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Cambridge CXN V2 or Bluesound Node 2i paired with external DAC?


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Dear folks,

 

I'm in a fortunate position to be able to upgrade soon from my Raspberry Pi/Volumio streamer to a better and more family-friendly setup (kinda). I'm tossing up between the CXN V2 or node 2i+external DAC (that roughly equates to a $1k budget for the external DAC). 

 

Pros of CXN: Chromecast built-in, single box solution

Pros of 2i+DAC: potentially better sound quality and MQA

 

What are your thoughts on this pleasant conundrum? What would you do? Would the sound quality gain be substantial going with the node 2i+extDAC? I will be feeding the successful candidate into a Cambridge CXA60 integrated amp playing through Dynaudio Emit M20 speakers.

 

Any first-hand experience with the above components or ways you would think about this upgrade are greatly appreciated :)

 

Thanks!

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I’m running a Node 2i into a RME ADI 2 FS DAC and think it sounds excellent.

If you are wanting family friendly then the BlueOS interface ticks that box, user friendly and intuitive to use. 
The Node 2i has a huge feature set, you certainly get a lot for your money and from the reviews I’ve read it is worthy of a place in a high end system despite it’s low end price. 
I’ve thought about upgrading to a streamer with more audiophile credibility however not convinced spending more will result in significantly better sound, particularly when feeding the RME.

 

have a read - 

https://www.13thnote.net/2020/08/26/bluesound-node-2i-punches-well-above-its-weight/

Edited by lebowski
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Just now, nowallet said:

Thanks @lebowski!

 

That DAC seems to be above $2k at the moment. Is that right? I will definitely check out the link - thanks a tonne :)

Yes, they are around $2,200 local, and a few hundred less if you import.

The internal DAC of the Node 2i is actually pretty good and you could always start off with that and add a DAC later. 
With $1k budget for a DAC you have plenty of choice and can get something good quality particularly if you buy secondhand.

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I don't have your speakers but in my opinion is yes. They all have different sound quality. 

 

I've a bluesound2i and CXA81. Through this forum, met a fellow suburb who has an external dac but wanted hear the bluesound coz wanted to minimise the system and have multiroom streaming. So we swapped one afternoon.

 

So I streamed and ran

1) Bluesound to CXA via RCA. So Bluesound is both streamer and DAC, CXA is power amp

2) Bluesound to CXA via digital coax. So bluesound is streamer and CXA is both DAC and power amp

3) Bluesound to external DAC via digital coax, external DAC to CXA via RCA. All component separate. 

 

Based on the above, sound quality and experience are good to better to best in the above order, i.e. 1, 2 and 3. I'm guessing the more revealing your speakers, the better the effect. 

 

I'm rather conservative and would go for the bluesound first. See if you appreciate the difference between the Bluesound DAC and CXA DAC. Once you know what is lacking and desire it, then find the DAC.

 

Seems like there are a lot of good options for DAC around $1k to $1.5k. So you'd be spoilt for choice but you'd be looking for sonic characteristics by then *fingers crossed*.

 

 

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1 hour ago, nowallet said:

I'm in a fortunate position to be able to upgrade soon from my Raspberry Pi/Volumio streamer to a better and more family-friendly setup (kinda). I'm tossing up between the CXN V2 or node 2i+external DAC (that roughly equates to a $1k budget for the external DAC). 

 

Pros of CXN: Chromecast built-in, single box solution

Pros of 2i+DAC: potentially better sound quality and MQA

BluOS on 2i  is much better than the CXN app, certainy more family friendly.  The 2i + Gieseler Kompakt DAC will beat the CXN for sound quality.  

 

But if you want a single box solution, go NAD C658.  It costs a little more but comes with BluOS, a better DAC than 2i, CXN and Dirac Live.

Edited by Snoopy8
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Wow this community is great - thanks for all of the advice!

 

I was hoping someone would just say stick with the CXN so I can match it to my existing CA gear ;) But this is a good dilemma. I like the possibilities with the external DAC and didn't really consider the C658 (the design is a bit of a turn off IMO).

 

I'd love to hear of other DACs so I can compare them to the Kompakt.

 

Thanks all :)

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30 minutes ago, 2Dculture said:

...

I'm rather conservative and would go for the bluesound first. See if you appreciate the difference between the Bluesound DAC and CXA DAC. Once you know what is lacking and desire it, then find the DAC.

...

A lot of wisdom here I must admit. Food for thought :D

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Depends how you are using them.

 

The app on the Bluesound is better and includes excellent functions but if you are streaming at distance the range isn’t that good and drops out often. Also, the USB on it is designed to match with a USB stick and you may need to reformat things to get it to work. For example, it won’t read files from a simple USB drive. I would google Bluesound Node problems and see what the reports are. If your using direct Ethernet or modem is close it should be more reliable.

 

I found my old CA NP30 setup and connection way easier, sounded way better, never drops out, reliable and reads USB drives with no problems. Based on my CA experience I would be going for another CA streamer.

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10 minutes ago, Al.M said:

Depends how you are using them.

 

The app on the Bluesound is better and includes excellent functions but if you are streaming at distance the range isn’t that good and drops out often. Also, the USB on it is designed to match with a USB stick and you may need to reformat things to get it to work. For example, it won’t read files from a simple USB drive. I would google Bluesound Node problems and see what the reports are. If your using direct Ethernet or modem is close it should be more reliable.

 

I found my old CA NP30 setup and connection way easier, sounded way better, never drops out, reliable and reads USB drives with no problems. Based on my CA experience I would be going for another CA streamer.

you do need to format the external hard drive for the Node2i to read it and then you will have no issues whatsoever.

I have a 4 Terabyte Portable Hard Drive connected to my Node 2i and it reads all 2,500 uncompressed albums  no problem. The BlueOS App loads albums and cover art fast and is very responsive.
 

I also have patchy wifi and rarely have any issues with mine, and it’s located at the far end of our house furthest away from the modem. 

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49 minutes ago, nowallet said:

I'd love to hear of other DACs so I can compare them to the Kompakt.

The Kompakt just came out but there should be some feedback from owners soon.   According to Clay (designer & manufacturer), it may be his best DAC yet,  To give you an idea on why Gieseler Dacs are held in high regard, have a look at this (and I will update when Kompakt impressions are posted)

 

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1 hour ago, nowallet said:

Wow this community is great - thanks for all of the advice!

 

I was hoping someone would just say stick with the CXN so I can match it to my existing CA gear ;) But this is a good dilemma. I like the possibilities with the external DAC and didn't really consider the C658 (the design is a bit of a turn off IMO).

 

I'd love to hear of other DACs so I can compare them to the Kompakt.

 

Thanks all :)

Hi Mate ,

I  use NAD C-658 and I am happy with it. I have had a naim nac172 and have used Chord Qutest in my]system. Nad has been the best sound so far in my system and that is due to Dirac Live. If you have a treated room than go with Node + external dac. Cheers

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21 minutes ago, gillmaverick said:

Hi Mate ,

I  use NAD C-658 and I am happy with it. I have had a naim nac172 and have used Chord Qutest in my]system. Nad has been the best sound so far in my system and that is due to Dirac Live. If you have a treated room than go with Node + external dac. Cheers

That's great to hear and that's a top point about Dirac. I forgot that was a part if the feature set. No treated room here so this js something I'll consider more seriously. 

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55 minutes ago, lebowski said:

you do need to format the external hard drive for the Node2i to read it and then you will have no issues whatsoever.

I have a 4 Terabyte Portable Hard Drive connected to my Node 2i and it reads all 2,500 uncompressed albums  no problem. The BlueOS App loads albums and cover art fast and is very responsive.
 

I also have patchy wifi and rarely have any issues with mine, and it’s located at the far end of our house furthest away from the modem. 

Thank you. More great info. I will be connecting via ethernet so expect a solid network connection for whichever unit I purchase.

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For family friendly Chromecast/bluetooth/airplay can't be beaten. Also allows you to use your native apps and more of them.

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I run a Node 2 digital coneection to a Chord QuteHD DAC and was a big step up from the (not bad) DAC of the Node 2 itself. 

 

The NAD C 658 looks like a good option to keep using BlueOS, that is great, and adding DIRAC, that should help a lot in small and not acousticaly treated rooms like mine. But from other NAD DACs I tend to find them very detailed but a little analytical and Chord DACs more musical. I will try to hear the C658 to confirm. 

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Im now a C658 convert, for the money theres nothing that comes close to it for features.

 

And once you've had Dirac you can't go back its that simple, music just sounds lifeless without it. BluOS is a big reason to jump into the either the 2i or the C658, IMO the best GUI using a free app out there, I find it much better than the Cambridge streaming app which I occasionally use on my CXR200.

 

Also if you are even considering adding subs to your 2ch listening the sub integration of Dirac is awesome, seamlessly integrates the subs and front speakers and produces a wall of sound like nothing else I've heard, seamless from bottom to top.

 

Is it pretty? No but its not ugly either, looks understated and a touch classy in my unit IMO but don't let the looks be a decider, we all know its about the sound!

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On 26/09/2020 at 9:33 AM, Balvenie said:

Been really happy with my CXN, easy to use and sounds great......my 2c.

@Balvenie Is it your first streaming system? What did you have before and how does it compare to that? :)

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On 24/09/2020 at 2:21 PM, Hi-Fi Whipped said:

Im now a C658 convert, for the money theres nothing that comes close to it for features.

 

And once you've had Dirac you can't go back its that simple, music just sounds lifeless without it. BluOS is a big reason to jump into the either the 2i or the C658, IMO the best GUI using a free app out there, I find it much better than the Cambridge streaming app which I occasionally use on my CXR200.

 

Also if you are even considering adding subs to your 2ch listening the sub integration of Dirac is awesome, seamlessly integrates the subs and front speakers and produces a wall of sound like nothing else I've heard, seamless from bottom to top.

 

Is it pretty? No but its not ugly either, looks understated and a touch classy in my unit IMO but don't let the looks be a decider, we all know its about the sound!

@Hi-Fi Whipped Thanks for all the info. If it wasn't for the looks, I'd be there... I think the looks are terrible enough that I can't consider it. I currently have a white/silver system too, so it would be jarring as much as I agree that sound quality trumps.

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@nowallet I have a CA CXN V1 and it's quite easy to use. I haven't had any experience with the node but have some Dynaudio DM3/7's which I sometimes use with the CXN.It has Burr Brown dual Dacs from memory and I find them to be a little on the bright side at times. The sound is clear but can become wearing after hours of listening I find. I use a Plinius 9200 amp (very neutral) to power my speakers. 

 

The other thing that I don't particularly like about the CXN is that you can't play tidal masters through it (may have changed in V2?). Otherwise it's a good unit as a starting point for a streamer IMO, I however do plan on either upgrading it or running it through an external dac in the future.

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2 hours ago, nowallet said:

@Hi-Fi Whipped Thanks for all the info. If it wasn't for the looks, I'd be there... I think the looks are terrible enough that I can't consider it. I currently have a white/silver system too, so it would be jarring as much as I agree that sound quality trumps.

Yeh I hear you, all my boxes are black so it fits fine.

 

So which way are you leaning? Given looks are a major factor the CXN looks like the go, the sound is very good and will fit nicely with what you have. If you can grab one second hand you may even have surplus for more power in your system which again would improve the sound. 

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27 minutes ago, Hi-Fi Whipped said:

Yeh I hear you, all my boxes are black so it fits fine.

 

So which way are you leaning? Given looks are a major factor the CXN looks like the go, the sound is very good and will fit nicely with what you have. If you can grab one second hand you may even have surplus for more power in your system which again would improve the sound. 

The CXN v2 is tempting but then I haven't explored separate components so a Node 2i and an external DAC has me curious. The latter is likely the path I'll choose. 

 

I don't even know if the sound quality difference will be noticeable with the CXA60 amp and Dynaudio M20s I own.

 

Edited by nowallet
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On 27/09/2020 at 7:49 PM, nowallet said:

@Balvenie Is it your first streaming system? What did you have before and how does it compare to that? :)

Yep, first venture into streaming but did try a Cocktail Audio unit before purchasing the CXN

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