STREAMING DACS provide a quick and easy way to upgrade an existing hi-fi rig and make it compatible with all the advanced services available to a 21 st century music enthusiast. Even someone owning a circa-1972 receiver could suddenly find themselves streaming 24-bit/192kHz high-res tracks from Qobuz, as well as “tuning in” an insane assortment of internet radio stations from around the globe. And while streaming DACs can be pricey—the Simaudio Moon 280D we reviewed in the July/August issue, for example, lists for $3,000—there are also affordable options like Bluesound’s $549 Node.
The Node is part of a family of Bluesound streaming capable products that includes speakers, the Pulse Soundbar+, and the Pulse Sub+ subwoofer, all of which can be linked wirelessly and operated using the company’s BluOS Controller app. When using the Node as a central streaming hub, the BluOS platform permits simultaneous distribution of 24-bit high-res audio to up to 64 devices around the home, and it also supports products from other brands including NAD, DALI, and more.
Available in black or white, the paperback book-sized Node has a plastic case, but one with some heft and a stylish design. I found that it integrated well with my other gear as opposed to looking like an awkward add-on thing. A proximity sensor illuminates a display on top when you approach the Node, with the display offering touch controls for play/pause, track skip, and volume adjustment. Other control options include the optional RC1 IR remote ($59), voice (via Alexa Skills or Google Actions), and third-party systems (Bluesound offers drivers for Lutron, Elan, RTI, Crestron, and others).
The Node’s output connections include analog stereo RCA, coaxial and optical digital, and HDMI eARC for connection to a compatible TV. There’s also a mono RCA-jack output for connecting a subwoofer and a mini-jack headphone output, the latter located on the Node’s front panel. A mini-jack input around back accepts analog stereo signals and can do double-duty as an optical digital connection when using the supplied adapter.
Along with dual-band Wi-Fi, the Node supports wireless streaming via AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth aptX HD. The Bluetooth link is two-way, which means you can additionally stream music out to a set of wireless headphones. Other connections include LAN (Ethernet) and USB Type-A for connecting an external drive, a 12V trigger output, a 3.5mm IR input, and an input for an AC power cord.
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