The new Bluesound NODE is an upgrade you won’t want to miss
In the world of streaming, Bluesound is a system that offers a superbly usable ecosystem for streaming music and connecting audio devices wirelessly throughout the house. The company behind Bluesound is Lenmark, the Canadian company that not only develops Bluesound, but integrates it into its own NAD products and licenses the BluOS system to other audio brands simply because it’s a great streaming system. that music lovers love to use and that offers compatibility with the widest range of streaming services.
Bluesound has now announced a new generation of its best-selling NODE High-Resolution Wireless Multi-Room Streamer and the POWERNODE, a High-Resolution Wireless Multi-Room Streamer with Amplifier. Both new products have been upgraded with a new 32-bit / 384 kHz DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and a 1.8 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor. There’s a redesigned touch panel with music controls, presets, and a proximity sensor that lights up the panel whenever a hand approaches it. The POWERNODE has also been improved with a substantial power increase as well as all the new features of the new NODE.
I reviewed the original NODE IIi for Forbes just a few years ago and loved it. It’s the perfect way to add digital streaming to a beloved audio system. I tried it out with my vintage Linn sound system which is now almost 20 years old and it was a joy to hear my beloved home stereo playing digital streaming services.
This new version of Bluesounds NODE features a redesigned audiophile-grade DAC design with significantly improved performance that not only supports 24-bit / 192kHz audio processing, but can also play MQA files for studio-quality listening. Main Quality Authenticated Files are compact streaming files available on TIDAL Streaming that claim to deliver sound as close to the sound heard in the recording studio. It’s a bold claim, but I think MQA files sound great and are very effective at delivering.
I had the chance to test the new NODE so that I could hear the difference for myself. I can tell you this is a significant upgrade. I’m always skeptical of claims made by audio companies whenever they upgrade their DACs. I have to listen so hard to hear any improvement that I wonder what the point is. On this occasion, Bluesound’s claims of an improved DAC are true. The new NODE has a great, open sound that’s probably as close to an analog feel as I’ve ever heard on digital.
One of the tracks I listened to during my audition at NODE was “Não Faz Mal Não Estar Bem”, a song by Portuguese singer Mimi Froes. The sound was dizzying. The extra space, increased width of the refined soundstage, as well as the articulation of the piano sound on this spellbinding track were sublime. Find the song on TIDAL or Qobuz and listen to it. It’s a song that shows how safe the improved Bluesound NODE is.
BluOS is at the heart of the new NODE and has powerful, user-friendly software with features like tone controls and subwoofer crossover optimization that allow the user to customize listening preferences to the smallest detail. The NODE features digital and analog inputs and outputs that provide maximum versatility. Music can be streamed to the NODE over Wi-Fi or Ethernet using Apple AirPlay 2, aptX HD Bluetooth. There’s also a USB Type A connector and support for most digital streaming services, internet radio, or even a local music server with downloaded tracks or ripped CDs.
The new NODE now has an eARC HDMI input on the back of the device, which works great with home theater systems and televisions. The HDMI input is ideal for amplifying a stereo TV system or a game console. Music can be played from traditional hi-fi sources like CD player, radio tuner by connecting to NODE using RCA phono, Toslink optics, Bluetooth aptX HD and jack connection 3.5mm analog. The NODE also works with Apple devices and Bluesound or BluOS compatible players.
In addition to listening to the NODE through a classic hi-fi system, users can also listen through headphones or even a Bluetooth headset thanks to a transmitter and an aptX HD receiver. It can also function as a multi-room hub. The BluOS platform is the only multi-room broadcaster supporting up to 64 players, all of which stream in 24-bit high-resolution audio. With an increasing number of brands and devices signing up to the BluOS platform, it is possible to create a system capable of listening to high resolution music throughout the home.
The NODE and POWERNODE can be controlled using the BluOS app which runs on Android or iOS devices and provides quick access controls for play / pause, track skip and volume. The smart device works just like the touch screen control. Alternatively, BluOS supports voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant. There is no remote that comes in the box with the NODE, but almost all remotes will work just by programming button presses on the remote so that it can work with NODE.
For those who like a traditional remote, there is also an optional Bluesound RC1 remote available from Bluesound. It has an intuitive touchscreen control panel with a proximity sensor and five presets. There are advanced controls for tone controls in the BluOS Controller app. The two new NODE models can also be integrated into a smart home using full drivers available for Lutron, Elan, RTI, Crestron and other popular home control systems.
Verdict: Bluesound did a fabulous job improving the NODE and POWERNODE giving them a massive boost to the DAC which creates an utterly sublime sound. The units look a lot like the previous models and can be ordered in black or white finishes. I prefer the black finish but it’s nice to have a choice. The addition of the eARC HDMI input is welcome and places the NODE at the heart of an excellent AV system. There is practically nothing that the NODE and the POWERNODE cannot handle. The number of streaming services on offer is impressive and the support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth aptX HD makes streaming music from a smartphone so convenient. Bluesound has updated the NODE so well that if you own any of the previous NODE models it’s an upgrade I can wholeheartedly recommend; the sound is awesome. If you are considering adding streaming to an older audio system, Bluesound’s NODE is the way to go.
Price and availability: Both feature an easy-to-clean satin finish in either black or white. The NODE will cost $ 549 / £ 549 and the POWERNODE $ 899 / £ 849. Both units are available now.
More information: www.bluesound.com
- 1.8 GHz quad-core ARM® Cortex ™ A53 processor
- High-end 32-bit / 384 kHz DAC design
- HDMI eARC, optical and analog inputs
- Analog, optical, coaxial and USB stereo audio outputs
- AirPlay 2 for integration into the Apple ecosystem
- BluOS ™ wireless multi-room music capability
- High-resolution MQA music and audio streaming
- Voice control with Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant
- Dual band Wi-Fi + Gigabit Ethernet
- Two-way aptX ™ HD Bluetooth
- IR remote learning capability, IR input, 12V trigger output
- Wired and wireless headphone output
- Wired and wireless subwoofer output
- Touch controls with presets
- Black or white finish