Bluesound Node 2 vs. Node 2i

I started the weekend being perfectly happy with my digital setup

I read the specs when the 2i was released and it appeared that the only thing that had changes was the dual band wifi and the Incorporation of the "Apple ecosystem"

Since I did not need to make use of either of these features I didn't bother looking into it any further.

Then I saw some comments posted on Agon detailing some other differences and they got me thinking there may be more to the 2i than I originally thought...
- first the incorporation of the new Wifi chipset allowed the design team to reorganize the circuit board such that the Wifi chipset has less impact on the rest of the circuit
- the second thing I read was that the DAC chipset had been improved.

Both of these changes triggered my upgrade-itis and so I trolled down to my local Bluesound dealer and bought one.

Setting up the unit was basically - plug it in and let it do it's thing
- it upgrades the software immediately, which took about 15 minutes
- it kept all of my existing playlists and presets
- I use Ethernet, so there was no need for any Wifi setup

So what did I hear...
- IMAGE: noticeably larger with better separation between instruments and artists and more space around artists
- DYNAMICS: crisper and cleaner
- CLARITY: you'll hear vocal phrasings and instrument details that were not as apparent with the Node 2
- DETAILS: there is more detail to the top end and the bass lines convey more texture. The mid's are noticeably more realistic
- REALISM: pretty much every track I have listened to so far now appears more realistic. You really get to hear just how good the sound engineer is at his job in studio recorded tracks and tracks recorded on location convey the delicate nuances of the venue acoustics (i.e. echoes and reverberations)

Now I don't know what they put in their "Wheaties" at Bluesound, but one thing for sure - their crew knows how to upgrade!

This was in some ways a little unexpected and a surprisingly good upgrade experience. 

But given the impact using good cables had on the performance of the original Node 2, I suppose it gave me the confidence to try the Node 2i - and I'm really glad I did :-)

 Hope you find my observations useful :-)

Regards - Steve

Thanks for sharing your experience. Just wondering how old was your Node2 and if you use its analog output or use an external DAC?
Funny, when I asked Bluesound if I should upgrade, they said 'No'. They said the software upgrade did the trick, not the hardware.

Your description of the physical changes, and your description of the improvement in SQ, pretty much mirror exactly the findings from the initial What Hi-Fi review from back in Oct., 2018. Thanks for providing your findings. 
Kalali - I have always used the analogue outputs on both Node 2 and 2i units.

I originally had..
- an apple computer, via USB into...
- an MF V-192 into...
- A Schiit Bifrost DAC (their first model)

The analogue out from the Node 2 was much better than the separates above.

gdnrbob - That was my initial impression also, but this 2i unit is a definite step up.

Their comments are probably based on using stock cables.
I am using cables that perform to a very high degree of resolution

reubent - yes I read that review also. I would like to know what cables they were using to achieve those observations.
Perhaps the improvements are still there with stock cables just more subtle

What I observed was very noticeable 


Did you perform an immediate A/B comparison between the two units (less than 0,5 sec) with exactly the same volume level (less than 0,5 db) Or were these observations just your feelings? 
Hans does a teardown in this video, and not much inside changed, but I supposed it made a difference!
Gosta - I have spent considerable time (more than the average audiophile) "really listening" to my audio system, due to the many auditions of connectors and cables that I have performed over the last 8 years. So you could say I have "trained my ears" what to listen for.

I have also become acutely familiar of the various nuances of the tone of my system as well as its dynamic and sonic "signature", which can be vastly different from system to system.

The biggest improvement in the Node 2i was in the image, which was already pretty good with the Node 2, but was now larger and had more space around the artists/instruments than the Node 2. The improved details and clarity were also noticeable

But that is in MY system.

Would I hear the same improvements in YOUR system?
- most definitely not, because I am not familiar with its "sound"

So my answer to your question ...
- I DID NOT do an A/B comparison within .5 sec and within .5 db.

MY APPROACH: I have about 60 tracks across multiple genres that I use for auditioning, whose sound I am extremely familiar with (in my system) and when that sound changes (better or worse) I listen more intently to discern what the change is

Hope that helps - Steve

Thanks Steve. Interesting. However, as interested you are in working with your sound, why not setting up a A/B test environment at least for dacs. It's not that hard and may be very revealing. It has for me.....

By the way I can recommend the RME ADI-2 dac that has united the pro and audiophile world. Besides being a state of the art dac it has fine eq possibilities and a very promising loudness functionality. And not at least an honest price. Not affiliated :-)
If you are using the digital out into an external dac, there’s literally no difference between the 2 vs 2i.  There is certainly a big difference in the analog outputs, which is no big surprise. Since I always use an external dac, the older version is perfect. I have it going through a benchmark D3 into a benchmark hf amplifier and then into Abyss headphones.  Probably about as resolving a system as you can get, and I wasn’t impressed by any difference, and that is using instantaneous volume matched AB comparison.
I don't have the original version to test, but I will say that, as a streamer, the Node 2i is a tremendous value. My primary streamer is a Bryston BDP-2 with upgraded audio card (essentially the same as the BDP-3 with a bit less CPU performance). The Bryston is a bit better, particularly with AES3, but the Node2i holds it's own very well. 

I've also used the Node 2i directly into a power amp (using the Node 2i as a streamer, dac, and preamp) and found it to be surprisingly good. For a budget system, this is a remarkably good solution. 
When you say they updated their DAC and you hear a big difference.  Well they didn't upgrade their DAC.  

If you think the only thing that matters is the actual conversion chipset, you have a lot to learn.  
I searched this discussion with some interest, because I have a Node 2 and a Node 2i, and I go back and forth to compare them regularly. I am like Steve -- I have listened to my system for years, and can hear small differences immediately. I also agree with the descriptions of the 2i here -- the top end is more defined, clearer, vocals are more "up" in the mix, so words can be heard easily, the bass is more solid, the stereo image is broader....and yet.....and yet....there are a few things, for me , the Node 2 does better. It's all about differences in the midrange. The Node 2 seems to bring forward some essential instruments in the mix that should be heard as part of the arrangement. The detail is not up to the 2i, but the overall coherence of the sound seems better. It is not just a bunch of parts, but things fall together nicely on the Node 2. I notice the reduced crispness, greater roundness, of the treble, and for my older ears, it actually sounds better. There are times on the 2i where sudden harshness jumps out, but it is smoothed on the Node 2. I love the bass impact and clarity on the 2i though -- a definite plus.

So, for me, it is a difficult trade-off, and what sounds better depends on the type of music and the recording.