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Bluesound Powernode 2i (with HDMI) review: Bodacious sound from a micro-sized box

Don’t let the petite dimensions and minimalist design of the $899 Bluesound Powernode 2i lie to you. This self-amplified, multi-room streaming song participant is filled with audio goodness and can ship glad sonic reviews from just about any supply: Native or community garage, a disc participant, your cellular instrument, or your streaming provider of selection—together with their high-res tiers. You’ll use a turntable, too, however you’ll want to plug it right into a preamp, first. Simply be ready for a consumer revel in that’s, let’s say, a wee bit tough across the edges.

In my guide, the Powernode 2i’s options, features, and function are price coping with a couple of operational quirks that should be mastered, tolerated, or mounted (extra on that during somewhat). Its pluses a long way outweigh its negatives, similar to that abiding love of your lifestyles whose eccentricities you learn how to forget about. I imply, what’s to not love right here? You get whistle-clean amplification (60 watts consistent with channel), high-resolution audio help (as much as 24-bit decision with sampling charges as excessive as 192kHz), help for each and every essential record structure (together with FLAC, Apple Lossless, and MQA), powerful connectivity choices (USB, gigabit ethernet, dual-band 802.11ac, Airplay 2, two-way Bluetooth, numerous inputs and outputs (Toslink, combo Toslink/three.5mm in; three.5mm headphone, subwoofer out), or even HDMI ARC help. Simply upload your individual loudspeakers.

Distinctive on this product class, the Powernode 2i too can move song in your favourite Bluetooth headphones—with help for the aptX HD codec and far off delivery regulate (pause/play, quantity up/down) in case your cans even have the ones options. Choose old-school stressed headphones? Simply plug them into the three.5mm jack at the entrance of the unit. I were given my groove on with Andover Audio’s PM-50 planar magnetics (newly up to date with the larger-cavity ear cups I’d been requesting).

bluesound powernode 2i rear panel Jonathan Takiff / IDG

Bluesound’s Powernode 2i has all of the virtual and analog connectivity it’s essential to ask for, together with HDMI with ARC.

It’s laborious to consider the quantity of tech packed into this three.Eight-pound chew of a factor measuring simply Eight.7 x 7.five x 2.75 inches (WxDxH). It even has touch-sensitive controls on its best floor (play/pause, quantity up/down, earlier/subsequent observe), or you’ll be able to organize it along with your cellular instrument (Android or iOS), voice instructions (Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant), or Bluesound’s RC1 Faraway Controller (a $59 add-on). It doesn’t sip a lot juice, both: 2.three watts in standby and soaring round 13 watts throughout operation, in line with my Belkin power observe.

Streaming high-res audio

The Powernode 2i is the primary (and nonetheless handiest) built-in streaming tuner/amp combo I’ve encountered on this worth vary that may ship the high-resolution tiers of Qobuz, Tidal HiFi (together with MQA), and Amazon Song HD. Bluesound helps almost about each and every different provider, too, together with Spotify, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Neil Younger Archives, Nugs.web, TuneIn, and extra. Interestingly, then again, Apple Song, Pandora, and Sirius/XM are now not recently supported (except you move them out of your cellular instrument over Bluetooth). You’ll additionally use the Powernode 2i with what simply could be the arena’s best possible music-listening device: Roon—for those who don’t thoughts paying $120 a 12 months or $700 for a life-time license.

Bluesound’s pageant doesn’t measure up relating to help for high-resolution audio. Sonos delivers an unheard of consumer revel in, and it helps nearly each and every streaming provider underneath the solar, however even its latest-generation S2 elements are restricted to sampling charges as much as 48kHz (albeit with 24-bit decision), and that’s handiest with FLAC and Apple Lossless tracks. Older Sonos elements are restricted to 16-bit/48kHz.

bluesound powernode 2i caption in email Jonathan Takiff / IDG

Bluesound’s Powernode 2i has touch-senstive delivery controls on best of its chassis.

Bose isn’t just about as open to streaming products and services—it doesn’t be offering Tidal or Qobuz—and CD decision is as excellent because it will get from any supply with its two traces of networked audio equipment, Sensible Audio system and SoundTouch. Russound provides Hello-Res-certified audio streamers, however neither the MBX-PRE I reviewed in July nor its amplified sibling, the MBX-AMP, can take care of 24-bit FLAC recordsdata. Russound helps Tidal, however now not Tidal HiFi, Qobuz, or Amazon HD.

Powernode 2i listening assessments

The Powernode 2i’s detailed, ethereal, and whole bodied sound will provoke even sonic snobs who restrict their being attentive to pristine 18-gram vinyl pressings, SACDs, Blu-Ray Audio, and DVD-Audio discs. I carried out a chain of A/B comparisons of high-res tracks streamed from Qobuz and Tidal HiFi with the similar tracks performed from CDs on Oppo and Pioneer common gamers attached to the Powernode 2i. I decided on tracks recorded by means of well known studio perfectionists: Dire Straits, Jackson Browne, Norah Jones, Donald Fagen, and Stevie Surprise. I used a couple of Q Acoustics’ 3020i bookshelf audio system (deliciously reasonably priced at $329) and a antique MB Quart subwoofer to spherical out the ground.

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