Audio T Swansea Staff Systems - Bluesound Powernode 2 & Bowers & Wilkins 686

Something of a personal blog today. I'm going talk about the Bluesound Powernode 2 and B&W 686 system I use in my kitchen diner. Most of the cooking in our home is done by me and I have to share a lounge with my significant other and the home cinema system. Therefore, most of my home music listening is done whilst I'm slaving away in the galley, so it makes sense to have something enjoyable to use which lets me whistle while I work. I also work in the toy shop, so, ya know...

Bluesound Powernode 2 and B&W 686 System

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I originally used a Sonos Connect (£349) and an old Rega Brio amplifier to drive my Bowers & Wilkins 686S2s (£349) - which sounded great – and lived happily on top of the fridge freezer. Then the packed up; boo!

We bought a shiny new fridge freezer which turned out to be somewhat taller than the old one. Sadly for my diminutive darling honeybun, we discovered she could no longer reach the amplifier controls – cue Grumpyface Emoji.

Something had to be done...

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We've had the Bluesound brand for a little while now in a number of Audio T's, but we hadn't evaluated it here in Swansea, that's until young Kris from Anatech Distribution came down with a few toys for us to play with just before Christmas.

Appraised in our reference system, we immediately thought that the Bluesound Node 2 streamer (£499) was a winner and sonically superior to the Sonos Connect, even when by-passing the on-board DAC and using our favourite* one by Chord Electronics. With 16-bit (CD quality) files the Node 2 was quite a lot better, much less grain, a far more open and solid sound. Switching to 24-bit and MQA (Meridian Quality Assured) files via Tidal Masters and it ate the Connect for breakfast.

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Historically a strong product for us has been the Sonos Connect Amp (£499). Essentially a Connect with on-board amplification, we've used it in a number of multi-room installations to good effect, the only caveat being it's inability to drive large rooms, or zones with outdoor speakers, (it just hasn't got the horsepower) so I was interested to see how the Bluesound Powernode 2 (£799) would perform.

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We connected it up to a pair of B&W 684S2s (compact floorstanding speakers at £799) and let her rip. Wow! You can tell NAD designed the amplifier section – solid, clean, musical, exciting, tons of power and a lovely sense of scale, way more grip than the Sonos Connect Amp and loads more meat on the bone. We like it, we like it very much indeed.

The control interface is similar to Sonos is logical and is easy to use. Volume, Pause Play and Track Forward Back are placed on the top of the unit for convenience, plus analogue and digital inputs appear on the rear, which is very handy for those wishing to squirt the audio from a telly into it. Also you can if you want add a subwoofer. Fortunately m'darlinghoneybun doesn't read Hi-Fi blogs, so I can confirm that I'm planning to sneak a wireless-equipped REL T5i into the system soon. (There's space behind the cat basket, she'll never know...)

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Six months later, Adrian's fridge breaks down...

"...so I don't have to stretch up to turn the amp on any more?"

"No dear."

Cue Smileyface Emoji.

Bluesound Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
ManchesterOnlinePortsmouth, SwanseaSwindon

Bluesound Offers a Simple and Effective High Quality Multi-room Music Streaming System

In this months Blog we are focussing on Bluesound multi-room music streaming products and will show you how easy they are to set up and tell you why it is so good.

Bluesound is an award winning wireless, multi-room system that supports Hi-Res audio replay and has been designed to fill your home with high quality sound. It has a sophisticated but easy to use operating system (BluOS) which we will talk more about later.

Music streaming services like Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, Internet Radio and many more are supported and the system supports up to 64 players to fill your rooms with high quality sound.

In addition you can play music from your NAS drive (network attached storage) USB drive or via Bluetooth from your phones, tablets and PC's.

The Bluesound system connects via your home's Wifi network (your broadband router) or hard-wired via ethernet cable to the same router. You can control it with the BluOS Controller App for iOS, Android, Kindle (phones or tablets) and there are desktop apps available for Windows (PC) and OS X (Mac). Supported file formats are MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC and OPUS as well as Hi-Res formats FLAC, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), WAV and AIFF from 16Bit (CD Quality) to 24Bit (Hi-Res Audio).

Let's take a closer look at the products.

Bluesound Vault 2 - Storage and the possible heart of your music streaming system
The Vault comes shipped with 2TB hard drive and allows you to rip your CD collection to the streaming formats FLAC (lossless smaller file with no degradation in quality) or WAV (original copy - large file which takes up more space on a hard drive). It is very user friendly and requires no computer for the initial set-up. Like every NAS (Network Attached Storage), just plug it into your router via ethernet cable, get the app for your control device and you can start setting up the Vault 2. The Bluesound Vault can be used as storage/server and as a player. You can use the analogue or digital outputs on the back and connect the Vault 2 directly to your music system and away you go. 

All Bluesound players or speakers can access the music stored on the Vault 2 .

Vault 2

Vault 2

Vault 2

Vault 2

 Wireless Bluesound Speakers: Pulse Flex, Pulse Mini and Pulse 2

The Pulse Flex can be used as a single speaker or you can buy two and set them up as a wireless speaker pair. Attach a rechargeable Battery Pack and you can take wherever you go.

The Pulse Mini and Pulse 2 are bigger and more powerful. Great if you want more bass and a bigger sound. There are sound controls for bass and treble adjustment if you need them. All 3 speakers support Bluetooth, have an analogue and optical input -  plus a headphone socket.

Pulse Flex

Pulse Flex

Pulse Flex

Pulse Flex

Pulse Mini

Pulse Mini

Pulse Mini

Pulse Mini

Pulse 2

Pulse 2

Pulse 2 on the left and Pulse Mini on the right (available in black or white)

Pulse 2 on the left and Pulse Mini on the right (available in black or white)

Bluesound Music Players: Node 2 and Powernode 2

Node 2 The Node 2 connects to your existing stereo or home cinema system via analogue connection (with fixed output option) or digital coaxial outputs. It is compact and sounds fantastic. I have (Stefan) got one myself and I all I can say is - It sounds stunning, really stunning.

Powernode 2 -  The Powernode 2 does everything the Node 2 can do, plus it can drive a pair of stereo loudspeakers. This is great and gives you various options for use in-ceiling, outdoors or to use as streamer and amplifier connected to an existing set of speakers. With 60W per channel you can choose from a wide range of speakers for your home or office set-up.

Powernode 2 on the left and the Node 2 on the right

Powernode 2 on the left and the Node 2 on the right

Powernode 2 on the left and Node 2 on the right

Powernode 2 on the left and Node 2 on the right

Pulse Soundbar and Pulse Subwoofer
Both work wirelessly and that is also how they connect to each other. You can play all the music that I mentioned above through the Pulse soundbar with or without the Pulse subwoofer. Our suggestion is to use a subwoofer and you can even use one from a different brand, such as a REL.

Now add two Pulse Flex speakers as wireless surround sound speakers and you have a 5.1 home cinema system - very flexible!

Pulse Soundbar

Pulse Soundbar

Pulse Soundbar under our 55" Panasonic OLED TV

Pulse Soundbar under our 55" Panasonic OLED TV

Pulse Subwoofer

Pulse Subwoofer

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Controlling Your Bluesound streaming music system
Open the BluOS app and bring in your speakers or components. This is very easy. You can see them in a list on the right hand side. Select one and play your music or group some of them and play your music in several rooms at the same time.

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On the left hand side you see your players inputs, music streaming subscriptions and access to the player settings.

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Supported Music Streaming Services

Supported Music Streaming Services

Music playing from Tidal

Music playing from Tidal

All Bluesound players and speakers are compatible with Roon if you want to take streaming music control and sound quality to the next level.

There is so much more we can show you about streaming music via Bluesound, however as always your ears and eyes need to be the judge, so please feel free to email us or call us on 01793 538222 or if you're live locally just come into the Audio T Swindon shop.

Stefan and Andy

Bluesound music streaming products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
ManchesterOnlinePortsmouthSwindon

Bluesound Hi-Res Music Listening Event At Audio T Portsmouth

On Thursday the 5th of October we are holding a Bluesound Hi-Res listening event. Bluesound is a multi-room high resolution streaming system which allows you to add great sound to any room.

Bluesound also gives you the ability to add music streaming to an existing Hi-Fi system. And with the Vault 2 ripper and streamer you can rip and store your entire CD collection on to the 2TB (terabyte) hard drive, which equates to approximately 2600 CD's - freeing up space in your home if you have your CD stored in racks or towers.

Click on the poster to book your place.

Click on the poster to book your place.

Using the Bluesound app you can stream from a number of music services, such as Spotify, Qobuz, TIDAL and of course any music you have stored on computers or servers, from the comfort of your sofa. Now you have the convenience of millions of tracks at your fingertips.

On the day we'll be recreating the ear opening demonstration that was conducted the Bristol Hi-Fi show earlier this yearA representative from Bluesound will allow you to listen and hear the difference in sound quality between MP3, CD and MQA from the TIDAL Masters collection.

This will be a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the Bluesound range of streaming products, or if you are already acquainted, it will be an excellent chance to ask any questions you may have.

Meet the Bluesound family

Bluesound family

Bluesound family

The Awesome Vault 2

The Awesome Vault 2

In the meantime if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us or pop in.

Click here to reserve your place or drop in on the day between 12-7 pm.

We look forward to seeing on Thursday 5th October.

Nick, Joe and James

Bluesound Hi-Fi is available from the following branches of Audio T:
ManchesterOnlinePortsmouthSwindon

Dreaming About Music Streaming? What Does It All Mean?

There are a raft of new products available that allow you to stream your music and the idea behind this blog, is to highlight one or two products and explain the basics of how to incorporate a "streamer" into your existing Hi-Fi system.

Streamers - Clockwise from top left: Bluesound Node 2 £499, Yamaha WXAD-10 £149, Sonos Connect £349, Naim ND5XS £2430, and Yamaha WXC-50 £329

Streamers - Clockwise from top left: Bluesound Node 2 £499, Yamaha WXAD-10 £149, Sonos Connect £349, Naim ND5XS £2430, and Yamaha WXC-50 £329

Firstly perhaps I should explain what we mean by "streaming". There are two forms of streaming:

1. Directly from the Internet via a service like Spotify, Qobuz or Tidal. These services are a little like SKY, you pay a subscription every month and get access to their massive, and constantly updated, music library. Prices are usually £10-20 a month. The streamer needs to support the service you are interested in and not all streamers support all streaming services.

2. Music stored locally on a computer or network hard drive (NAS drive). Usually these are CD's that have been copied onto a computer / NAS drive, or music downloaded from the internet.

Bluetooth or Airplay could also be considered "streaming" but neither are a particularly high quality method so I'm not going to cover those. However a number of streaming products do include them.

Our Apple iPad Mini with the Tidal App. 9 out of 10 Streamers use an App as a remote control so you will need an iPad / iPhone or Andriod phone or tablet (like a Samsung)

Our Apple iPad Mini with the Tidal App. 9 out of 10 Streamers use an App as a remote control so you will need an iPad / iPhone or Andriod phone or tablet (like a Samsung)

So why bother with streaming?

The two main reasons are:

1. Easy access to your entire record collection without having to go looking for the CD.

2. By adding more streamers you can get music all around your house, easily controlled by a tablet or smart phone

You can make playlists, or you can just play a random selection from your whole collection, it's great to hear some of the older stuff that got buried at the back of your CD rack and forgotten about. If you subscribe to a streaming service you have access to millions of tracks and never need to buy a CD again!

What about quality?

Typically streamed music is around the same quality as CD. You can make it better if you get the more expensive kit but most of the time it's roughly comparable to CD quality. Tidal and Qobuz are better quality than Spotify if you are using a streaming service but are more expensive, but do allow you to stream (Qobuz / Tidal) and download (Qobuz) 24bit Hi-Res music. 

However copying (ripping) your CD's is where it can seem complicated because there are so many different file types used to store music. Pretty much everyone has heard of MP3, but that's the lowest quality 'lossy' format which in the process of conversion removes some of the information to allow it be compressed down to the smallest possible file size.

You could start with Apple Lossless, it's better than MP3, Itunes is easy to use and it's widely supported - it's a proprietary format and will only work with Itunes and the Apple ecosystem. However, we would recommend FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), it's the next step up in quality it's an open (not hardware dependent) lossless (No data is removed from the converted file) format and is widely supported. WAV is the original CD source file but it's uncompressed, so it takes up a lot more hard drive space and there can be problems with track information (meta data) being transferred correctly, so unless you are going for high end quality we would suggest using FLAC or ALAC if you're an Itunes user - FLAC will not play on ITunes. If this seems really daunting then there are several products that will rip and store your CD's, making the process as simple as possible. e.g. Innuos Zen Mini or Naim Uniticore

Time to look at kit.

If you want to dip your toe into the "streaming" water, Yamaha have just realised a new product, and at £149 it's very affordable.

Yamaha WXAD-10

Yamaha WXAD-10

The Yamaha WXDA-10 uses Yamaha's MusicCast technology which is also incorporated in a good number of other Yamaha products including most of their recent Home Cinema Amps. The MusicCast app is pretty good with all the normal streaming services like Spotify etc.

Yamaha MusicCast app

Yamaha MusicCast app

The WXDA-10 only has analogue connections so plug it into an aux input on your amplifier and follow the instructions on the app to set it up in 5 mins.

Another recent addition to our collection of streamers is the Bluesound Node 2 £499

Bluesound node 2

Bluesound node 2

The Node 2 can be connected with normal analogue interconnects, but also has digital outputs.

bluesound node 2 back panel

bluesound node 2 back panel

It's an obvious sonic improvement over the cheaper Yamaha. The Bluesound boasts MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)  compatibility (yet another new high resolution music file format!) along with all the other usual features, and a decent app better used on a larger ipad.

Bluesound App

Bluesound App

All the streamers mentioned or pictured are available for demonstration in store, where you can try the apps for yourself. We will always try to answer any questions you have.

Yamaha Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPortsmouthPreston
SouthamptonSwansea

Bluesound Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
ManchesterOnlinePortsmouthSwindon

Bluesound Node 2 Hi-Res Music Streamer Featuring Master Quality Authenticated Playback

Feeling bluesy or kind of blue or any type of music genre for that matter? Then that nodes well, because we may have the tonic you're after...read on.

Turn your Hi-Fi into an intelligent 21st century all singing all dancing triple threat*. Bluesound is now on sale and available for demonstration in Manchester and we couldn't be happier. *Broadway speak for someone who is multi talented.

Here we take a look at the Node 2 streamer. With all the usual connections you would expect from a mid to high end streamer, optical, coaxial, analogue audio out, subwoofer out too. And of course a digital and analogue input.  With a 1GHz ARM cortex processor as its brain, the speed of Bluesound never ceased to impress, loading album art, playlists and Hi-Res media to multiple devices is flawless. Having plenty of inputs and outputs means there really are no limitations to the Node2's capabilities.  Stemming from a partnership with NAD, Bluesound has evidently taken on board application advice from NAD, who have been in the audio business since 1972.

Hi-Res audio in all your rooms simultaneously is Bluesounds unique selling point, and MQA is one of the options available via Tidal. MQA Tidal streaming is simple and rewarding. The Bluesound app is speedy and intuitive, you are free to edit and manage playlists on the fly, whilst browsing MQA selections. Being able to easily demonstrate back to back red-book 16bit 44.1KHz, to 24 bit up to 192KHz, tracks felt more immersive and dynamic. Roll-off and reverb from snares, claps and vocals seemed to hang on just a moment longer compared to that of CD, sounding far more natural and almost painting the picture of the room in which they were recorded in your mind.

In regards to the app, there are really no complaints from us. In fact we all agree that it is very evident that a lot has been invested into the development of it.  Locating our files from our NAS with ease, as well as other album suggestions on Tidal in the same window offered trouble free and seamless streaming. Combined with a little emoticon indicating the resolution of the file type currently playing, this kept us informed of the tracks we were playing in real time without having to open the 'Track Info' page. This made demonstrating CD vs MQA quality simple and eye opening too! 

Overall though, we were impressed with how the Bluesound makes the most from its software, and in this digital age of iPhones and tablets, applications and Airplay, it is easy to forget about the hardware side of things. Bluesound breaks down this barrier between software and hardware with a solution so simple and innovative it is almost charming. Being able to code your Bluesound to work with any IR remote for example, the ability to assign functions on your TV remote to control the volume of your BlueSound,  Pause, Play, Power off and on, let's say someone calls you while you are listening to music through the BlueSound but have the TV on in the background, you use the TV remote to pause the the music, while you take the call. This, simply put, is a lovely feature. Hats off to  Bluesound.

We have a healthy selection of Bluesound streaming products in Manchester, from the range of all in one wireless speakers like the Pulse 2 and Pulse Mini, to the amplified version of the Node2 the PowerNode 2 integrated amplifier and also the Vault 2 which lets you rip your CD's and store your music on the 2TB music server.

Feel free to pop in and ask Simon, Munir, Mike, Dave and Haden to get rid of your blues...

Bluesound Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
CheltenhamManchesterOnlinePortsmouth