Bluesound Node 2i review | What Hi-Fi?

For a second, just forget about that the Node 2i wireless streamer is a part of Bluesound’s multi-room circle of relatives, and avert your eyes from its sturdy options checklist. In our view, that is simply the best sounding product of its sort you’ll get your fingers on for not up to part a grand.

It marks rather the return to grace. When we named Bluesound’s second era device our multi-room Product of the Year in 2015 - a name its predecessor had accomplished the former 12 months – the Node 2 was once an integral part. However, in the lengthy period of time afterwards, it was little marvel that other manufacturers now not only stuck up, but surpassed the Node 2’s efficiency considerably.

The arrival of Arcam’s rPlay streamer closing year was once a spanner within the works. It presented improved sound in a similarly compact unit at a substantially discounted price. Consequently, the Node 2 dropped from 5 stars to a few.

Features

With a cursory look at the Node 2i’s spec sheet, not anything a lot appears to have modified between the models to dictate so dramatic an upturn on this technology’s sonic performance. However, Bluesound has worked on making improvements to its wi-fi streamer, and no longer just within the places you might expect.

Between the releases of those two multi-room generations, Bluesound's mother or father company, Lenbrook, created the NAD Masters M50.2 BluOS community streamer, and the Node 2i’s upgrades begin with trickle-down high-end circuit design and structure from there. The layout used to be then optimised to house its new chassis, and additional isolation was once installed between audio and wi-fi frequencies.

The new, smaller wi-fi chipset has given Bluesound the liberty to play with the circuit structure – however the corporate has admitted to being surprised through how much this affected the Node 2i’s audio efficiency.

What’s more straightforward to grasp are the bonus features Bluesound has added to its streamer, together with the dual-band wi-fi, Apple AirPlay2 and two-way Bluetooth, which means that you can use wi-fi headphones by means of the BluOS 3.Zero app, in addition to a sooner processor for a extra seamless consumer revel in.

The 32-bit/192kHz DAC stays, as does its long list of connections, including RCA, coaxial, optical and subwoofer outputs, with physical inputs for optical, analogue and USB-A alongside wi-fi, Bluetooth aptX HD and AirPlay2.

Sound

We twine the Node 2i into our reference machine of Gamut D3i/D200i amps and ATC SCM50 speakers, and it is transparent that this can be a different animal altogether to its predecessor.

The richness around the frequencies is retained, but the soundstage appears additional opened and with even more granular detail fed in. It feels far from misplaced in our reference machine, which simply offers the Node 2i a canvas to display its abilities.

Bluesound Node 2i tech specifications

Inputs analogue, optical, USB

Outputs optical digital, coaxial virtual

Wireless aptX HD Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2

Dimensions (hwd) 4.6 x 22 x 14.6cm

Finishes black, white

What’s most hanging is the development in this streamer’s organisation, timing and dynamic expression. Those sides have been bettered through the Arcam, but Bluesound has now not handiest cleared the confusion within the Node 2i’s presentation, but made musicality one in every of its most alluring fortes.

It is within the subtleties of a composition that the Node 2i really prospers, appearing its ability to select the various intensities of a fingerpicked guitar, arpeggiated piano line or call-and-answer association that may provide rhythm as much as cling a melody.

There is larger life to the efficiency as smartly; the Node 2i shows now not best an larger degree of expression but in addition enthusiasm. Its really extensive bass weight, whilst always supporting a full-bodied midrange, now additionally provides kick and drives forward lawsuits.

Verdict

The Arcam rPlay remains a advantageous streamer for the money, however that really serves to focus on simply how a ways Bluesound has come since its earlier era. Though the space between them is not massive, the Node 2i betters its rival pretty much across the board.

As a long way as sub-£500 wireless streamers go – whether included into a Bluesound multi-room device or now not – you probably received’t succeed in sound quality awesome to that of the Node 2i.

Scores

MORE:

Bluesound Generation 2i review

Bluesound launches seven Generation 2i multi-room products

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