Just my opinion, but I was curious just exactly how well my Node 2i performs. So I did a side by side comparison with my dCS Rossini and clock. Both were level matched with my Boulder 2010 preamp, both were then driving my Boulder 2060 and my Wilson Alexia’s. I used the best 3’5MM to dual XLR connector I could buy (I had to have one custom made and it wasn’t cheap - I figured I’m still giong to use the Node 2 to serve our whole house audio as one of the selectable zones anyway.
To my surprise, the Bluesound Node 2i was very engaging. Sure, there was some sibilance, but I was listening to it wondering if it was the MQA that was perhaps implemented better (I was streaming Tidal MQA), so I went with natively stored hi resolution audio. I had to be very nitpicky to find faults in the Node 2 (I may call it a Node 2, but it’s actually a Node 2i). It had transitions that were not as fast as the Rossini. The Low end was a bit muddy. Soundstage aslo flatter. But it was producing sound more like the Rossini than not.
For $500 vs $36,000, you wouldn’t guess that was the difference. And that something to commend. I had Sonos gear and tried a similar comparison a year go and found their CONNECT to be completely unlistenable. The Bluesound however was a very good performer.
For S&G’s, I also compared it with my Meridian Explorer2 This took a little more effort because I had use was the same for both units. The Explorer2 was not bad, but it did not perform anywhere near the Node 2. Again, it was a difference of sibilance (more with the Explorer2) and less impact, precision. The presentation seemed a bit thrown in there all at once rather than methodically extracted and painted on a canvass you were listening to. In other words, lack of imaging in the Explorer2. Bass was surprisingly similar,but I didn’t give that part a whole lot of listening. This was a one afternoon thing, not a week long project.
FWIW, I own all three still. Each has it’s purpose. I find the Bluesound to be the best streamer for the price out there. I’m also a big fan/user of Roon which made this comparison rather easy. I like the Node 2i so much, I bought two more and have them as extra zones and one in our vacation location. It’s day vs night with Sonos stuff so I dumped about 20 pieces of Sonos gear on ebay a few months ago.
I will say that the Sonos AMP was trying to sound more “warm” or “tube-like”, and for the most part i succeeded at that part. I think that’s what they’re going for, but it’s also a way to mask lack of resolution and precision. Those first, then the rest later is what they should have done in their engineering - and I still can’t believe they don’t support high resolution or MQA in their new version of their gear; I’m still scratching my head there.