It is no secret that I love the quality and audio that Bluesound devices offer. Now with their latest offering of the Powernode, they are improving all aspects of the amplifier making an even more compelling offering for anyone that demands only the best in their audio equipment. Diving into the new Powernode (N330), it is no wonder the company has been one of CGMagazine’s top audio products for many years, and if this year’s iteration is anything to go by, that trend is not ending anytime soon.
If you had not told me this was a different device, I would not have known at first glance. The new Powernode feels remarkably similar to the past iteration. The simple black or white plastic shell with rounded corners feels almost identical. But Bluesound has given this little box some new tricks, one being the touch volume control on the top of the device, proximity sensing, along with some easy to access presets that make it a generally more refined user experience.
Looking to the back of the box, you will find the standard array of inputs, meeting most people’s needs for a good audio experience. Featuring an HDMI, Ethernet, USB A, digital/analog audio input (3.5 mm mini jack/optical combo), you should be able to hook up the majority of equipment with ease. It also features speaker connections (banana/screw-mount terminals) along with a subwoofer (RCA) connection for when you need your floor to shake. Sadly, there was no Photo pre-amp included with the Powernode, so if you need your record player connected, you will need to buy a separate pre-amp for everything to sound like it should.
While it does not have inputs for a full 5.1 setup, due to the nature of Bluesound equipment, this can be connected wirelessly with other pieces of equipment, including another Powernode to have the rear speakers connected wirelessly. We have not tested this for the review, although it is built into the system, making it an easy upgrade should you eventually want the full cinematic experience.
The company has positioned the Bluesound Powernode to be the centre of your entertainment experience, and the new features and upgrades help with this. Moving away from the 50 Watts of power for external speakers in the last iterations, the device now delivers 80 watts. This allows for more variety in speakers, giving buyers the freedom to choose what sound fits their needs. They have also reportedly used the same power stage seen in the integrated amplifier NAD C368, a much more expensive offering, making the Powernode a fantastic choice for value and performance.
“The company has positioned the Bluesound Powernode to be the centre of your entertainment experience.”
Bluesound also makes it possible to control your system with Google Assistant as well as Amazon Alexa. While not a massive difference over many of the competing brands — many are adding or are looking to ad it — it is long overdue in the high end audio space and helps set the Powernode as part of a whole home smart experience that is welcome for a system at this price point.
The final notable difference from the competition is the support for the MQA audio format, delivering high-resolution music found on services like Tidal. While there are many streaming platforms out there, the ability to support this format puts Bluesound ahead of the pack in quality, especially for those that demand only the best audio experience.
This little audio box does not seem like it can compete with the bigger systems currently on the market. But looks can be deceptive, the Powernode can be earth-shattering when paired with the right speakers. For testing we paired the system with a set of PSB Alpha series P5 bookshelf speakers, and things sounded very interesting.
I am a fan of the audio from the Powernode—it is clear, filled with power, while not ever feeling coloured or over processed. Much like many Class D amplifiers currently on the market, the Powernode never overcomplicates the audio it delivers. Sound feels true to the source, without giving too much warmth. While many like the particular EQ offered on many speakers, Bluesound has opted for a clear audio experience, and it is one I love.
“With each aspect of the sound given a chance to shine you can hear the minute detail, while still enjoying the complexity and vibrancy of different audio sources.”
The Bluesound Powernode gives a clear window into the audio recording. With each aspect of the sound given a chance to shine you can hear the minute detail, while still enjoying the complexity and vibrancy of different audio sources. You will feel like you are in the middle of the recording studio, hearing everything on display, while never feeling like one aspect overpowers another, provided the music or sound is mixed appropriately. While many amplifiers in the sub-1000 range will mix the different sounds, making them feel like a wall of noise, the Powernode manages to keep each piece of the audio separate, preserving the depth that makes music exciting and rewarding.
There are limitations to this soundscape, with the sound losing this complexity when you push the volume to its limits. While the audio should still sound good, depending on the speakers you pair with the Powernode, you will find it can get muffled or muddy, and the clarity will be lost. That being said, for most living environments, you should never need to get anywhere near this loud to fill the room with clear, crisp audio.
I was a fan of the previous Powernode, and the small improvements and refinements to the overall formula make this iteration a worthy upgrade. The increase in power is a great touch, and with the ability to listen to high-resolution audio formats, it makes an already fantastic product more of a must-buy. If you love audio, and demand only the best, Bluesound still reigns supreme when it comes to audio quality and wireless music.