TheFlash

Bluesound Node 2 vs "pimped" Node 2i with linear PSU

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Super Wammer

I posted the below in a thread on "streamer without DAC" where it may have been a little buried. Thought it might deserve a thread of its own, given the level of interest in streamers in general and the happy ownership of Bluesound Nodes by a number of wammers.

Shout out to @Kubs as he started the streamer thread.

_____________

Last night I installed the pimped Node 2i (Fidelity Audio interface board + Custom HiFi Cables DC2 linear PSU) alongside my existing stock Node 2. Digital cables from both into Arcam D33 DAC were both Mark Grant so nothing fancy. The only other installation difference is that I tried unplugging my CAT 5 LAN cable to run both on wifi source but the new one refused to play and I didn't want to factory reset so the Node 2i had the advantage of a hard connection to the router.

For the purposes of listening comparisons, Dac feeds an Arcam A49 amp and speakers were my recently acquired Thiel CS 2 2 which are from the early 90's. Music is lossless CD rips sitting on my NAS also plugged into router and control is via the BluOS app on my iPad (to repeat, the music does not strema from the device like with Airplay, the iPad merely acts as a remote control and is not in the playback chain.

I was impressed by the difference. The Thiels have been loosening up after what I guess has been a few years of low or no use and are getting tighter all the time; their strong bass sounds a bit bloated with the stock Node 2. It's fine until you compare it with the pimped Node 2i of course... and then you realise how tight everything can and should be. Not only in the bass, where there is more shape to the notes but also in the mids and highs where it is easier to discern say the brushed strokes of a cymbal. The whole system sounds stronger, tighter and all is good in TheFlash Towers.

How much of this is the LAN vs wifi? Your guess is as good as mine. How much is the difference between the stock Node 2 and stock Node 2i? DItto. Would I recommend that someone considering spending up to £1000 on a streamer listened to the pimped version available from Fidelity Audio? Absolutely, and I think you'd be very pleasantly surprised. The Node 2/2i is a great device in its own right but the tweaks take it up a level.

I invited Nick @Fourlegs over this morning to tell me whether I was hearing things. I turned his expectation bias up to full of course by telling him which was which and tapping my foot vigorously when the Node 2i was playing. Worked a treat. ;)

Nick thought the improvement might in part be down to the reduction in RFI from the, presumably but not evidenced, quieter linear PSU; so we plugged in one of his own brand (and expensive - sorry, Nick!) he-man cables - he'd sneaked it in in his pocket and for a moment I thought he was just excited to see me. There was a noticeable improvement in clarity with the stock Node 2. Nick looked rather triumphant (mind you, he does have a tendency to think RFI is to blame for everything, probably including climate change).
I suggested we plug the Wave cable into the pimped Node 2i to prove/disprove the theory, expecting to hear it made no or a modest difference but blow me (that's just an expression, not an invitation) it made the same incremental difference. Now we're cooking! It was exciting and extraordinary. Now some naughty wammer (no names, no pack drill) is going to accuse me of "shilling", of subtly promoting the products of a friend to his commercial advantage; it's a family show so I'll keep it clean: that's utter gatteaux). With respect, no-one is going to spend as much on a cable as on their pimped 2i streamer, wrong market. I'm simply reporting this for completeness of the experiment. I spent a couple of months helping Nick set up Wave and then left him to it; apparently he promised me a cable if I ever wanted one. I hadn't been interested at the time as it was of no use - I only got a separate DAC this year - but Nick dusted off the offer and the one we tried is staying. I'm a happy bunny.

Next step has to be to compare my beloved dCS RingDAC-based Arcam CD23T with this tweaked setup. Now that's going to be very interesting indeed.

(stock Node 2 now in Classifieds).

Edited by TheFlash
punkchewation and speeling
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Super Wammer

Nigel, I was hugely impressed with the difference that your pimped Node 2i made over the standard Node 2 when I came and listed at your house.

So I can get my head around what you have done and what the cost is likely to be can I just run through the kit list for the 2i we heard? I think you had your already owned Custom HiFi Cables DC2 linear PSU altered and possibly upgraded so your actual cost might have been a bit different.

Bluesound Node 2i - £499

Fidelity Audio interface board - £175

Custom HiFi Cables DC2 linear PSU - £370

Is that about right or did your DC3 power supply have another tweak?

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I too use a Node 2i with the Fidelity Audio PSU interface (simple DIY install) along with an iFi Audio iPower 5v PSU and it’s all rather nice. Certainly an improvement over the standard Node 2i.

EDIT: Next step is to power the Node 2i through an iFi Micro iUSB3.0 and see if that provides an increase in performance over the iPower 5v PSU.

Edited by Getgaff

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Super Wammer
1 minute ago, Getgaff said:

I too use a Node 2i with the Fidelity Audio PSU interface (simple DIY install) along with an iFi Audio iPower 5v PSU and it’s all rather nice. Certainly an improvement over the standard Node 2i.

Were you getting the same result we heard? ie less harsh treble, better defined bass etc?

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Definately, especially noticeable in the bass and overall I’d say it gives a smoother presentation. A worthwhile upgrade, I paid £155 for PSU interface (price has since increased I see) and had the iPower going spare.

Edited by Getgaff

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Super Wammer
13 minutes ago, Fourlegs said:

Nigel, I was hugely impressed with the difference that your pimped Node 2i made over the standard Node 2 when I came and listened at your house.

So I can get my head around what you have done and what the cost is likely to be can I just run through the kit list for the 2i we heard? I think you had your already owned Custom HiFi Cables DC2 linear PSU altered and possibly upgraded so your actual cost might have been a bit different.

Bluesound Node 2i - £499

Fidelity Audio interface board - £175

Custom HiFi Cables DC2 linear PSU - £370

Is that about right or did your DC3 power supply have another tweak?

That's a pretty good summary of what it would cost someone starting from scratch and buying new, though the Fidelity tweak is cheaper and can be cheaper still (read on). If I had not aleady owned the Custom Hifi Cables DC2 I would have gone with the Fidelity Audio linear PSU. So let me summarise:

My own costs

  • Bluesound Node 2i, pre-owned/mint from eBay: £400
  • Fidelity Audio interface board £135 (they don't normally sell just the board, cheapest official way in is £155 for external quiete Switched PSU at £155 and ditch the PSU)
  • Custom Hifi Cable DC2 - modify my existing to 5.2v and add current booster - total £90
  • Total to me gross £625

If I sell the stock Node 2 for minimum £200, the upgrade will have cost me net £425.

New costs of above

Presuming Fidelity Audio would sell just a board at same price again:

  • Fidelity Audio interface board £135
  • Custom HiFi Cables DC2 £370
  • Bluesound Node 2i £499
  • Total £1004

A more sensible way

Gets you a brand new Node 2i with interface board pre-installed and Fidelity Audio's own linear PSU at a discount from buying separate components from them. Not even the modest amount of DIY required, ready to roll, and all from one supplier so if anything were to go wrong there is one arse to kick. Not that that would be required as Brent is a top bloke.

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And it’s all completely reversible, should you need.

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Super Wammer
13 minutes ago, Getgaff said:

I too use a Node 2i with the Fidelity Audio PSU interface (simple DIY install) along with an iFi Audio iPower 5v PSU and it’s all rather nice. Certainly an improvement over the standard Node 2i.

EDIT: Next step is to power the Node 2i through an iFi Micro iUSB3.0 and see if that provides an increase in performance over the iPower 5v PSU.

I believe the iPower is a Switched PSU equivalent to what Fidelity Audio would call their "high current SMPS". This comes included in the £155: https://www.fidelityaudio.co.uk/bluesound-node-2i-interface-with-smps-4563-p.asp

If you get the chance, try a linear PSU. Fidelity Audio sell two levels (I suspect equivalent to Sean at Custom HiFi Cables' DC2 and DC3):

  • "PRO Low Noise PSU and interface board" £415
  • "Reference Low Noise PSU and interface board" £799

It would be interesting to see how much of a further improvement you hear (if any, of course!).

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My costs FWIW:

  • Node 2i = £430 new from Sevenoaks Sound & Vision
  • PSU Interface = £100 (used £55-worth of Nectar points on eBay, much to the wife’s displeasure)
  • iFi iPower 5v PSU = free

All in for £530

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Super Wammer

Photos?

Is the conversion only compatible for the 2i?

Edited by Beyond you

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Super Wammer

Might be worth listening to a battery driving the node 2i instead of the LPS. I have two different ones outputting 5v. 

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Super Wammer
8 minutes ago, Beyond you said:

Photos?

Is the conversion only compatible for the 2i?

Officially, yes. I started off going to do it to my Node 2 and it would most probably have worked but I thought that if I was going to tweak something I might always wonder whether I was missing out by doing it to the Node 2 rather than a 2i. If my calcs are correct, the cost of changing from Node 2 to Node 2i for me will be £200.

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Hello @TheFlash.. Interesting to read about journey of upgrades. I'm currently looking for a dedicated streamer myself. My Oppo 105EU is still going strong as per doing streaming duties connected to my RME ADI-2 DAC..  Only problem it does not do gapless so showing its age now. If you remember as per the Arcam D33 DAC on eBay, made an offer of £540 but it was declined by seller. So that's as much I'm willing to pay, if anything was just curious how it would sound compared to the RME DAC.

I may well give the upgraded node 2i a try to see how I get on with it. I've been also looking at the likes of Melco and Innuos but much expensive alternatives

Edited by Nativebon
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Super Wammer
5 minutes ago, Nativebon said:

Hello @TheFlash.. Interesting to read about journey of upgrades. I'm currently looking for a dedicated streamer myself. My Oppo 105EU is still going strong as per doing streaming duties connected to my RME ADI-2 DAC..  Only problem it does not do gapless so showing its age now. If you remember as per the Arcam D33 DAC on eBay, made an offer of £540 but it was declined by seller. So that's as much I'm willing to pay, if anything was just curious how it would sound compared to the RME DAC.

I may well give the upgraded node 2i a try to see how I get on with it. I've been also looking at the likes of Melco and Innuos but much expensive alternatives

Hi @Nativebon, glad you have found this interesting. I haven't heard the RME, though Nick @Fourlegs had or has one; I think he lost the will to live when trying to negotiate the menu system to try the various filters! If I recall, he brought it to my place briefly but this was when I had a Leema Elements DAC which was  rather mellower/warmer. Personally, the aesthetics stopped me from seriously considering it as a DAC for me. I know, I know, it should be all about the sound...

I can't offer you much by way of comparisons but if you want to hit the motorway one weekend and visit to hear my pimped Node 2i > D33 DAC > Arcam A49 as pre > ATC SCM40A actives and then swap your RME in then I'm happy to put the kettle on. PM me.

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16 minutes ago, TheFlash said:

Hi @Nativebon, glad you have found this interesting. I haven't heard the RME, though Nick @Fourlegs had or has one; I think he lost the will to live when trying to negotiate the menu system to try the various filters! If I recall, he brought it to my place briefly but this was when I had a Leema Elements DAC which was  rather mellower/warmer. Personally, the aesthetics stopped me from seriously considering it as a DAC for me. I know, I know, it should be all about the sound...

I can't offer you much by way of comparisons but if you want to hit the motorway one weekend and visit to hear my pimped Node 2i > D33 DAC > Arcam A49 as pre > ATC SCM40A actives and then swap your RME in then I'm happy to put the kettle on. PM me.

Thanks alot for the invite, will PM hopefully work out a plan.

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