Bluesound unveils next-generation Node 2i and PowerNode 2i music streamers
Several significant upgrades bespeak even more exceptional performance than their predecessors.
By Scott Wilkinson
Bluesound is well known for high-quality wireless-audio products, including the Node 2i and PowerNode 2i high-resolution multi-room audio streamers, both of which we glowingly reviewed in 2020. Today, Bluesound is announcing the next generation of these products that offer some significant improvements to what are already superb performers.
Both products offer direct access to hundreds of internet radio stations, dozens of streaming music services, and your own local digital-music library via dual-band Wi-Fi (including AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, and Roon Ready) or a wired gigabit ethernet connection as well as Bluetooth aptX and USB.
They also provide a variety of digital- and analog-audio inputs as well as wired and wireless headphone and subwoofer outputs. In addition, both can be controlled with the BluOS Controller app for iOS, Android, MacOS, or Windows. The main difference between them is that the PowerNode adds a power amp; as the company promo says, “Just add speakers.”
At the heart of the new units is a next-generation, quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor operating at 1.8GHz. Compared with the previous-generation Node and PowerNode, the new processor has eight times more processing power and four times faster memory speed, leading to faster response times and more efficiency.
Another key upgrade for the Node is a new DAC that operates at 32-bit/384 kHz with a differential output and supports audio resolutions up to 24-bit/192 kHz. It also boasts a lower signal-to-noise ratio of -113 dB (down from -110 dB) and THD+N of 0.002% (down from 0.005%). And the Node’s back panel now sports an HDMI eARC input for connecting a TV. (The PowerNode 2i V2 already had this feature.) If you already have a DAC you like, a future BluOS upgrade will activate a USB audio output, bypassing the internal DAC while maintaining all the streaming and BluOS functionality.
Both units support a wide variety of audio formats. For high-res audio, they include FLAC, ALAC, MQA, WAV, AIFF, WMA-L, and MPEG-4 SLS. Lossy formats include MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, and OPUS.
The top of the new units feature a full-glass touch-sensitive interface with capacitive LED controls with a precise volume slider and five preset buttons. Even better, a new proximity sensor that illuminates the control panel as your finger approaches it and turns off the LEDs when you withdraw your finger. How cool is that?
Not to be outdone in the power department, the PowerNode 2i has a beefed-up power amp that pumps out 80 watts/channel into 8 ohms (up from 60 W/ch in the previous generation). It retains the Bluesound sonic signature thanks to the company’s HybridDigital amp platform that can drive the speakers of your choice with ease.
Finally, the cosmetics have been upgraded to a satin paint finish with a premium look and feel that’s also easy to clean. Both units will be available in white or black.
Speaking of availability, the Node and PowerNode should begin shipping in June. The Node will carry a retail price tag of $549, while the PowerNode will set you back $899. Both are available for pre-order now. We’ll have in-depth, ears-on reviews as soon as we can score review units.