Bluesound have slightly altered their naming scheme for the new range of products and have forgone the use of numbers which helped to highlight the different models.
The new Bluesound Node is now called the NODE (all Caps).
This means that now there are a total of 4 Node products (the original Node, Node 2, Node 2i and now the new NODE).
Here we will run through the different versions and see how the new NODE, while sharing a similar name to the original, is a game changer in new age streaming.
Bluesound Node (The original)
The original Node, also called the N100, was released way back in 2014. Bluesound had disrupted the market with the bigger, amplified, Powernode streamer. The Node was introduced as a more entry level product that provided the same high resolution streaming without the amplification. This was still in the early days of streaming music and the Node provided one of the best sounding solutions that wasn't going to break the bank.
It sported analogue outs, an optical out as well as a network and USB port. The N100 (Node) was capable of playing
uncompressed FLAC and WAV files up to 24-bit/192kHz, as well as other popular audio formats such as MP3, AIFF, AAC and WMA. Of course it also could use the big streaming services we expect today such as Spotify, Deezer Tidal and others. Pair all this with an easy to use Android / IOS app and the Bluesound Node provided users with real modern way to enjoy music.
Of course none of this would matter if the sound it produced didn't live up to all its features. And it certainly delivered on that front. The Node had a rich and full-bodied character, which is well balanced and full of enthusiasm. Bass response was full and punchy, with a detailed, focused midrange and a controlled treble. Not just hi-res music, but the Node still sounded amazing with normal streaming quality 320kbps streams too.
Bluesound Node 2
Only a year later, Bluesound brought out the next generation of Node streamers. The Node 2. The biggest change was blaringly obvious, the form factor. The N100 was a good product by all means but had one obvous flaw. Its large form factor. Standing 167mm, the N100 was as tall if not taller than most amplifiers, not only making it hard to fit into a cabinet, but also stood out like a sore thumb.
The Node 2 provided a much more modern, minimalist look. The height was reduced by more than a quarter and was changed to a rectangle making it much easier to place in combination with other AV equipment. The new Node 2 was sleek and really looked like something from the new age. However it didn't just stop at the cosmetics. The Node 2 had a COAX input, built in Bluetooth 4.0, a new WiFi chip, a build in headphone amp and many other features all powered by a new powerful ARM Cortex A9 CPU.
This meant the new Node (Node 2) had a huge increase of feature set yet didn't slow down the performance of the Node at all, and gave it even more responsiveness and stability. The Node 2 had now given its users almost everything one would need when streaming music, in both performance and convenience.
The Node 2i, introduced in 2018, at first glance looked no different to the Node 2. The form factor was unchanged, no new inputs or outputs were added, and the most obvious change was the addition of the "Apple Ecosystem". The Node 2 was still an excellent streamer and many questioned whether the Node 2i provided any measurable upgrade. However, Bluesound engineers know their craft and the secret was what changed within the casing.
The engineers had used a new dual band WIFI chipset as well as improving the DAC chipset. Adding a new WiFi chipset gave the engineers a change to rehaul the corcuit board and reorganise the whole circuit so that the WiFi chipset(a often noisy component) has significant less impact on the rest of the board. While this may not seem like a big change, the quality of sound a device produces is heavily impacted by the circuitry that the electrical signals have to pass through.
The result? A significant improvement in imaging, details and dynamics. The Node 2i had noticably better speration between instruments and dynamics sounded crisper and cleaner. Not only that but music sounds more realistic and voices sounded much clearer. The unit that seemed to have no physical change actually provided a very big audio quality upgrade.
Now in 2021, Bluesound released the NODE, also called the N130. The new moniker may be confusing as Bluesound have decided to ditch the numbering scheme. One may easily mistake the Node 2i as being an upgrade of the NODE and not the other way around, however the performance of the two will clearly settle which is the superior product.
While the Node 2i is still a fantastic product with very few flaws, the new NODE takes a BIG step closer at being the perfect music streamer.
The new NODE has a similar form factor but now has a much bigger touch screen panel where the buttons lie. Additional buttons have been added that allow the user to set music pre-sets, much like setting pre-sets for a radio. And of course modern features for voice assistants are present. Siri, Alexa or Google, your favourite voice can be used to control the NODE.
However the big change is in the new DAC design. Now utilising a 32-Bit, 384kHz Differential Output design, the new NODE can now decode 24-bit/192kHz as well as MQA files (a new high resolution streaming standard). Meaning you can use all tiers of streaming services of your choice. Throw in an even more powerful ARM Cortex A53, Quad-Core, 1.8GHz per core processor and a HDMI eARC connector, and the new N130 NODE now not only has all the features that one could possibly need in a streamer, but now with a ridiculous quad core processor, will be capable of running the ship effortlessly for years to come.
Come try out the new NODE at The Listening Post Christchurch and Wellington.