If you are like me, you love good audio. There is something magical when you can sit back, relax and have a blanket of sound reinvigorate your mind. This is one reason I have a Vinyl collection—and why I still enjoy my 70’s era Kenwood receiver—so I was excited to give the Bluesound PowerNode 2i a try. Offering High-Res audio, a plethora of was to connect and some of the best audio you can find for the price, the PowerNode 2i blew me away.
PowerNode 2i Features
It is hard to resist the allure of streaming audio. It is easy, provides an immeasurable amount of music, and it simply takes up less space than a massive music collection. Even for those who love physical media, there is something about being able to just turn on your favourite song without a fuss that can’t be beat. However, the problem is, most streaming music is simply not that high of quality, and if you do happen to subscribe to a service that offers high-res audio (Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and Amazon Music HD) you need a player to take that stream and make it worth the price. This is where the PowerNode 2i comes into the picture, delivering the streaming quality we want, while still blowing away the competition on price.
The PowerNode 2i is a relatively compact little box, especially compared to receivers of old. But even with its size, it offers a 32-bit/384kHz DAC and is able to play all high-resolution streaming formats—even the elusive MQA, making Tidal a much more exciting proposition. Granted, the selection of high-res music is still limited. There are plenty of tracks from Vinyl that have made their way and they sound phenomenal. But if you exclusively like modern music, the choices are a bit more slim. It is growing steadily, but be aware, you may not be able to listen to all the top-40s when you first set this little box up.
The PowerNode 2i is packed to the brim with technology, and that is all there to ensure your audio sounds great. With features like high-resolution audio streamer, DAC, power amplifier, headphone amplifier, and wireless multi-room streaming, this feels very much like what Sonos promises, only more refined. Where the competition focuses on ease-of-use, or back of the box features; Bluesound seems to be focusing on quality and fidelity, and it shows.
Over the course of my time with the PowerNode 2i, it quickly became the heart of my audio experience. It fit seamlessly into my current speaker setup, and thanks to the HybridDigital amplifier, that can pump out 60 watts per-channel into 8 ohms; you should have no issues hooking your favorite speakers up and getting things moving with relative ease.
Bluesound also took the time to give it the features you need from this sort of device. While audio may not take centre stage in most homes, audio and video often do, and thanks to an HDMI input (ARC and eARC connectivity) you can hook this up to yours UHD 4K television, or even a game console if you are so inclined. It comes with support for a subwoofer through the mono subwoofer output, and it has support for Type-A USB memory sticks, and of course TOSLINK/3.5 mm input for those that can’t give up the optical audio. It also includes Gigabit Ethernet and 5-way speaker binding posts to keep things exciting.
All the features are controlled through the BluOS Controller app, and the company has outdone themselves on this front. It feels clean, fast and intuitive. Unlike some competing apps, Bluesound have delivered an experience that sounds good, and can actually be controlled by humans.
While I have had things to say about past home-streaming apps, the BluOS Controller made connecting speakers easy. From selecting music, to choosing what speakers do what, it all felt intuitive and well-thought-out. All the technology in the world is useless if you can’t make it work, and thankfully Bluesound took this to heart and delivered what was needed.
Audio Quality of PowerNode 2i
I tested the PowerNode 2i with a pair of Pulse Flex 2I streaming speakers, along with some trusty NHT monitor speakers to give a sense of how it could work in different audio setups. While each speaker does sound different, and will deliver a different take to the sound, it gave a solid sense how Bluesound could deliver High-Res audio to a variety of people and settings.
First and foremost, I love the sound delivered by the PowerNode 2i. With the pair of NHT speakers I hooked up, it felt warm and complex playing some of my favourites—from David Bowie, Neil Young, and of course Daft Punk—and I could immediately hear the nuances within the different music. While I can enjoy music with a set of Bluetooth earbuds, there is something genuinely satisfying about hearing each instrument, and feeling the music wash over you like a wave. Hearing all the minor details or imperfections is something magical, and it is lost with many other streaming solutions.
When paired with other speakers in the Bluesound family, it works seamlessly—allowing full room audio from physically connected speakers, along with the streaming pair I set up around the room. When it all worked it sounded fantastic, filling the room with rich sound that gave a taste of the depth on offer. The app made setting everything up easy, and it even allowed adjustments to the EQ to get the ideal settings to pair with your music of choice.
Does it Stack Up?
Granted, not everything is perfect with the PowerNode 2i, it does not have the power seen in higher-end audio gear, and if you are a Vinyl fan, the lack of a phono input is notable, and frustrating. Granted you can find ways by using the 3.5 mm connector and adapters, but that is never an ideal way of listening to your prized collection.
At the end of the day, Bluesound has delivered a product that has no equal in its price bracket. Yes, you can find more feature rich, or more powerful gear, should you want to drop over 6K; but I have yet to hear anything sound this good for anywhere near its asking price. With support for multi-room audio, a plethora of streaming services and the simple way it integrates into current setups, if you love audio, you need to give the PowerNode 2i a try, you won’t be disappointed.