bluesound node hi res not as good as CD

MEff

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Jun 21, 2022
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Hi All

I recently bought a bluesound node and have subs to tidal/Qobuz etc for hi res streaming.

When doing an A-B between cds played on a Naim CD3.5 (old!!) cd player into a Naim Supernait (v1), almost without exception, the soundstage, detail and volume were noticeably better via CD than the streamer. I was playing the same remasters of the same albums and with the exception of PG's Us, CD sounded better, irrespective of which streaming service I used (i also streamed hi res from mac book into the Node) I have tried fixed and variable output on the Node but it makes little difference. Given that it's the same result with all services, I have to assume the limiting factor/bottleneck is the Node.

Overall, in isolation (e.g., when not doing a comparison with the CD), the sound from the Node is good but not earth shattering and I have to say, on balance, I was left a bit underwhelmed and disappointed.

But I have to assume I have got something incorrect, somewhere (setup/configuration etc), given all the outstanding reviews and accoldades this player receives - Am eager to get any feedback/advice on this - Is there something I may be doing wrong or have just not done at all that could be affecting the performance?

Many thanks
M
 
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robdmarsh

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Jun 28, 2015
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I've got a node and don't rate it very highly. I think the DAC is the weak point. It sounds flat and lifeless and I much prefer the sound from my ifi Zen blue, which is not even real hi res.
 

PlastermanOG

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Sep 2, 2020
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The nodes main selling point is convenience and the BluOS app, but the dac is the weak link.
It's not terrible and in isolation it will do the job, as you’ve found out it's not beating your old but decent naim cd player.
I use my node as a transport into an external dac and I'm more than happy with it.
You could try an external dac and it won't cost to much, something like a topping E30.
Many people use the node with dacs that cost double what the node costs and are very happy.
 

Vincent Kars

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Mar 6, 2021
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Maybe combine it with a external DAC
 

PlastermanOG

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Sep 2, 2020
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I've got a node and don't rate it very highly. I think the DAC is the weak point. It sounds flat and lifeless and I much prefer the sound from my ifi Zen blue, which is not even real hi res.
I have the ifi zen blue and rate it highly it's as good as I've ever heard as far as Bluetooth goes especially using the LDAC codec from an android tablet. Worked very well and the Bluetooth never had dropouts only problem was if I was using multiple apps Web browsing etc the Bluetooth would disconnect.
I also used the ifi zen blue digital into my dac and the node wins it has more meat on the bone.
I've not compared the dac in the node with the dac in the zen blue so I can't comment, what I will say is the zen blue is a single use device and the node in comparison is a veritable Swiss army knife.
We all have different use cases for any product.
 

PlastermanOG

Well-known member
Sep 2, 2020
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Maybe combine it with a external DAC
The measurements are useful, but his comment that the node is a broken product is frankly stupid.
That opinion is based on daily use after a year of use not a couple of days.
 

robdmarsh

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Jun 28, 2015
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Buying the node and using it only as a streamer with an external DAC does not make economic sense in my opinion. It's £575! I'm not sure how it is a veritable Swiss army knife. The only function that makes it truly more versatile than the Zen blue is that it has an HDMI to connect your TV and maybe the two way bluetooth for headphones.
 
Buying the node and using it only as a streamer with an external DAC does not make economic sense in my opinion. It's £575! I'm not sure how it is a veritable Swiss army knife. The only function that makes it truly more versatile than the Zen blue is that it has an HDMI to connect your TV and maybe the two way bluetooth for headphones.
Roger that, kind of over-rated but designed for one boxers
 

PlastermanOG

Well-known member
Sep 2, 2020
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Buying the node and using it only as a streamer with an external DAC does not make economic sense in my opinion. It's £575! I'm not sure how it is a veritable Swiss army knife. The only function that makes it truly more versatile than the Zen blue is that it has an HDMI to connect your TV and maybe the two way bluetooth for headphones.
And maybe airplay 2 and being able to hook up usb drives or your NAS or shared folders on your PC/Mac. Not to mention you can hook up a subwoofer and Control the crossover within the app very useful. Spotify and Tidal Connect if you want to use native apps rather than what BluOS serves up, Roon compatible too.

You and many other may feel that the financial element is out of wack, others don't and that's life.
 

MEff

Active member
Jun 21, 2022
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For the record, I've had this since Christmas and it works fine in terms of casual listening but still falls short, as mentioned, of the performance of the cd3.5 (and LP12 tt!)

I have tried it using the analog outs but also, using the optical out into the Supernait's digital input to leverage its internal DAC (which works well with the BluRay player). The digital output option sounds better but not significantly so. The CD still sounds better than either method. I tried swapping inputs (analog) JIC there was something going on there (some unexpected, un-documented gain boost on one of the inputs) but it made no difference.

Again, I'm not sure if there is something I have missed setting the Node up. I was/am really hoping this to be the case. Equally, it may simply be the case that the output on the CD outputs a higher signal that of the node and is consequently giving a false impression of sounding better. I'm not sure.

There seem to be three possible conclusions:

1. The Node itself is the root cause and not living up to expection.
2. The streaming source files simply don't measure up re SQ - I would find this unlikely
3. Both the streaming source and node are perectly fine but just suffer by comparison to the cd which has an artificially boosted output. This is proabably the most likely conclusion - The Node gets too many great reviews and they can't all be wrong. Equally, even if the analog out suffered, I would have thought that the digital out feeding the SN DAC would not suffer the same perceieved issue. The conclusion I'd draw is that it is likely that the CD3.5 is outputing an elevated signal - kinda like the way older Rega Planar turntables played slightly faster in order to give an impression of pep/zing ;-)

To be clear, from a functional perspective, as mentioned above, the app is great, the connectivity is great, the concept is great and works well ... I think it is really well implemented

Anyway - thanks for all the feedback - I was hoping that someone might have given me a eureka moment re something I had missed setting the thing up. :)
 
Last edited:

MEff

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Jun 21, 2022
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Just looking at specifications for the Node and the CD3.5 - both state a Maximum output level of 2.1V RMS, so that kills the theory about the CD3.5 having a boosted analog output section.
 

Gray

Well-known member
For the record, I've had this since Christmas and it works fine in terms of casual listening but still falls short, as mentioned, of the performance of the cd3.5 (and LP12 tt!)

I have tried it using the analog outs but also, using the optical out into the Supernait's digital input to leverage its internal DAC (which works well with the BluRay player). The digital output option sounds better but not significantly so. The CD still sounds better than either method. I tried swapping inputs (analog) JIC there was something going on there (some unexpected, un-documented gain boost on one of the inputs) but it made no difference.

Again, I'm not sure if there is something I have missed setting the Node up. I was/am really hoping this to be the case. Equally, it may simply be the case that the output on the CD outputs a higher signal that of the node and is consequently giving a false impression of sounding better. I'm not sure.

There seem to be three possible conclusions:

1. The Node itself is the root cause and not living up to expection.
2. The streaming source files simply don't measure up re SQ - I would find this unlikely
3. Both the streaming source and node are perectly fine but just suffer by comparison to the cd which has an artificially boosted output. This is proabably the most likely conclusion - The Node gets too many great reviews and they can;t all be wrong. Equally, even if the analog out suffered, I would have thought that the digital out feeding to the SN DAC would not suffer the same perceieved issue. The conclusion is likely that the CD3.5 is outputing an elevated signal - kinda like the way older Raga Planar turntables played slightly faster in order to give an impression of pep/zing ;-)

To be clear, from a functional perspective, as mentioned above, the app is great, the connectivity is great, the concept is great and works well ... I think it is really well implemented

Anyway - thanks for all the feedback - I was hoping that someone might have given me a eureka moment re something I had missed setting the thing up. :)
If you haven't already, you could experiment:
Take a CD you like the sound of and rip it, WAV or FLAC, onto a USB stick.
Plug that into the Node, then compare the Node and CDP via the same Supernait digital input.
They should be better level matched.
I would expect the sound to be identical - but that's just me. See what you find maybe.
 
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manicm

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May 1, 2008
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For the record, I've had this since Christmas and it works fine in terms of casual listening but still falls short, as mentioned, of the performance of the cd3.5 (and LP12 tt!)

I have tried it using the analog outs but also, using the optical out into the Supernait's digital input to leverage its internal DAC (which works well with the BluRay player). The digital output option sounds better but not significantly so. The CD still sounds better than either method. I tried swapping inputs (analog) JIC there was something going on there (some unexpected, un-documented gain boost on one of the inputs) but it made no difference.

Again, I'm not sure if there is something I have missed setting the Node up. I was/am really hoping this to be the case. Equally, it may simply be the case that the output on the CD outputs a higher signal that of the node and is consequently giving a false impression of sounding better. I'm not sure.

There seem to be three possible conclusions:

1. The Node itself is the root cause and not living up to expection.
2. The streaming source files simply don't measure up re SQ - I would find this unlikely
3. Both the streaming source and node are perectly fine but just suffer by comparison to the cd which has an artificially boosted output. This is proabably the most likely conclusion - The Node gets too many great reviews and they can;t all be wrong. Equally, even if the analog out suffered, I would have thought that the digital out feeding to the SN DAC would not suffer the same perceieved issue. The conclusion is likely that the CD3.5 is outputing an elevated signal - kinda like the way older Raga Planar turntables played slightly faster in order to give an impression of pep/zing ;-)

To be clear, from a functional perspective, as mentioned above, the app is great, the connectivity is great, the concept is great and works well ... I think it is really well implemented

Anyway - thanks for all the feedback - I was hoping that someone might have given me a eureka moment re something I had missed setting the thing up. :)
I'm not surprised at all, generally streaming lacks that magic of CD playback.

Also in the great scheme of things Bluesound and Sonos are budget products, and with the latter many cases have reported that with the older Connect boxes external DACs could only help a little, and that's what I suspect with the Node as well

DACs are not the be all and end all, the transport is equally important.
 
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MEff

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Jun 21, 2022
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If you haven't already, you could experiment:
Take a CD you like the sound of and rip it, WAV or FLAC, onto a USB stick.
Plug that into the Node, then compare the Node and CDP via the same Supernait digital input.
They should be better level matched.
I would expect the sound to be identical - but that's just me. See what you find maybe.
Definitely worth a go! Just need to find a laptop with a cd drive ;-)
 
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Tinman1952

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Just two observations:
1. With the CD3.5 I assume you are using a DIN cable which Naim would say is a superior connection...
2. The power supply in the CD3.5 will be superior to that in the Node....and that will apply to digital as well as analogue output.
 

MEff

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Jun 21, 2022
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Just two observations:
1. With the CD3.5 I assume you are using a DIN cable which Naim would say is a superior connection...
2. The power supply in the CD3.5 will be superior to that in the Node....and that will apply to digital as well as analogue output.
I'm using Nordost Blue Heaven i/c for both but yes, 2x Din for cd and half and half (rca/DIN) for the bluesound (but mainly use the optical out).
re power - I didn't consider that - do you reckon it would make that much difference?
 
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Tinman1952

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I'm using Nordost Blue Heaven i/c for both but yes, 2x Din for cd and half and half (rca/DIN) for the bluesound (but mainly use the optical out).
re power - I didn't consider that - do you reckon it would make that much difference?
Personally I think the power supply is vitally important for audio quality. Naim obviously agree as this is their upgrade path....
Even though you are using the optical output, it is still coming from the DAC/digital circuit in the Node and a quality low noise, well regulated supply is key. I have upgraded power supplies on all my digital audio equipment.
 
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MEff

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Personally I think the power supply is vitally important for audio quality. Naim obviously agree as this is their upgrade path....
Even though you are using the optical output, it is still coming from the DAC/digital circuit in the Node and a quality low noise, well regulated supply is key. I have upgraded power supplies on all my digital audio equipment.
Thanks for that!! I was starting to think that perhaps streaming is just not up to scratch and that the whole thing is an industry mass-gas-lighting, emperor's new clothing conspiracy - ha ha!! I may have to consider upgrading the streamer - it never ends!! Any opinions on the Naim ND5 XS2?
 
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Tinman1952

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Thanks for that!! I was starting to think that perhaps streaming is just not up to scratch and that the whole thing is an industry mass-gas-lighting, emperor's new clothing conspiracy - ha ha!! I may have to consider upgrading the streamer - it never ends!! Any opinions on the Naim ND5 XS2?
Well perhaps unsurprisingly, What HiFi liked it...

 
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radiorog

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I have had the node for over a year and feel the same. I think its pretty simple, the Dac isnt as good as the one in you cd player.
My Cambridge 651c cd player seems to have better soindstage and depth than the node, and perhaps overall quality is better.
I think for £550 the node is reasonable value as it opens up perhaps billions of pounds worth of music to you with a sound that isnt simply awful, and its cheaper than other entry level streamers such as cambridge ,naim etc. I guess this is why reviewers cant do anything but give it praise.
But yes, i do think the dac could be a lot better.
Oh, and I use Amazon music hd within the bluesound app, and it is a pretty poor experience.
 
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Gray

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Stating the obvious (that may not be obvious to everyone) but.....a CDP is a DAC that plays streams.
You can come up with your own theory as to the cause of any differences you may hear.
(Because I can't come up with any).
 
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