Case in point: for the past week, my turntable has sat idle, its distance from the amplifier too great for any analogue interconnect to bridge. However, if I had a Bluesound NODE connected to the amplifier, I could connect the turntable’s output to the HUB’s MM phono stage input to create a network audio bridge between the two Bluesound devices. Moreover, the HUB would let me stream the turntable’s output to the POWERNODE that drives a pair of loudspeakers upstairs.
Now comes the plot twist: the HUB also has a line-level input on its back panel for connecting a phono stage or other analogue sources. TOSLINK and coaxial inputs are also present for games consoles, CD players and legacy music streamers. And anyone worried about latency should note the HUB’s inclusion of an HDMI eARC input that presumably maintains believable lip-sync when streaming audio from one’s smart TV across the network to a NODE or POWERNODE.
The HUB is not for purists wanting their turntable’s output to remain forever in the analogue domain. But then again, the NODE and POWERNODE’s own analogue inputs aren’t for analogue-or-die vinylistas either — those streaming devices digitise all incoming analogue signals for the internal DSP to execute any EQ adjustments and subwoofer crossover filtering.
Those of a more pragmatic disposition will want to know if a digitisation process like Bluesound’s will homogenise the sound of the analogue source. In my experience, the answer is firm no. Depending upon the quality of the A/D converter, it might ‘shave off’ anything from a few tenths of one percent to one percent. Phono cartridge flavour differences are maintained, just as recording quality differences are maintained by streaming services such as Tidal and Apple Music.
That’s a sacrifice many pragmatists – yours truly included – are prepared to make. Why? Because hi-fi gear should fit around the way we live and not us around it. Moreover, the power of DSP gives us far more than the signal’s conversion to digital might take away.
The Bluesound HUB will sell for US$319 / €349 / £309 when it goes on sale in mid-June.
Further information: Bluesound