Bluesound Node 2021 DAC - I sold my Denafrips Ares II

I assembled my system last summer, after 20 odd years in the hifi wilderness. I’ve never been a vinyl guy, so wanted all the convenience of streaming, plus a CDP for my old collection.

I went for the latest iteration of the Bluesound Node - N130, a Naim Nait 5si and a pair of Quad S2 speakers, and Audiolab 6000CDT.

From reading various forums, watching YT videos, you know the script; I convinced my self that I needed an external DAC, as the majority view seemed to be that the BS Node DAC wasn’t very good. As I hadn’t owned hifi since the late 90s (Naim Olive) bi-amped system and Audo Alchemy DDE, I had no reference for how DACs sounded these days.

Anyway, in my new found conviction that I must purchase an ext. DAC, I purchased a Denafrips Ares II. Got it, plugged it in, and didn’t look back. I was content, it sounded good.

Then, about 2 months ago, I was fiddling around inside the Bluos app, with the subwoofer crossover, with a mind to buying a sub to supplement the LFs on my little Quads, and I had the belated brainwave to a/b the Node DAC and the Denafrips. I whipped out some spare ICs and off I went.

OK, I felt like such a fool, really stupid - I a/b’d for literally hours, trying to convince myself that the Ares II was night and day difference - it must be right? The Node DAC is sub-par, not good enough, mediocre, if things I read were correct.

But, in my system, to my ears, this wasn’t the case; I had difficulty discerning any significant improvements, certainly not £800 (£600 pre-owned) worth of difference.

I’m not knocking the Ares II, but in my system, the cost and the difference it made - and the difference between it and the much maligned Node DAC could not be justified sitting in my system at that cost.

Feeling like a complete tool, for rushing headlong in to the DAC game, I re-sold the Denafrips, bought a REL T5x and here I am.

I’m not going to look a further fool and say the Node DAC is the best, but i feel it is criticised unduly, at least the newest version at any rate.

Thanks for reading, I’m not sure this is a cautionary tale, but I just thought the experience worth sharing




One thing is for sure, those REL Tx5s are the best subwoofers you can buy for that amount of money. End of discussion. I have 4 of them for two different systems. Changed my audio world.


Regarding Denafrips Ares, to get the euphonic hi-fi sound, I believe you need to select NOS and Slow filter settings. 

If you select OS (over-sampling) and sharp filter, you will get excellent measured performance, but it will likely sound like chip DACs that use default filters chosen for their linearity...and if that's what you want, you can buy a Schiit Modi 3 for $99.

@joshindc The problem was that even though he was using high quality coax cables, there is an incompatibility issue between the bluesound node and denefrips dacs when feeding with coax cables. Even on the newest version of the node, this issue exists. I know because I have the same node that he has. I was trying to figure out why the Pontus wasn't sounding awesome after nearly a week of break-in. Another couple of members suggested I try USB connection. I grabbed a cheap USB cable and as soon as I hooked it up BOOM huge difference. I reached out to Vinshine who distributes denefrips and it was confirmed that this is a known issue. So moral of the story is, if you have the old bluesound node 2i, don't pair it with denefrips or upgrade to the newest node with USB outs or other streamer. 


I don't know if you saw my earlier posts but trust me man, this is probably why you were unimpressed. Again, I didn't have the Aries, I have the Pontus. But I would hope to think that the Aries is an upgrade to the internal dac of the Node. I'm not trying to discredit the Node, it's a great product especially for the price but the denefrips Pontus easily topped it. 



I owned a Node2i for a few months. It is a capable little streamer combo for the money. But I found it to be an inferior source component (transport) when coupled with a higher end DAC.

I believe the original poster jumped the gun here.

To be honest I have not heard the Ares II, BUT I suspect the Ares II was NOT able to show its true colors due to the Node's deficiency to act as a high quality TRANSPORT for the DAC. This is why the OP came to the conclusion that the Ares II was at par with the Node's on board DAC and a waste of time.

Just my 2 cents.

At least his wallet is happy.

Bluesound Node is ahead of it’s time. PLUS, it’s an all inclusive PreAmp… my headphone never sounded better out of its jack, then into balanced AAA 789… incredible! Four Stars