Bluesound NODE

Device Type: Network Player
Input: Ethernet, USB Type A (for USB storage), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (with optional dongle)
Output: 1 pair analog RCA, Toslink
Dimensions: 205 x 167 x 146mm
Weight: 1.0 kg
Availability: Online and through Authorized Dealers
Price: $449.00

A Network Node
The Bluesound Node is a network player—Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth in, out comes your choice of digital (Toslink) or analog (RCAs) music. The Node supports MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF in resolutions up to 24/192, gapless playback, cloud services including WiMP, Rdio, Highresaudio, Slacker Radio, Qobuz, Deezer and Juke (all of these services require an account and some have geographic restrictions), and Internet Radio via TuneIn Radio. You can also play music from an Internet URL. All of this functionality is wrapped up in a relatively small round-cornered display-less cube in your choice of high gloss white or black highlighted with a brushed steel strip running down its center. Control of the Node is performed strictly through the Bluesound app for iOS and Android devices.

I'm going to focus on just the Bluesound Node here but you can read my review of the Bluesound Vault (see review) and Powernode/Duo (see review) to get an idea of the full range of products and options available within the Bluesound ecosystem as well as some of the features of the Bluesound app that apply to using multiple Bluesound devices in the Powernode/Duo review. I will also be reviewing the stand alone Pulse player in the near future. It's worth noting that when using multiple Bluesound devices, control of each of them is through the same Bluesound app and you can easily have the same or different music playing through all devices.

The Bluesound Node incorporates an ARM Cortex A8 processor and a 24/192 Cirrus Logic DAC. There's a digital volume control which you can defeat in the Bluesound app. Inputs include Ethernet, USB Type A for connecting USB storage devices, and Bluetooth using an optional Bluetooth dongle. The Node is also Wi-Fi equipped so you can have it connect to your home Wi-Fi network. The Node runs on the same custom developed Linux BluOStm as the rest of the Bluesound devices and you can output either an analog signal through the Node's RCAs or up to 24/192 digital via Toslink.

Setting up the Node took all of a few minutes. After connecting it to my network with an Ethernet cable and pluggin it in, I used the Bluesound app to point the Node to my QNAP NAS and within a few minutes the app was populated with my music library. You can also have the Node read from your network shared folders on your PC or Mac. I used the Node solo run directly into my Pass INT-30A as well as through the Auralic Vega DAC via Toslink. I also took the Node's Wi-Fi for a spin.

A Musical Node
Let's talk about the Node as Network Player and DAC first since I'd imagine that's how many owners will choose to use it. As was the case with the other Bluesound products I've reviewed, I found the Node to be a pleasure to listen to. Rich, full, and fun being the operative words that come to mind. I spent weeks listening to just the Node as my sole source and it was pure pleasure. From a big picture point of view, I'd say the Node paints things on the darker, full-bodied side as opposed to a focus on resolution and edge. While there is a fine sense of detail retrieval, the Node does not dig as deeply as other DACs into the nitty gritty of the recording.

Bass response is fit and full, the midrange is rich and meaty, and upper frequencies have that nice burnished glow without a hint of harshness. Again, the Node does not offer the last word in resolution but this did not detract from my enjoyment. The Node is certainly on par with the Class C DACs on our Greatest Bits list and even though it has been while, I'm most reminded of the NAD D 1050 (see review) about which I said, "I'd place the overall sonic center of the D 1050 in the lower midrange which some people might call dark which is also fine by me as I find dark to be tonally rich as opposed to the thin white heat of exaggerated upper frequencies."

I compared the Node's volume control to the Pass' and I preferred the latter. Music sounded a bit richer and smoother with the Node's volume control set to max (or fixed output via the app). Running from the Node's Toslink output into the Auralic Vega offered up that superb sense of resolution I've come to associate with the Vega along with a broader tonal palette. I should hope that adding a $3500 DAC into the mix would improve things and I found this to be the case which suggests that people looking to add a network player to their existing DAC should consider the Node as a viable option as long as they can accomodate its Toslink output.

I also compared the Node to the pricier Moon MiND (see review) also connected to the Vega via Toslink and with the MiND there was more apparent resolution. The presentation seemed to come from a quieter place, allowing you to hear further into the recording as compared to the Node. If you've read my review of the MiND, I also preferred its AES/EBU output to Toslink so it takes a few more sonic steps ahead of the Node when run via AES/EBU.

If there's an elephant in the room, even if only a ghost, it has to be the long lamented passing of the Squeezebox Touch. I leashed up my Touch to the Pass for a head to head with the Node and I'm happy to report that the Node cleared the air and elephant from the room. The Node is simply a better sounding player/DAC offering greater transparency and less of a sonic footprint of its own when compared to the Touch which sounds comparatively heavy handed. Music sounds less distinct and darker through the Touch and more engaging and alive through the Node.

While I had no issues with Wi-Fi, even playing back 24/192 files, Wi-Fi performance is very site specific. Signal strength and network traffic can impact Wi-Fi performance so its not possible to say if you can get by running the Node on your Wi-Fi network especially with higher sample rate files. If it was me, I'd bite the bullet and run that Ethernet cable into my listening room and be done with it. Streaming music from my iPhone to the Node via Bluetooth sounded fine if kinda unnecessarily bandwidth limited and redundant since all of my music exists on my NAS and can stream through the Node via Ethernet in its original resolution. But, Bluetooth is a very cool feature allowing you to allow guests access to your hi-fi without wires.

The Bluesound app worked without a hitch and offers most of the features you'd expect to have at your fingertips with a network player. Create and edit playlists, add albums or tracks to the playlist on the fly (last, next, now), and play them back in order, change the order manually, or select "Shuffle" to mix 'em up. You can view your music collection by Album, Artist, Song, and tapping on the Info tab brings up related info on the music currently playing provided by The search feature works well and very fast bringing up results as you type. There's even an "All Songs Random" option which is an interesting proposition. The one drawback with the Bluesound app is there's no way to edit metadata from within the app so you'll have to take care of that somewhere else.

A Touching Node
The Bluesound Node delivers. Capable of handling up to 24/192 files from network attached storage and USB storage as well as music from Bluetooth sources, Wi-Fi, streaming services and Internet radio, the Node also delivers an eminently enjoyable sound through its internal DAC. If you'd rather pass your networked music to your own DAC, the Node's Toslink output can do so at rates up to 24/192. Of equal importance is the Bluesound app is a pleasure to use and can control multiple Bluesound devices around your home filling it with music and you with joy.

Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the Bluesound Node review: SimAudio Moon MiND, Logitech Squeezebox Touch

ErikM's picture

Nice review except for the obvious comparison, Sonos..It would have been much more useful to know how the Node compares to a Sonos zone player than the long discontinued Squeezebox. Also it would have been nice if the Bluesound folks would realize that a Coax digital out would have been a much better choice than Toslink..I think you might have mentioned that too..Still nice write up.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Sonos only supports up to 16/44.1 (see Supported Audio Formats) so anyone interested in higher resolutions will have to look elsewhere.
ErikM's picture

I understand the limits of Sonos, I've had four zones running in my home for 8 years now.. but Sonos is still the 800lb gorilla in this segment of the market, and a comparison to them would make the most sense since that's the exact market that Bluesound is going after...

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...system numerous times, so far with no success. I agree this would make for an interesting comparison.
olc's picture

I have Sonos and I'm not thrilled with it. What it does have that Bluesound doesn't is a good selection of streaming services. In the US, the Bluesound selection is dismal. Not even Pandora. Just Tune-In and just now, Spotify though I haven't seen of the Spotify-Bluesound UI is any good. The Sonos interfaces are barely satisfactory for basic function. I went to Sonos when it was not clear what would happen to rendering a Squeezebox all but useless even for internet streaming, and I miss the Squeezebox functionality. I hope Bluesound will get its act together on streaming services. Where's Pandora, Google Play All Access, the list goes on. If you are not in Europe, Bluesound isn't ready. I wish it were. I'd dump Sonos in a heartbeat.

ErikM's picture

Also as you mentioned, since the Bluesound appears to be the first truly viable alternative to Sonos that can do HiRes it would have been nice if you'd commented a bit more on it's SQ playing HiRes.. But still good write up!

ErikM's picture

Well Michael if you're ever in NJ you're welcome to bring the Bluesound over and we could compare it to my Sonos system :-)

jazz and cocktails's picture

thank you- a couple of questions- did you compare the digital output of the Node to that of the Touch?

also, is the analog outut of the Node similar to that of the Vault? and if so, i assume the digital out is likewise similar?

the bluesound ecosystem is very cool, and will be even better when more music services become available in the US. Spotify, Sirius XM would be my choice. also, i'd like some way to control the Node from a browser, which i don't believe currently exists.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I briefly compared the Node to the Touch using Toslink and found the Node to be more transparent and resolute overall.

I found all of the Bluesound products, as well as the NAD D 1050, to have a very similar sonic signature. There's definitely a family sound.

I know Bluesound is working on adding more streaming services but they did not have any specifics last I asked.

jazz and cocktails's picture

thanks Michael- looking forward to the Pulse review, and maybe some thoughts on the multiroom ecosystem.

2_channel_ears's picture

Very useful review, thanks Michael.

How exactly does Bluesound handle gapless playback? Is it limited to USB input or can it handle via ethernet? The owners manual seems silent on this.

Still looking forward to an article on gapless playbook.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I only tested gapless playback, which worked fine, via Ethernet.
jky999's picture

Is it ok to make the douchy "if only it did DSD" comment? That's what I'm waiting for……a smallish, lifestyle networked player that allows me to play my entire collection. Right now, we've got the Audyssey South of Market's scattered throughout our house. I listen to those as much as my main system.

Having said all of that, it's quite amazing what $500 will get you in sound quality these days.

coolsax's picture

Have you had any software glitches with the system at all. I went to my local dealer to get their opinion and they aren't even adverstising for bluesound right now b/c they and other customers were having too many issues with set up and such across the bluesound ecosystem. Did you have any issues at all with setup or any glitches during your run with it?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...was during a rip of one CD, which I go into detail about in the review, where I needed to reboot the Vault to correct the problem. Other than that, I did not have issues. I mainly used the Vault and Powernode simultaneously.
coolsax's picture

thanks - i may go ahead and try it then.. The dealer still had a few.. worse comes to worse I can return but very happy to hear it beats out the SBtouch in SQ.

lithium's picture

Hi Michael, Thanks for the great reviews of all the bluesound products. I was wondering if there are any plans to review the SOtM mini server? It is a very interesting device for $450.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I reviewed a bunch of SOtM gear and was impressed by all of it. I'm sure I'll get to the mini server at some point.


RAYSAY's picture

Hi Michael,

Can Blue Sound Node play DSD file through toslink digital output...?

Best regards

Michael Lavorgna's picture
the Bluesound products do not support DSD.
RAYSAY's picture

Even not through toslink digital output into an extern DAC with DSD support...?

deckeda's picture

This thing is a media streamer / player. It either handles a given file type or it doesn't.

steveinminn's picture

Thank you so much for your review, which gave me the "courage" to pick up one of these for $275 on eBay recently. All in all, I'm quite pleased with my purchase … and am grateful for your detailed review!

What I really want, though, is another product you've reviewed so well: the Simaudio MiND -- once I can find one and afford one. That being said, I really, really like the Node's iPad app; it's wonderfully simple to use. My question is … will I be disappointed with the MiND's app, or is it comparable?

The Node is superior to my several-yeasr-old Cambridge NP-30 in every way except for an extremely important one: the sound quality. I get more depth and resolution through my NP-30's coax output than through the Node's toslink output, at least with my cheap $10 toslink cable. ($50 glass version is on its way.) So I'm not 100% pleased, but then again, who is when it comes to consumer audio? :)

Any indications from Bluesound whether they'll add a coax output on the Node or a similar device that's in the works? I find it rather odd they don't have one.

All in all, though, I concur … this is an excellent product for the money. I can foresee keeping it and moving it elsewhere in the house even after I "upgrade" to something else for my main listening area.

Thanks again.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
... by the MiND app. I found it worked very well. In terms of sound quality, I think you will be pleased especially if you can take advantage of the MiND's AES/EBU output.


steveinminn's picture

for the response Michael, I appreciate it!

olc's picture

Did you try the Node with a Bluetooth Dongle? You can get all the mobile music streaming services that way. I wouldn't expect it to be great, but is it usable at all. I have a aptX Bluetooth receiver and an aptX Android tablet that I use to stream through an it's not awful.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...I only played music stored on my iPhone via Bluetooth.
steveinminn's picture

Well, I grabbed a Simaudio MiND off eBay recently for a pretty good price, so I thought I'd follow up on my comment above regarding that player and the Bluesound Node.

I like the Bluesound app a bit more than the Simaudio one, mainly because Bluesound has a feature I really liked on the Squeezebox: a "new" button that lets you listen to the newly acquired music more easily.

But ... the sound quality is noticeably better on the Simaudio. I don't have a DAC with AES/EBU, so I'm using the coax output. But the Simaudio sound is significantly more detailed and refined -- just plain more musical. It's really top-notch. I'm very happy with it.

I will probably keep them both, because I can use them in my two setups. But I thought I'd share my experience.

Thanks again.