Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

compact disc, dacs, mp3 players and streaming audio
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stanwardle
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Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by stanwardle » 11 Feb 2020 11:16

Hi all, just a request for some advice.... got a Rega Elex-R hooked up to Monitor Silver 200 speakers, used for the turntable, but have also connected an Airport Express box to the Rega amp for streaming FLAC’s, BBC Sounds.

If I replaced the Airport Express with a Bluesound Node 2i would there be a significant increase in sound quality? Or is it likely to be the same/similar? Having trouble nailing the specs, advice appreciated

RetiredBob
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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by RetiredBob » 11 Feb 2020 14:28

Have a similar situation that I asked about here: https://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_f ... 8&start=60
I posted links to reviews of both versions of the Airport Express.

CDs are 16-bit/44.1kHz. Both versions of the Airport Express support 16/44.1, but the DAC (converts digital to analog) in the 1st gen is rather lame.

Two questions to ask:
1) do you want to support better-than-CD digital? Music is available in 24/96 & 24/192.
2) do you want additional capabilities?

I have the 1st gen Airport Express with its lame DAC. Per the review & forum member Sterling1, the 2nd gen Airport Express is a good choice for 16/44.1

Per my research, two good wireless DACs supporting 24/96 are: NAD DAC 2 and Audioengine D2.
For additional capabilities, Sterling1 recommended a universal player, like the Marantz NA 6006. It & the Bluesound products look like good selections with additional capabilities.

I picked the Audioengine D2. (I definitely not an expert. Considered both the Marantz & Bluesound but decided against them for now.)

stanwardle
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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by stanwardle » 11 Feb 2020 14:36

Hi Bob, thanks for the feedback. Yes, I am looking to stream at the higher bit rate, got a fair size FLAC library at 192, sounds like I might get a better sound with another streaming device. Really only need it for the Sounds app stream and the FLAC’s, am checking out the Audioengine and the Marantz now :-) Are you happy with the Audioengine?

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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by RetiredBob » 11 Feb 2020 16:30

My CDs & online purchases are all stored in iTunes as 16/44.1 files (Apple Lossless audio files & Purchased ACC files).
Am recently retired & am recreating the sweet stereo I had years ago. My forum signature shows how far I’ve gotten.
I ordered the Audioengine D2 & it will be here soon.

Didn’t know about the availability of 24/96 & 24/192 music until recently.
What are you using to store & deliver those FLAC files? Do you know if you have the 1st or 2nd gen Airport Express?

stanwardle
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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by stanwardle » 11 Feb 2020 16:41

I know what you mean, gets complicated sometimes :-) I have a lot of FLAC albums stored on an external hard drive, I use Plex for playback/control & you can them download them onto your iPhone/iPad as required. But the hard drives are in a different room to the amp and the airport box, so I’m trying to work out 1) if I stream from the iPhone via Plex using the FLAC’s will I get the full quality using the Bluesound or another streamer (as opposed to the AE version 2 I have now). Or would I need to plug the hard drive into the back of the streamer to get the ‘full’ sound from the file? To be fair the AE works fine, it’s just really about the quality and trying to understand the way it all works :-)

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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by RetiredBob » 11 Feb 2020 17:34

Do I have this right?
Flex software is running on a computer with an external hard drive containing the FLAC albums.
Flex wirelessly streams the music to your iPhone/iPad that then wirelessly streams the music to the AirPort Express.
The DAC in the AirportExpress converts the music into analog for your stereo.

I’m trying to keep it simple…
The iMac’s iTunes library contains all of the music files.
The Audiengine D2 has two parts: the server is connected to an iMac USB port, the receiver is connected to the stereo via RCA cables. The Audioengine does the wireless streaming & analog conversion.
My plan is to use an iPad that displays the iMac screen so that I can control iTunes while listening to the stereo.


If I start buying 24/96, then will use Bitperfect to automatically switch between 16/44.1 & 24/96 so that the iMac does not do any bit-rate conversion.

The Airport/Express streams 16/44.1. Your computer is converting the FLAC into 16/44.1. The quality of that conversion might be an issue worth investigating.

stanwardle
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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by stanwardle » 11 Feb 2020 18:00

Yep, except it's called Plex :-) The Plex software allows you to play FLAC files on your iPad/iPhone. I keep the FLAC's on an external drive connected to a Mac Mini. I have some FLAC's downloaded onto my iPhone for offline playing in the car, and I use it sometimes to play back through the amp and speakers via an AE (2). Works great, can recommend it, but I am not sure if I bought a Bluesound to replace the AE whether or not I would see an improvement in sound, via streaming from an iPhone or iPad, can't quite figure out how the Plex/FLAC/iphone/stream/wireless quality works out...

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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by RetiredBob » 11 Feb 2020 18:29

The 1st gen Airport Express has a meager DAC, so you would get an improvement by replacing that.
I’m new to all of this, so I don’t know if I could hear the difference for a 2nd gen Airport Express.

From a big picture point of view, there isn’t much point in spending bigger $$$ to get 24/192 if you are going to convert it to 16/44.1 before sending the file to your DAC. That 16/44.1 isn’t going to be any better than the cheaper 16/44.1 (CD-quality) you could have purchased. (Its your conversion from 24/192 to 16/44.1 vs the music studio’s.)

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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by terry-a » 14 Feb 2020 20:09

Are you using the DAC in the Express or are you passing the digital signal from the Express to a DAC down the line?

stanwardle
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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by stanwardle » 15 Feb 2020 15:31

I have four airport express boxes connected to various speakers around the house, & one of them always sounded a bit poorer than the others. Lo and behold, it was a Gen 1 - so I’ve used that as an excuse to move the AE I had connected to the main system upstairs to replace the Gen 1, and treated myself to the Bluesound :-) And so far I have to say I certainly am happy with it! The jump in sound quality is significant, even with a CD quality download such as iTunes. But once I attached a hard drive to the back with some HD files... wow! Surprised to say I find the sound to be on a par with the vinyl set up, namely....

Rega Planar 6, Sumiko Blue Point Special Evo III MC
Monitor Audio Silver 200
Rega Fono MC
Rega Elex R

The sound stage is wide and has great clarity, sounds particularly good with ‘Blue Train’ or Sinatra, but also has a significant bass sound (not too heavy but great rhythm) for some New Order or Depeche Mode, & rocks pretty well too. People with more expertise than me would describe it better and more technically, but I can’t imagine at this price point anyone would be disappointed with this, a cracking bit of kit. Cheers for your input gents

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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by stanwardle » 15 Feb 2020 15:35

I was passing the AE directly into the Rega Elex-R. I do have two DAC’s that I no longer use when out walking, a Dragonfly Red and a Filo E11. I haven’t tried fitting them in anywhere, worthwhile connecting to one of the remote AE’s?

terry-a
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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by terry-a » 15 Feb 2020 16:00

Unfortunately I've never had a stand alone DAC. Each DAC upgrade came inside a new integrated amp or preamp. So there were too many variables to say whether it was the DAC or the amp or preamp that resulted in improved sound quality. There was however evidence that sound was improved more on the digital side so I'm convinced that a good quality DAC can make a difference.

If you have them on hand it makes sense to give them a try. Perhaps you have the appropriate cables on hand as well? The mini optical adapter is not something we commonly have in our kit, but they're pretty cheap, so it seems like a worthwhile experiment.

Obviously you'll only get 16/44 with the Express, but if you're looking for an inexpensive and simple way to improve SQ, it can't hurt to check it out if you can do so without too much outlay for the parts to make it happen.

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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by stanwardle » 15 Feb 2020 16:05

Always happy to try new things! Will connect one of the DAC’s to the AE next week and see how it goes, and report back. If my understanding is correct it could only have a positive impact!

terry-a
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Re: Bluesound Node 2i v Airport Express

Post by terry-a » 15 Feb 2020 16:21

I think that most any stand alone DAC should have the potential to sound better than the DAC built into the Express.

You can use a Toslink with a mini connector on one end, or buy a mini adapter, which is simply a small plastic tunnel that plugs into the mini jack hole and both holds the Toslink in place and aligns it.

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