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.

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LOL. Now we will be reduced to comparing the relative quality of products by counting pro/con reviews of each on the net.:rofl:

I suppose that is one way of doing things.

 

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I’ve seen three articles on the port and many individual comments criticizing its sound quality. There are many reviews of the amp and very few think it’s not great. There are measurements of both. You just haven’t looked. Try harder 
 

I have the Amp and love it so it’s disappointing about the Port sound quality. 

On the other hand, there are very recent posters on the Sonos Amp - two saying the amp sounds “terrible” and one that says it is slightly off.

Leaving apart the subjective comments about the Port DAC quality, there are those that complain even when using its bit perfect digital output.

All of this voicing of opinion with nary a semblance of a blind test to rule out bias and level differences.

So I can't see how these varying comments on both units will of the slightest use to Sonos from a development perspective.

I have used and continue to use the Connect Amp and Connect and have no issues with either with sound quality. To the extent that I see no need to upgrade to the new products and I have not heard either, but I can’t see Sonos blundering about as basic a matter as carrying forward sound quality levels already achieved by them over a decade ago.

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I have the Amp and love it so it’s disappointing about the Port sound quality. So much for all the Sonos apologists. Pretty unforgivable considering the price and Sonos must be aware of all the criticism.

 Enjoyed the Node 2i while I had it.  Desperately wanted Sonos streaming platform throughout the house so I returned the Node 2i.  I purchased the Sonos Port fully prepared that any fidelity loss was acceptable with the understanding that My objective was to have multiple zones in my home only using Sonos.  Simply put……..I was not prepared for just how significant the dew difference between the Port and Node 2i.  During true A/B listening [which was not even necessary]~ the difference was that profound.  My next step is purchasing a Port from Wyred 4 Sound and an external DAC.  

I am a HUGE Sonos fan.  However I could not defend just how much more I personally enjoyed the sound experience of the Node 2i vs the Port.

 

 

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.

 

Completely wrong and you could not have heard MQA through a good headphone amplifier or dac or external dec as we are discussing here.  With good speakers of course.  Most detractors have never even heard MQA and yes I know all the pros and cons being battered back and forth.

Also Sonos obviously does not handle lossless above Rebook.  Compared to the (new)Sonos Amp the Powernode 2i with Revel Concerta 2 speakers sounds obviously and noticeably better in Redbook let alone MQA or Rires.  Plus the Powernode 2 is Roon Ready which offers quite a few benefits over the Roon/Sonos implementation.  Defiantly better detail and range all the way through.  Sonos seems to be doing a weird combination of trying to sound warm but with too much treble on pretty much all of their offerings.  The Powernode 2i costs more but offers dramatically more.  One big loss though is it can’t do wireless rears like the Sonos Amp which could be a dealbreaker for a lot of people and understandably so.

My experience as well. Sonos seems to have a sound flavour of exaggerated bass, thin midrange and spiky treble. I had a home demo of the new Sonos amp a while ago. Functionality, features, form factor, ease of use are all excellent. Sadly I could not get used to the harsh sound. This was no abx test but I experienced some discomfort after about 15 mins. I found the midrange thin with a lot of boomy bass below it. The treble is sharp. I reduced treble by 3-4 clicks to deal with it but then the bass was even boomer. 3-4 clicks down on the bass as well. I was using airplay 2 to stream local lossless tracks and noticed what you indicate. Using the Sonos app resulted in warmer and slightly less fatiguing sound ( heavy eq adjustment still needed though). I prefer to use airplay 2 though so I did not keep the amp.

MQA is subject to Meridian’s remastering, so it probably does sound better.  But more than likely that has nothing to do with MQA and everything to do with the remastering.  Unfortunately, this cannot be tested because (Surprise! Surprise!) MQA’s DRM does not allow it to be downconverted to 16/44.1. 

How convenient . . .

Though I would like to see what it sounds like put through an ADC conversion of the analog output, with the digital converting to 16/44.1.  But I highly doubt you will ever see Meridian interested in such a test.  

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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.

Completely wrong and you could not have heard MQA through a good headphone amplifier or dac or external dec as we are discussing here.  With good speakers of course.  Most detractors have never even heard MQA and yes I know all the pros and cons being battered back and forth.

This sort of testimony exists for all kinds of things in HiFi and endures right up to the point where one tries to obtain proof under properly controlled conditions, at which point differences evaporate. However, if you think it sounds better, then enjoy the illusion -- there’s no harm in it.

If you can provide evidence of MQA’s superiority over the same source recordings in CD/lossless, under controlled ABX testing, then please provide a reference. (You’d have thought that Meridian/MQA would have done this, right? To demonstrate the validity of their claims. Apparently, they didn’t.)

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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.

 

Completely wrong and you could not have heard MQA through a good headphone amplifier or dac or external dec as we are discussing here.  With good speakers of course.  Most detractors have never even heard MQA and yes I know all the pros and cons being battered back and forth.

Also Sonos obviously does not handle lossless above Rebook.  Compared to the (new)Sonos Amp the Powernode 2i with Revel Concerta 2 speakers sounds obviously and noticeably better in Redbook let alone MQA or Rires.  Plus the Powernode 2 is Roon Ready which offers quite a few benefits over the Roon/Sonos implementation.  Defiantly better detail and range all the way through.  Sonos seems to be doing a weird combination of trying to sound warm but with too much treble on pretty much all of their offerings.  The Powernode 2i costs more but offers dramatically more.  One big loss though is it can’t do wireless rears like the Sonos Amp which could be a dealbreaker for a lot of people and understandably so.

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Given the recent news I am now in the market for a non-Sonos device to replace my soon-to-be obsolete, or at least no-longer-supported, Sonos Connect. 

I have considered the Bluesound Node in the past but have never pulled the trigger. A couple things I like about Sonos: (1) the queue. Unlike the Apple Music/Spotify “up next”, the Sonos queue lets you easily go back as many tracks as you like in the queue. I have never liked the way the queues behave in Apple Music or Spotify. (2) The Sonos Connect does not require my phone/iPad/computer to even be powered on once I have a queue in play.

How does the Bluesound Node compare to Sonos with regard to my above points?

Thanks in advance.

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.

Agreed, for me only speakers make obvious difference, even in a non-blind, not level matched audition. I could never justify the high cost for amps, cd players and the like, I can only hear clear difference with speakers. For me most Sonos speakers sound very good (not just "good enough") and if sonos had the plethora of inputs and outputs of a usual stereo (or God forbid) AV amps, I would never buy any amp ever again. With Sonos I simply stop analyzing the gear and listen to the music.
I am super impressed by the upcoming Sonos amp and if it sounds good then it might replace 3 boxes (Streamer, dac, amp) and remove lots of cables 🙂. Great convenience and functionality it seems. I am a bit perplexed by the b/g/n only wireless connectivity. I am not a wireless wifi expert so I am not sure if sticking with the older b/g/n is a 'play it safe' decision or perhaps there is a reason why Sonos works better that way. Either way, I have never had any connectivity issues with Sonos components so I am betting it will be all good.

The old Sonos connect (ZP90) which we know retains bit perfect sound is actually great with a small dac as long as the latter does not introduce delay. A ZP90 feeding my musical fidelity v90 dac, results in lovely lovely sound (no bass boom).

Bluesound's new Node 2i also seems like a good product and they have taken the step to include dual band WiFi connectivity (same with all the other refreshed Bluesound units). The Node 2 I had a while ago was definitely less reliable / stable (wifi connectivity) despite being such a recent product compared to the connect. When I tried them, bluesound speakers were lacking some punch compared to the Sonos offerings. One last thing to consider: the idle power consumption on the Bluesound units is 5-6W. Sonos is much much more frugal (with the exception of the old connect) and I value that. Not a deal breaker I guess but if one starts adding Bluesound units around the house, the idle power consumption will add up.

Maybe a new connect will soon follow (?), who knows.




Bluesound just came out with the Node 2i. Sonos is coming out with the Amp. The Node actually does a lot more but people have different reasons for choosing one over the other. I'm planning on getting an Amp.
Your sound quality with the Node is much more down to the Kef LS50 wireless than anything else. They are $2500 speakers that have been compared to 10K speakers. I have a set myself.
Which Pulse speakers are you referring to? There are three of them.
Best bang for the buck for wireless speakers is easily the HomePod at $349 especially in stereo pair.
I'm Switzerland when it comes to different companies and like to use what I think is best for given situations. So Sonos for Home theater and several sets of stereo paired Homepods for music plus one set of Kef LS50 wireless also for music.
Choice is good as is competition.
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Bluesound just came out with the Node 2i. Sonos is coming out with the Amp. The Node actually does a lot more but people have different reasons for choosing one over the other. I'm planning on getting an Amp.
Your sound quality with the Node is much more down to the Kef LS50 wireless than anything else. They are $2500 speakers that have been compared to 10K speakers. I have a set myself.
Which Pulse speakers are you referring to? There are three of them.
Best bang for the buck for wireless speakers is easily the HomePod at $349 especially in stereo pair.
I'm Switzerland when it comes to different companies and like to use what I think is best for given situations. So Sonos for Home theater and several sets of stereo paired Homepods for music plus one set of Kef LS50 wireless also for music.
Choice is good as is competition.
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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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.
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
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
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.
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.
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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.
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.

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

That does provide an insight into a possible mindset.
You are correct @ratty. I had only tried this on Play speakers, which do seem to default to On. The Connect defaults to off.
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.
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.