Sonos Connect vs Bluesound Node 2 - My Personal Experience


For connecting to pre-existing high-end stereo system, go with Bluesound. If you want good sounding speakers around the house, go with Sonos. I’ve had a Bluesound Node 2 connected to a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless speakers for over a year now and it sounds great. Added a Bluesound Pulse speaker a few months later in the bedroom.

I visiting a small hotel for my anniversary and they had a Sonos Play 5 setup in their dining area and it sounded wonderful, much better than the Bluesound Pulse I had at home. Hit Best Buy and listened to Sonos and decided to buy a Connect and two Play 1’s. I was blown away by the Play 1’s after I got them set up. I decided I would likely go Sonos for around the house, as well as attaching the Connect to my KEF speakers, and put the Bluesound Node 2 and Pulse up for auction. The Bluesound Pulse speaker has never sounded great. Sounds seem muffled and less detailed. Bass was there but the midrange and treble was lacking. The tone controls offered seem to make things even worse.

I listened to music through the Connect and KEF speakers for at least 2hrs. I thought I could live with the sound as it seemed livelier. One thing I noticed right away was the bass sounded much “boomier” through the Sonos, meaning less controlled. I then hooked the Bluesound Node 2 back up and everything sounded so much better. Everything was clearer, more detailed and controlled. I immediately took the Node 2 down from auction.

I love the sound of Sonos’ speakers but prefer the details offered by the higher-end Bluesound Node 2 streamer for an existing amplified system. I will likely add a Play 5 in the future as I’ll probably never stop wanting that Play 5 sound.

23 replies

possumtaters wrote:


I listened to music through the Connect and KEF speakers for at least 2hrs. I thought I could live with the sound as it seemed livelier. One thing I noticed right away was the bass sounded much “boomier” through the Sonos, meaning less controlled. I then hooked the Bluesound Node 2 back up and everything sounded so much better. Everything was clearer, more detailed and controlled.


There is no technical reason for the above, and if there is indeed any difference once sound levels are matched, it will be extremely subtle.

How did you match sound levels, assuming that the source material was identical at both times? And assuming also that the Node was wired to the same input sockets on the KEF, via the same cable.
I compared the two streamers in my home using the same Lifatech Toslink 2 cable, same cat5 cable hooked to my Fios router, and streamed using my iPhone or IPad using Slacker Radio. My experience was with my speakers ONLY.

Your statement about there not being a “technical reason” is absolutely baseless and insulting to every educated person on this forum. Unless you compared the same as I did you do not have an argument. It was not a subtle difference.

My post was merely to help educate people. I appreciate those who take the time to provide feedback on products so I can make an educated decision or purchase. I just wanted to give back.
It is a scientific fact that without level matched double blind testing, all audio comparisons are subject to bias. That doesn't mean they are useless, but they are more a statement on what price, looks, name brand, advertising claims, gaudy specifications, etc. you prefer, rather than just the audio. Kumar is stating that more than likely, like most hyperbolic differences in audio playback gear (besides speakers), these night and day differences would disappear under the proper testing conditions.
possumtaters wrote:


Your statement about there not being a “technical reason” is absolutely baseless and insulting to every educated person

I just wanted to give back.


Giving back is fine, but subjective assessments are often misleading unless qualified as such. And are not technical in any way that an educated person will understand and appreciate. Just as it will be understood by such that your subjective opinions may hold good in your case alone.

What have you found are the technical differences in published or tested specs between the outputs of the two streamers? - you still haven't said what these are. My not finding any is the basis for my statement, which is therefore not a baseless statement.
Why stop at audio. Why not compare a Porsche and a used Dodge Neon. After becoming complacent, the Neon will provide the same driving experience as the Porsche.

We’re not talking about speaker cables or power cords where the difference can be argued until we all are dead and gone. Can you argue that the Sonos Connect is the best audio streamer on the market or that it bests the Bluesound without listening to both? I don’t need a double blind test to conclude what my ears tell me.

I am not a Bluesound fanboy at all. I just sold my Bluesound speaker because I didn’t like the sound and the Sonos speakers provided a much better experience. Should I have kept the Bluesound Pulse speaker because it would soon sound like the Sonos speakers?

The responses thus far make me disillusioned and suspect of anyone who automatically trivializes the thoughts and opinions of anyone who ever so slightly disparages Sonos.
If you can't take objective criticism, you will find it hard to stay on any internet forum when you get called out. And if you see many of my recent posts, I don't hesitate to call out Sonos for even incompetence, where I see evidence of that. Inferring conclusions of the kind you have about my trivialising is most offensive as well, but I can take it because this is the internet.

I did not say that the Connect is the best streamer in the market, point out where I have. It does not have the features needed to come close. What I did say is that there is nothing in the tech specs of Bluesound which shows the latter to have the built in wherewithal to deliver better sound quality than that from the Connect, and you are unable to respond to that statement cogently.

Whether it sounds better is another issue again, and as jgatie has explained to you, listening tests that are not held under controlled double blind conditions are subject to all sorts of bias as well as wrong conclusions arising from sound level mismatches. You may not need a DBT to conclude what your ears tell you, and that is your prerogative, but others will not hear the same as you do; or, whatever difference they do hear may disappear if sound levels from the Connect alternative are equalised with that of the Bluesound, a much cheaper way of achieving Bluesound sound quality if that difference, which has to be as small as 0.1dB, has led to your conclusions.

The reference to sound quality from two speakers of different makes is irrelevant to the streamer argument. And the auto analogy is just a rank bad one.
possumtaters wrote:

For connecting to pre-existing high-end stereo system, go with Bluesound.


Based on what you have said so far in defence of the quoted advice, I challenge it by saying that a Connect will work just as well as an analog or digital source if sound quality is compared with that from Bluesound, with tone controls not in use on either alternative.
For Sonos Staff: once again, a post that was present just before my preceding post, that was the basis to my challenge in the preceding post, has vanished once I edited it just for a typo, by adding a missing comma. Not the first time this has happened and in the past, such posts reappear after a day. Is this also misbehaviour of your automatic spam filter?
And to clarify the tone controls rider for anyone interested - streamers come with tone controls that can be of varying degrees of sophistication, including some that have no controls, believing such controls (wrongly, IMO) to not be compatible with the HiFi claim. The Connect does have these, but it is quite possible that later generations of streamers may have these with more degrees of freedom and/or sophistication in this critical to heard sound quality area. But the comparison then isn't apples to apples of the basic streamer function, but of something more; and it may be possible for Bluesound to have a better suite of such controls, to allow for more customisation of the sound to personal tastes. Or not. It would need a test with these used to the max in both cases to decide which one has more useful tone controls.
possumtaters wrote:

Your statement about there not being a “technical reason” is absolutely baseless and insulting to every educated person on this forum. My post was merely to help educate people. .

As a reasonably well educated person, who also has his Connect linked to a fairly high-end hifi, I can assure you that I am not in the least insulted by Kumar's comments and agree entirely with him. The impact from the Connect, assuming its analog output is used, is from its DAC and the EQ controls. It is a decent DAC, and is unlikely to make any difference in the 'boominess' of bass - that is mostly a function of amplification and speaker drivers. The EQ controls would have an effect but can be neutralised. You don't have the 'loudness' option on do you?

FWIW, I bypass the Connect's DAC by using a digital ouput, and so my Connect is doing nothing except pass on 0s and 1s. It would be completely meaningless to talk about its audio performance at all.
The OP said he used 'Lifatech Toslink 2 cable' to test both units so we can rule out the DAC. In that case the idea of Sonos bass being 'boomier' is a mystery, unless the EQ was being (mis-)used.

As an aside, that cable is an expensive glass one.... :8
ratty wrote:

The OP said he used 'Lifatech Toslink 2 cable' to test both units so we can rule out the DAC. In that case the idea of Sonos bass being 'boomier' is a mystery, unless the EQ was being (mis-)used.

As an aside, that cable is an expensive glass one.... :8

I do wonder about the 'loudness' setting, which I think is on by default (not totally sure about that) and can give a 'boomy' effect.
John B wrote:

I do wonder about the 'loudness' setting, which I think is on by default (not totally sure about that) and can give a 'boomy' effect.


Assuming CONNECT follows the example of ZP80, the loudness defaults to off and the EQ is flat. You can verify it yourself: just hit Reset on the EQ settings.
You are correct @ratty. I had only tried this on Play speakers, which do seem to default to On. The Connect defaults to off.
ratty wrote:


As an aside, that cable is an expensive glass one.... :8


That does provide an insight into a possible mindset.
OK, maybe I'm missing it entirely in this discussion, but it doesn't seem to factor in the difference in source material that Bluesound and Sonos Connect can handle. I would LOVE to use my Sonos Connect over my Bluesound Node 2, but I can't get over not being able to use lossless and MQA formats from Tidal. I noticed a marked difference in SQ with my 20yr amp and Thiel speakers, but yeah, it wasn't a double blind with sound levels matched. The Songs Connect came before the Node 2 and I was more than ready to return the Node 2, but ended up sticking with it despite it's subpar interface and paying $20 a month for Tidal.
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markdinh wrote:

I would LOVE to use my Sonos Connect over my Bluesound Node 2, but I can't get over not being able to use lossless and MQA formats from Tidal.


The CONNECT will happily handle lossless streams, including those from Tidal. MQA will not deliver discernibly better audio quality than lossless, assuming the source material is the same, although there are plenty of snake oil salespeople who’ll vehemently claim otherwise.
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Just to add an additional (individual) perspective: I had both the Bluesound Node 2 and the Sonos Connect (ZP90) for a while recently and attempted to set up a blind comparison. I linked the Node 2 and Sonos connect via their respective RCA outputs to two separate line ins on my amp. I set both the outputs as variable in order to adjust for volume level differences. The Sonos connect was set to flat eq settings and loudness was set to off. I then used a db meter (set at the listening position) to adjust and ensure there was no volume difference between the two and then covered the lot so I could not see which was playing. I asked a friend to switch randomly between the two as the same songs were playing (set up two identical playlists). I found that I could tell them apart and the Node 2 had the tighter bass. The Sonos Connect sounded a bit more boomy and uncontrolled in the bass. Regardless of that result, I would keep the Sonos connect over the Bluesound Node 2. I found the bluesound software unreliable, difficult to use and the sonos stability and reliability was notches above. For me ease of use and stability with the Sonos wins over the slightly better sq with the Node 2. I acknowledge the points regarding lossless, etc. but I found that 'living' with a multiroom audio system required stability and ease of use that Sonos was better at.

If one tries to use an external dac with either then things may change but an additional potential problem is introduced: Some dacs add delay to the signal which means that other speakers (be it Bluesound or Sonos Play speakers) will be slightly out of sync. Not all dacs present this issue of course. Neither Sonos nor Bluesound offer time adjustment options so there is no way to adjust sync.

PS: As far as I am aware the latest generations of the sonos connect are not bit perfect (so technically they will not output lossless). I personally stopped caring about this and what mattered most was how it sounded to my ears.
Interesting post, Yiannis74. I use digital out from Connect to a DAC/pre-amp, so the Connect just acts (rather expensively) as a way of incorporating my hifi into my Sonos system. In my case, there are no sync issues. I suspect these generally only arise from DSP on AVRs, not hifi amps.
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For anyone interested in reading about the pros and cons of different approaches to double blind testing methodologies, the following is a peer reviewed article published at the journal of Applied Acoustics (Elsevier).

https://hal.univ-brest.fr/file/index/docid/842647/filename/APAC_5172.pdf
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John B wrote:

Interesting post, Yiannis74. I use digital out from Connect to a DAC/pre-amp, so the Connect just acts (rather expensively) as a way of incorporating my hifi into my Sonos system. In my case, there are no sync issues. I suspect these generally only arise from DSP on AVRs, not hifi amps.



John B, I also had this good experience with some dac / preamps (e.g. Arcam IrDac, Rega Dac) where they would not introduce delay so all music was in sync.

Some other dacs though seem to employ buffering and reclocking (e.g. Naim Dac, Chord Dac and of course as you point out, dsp in some receivers such as Yamaha) and in such cases I got a nasty echo when attempting to group with a sonos play5 etc.

I ended up not using any dac and linked the sonos connect directly to the line in.

Cheers
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Yiannis74 wrote:

For anyone interested in reading about the pros and cons of different approaches to double blind testing methodologies, the following is a peer reviewed article published at the journal of Applied Acoustics (Elsevier).

https://hal.univ-brest.fr/file/index/docid/842647/filename/APAC_5172.pdf


That paper specifically concerns loudspeaker sound quality testing. There are definite variances in loudspeaker sound quality and characteristics (different forms of distortion), so it's usually possible to tell different loudspeaker models apart, and quality/preference comparisons are valid.

The gold standard for audio source testing is double-blind ABX. The fundamental principle of this form of test is determining whether subjects can even tell the difference between two sources, when bias factors are eliminated. If subjects can't reliably identify whether source 'X' is actually 'A' or 'B', then it's clearly invalid to state a preference between the two.
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pwt wrote:

Yiannis74 wrote:

For anyone interested in reading about the pros and cons of different approaches to double blind testing methodologies, the following is a peer reviewed article published at the journal of Applied Acoustics (Elsevier).

https://hal.univ-brest.fr/file/index/docid/842647/filename/APAC_5172.pdf


That paper specifically concerns loudspeaker sound quality testing. There are definite variances in loudspeaker sound quality and characteristics (different forms of distortion), so it's usually possible to tell different loudspeaker models apart, and quality/preference comparisons are valid.

The gold standard for audio source testing is double-blind ABX. The fundamental principle of this form of test is determining whether subjects can even tell the difference between two sources, when bias factors are eliminated. If subjects can't reliably identify whether source 'X' is actually 'A' or 'B', then it's clearly invalid to state a preference between the two.



Agreed, the focus of the study is not amplifier / dac differences so we could not generalise the outcomes to that specifically. The interesting thing however is the comparison of testing stability. The methodologies discussed and the comparison conducted are certainly interesting and could (future study) be applied with the focus on amplifier / dac comparisons. The authors provide interesting comparison of testing approaches while controlling for the audio source (i.e. keeping the audio source / loudspeaker the same and comparing testing approaches).

I am always looking to see if a more relevant paper exists, if you know of a good source please share :-)

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