some good things but The Headphone Show's review indicates that it is a decent DAC but the head amp side is not powerful enough for current demanding planar headphones.
I believe RME changed the DAC chip from AKM to ESS recently. Which version do you have?
 

mr_b

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Well there's no comparison between the Node 2i and RME... that's for sure! The RME has been an absolute delight!

Just to put my comments into perspective, the RME is the first higher end DAC I have owned. Previous DAC's were typical mid-fi NAD CD player dacs, a Pi HAT dac, a Zorloo Ztella MQA USB C dac and briefly the Node 2.

That being said, out of the box, with no tweaking of EQ's, it sounds fantastic. I've been using it as a pre-amp in my main system feeding my Consonance valve mono-blocks via the RCA outs. I know this sounds weird, but I'm then using the XLR outs (bridged to unbalanced) to my sub-woofer. My speakers are Magnepan MG12QR's. The MG12's do lack quite a bit in the bass department hence the augmenting with a subwoofer below +- 80hz. What stands out immediately for me is the detailed extended high frequencies with oodles of clean engaging midrange. Female vocals sound phenomenal. Anyone who's listened to Magnepan's would know, they create an impressively big sound stage, and the RME DAC only enhances this even further with more depth, presence and instrument separation. 

I don't have serious headphones (yet), and my Sennheiser HD555's, which are easy to drive, will continue to do duty till the end of the year. The HD555's are iffy at best in the balanced/natural EQ department, but the RME's 5 band parametric equaliser has allowed me to tweak the sound to my heart's content. The menu system is a bit quirky at first, but after a day or 2 of use it becomes rather intuitive. 

I believe the ADI2-FS uses a AK4493 DAC chip, where the original used a AK4490 chip. Could it be the pro version that uses an ESS chip?

I can't speak to how the RME will perform with hard-to-drive cans, but as a music lover who enjoys tweaking things, I'm really impressed with this swiss army knife of a DAC! 
 

Mushroom

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I was disappointed when I got wind of RME switching to ESS for the ADI-2 DAC fs (they have allocated their remaining stock of 4493's to the ADI-2 PRO fs) as this is my favorite implementation of an AKM chipset at a real-world price.

Some brands that use AKM are still scrambling, where I work some very key products are only due to become available from the supplier again next year (and they have been unavailable for months already).
 

kamikazi

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I wasn't too disappointed when I heard about the switch to ESS only to find out they are using the ES9028Q2M which lacks some of the improvements found in newer 9038 and pro generations... Bummer.. the ES9038 series has been much more pleasant to my ears than older Sabre implementations so I would have liked to see what this one could do with the latest ESS ICs, but there is probably shortages on that side as well, since everyone had to switch away from a major supplier and ESS would be likely the next best thing. There is also major production capacity constraints around for all semiconductor manufacturers, so this is probably all they could find.

As far as I can tell the remaining AK4493s are kept for the Pro version and the ESS is used for the DAC FS.
 

francois_27

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Update:

Received my VA Predator and then compared the BS node to Zone 3 out of the Denon. The difference was night and day, the Predator made all the difference and the Node, playing MQA, sounds really good! I presume a big chunk of it is due to the fact that the Denon can't render MQA through it's DAC. Should reallly compare the 2 using same formats.

I will, however, be selling the node as I have a different setup in mind which will better suit my system.
 

tptb

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Hijacking your topic - upgraded the power supply on the Node 2i (I only use it for streaming, use an external DAC) after reading a few things online.  Makes a noticeable difference for a minimal outlay (went with one of the cheaper options).
 
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