Review: Bluesound Node X Network Player: A Decade of HiFi Excellence

Review: Bluesound Node X Network Player: A Decade of HiFi Excellence - Celebrate a decade of HiFi innovation with the Bluesound Node X. Explore its impressive features and exceptional sound quality.

Digitalization and Miniaturization: The Power of HiFi Progress

In the world of HiFi, the advent of digitalization and miniaturization has ushered in an era of immense sonic possibilities. Today, one can achieve remarkable audio quality without breaking the bank with the right components and smart combinations. The Bluesound Node X, a network player from a brand renowned for its multiroom system, is a testament to this HiFi progress.

In the dynamic landscape of HiFi audio, the Bluesound Node X emerges as a testament to the ever-evolving world of digitalization and miniaturization. With a decade of its predecessors shaping the path, this anniversary model promises a fresh take on audiophile excellence. In this review, we dive into the unique features and capabilities of the Bluesound Node X, celebrating its legacy of a decade in multiroom HiFi and exploring the sound quality, technical sophistication, and versatility it brings to the modern audio enthusiast world.

A Decade of Bluesound Node

The journey began in 2013 with the original Node, and now, in 2023, we celebrate a decade of Bluesound’s powerful network players. The Bluesound Node X, marked by the “X” denoting its tenth birthday, brings a technical upgrade to this beloved player.

Technical data
EntrancesAnalog AUX / Optical (combination mini jack), HDMI-eARC
Audio outputs1x RCA (fixed / adjustable), 1x headphone jack (6.3 mm), 1x digital coax, 1x digital optical, 1x USB 2.0
Chromecast Built-In
Wireless sourcesAirPlay 2, Bluetooth aptX HD
Integrated streaming servicesTidal Connect, Qobuz, Spotify Connect, Deezer, Napster, Amazon Music and others
Roon readyYes
Multiroom capableYes
Room measurement
networkLAN, WiFi
Housing versionsSilver
Dimensions (WxHxD)220x46x146mm
included supplyLAN cable, RCA cable, remote control
Price799 euros

Build Quality and Design: Aesthetic and Functional Brilliance

The Bluesound Node X showcases a blend of sleek, modern design and robust build quality, making it a standout addition to any HiFi setup. While it might not have the heft of a metal chassis, the decision to use a high-quality plastic jacket serves a distinct purpose: it significantly enhances the device’s wireless capabilities by allowing antennas to transmit signals more effectively. Despite its lightweight construction, the Node X feels surprisingly heavy and solid in hand, a testament to the compact engineering that packs a wealth of functionality into a small form factor.

The thoughtful design extends to the top panel, which features touch controls and presets for easy access to basic functions. When your hand approaches the device, these intuitive controls are subtly illuminated by a proximity sensor, adding a touch of elegance to the user experience. Additionally, including an IR input and remote learning capability further enhances convenience, allowing the Bluesound Node X to seamlessly integrate into a broader home entertainment system.

The Node X’s aesthetic appeal is equally impressive, boasting a silver finish that sets it apart as an anniversary special model. It adds a touch of sophistication to any audio setup, whether as a standalone component or integrated into a larger HiFi system. The minimalist and discreet design ensures it complements various interior styles and does not distract attention from the music it delivers.

In summary, the Bluesound Node X excels in both form and function. Its thoughtful design, high-quality build, and appealing aesthetics make it a compelling addition to any audiophile’s setup, showcasing how superior engineering and a modern design sensibility can coexist harmoniously in the world of HiFi audio.

Unique Functions: Elevating the Bluesound Node X Above the Rest

The Bluesound Node X is not just a network player; it’s a multifaceted audio hub with a range of unique functions designed to enhance your audio experience and make it stand out among its peers.

USB-A Port Dual Functionality: Including a USB-A port with dual functionality is a standout feature. Firstly, it lets you connect USB sticks or external hard drives, giving you direct access to your music library. This convenience ensures that your cherished tracks are just a click away, neatly organized through the intuitive BluOS Controller app. Secondly, the USB-A port is an asynchronous interface for an external DAC. While the Node X already has a high-quality onboard DAC, this function allows audiophiles to further fine-tune their sound by integrating their preferred external DAC.

HDMI eARC Connectivity: The HDMI eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) support is a game-changer. It allows the Node X to seamlessly integrate with your television, automatically routing audio to your audio system while watching TV. This feature simplifies your home theater setup by eliminating the need for an extra remote control. The Node X becomes a versatile audio companion for your TV, ensuring you can enjoy music and movies without fuss.

Bidirectional Bluetooth: While Bluetooth connectivity is common in many devices, the bidirectional Bluetooth functionality of the Node X sets it apart. It sends Bluetooth signals to wireless headphones or speakers and receives them. This bi-directional capability is valuable, providing flexibility for users who prefer wireless audio for their headphones or speakers. With aptX HD support, it ensures that the audio quality over Bluetooth is top-notch, delivering a compelling wireless listening experience.

Multiroom Integration: The Node X is a central component in a multiroom audio system, allowing it to distribute audio to other components in your BluOS ecosystem wirelessly. This rare feature sets it apart from competitors, enabling you to create a seamless, synchronized audio experience throughout your home. Whether you want to enjoy your music in different rooms or set up a whole-house audio system, the Node X is the cornerstone of this audio network.

Infrared Learning: The Node X supports IR (infrared) input and remote learning capability. This feature allows you to teach the Node X to recognize and respond to commands from your existing universal remote control. By learning your remote’s commands, the Node X seamlessly integrates into your home entertainment setup, simplifying control and enhancing the user experience.

In conclusion, the Bluesound Node X’s unique functions set it apart as a versatile and forward-thinking audio hub. Its dual-function USB-A port, HDMI eARC support, bidirectional Bluetooth, multiroom integration, and infrared learning capabilities add value to its impressive features. These unique functions reflect a commitment to providing an enriched and hassle-free audio experience, making the Node X a top choice for audiophiles and music enthusiasts looking for more than just a network player.

Usability: An Intuitive and Seamless Experience

The Bluesound Node X excels in its audio performance and in delivering an intuitive and user-friendly experience. Its usability is a key pillar of its design, catering to both seasoned audiophiles and newcomers to the world of HiFi audio.

BluOS Controller App: Central to the user experience is the BluOS Controller app, available across various platforms, including iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. This app serves as the control center for the Node X, offering a sleek and intuitive interface that facilitates effortless navigation through the device’s features. From browsing your music library to managing streaming services and creating playlists, the BluOS Controller app is designed for maximum user convenience.

Seamless Setup: Setting up the Node X is a straightforward process that seamlessly integrates into your existing audio ecosystem. Whether you’re connecting it to a stereo amplifier, AV receiver, or powered speakers, the device’s compatibility ensures a hassle-free installation. The user-friendly setup process minimizes the time and effort required to get your Node X up and running, allowing you to focus on enjoying your music.

Versatile Control Options: The Node X offers multiple control methods, catering to various preferences. You can control it via the app, the included Bluesound RC1 Remote Controller, or even through voice commands using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. AirPlay 2 support lets you synchronize music playback across wireless stereo components throughout your home, enhancing the ease of control.

Touch Controls: The top panel of the Node X features touch controls and presets, which allow you to perform basic functions such as changing tracks, adjusting volume, and accessing favorite playlists with a simple touch. The proximity sensor, which illuminates the touch controls when your hand approaches, adds an elegant touch to the user experience.

Infrared Learning: The Node X also supports infrared (IR) input and remote learning capability. You can teach the Node X to recognize and respond to commands from your existing universal remote control. This feature enhances usability and promotes the seamless integration of the Node X into your home entertainment setup.

In summary, the Bluesound Node X’s usability is a defining feature that contributes to its appeal. Whether you’re a tech-savvy audiophile or someone new to HiFi audio, the device’s user-friendly design and versatile control options ensure that accessing and enjoying your music is a straightforward and enjoyable experience. It represents a harmonious fusion of cutting-edge technology and user-focused design, resulting in a product that is as accessible as possible.

Connections and Connectivity: The Heart of a Versatile Hub

The Bluesound Node X provides a comprehensive range of connections and connectivity options, positioning itself as a versatile hub in the world of HiFi audio. These features make it a key player in your audio setup, capable of seamlessly interfacing with many devices and sources.

Analog and Digital Outputs: The Node X has various outputs, making it adaptable to different audio setups. Its analog and digital outputs are versatile, ensuring compatibility with various amplifiers, powered speakers, and audio equipment. This flexibility allows you to easily integrate the Node X into existing systems, regardless of your preferred connection type.

HDMI eARC: A notable addition to the Node X’s connectivity options is its HDMI eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) support. This feature enhances its compatibility with modern televisions, enabling automatic audio switching between TV audio and your audio system. It eliminates the need for an additional remote control, making it a valuable companion for home theater setups.

Bidirectional Bluetooth: The Node X’s bidirectional Bluetooth capability sets it apart. It sends Bluetooth signals to wireless headphones or speakers and receives them. This feature is particularly valuable for users who appreciate the convenience and flexibility of wireless audio. The aptX HD support ensures high-quality Bluetooth audio with compatible headphones or speakers.

USB-A Port: The Node X features a USB-A port with dual functionality. It can accept USB sticks or hard drives, providing access to your music library. This neatly sorted music library can be easily navigated through the BluOS Controller app, ensuring you can enjoy your favorite tracks conveniently. The USB-A port can also serve as an asynchronous interface to an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC), adding further flexibility for audiophiles who prefer to enhance their audio experience with external equipment.

Dual-Band Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet: The Node X has dual-band Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity options. These ensure that your streaming experience remains uninterrupted and stable, even with high-resolution audio. Whether you prefer a wired or wireless connection, the Node X accommodates your needs.

Multiroom Integration: The Node X offers the unique capability of sharing audio signals wirelessly with other components in your BluOS ecosystem, including speakers and amplifiers. This rare and valuable multiroom integration feature allows seamless audio distribution throughout your home. The device’s support for analog sources in a multiroom setup sets it apart from many competitors.

In conclusion, the Bluesound Node X’s comprehensive connections and connectivity options are at the core of its versatility and adaptability. It accommodates a wide range of audio sources, devices, and setups, making it a central hub for your audio system. Whether you prefer analog or digital connections, Bluetooth, or multiroom integration, the Node X has you covered, ensuring that your audio experience is rich and flexible. It exemplifies how cutting-edge technology and thoughtful engineering can cater to the diverse needs of audiophiles and music enthusiasts.

Sound Quality: A Triumph of the Node X

We conducted a listening test pitting the Node X against the Linn Sneaky Music DS, a benchmark in its own right. The Node X emerged victorious in this sonic showdown. Listening to tracks like “1983” by Sophie Hunger, the Node X presented a three-dimensional and captivating sonic image. It offered well-defined vocal placement, rich timbres, and distinct sound profiles. Compared to the Sneaky, Node X exhibited superior control over details, especially in the subtle decay of instruments. While audio preferences are subjective, it’s undeniable that the Bluesound Node X offers a more realistic representation of instruments.

Sound Test and Sound Quality: A Sonic Masterpiece

The Bluesound Node X’s true prowess shines regarding its sound test and overall sound quality, making it a sonic masterpiece in the world of network players. Here, we delve into the nuances that set it apart and reaffirm its position as an audiophile’s dream.

Sound Test Triumph: In a rigorous sound test, the Node X faces off against a benchmark of excellence, the Linn Sneaky Music DS. The Node X emerges victorious in this sonic showdown, marking a significant achievement for this anniversary model. The difference is palpable when you listen to tracks like “1983” by Sophie Hunger. The soundstage created by the Node X is immersive, offering three-dimensional depth. Vocals are well-defined, with distinct placement and timbral richness. The level of detail is exceptional, allowing listeners to explore music in its purest form.

Instrument Realism: One of the standout features of the Node X’s sound quality is its ability to render instruments with unparalleled realism. It captures the subtle nuances and decays of instruments, bringing out the full character of the sound. Even compared to its competitors, the Node X displays remarkable precision, focusing on intricate details and subtleties that might go unnoticed by other players.

Soundstage Expansion: Node X’s sonic presentation extends to the soundstage, creating a broad and immersive listening experience. It pushes the room’s boundaries, making you feel part of the performance. Vocals and instruments are placed precisely, offering an experience transcending mere audio playback.

Atmospheric Enhancement: In tracks such as “Bless Us All” by Retribution Gospel Choir, Node X enhances the atmosphere. Subtle details, such as background noises and radio messages, are rendered with clarity, adding depth and dimension to the music. It’s as though the listener is transported into the very heart of the performance, experiencing music in its most authentic form.

Bass and Rhythm: While the Bluesound Node X doesn’t aim to disrupt the HiFi world with overemphasized bass, it strikes a perfect balance. Like those by Crystal Castles, tracks with intricate bass lines come to life with just the right kick. The bass is not overpowering but rather harmoniously blends with the music. This results in a balanced and coherent sonic experience.

Unrivaled Headphone Experience: The Node X goes the extra mile to cater to headphone enthusiasts. With its “Achromatic Audio Amplifier” chips from THX, it provides a truly exceptional headphone experience. The sound is finely tuned, neutral, and characterized by minimal distortion. This level of headphone quality surpasses the need for external amplifiers, making it a compelling choice for those who cherish high-end headphone listening.

Consistency in Connectivity: When connecting to an external DAC via coax digital or USB cable, the Node X maintains a sound quality indistinguishable from its performance through its onboard DAC. This consistency ensures listeners can rely on the Node X’s sound quality, regardless of their chosen setup.

In summary, the Bluesound Node X’s sound test results and overall sound quality are breathtaking. It excels in rendering music with lifelike precision, intricate detail, and an expansive soundstage. Its ability to capture the subtleties of instruments and enhance the atmosphere of tracks demonstrates its commitment to delivering an authentic and immersive listening experience. Whether through speakers or headphones, the Node X consistently delivers a sound quality that redefines the expectations of network players, making it a true audiophile’s delight.

Packed with Functionality: Versatile and Streamlined

The Bluesound Node X is a masterclass in versatility and functionality, offering a wide array of features that cater to the diverse needs of audiophiles. Its core strength is its ability to seamlessly handle BluOS streaming, ensuring a smooth and stable music playback experience. The powerful Quad-Core 1.8GHz ARM Cortex A53 processor facilitates rapid scanning and access to a vast music library. For instance, our test involved a listening room NAS with an impressive 35,000 titles, all effortlessly cataloged and made available via the user-friendly BluOS app. This impressive level of integration is a testament to a decade of development and refinement in the app’s interface, offering a delightful fusion of intuitive operation and many options.

Bluesound Node X’s versatility extends to its support for numerous streaming services, including Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, and more, which offer lossless or high-res streaming options. MQA decoding further enhances its compatibility with various high-res audio sources, providing listeners with various music choices. Though it lacks support for Apple Music, this limitation aligns with most network players, reflecting Apple’s restrictive stance.

Beyond its streaming capabilities, the Bluesound Node X boasts a unique feature – the ability to function as a multiroom system’s heart. It wirelessly shares audio signals, including analog sources, with other components in your BluOS ecosystem. This is a rarity in the world of HiFi, with only a handful of competitors offering similar functionality. This means your vinyl records or analog sources can be integrated into a multiroom setup effortlessly.

Additionally, the Node X offers a connection for a subwoofer with comprehensive bass management, allowing users to fine-tune their audio setup and optimize their sound experience without compromise. Furthermore, it features HDMI eARC connectivity, transforming it into an ideal audio companion for your television, automatically switching between TV audio and your audio system without any additional remote control handling.

Lastly, the bidirectional Bluetooth functionality sets the Node X apart from the competition. It sends Bluetooth signals and receives them, broadening its appeal for a wide range of audio devices. Although the Node X truly shines with wired headphones, this dual-directional Bluetooth capability provides the added convenience of wireless audio for those who prefer it.

The Bluesound Node X is a versatile powerhouse designed to cater to many audio needs. With its extensive streaming capabilities, multiroom integration, subwoofer support, and bidirectional Bluetooth, it transcends the conventional boundaries of a network player, offering a comprehensive solution for modern audiophiles seeking an all-encompassing audio experience.

Conclusion: Node X’s Audiophile Delight

In celebrating its tenth birthday, the Bluesound Node X commemorates a decade of innovation and pushes the boundaries of what a network player can achieve. The Node X offers a versatile and user-friendly audio solution with a design that seamlessly blends form and function. Its extensive connectivity options, including HDMI eARC and bidirectional Bluetooth, cater to modern audio setups, while its dual-function USB-A port and multiroom integration enhance the user experience. However, where the Node X truly shines is in its sound quality. It emerges victorious in sound tests, delivering an immersive, atmospheric, and detailed sonic experience. Its unique functions, from supporting an external DAC to integrating seamlessly into home theaters, make it a standout choice in HiFi audio. The Bluesound Node X isn’t just an anniversary model; it’s a testament to the relentless pursuit of audio excellence.

The Bluesound Node X is a testament to the ever-evolving world of HiFi audio. In a landscape where digitalization and miniaturization have redefined what’s possible, Node X emerges as a harbinger of the future of audio. It encapsulates a decade of progress, from the versatility of its connectivity options to the precision of its sound quality. With unique functions that set it apart, such as bidirectional Bluetooth and multiroom integration, the Node X transcends the limitations of traditional network players. It doesn’t merely celebrate a decade of HiFi excellence; it sets a new standard for what audiophiles can expect from a network player. The Bluesound Node X is not just a product; it’s a symphony of innovation, design, and sound, inviting music enthusiasts to embark on a journey of auditory delight.

Reasons to Buy the Bluesound Node X

  1. Outstanding Sound Quality: The Bluesound Node X delivers exceptional sound quality, making it a compelling choice for discerning audiophiles. It excels in rendering music with precision, detail, and an immersive soundstage, ensuring that your favorite tracks come to life in a truly captivating way.
  2. Versatile Connectivity: Its wide range of connectivity options, including HDMI eARC, bidirectional Bluetooth, and multiroom integration, offers flexibility in connecting to various devices and audio setups. It can seamlessly adapt to your existing home audio ecosystem.
  3. Unique Features: The Node X boasts unique functions, such as its dual-function USB-A port, IR learning capability, and bidirectional Bluetooth, setting it apart from other network players. These features enhance convenience and adaptability.
  4. User-Friendly Interface: The intuitive BluOS Controller app and top-panel touch controls make navigating and controlling your music easy. At the same time, the proximity sensor adds a touch of sophistication to the user experience.
  5. Anniversary Special Model: As a special anniversary model, the Node X sports a silver finish, premium DAC, and THX headphone amplifier. It’s a collector’s item for those who appreciate aesthetics and audiophile-grade performance.

Reasons Not to Buy the Bluesound Node X

  1. Higher Price: The Node X comes at a premium price point, which may not be suitable for budget-conscious buyers. Other options are available if you’re looking for a more cost-effective network player.
  2. Limited Apple Music Support: The Node X lacks support for Apple Music, which might be a drawback for users heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. If Apple Music is your primary streaming platform, you may need to consider alternative devices.
  3. Overkill for Casual Listeners: For those who aren’t audiophiles or don’t demand the highest level of audio quality, the Node X may offer more features and capabilities than necessary. It might be considered overkill for more casual listeners.

In conclusion, the Bluesound Node X is an excellent choice for audiophiles and music enthusiasts who seek top-tier sound quality, versatile connectivity, and unique features. However, its higher price point and limited Apple Music support may deter some potential buyers, especially those on a tight budget or deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. Ultimately, purchasing the Node X depends on your specific audio needs and preferences.