Review: Bluesound Node 2
Un-boxing & Setup
The first thing I noticed about the Node 2 was the weight and overall feel of it. It genuinely felt like a quality piece of gear.
Plugging it in place of my usual Sonos Connect, it took no time to get the Node 2 up and running. Logging in to my usual music services was also simple and straightforward.
Each remote device you wish to control Bluesound from obviously needs to have the app setup, but again this was a breeze.
I tested the optical, coaxial and RCA outputs. Of the digital outputs, I found optical delivered a touch greater insight. The RCA outputs also sounded surprisingly good, with the slightest hint of warmth to the tone. The Node 2 clearly has a decent on-board DAC.
After these initial checks, I opted to use the optical output and set the Node 2 to ‘fixed output’ mode for the duration of the review.
At first, I was unsure about Bluesound's proprietary control app. Going from the Sonos controller which I was so accustomed to, it was a very different layout so it took me some time to adapt.
I'm happy to say though, it is for the most part, a great user experience. The app is fairly intuitive and to gauge its user-friendliness, I ended up turning to my partner in crime for her thoughts. For context, Louise is a relative novice with technology so it was a great test to see how she coped.
A few hours in and I received a text message saying how much she was enjoying Bluesound and how she found the app even easier to drive than Sonos. That’s a win right there.
Like a number of controllers and interfaces I've tested lately, my recommendation is for the larger real estate, tablet version; everything is just laid out better in front of you. The smartphone version still performs fluidly too but it just takes a bit of time to find all the shortcuts to personalised content. This applies to virtually all control apps though.
Creating on-the-fly playlists is easy thanks to the latest update. There are three dots located to the right of each track, and tapping that will give you the option of Play Now, Play Next or Add to Queue.
One feature I really like is that the app can recognise the file quality of tracks in your music library, and indicates as much with a 'CD' for lossless content and 'HD' for high resolution content next to the track name. A nice touch.
Roon ... ? Still no answer from Bluesound whether they'll be jumping on the RoonReady bandwagon.
The Young'Uns are a folk trio originating from Stockton in North East England. They’ve been together since 2005 and last year released their third album, Another Man's Ground.
Their particular brand of folk music is either stripped bare with minimal accompaniment, or no accompaniment at all, pure a‘Capella three part vocal harmonies. It's an excellent album featuring some fantastic true to life references.
Track three for example, 'The Streets of Lahore' is a beautiful ballad written about the 'honor' killing of Farzana Parveen in Pakistan in 2014. The story itself is actually quite horrendous, but it translates magically into song.
For the majority of the track, we are met with Sean Cooney's vocal accompanied by Michael Hughes' acoustic guitar. Around halfway through, David Eagle comes in with his accordion and towards the end, the song opens right up into stunning three part harmonies.
Streaming via Tidal, the Node 2 didn't fail to convey the intimacy of this performance I know so well. In fact, having listened earlier to the CD playing through my OPPO BDP-103D as a transport, I would actually say the Node 2 sounded at least as good if not better.
'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' by Charles Mingus, a stunning jazz piece, is something I happened to stumble upon in a nicely compiled playlist, again via Tidal.
The instrument separation is top class, with no detail left unturned. Perhaps a little cliché, but I felt like I was in my listening room and a jazz club simultaneously!
Bluesound are all about the high resolution experience, so I wanted to see what that had to offer.
'Instant Crush' from Daft Punk's 'Random Access Memories' is probably one of my favorite tracks from the release.
In 24/88.2 it delivered a full bodied sound, placing the multiple synth sounds in appropriate positioning across the two channels with Casablanca’s' melodic vocal sitting comfortably in the middle. I can't mention Daft Punk however without also listening to the big single, 'Get Lucky'.
The groove is what drives this song, and the Node 2 wasn't about to give up and lose its grip on that track either. It had me tapping my foot along as the song progressed through.
Something a bit left of field, my favorite Nirvana track 'Heart Shaped Box' from the 20th Anniversary 24/96 re-release of 'In Utero'. For lack of a better word, it just sounded awesome. I felt like I was in high school all over again. Dynamically transitioning from the quiet verses into the bold chorus, it really tore down the barriers between a man and his music.
Pink Floyd's 'What do you want from me' in 24/96 from the recent 'The Division Bell' re-issue also sounded brilliant, taking up centre stage in my room. The track was huge, spanning far and wide, the backing vocals lingering in the background, but sticking out just enough to really demonstrate the depth of what I was hearing.
Lover of Hi-Fi, Music and Recording Engineering. I particularly like the affordable and value-packed products; finding that diamond in the rough.
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