Bluesound Vault 2
Input: Gigabit Ethernet RJ45, aptX Bluetooth, 2x Type-A port for connection to USB memory sticks and supported peripherals (FAT32 Formatted), Type-B (mini) for product servicing
Output: Analog RCA Stereo with FIXED option, Coaxial RCA, TOSLINK digital optical, Headphone 3.5mm Stereo, Subwoofer RCA, 12 Volt trigger out
Dimensions: 8.7 x 3.54 x 7.55 in (220 x 90 x 192 mm)
Weight: 4.05 lbs (1.84 kg)
Availability: Online and through authorized dealers
NAS/Music Server/Streamer/CD Ripper/DAC/Headphone Amp
I'm sure some will want more, but that's a lot of functionality fit inside one relatively small box. The Bluesound Vault 2 makes computer audio easy—a one box solution for all of your computer audio needs. No need to fret about which NAS to buy, what streamer, which DAC and headphone amp, and there's no need for a computer. You will need a tablet for remote control and a love of music to make it all work as intended.
The Vault 2 houses 1GHz ARM Cortex-9 Multi-core processors and 2TBs of internal storage, but you can always add a NAS or USB storage if you run out of room. Like the Node 2, the Vault 2 allows you to stream from a whole lot of streaming services (Tidal, Deezer, Rhapsody, Spotify, and more), Internet Radio (TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio), and any Bluetooth enabled device (if this sounds familiar, apologies for being lazy). The Vault 2 supports MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, HRA file formats and can handle PCM resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz (no DSD). While Bluesound demoed an MQA-ready version of their Vault 2 at CES (see report), there is no firm date or news to report on an MQA-ready Node 2. Expect an update at the Munich show in May.
All of the inputs and most of the outputs reside around back, excepting the slot drive for ripping CDs and the headphone jack. The Vault 2 gets the same design overhaul as the Node 2, one which I feel betters the original design in every way; looks, touch and feel. Also like the Node 2, the Vault offers top-mounted touch sensitive buttons including Mute, Volume +/-, and Previous Track/Next Track centered in a field of peek-a-boo heat dissipating mesh. The Vault 2 is roughly the size of Volume 1 & 2 of Arthur Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea.
I'd recommend reading my review of the Bluesound Node 2 (see review) so you can get an idea of what living in a Bluesound world could be like. I'm also going to rely on what I wrote there for the skinny on the BluOS app. One difference between the Node 2 and Vault 2 is the Vault 2 requires an Ethernet connection to your network/Internet.
There are a numbers of ways to get music into the Vault. You can attach to it from your computer and drag and drop (the Vault 2 shows up as shared storage on your network), attach USB storage directly to the Vault and copy your files over, and download purchases from HDtracks, Qobuz, and HIGHRESAUDIO from within the BluOS app. Nice. You can also stick your CDs into its front-mounted slot drive and let 'er rip (FLAC or, if you're a masochist, MP3). You can, and I'd recommend doing so, attach USB storage to create a backup of your music library. The BluOS app includes a "Backup music library" command under the Settings menu. Tap, tap, done.
Since it acts as a NAS, you can access its 2Tbs of storage from any network-attached device and, of course, any other Bluesound device on the same network. If you choose to go Bluesound mulitroom, you control playback for each device from the same BluOS app. This includes grouping and ungrouping to play the same music on each device or different music on different devices. This is accomplished with one or two taps within the app. Even a caveman can do it.
As I went into some detail in the Node 2 review, I enjoyed using the BluOs app on my iPad mini. It is very intuitive and easy to use and I love having all of that music, internal storage, NAS, Tidal HiFi, and Internet Radio in hand. For the bulk of my Vault 2 review time, I used its analog output to feed my Ayre AX-Twenty integrated amp which drove the DeVore gibbon X speakers.
I copied a bunch of my music onto the Vault 2's drive and I also sent it music from my NAS. I'll cover this here since it's an easy thing to cover—I did not hear a notable difference between playing from internal storage or my NAS. Another easy tick off of the use check list is the Vault 2's ripper worked just fine and took about 15 minutes to rip a CD to its internal storage. One note; the Vault 2 will not retrieve the associated metadata for every recording in existence so you will have fix these cases on your computer.
A One Box Computer Audio Solution
If you're a tweaker, look elsewhere. If you enjoy mixing and matching gear—a server from company X, a NAS from company Y, a DAC from Z, and a headphone amp from W—look elsewhere. If you want to buy one device, one box, to store and play your music along with streaming services and Internet Radio as well as rip your CDs and download your purchases from HDtracks, Qobuz, and HIGHRESAUDIO the Bluesound Vault 2 is for your "you really ought to audition this" list.
As I mentioned, I mainly used the Vault as everything, sending its analog out to my Ayre AX-5 Twenty where it lived quite comfortably. I did not miss my more costly every day separates which include a Synology DS412+ NAS and Auralic Vega DAC. The Vault 2, like the Bluesound Node 2, is really fun to listen to, all rich and full and...fun. There's a nice meaty quality to music coupled with enough resolution to keep me interested over the long haul.
Putting on my lab coat, which is never fun, the Vault 2's presentation is condensed, less concerned with micro detail, less tonally rich, and more homogeneous compared to my separates so at $1200, give or take a buck, it is not going to pull a David against roughly $4800 of Goliath gear. It is, however, very capable of letting you enjoy all of your music when coupled with a system and listener that enjoys listening to music more than fussing over the details. I spent weeks playing all manner of music from Tidal, Internet Radio, and stuff I own and the comparative shortcomings did not interfere with my listening flow: Everything goes.
If that fussy day comes, and it usually does, the Vault 2 can act as NAS/server and send its bits via Toslink or Coax to your external DAC-O-choice. Here, using Coax to connect to the Auralic Vega, the Vault 2 did not pull out as much detail and nuance as my MacBook Pro running Roon connected to the Vega via USB. The latter can also play all of my files including the 2 dozen or so DSD recordings I have (I've never purchased a PCM recording whose resolution exceeds 24/192).
Toslink out from the Vault 2 is another matter where, as with the Node 2, the Vault 2 easily bettered the Toslink out from my MacBook Pro. When adding DACs to Bluesound, my experience says think Toslink.
The Vault's headphone out into the AudioQuest Nighthawks sounded very much like the headphone out from the Node—nice and full and rich. I could easily enjoy this combo for extended listening.
As I pointed out in my Node 2 review, Bluesound does not support DSD (and there's no USB DAC out). If this is a deal breaker for you, you'll have to look elsewhere and again, I'd point you to the Auralic Aries Mini (see review) for a similar functional package (minus the headphone amp and CD ripper). No DSD is not a deal breaker for me and frankly neither is a PCM sample rate limit of 96kHz, but that's another story. The matter of fact is the Bluesound ecosystem can play the majority of recorded music.
Let's focus on that ecosystem—it's important to keep in mind that Bluesound offers the aforementioned Node 2, Powernode 2 ($799) which adds a 60W integrated amp to the Node, the Pulse speakers (from $299 and I'll be reviewing the Pulse Mini ($499)), and Duo sub/sat system ($999) all of which can be controlled, grouped, and ungrouped from the comfort of the Bluesound app. To state the obvious, if you're looking for a multi-room high-res-capable system that sounds better than Sonos, add Bluesound to that "you really ought to audition this" list.
What More Do You Need?
For those who have an immediate answer to that question, the Vault 2 may not be for you. If, on the other hand, you've been asking yourself this very question throughout this review, all I can add in terms of an answer is—you really ought to audition the Bluesound Vault 2.