Bluesound Node 100 streaming player

 More recently, the signal sources in the audio system were a radio receiver (tuner) and players that played recordings from physical media (CD, vinyl record, magnetic tape). But times have changed: digital audio is now stored on a computer, server or smartphone, instead of a tuner - the Internet. There was an urgent need for a device capable of turning audio data from a virtual source into a form digestible for a classic stereo amplifier. Such a device is a streaming player.

 

 

Bluesound Node 100


PRICE 2,601.73$

In a modern stereo system, a streaming player is as important as a home theater receiver. And with the increase in the quality of audio files stored on a server/computer or received from the Internet, the requirements for this device also grow. If before the key to its success was to surpass a computer sound card, now it should be a full-fledged Hi-Fi component. That is why we decided to test the player of the Canadian company Bluesound - we wanted to make sure that its employees do not call themselves "an alliance of audiophiles dedicated to realizing the dream of ideal high-fidelity audio streaming" for nothing.

It quickly became clear that such a loud statement was by no means groundless self-promotion. The founders of the company have worked in the Hi-Fi industry all their lives. To continue the quote: “Many of us have been associated with the famous NAD company, which began producing high-end audio components back in the 1970s, and remain committed to innovative technologies and the ideals of Hi-Fi sound reproduction. We are not an ordinary computer company. We prioritize sound quality."

The creators of Bluesound rightly point out: if even a 16-bit CD stream does not transmit even half of the audio spectrum of an analog master recording, can “audio canned goods” like MP3 and WMA be considered music at all? Yes, portable players have taken listening to a new level, but in all honesty, what is there to listen to? Is it time to bring music back from headphones to speakers? Especially since there is a good reason for this: the advent of high-resolution audio. As a result, Bluesound specialists have created a whole family of devices that read sound files, including high-resolution ones, from virtual sources. The line consists of four components with networking capabilities, wireless audio transmission and advanced multi-room functions. By the way, it is the wireless distribution of HD-audio across 32 zones-rooms that distinguishes the new product from its competitors. Rate the eloquent titles: Node player - “junction point, intersection point”, Powernode receiver (player + stereo amplifier), Vault CD ripper - “bunker, storage”, Pulse microsystem. Let's talk about the basic Bluesound Node 100 player, which is nothing like a Hi-Fi component. The combination of white glossy walls with brushed aluminum looks elegant, but without the slightest hint of frivolity (there is a version “in black”). Node 100 will decorate any interior, it is able to visually enliven a standard rack with "black boxes", and even - and most importantly - win the sympathy of the better half of humanity. The combination of white glossy walls with brushed aluminum looks elegant, but without the slightest hint of frivolity (there is a version “in black”). Node 100 will decorate any interior, it is able to visually enliven a standard rack with "black boxes", and even - and most importantly - win the sympathy of the better half of humanity. The combination of white glossy walls with brushed aluminum looks elegant, but without the slightest hint of frivolity (there is a version “in black”). Node 100 will decorate any interior, it is able to visually enliven a standard rack with "black boxes", and even - and most importantly - win the sympathy of the better half of humanity.



Bluesound Node 100


The only control is located on the top cover. This is a multifunction button with LED indication. When you press it for the first time, the player turns on - the LED flashes blue, then turns red. Pressing again will mute the sound (LED flashes blue). The indicator also signals other modes of operation (blinking green - connecting to the local network; constantly lit white - indexing files; flashing red - factory settings are being restored, etc.). All these modes are activated from an iOS or Android gadget, on which the Bluesound proprietary control application is loaded (downloaded for free from the AppStore or Google Play). But we'll talk about this a little later, but for now let's get back to the equipment.

On the rear panel are: an Ethernet port for wired connection to a home network (however, there is a built-in Wi-Fi module, so a LAN connection should be considered optional); USB A socket (the player reads audio files both from a flash drive and from an HDD-drive formatted with FAT 32) and mini USB B, through which service can be carried out; next to it is a 12 V relay signal output that allows you to turn on / off another component (say, a power amplifier) ​​when the player is turned on / off, and an optical digital output, plus, of course, a stereo line output.

The “engines” here are the ARM Cortex A8 processor and the 24/192 DAC from Cirrus Logic. The Node player runs on Linux BluOS and is compatible with any operating system (OS X, Windows XP, Vista, 2000, 7/8), reads WAV / FLAC files with a resolution of up to 24 bit / 192 kHz, as well as compressed music in MP3 formats, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC, AIFF. A gapless playback mode is supported, which allows you to enjoy, say, the Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" broken into separate tracks as a single work. It is possible to make the line output unregulated (bypass the corresponding output amplifier circuits).

The control application, when first opened on a gadget or computer, scans all audio files stored here; this is a rather lengthy process, but fortunately it is only done once, and then only newly added records are scanned. Sorting is possible by albums, artists, genres, tracks. You can make playlists and play tracks in both programmed and random order. A special window displays JPEG album art. Developers claim 4x data processing speed; the wording is somewhat vague, but its result is obvious - just select the desired file from the array, and playback starts almost instantly! Multi-room capabilities are also provided. Several Bluesound devices can be connected to the local network, for example, a Node 100 player in one room, a Powernode receiver in another, in the third - the Pulse microsystem. At the same time, you can control any component from one gadget and even play playlists created for different devices.



Bluesound Node 100


The player also provides access to Internet radio stations through a variety of "cloud" services; from the long list given in the specification, we will mention Tuneln functioning in Russia.

We gave Node 100 a real Abitur. Contrary to the laws of audiophile subordination, the player was connected to a High End tube amplifier. We had Paul McCartney's best album "Band on the Run" at hand in two FLAC versions - from the remastered CD edition (Archive Collection, 2010) and 24/96. We did not count on a miracle, which allowed Node 100 to take us by surprise. What came as a complete surprise was the elegance with which the Node 100 distinguished the difference between a CD and an HD stream. It can only be described indirectly. Let's say you're viewing a high-quality photograph of the Champs Elysees with the Eiffel Tower in the middle ground. You see the famous alleys, distinguish every leaf on numerous trees, every tourist by the pond, every thread in the metal lace of the tower. Now imagine the same shot in stereoscopic form. Objects suddenly gained real, not imaginary depth, the landscape literally came to life - it seems that the plane trees are about to be touched by the wind, ripples will run through the water of the pond ... So is the audio scene in the high-resolution recording: it has become three-dimensional, sound images have focused into something almost tangible . I didn't want to stop listening. The exam was successfully passed, the device received a ticket to the Hi-Fi life.

 

BENEFITS
★ Reads HD audio files at 24/192 resolution

CONS
★ Doesn't support DSD
★ No coaxial output


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