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Bluesound NODE X video review

  • Bluesound might be the newest brand to fall under Lenbrook International’s umbrella – one that also includes NAD and PSB – but in ten short years, it has become the Canadian company’s most popular brand. That means a decade of Nodes (streaming DACs), Powernodes (streaming amplifiers) and BluOS streaming boards, the latter unsurprisingly making their way into NAD and PSB products.

    When the first Bluesound Node hit in 2013, its diamond-cubed chassis divided opinion. Never mind that Spotify Connect, local (Samba) file streaming and third-party streaming service integrations were already on the menu. Never mind that the BluOS app was available for iOS and Android but also Windows and MacOS. Never mind that Bluesound was offering something that Sonos did not (and still doesn’t): support for hi-res audio streams. The unit’s appearance needed a rethink.

    2015 saw the introduction of the Node 2. Bluesound’s design team had overhauled the chassis to give the streaming DAC a more understated look. They also added touch-sensitive controls to the top plate. This would set the Node’s visual tone for the years to come.

    The Node 2i, which followed in 2018, adopted the Node 2’s form factor and added Apple AirPlay 2 and Roon Readiness to BluOS’s streaming arsenal. A firmware update would add Tidal Connect in 2020. The 2021 Node (€599), also known as the N130, changed the top plate to glass, expanded its size, added preset buttons for playlists and radio stations, increased the unit’s processing horsepower, put HDMI eARC on the back and upped the sound quality of the internal DAC. It also seemed to this user that Bluesound had ironed most of the kinks out of its software platform to frame the Node as one of the easiest ways to get up and running with network and cloud streaming at any price. Sonos aside, few rivals have made out-of-the-box wifi network onboarding so Mom-n-Dad-friendly.

    And yet the 2021 Node’s alleged audible improvement was not enough to persuade this user to ditch his external DACs when streaming via more revealing hi-fi setups. I have (almost) always paired the Node 2i with the Chord Mojo 2 in Berlin and the 2021 Node with the RME ADI-2 DAC FS in Lisbon.

    To mark ten years of the company, Bluesound has this year introduced the NODE X (€799). We count three significant changes to reflect the €200 uptick in price: 1) Out goes the 2021 Node’s TI/Burr-Brown DAC chipset and in comes an ESS 9028Q2M design; 2) The more vanilla headphone amplifier circuit has been swapped out for a THX-AAA78 headphone amplifier and is fronted by a quarter-inch socket. 3) The casework while still plastic, is grey (and not white).

    Pushing the Fomo-Fi pedal, the NODE X will be a limited edition. How does it stack up against its predecessor? Our video tells all that I know.

    🎥 Camera: Jack Kaminski / John Darko
    🎬 Editor: John Darko
    🌈 Colour: Olaf von Voss
    🕺🏻 Motion GFX: John Darko
    💰 Ad segment: Jana Dagdagan

    🎵 Song IDs? Playlists of all music heard in this video – and other videos – can be found on PATREON:

    Further information: Bluesound

    👉 As seen in this video…

    Bluesound NODE X

    Bluesound NODE N130 (2021)

    FiiO R7

    Enleum AMP-23R

    Zu Soul 6

    Final D8000 Pro

    Meze 109 Pro

    Wharfedale Linton Heritage

    Darko.Audio may earn a small commission from items purchased via affiliate links.

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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