New Bluesound Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i Announced


(David Hunter) #1

Bluesound recently announced an all new generation of products that users of Roon will be interested in. Both Roon and Bluesound have worked harmoniously and provided their listeners with many hours of listening pleasure so I’m sure many of you are excited to see what the new “2i” generation of speakers will sound like. All anyone can do at this moment is speculate about the sound quality of the 2i generation of products. I own the Pulse 2 and I had the Pulse Mini for awhile and was very impressed with it also. Here is my listening review comparing the Pulse 2 vs. Elac Discovery Z3.

In my review I made the observation that for the next generation of of products Bluesound needed to incorporate proper tweeters into their speakers. With the Pulse 2i, Bluesound did this and I’m sure the extended highs will be an improvement over the Pulse 2. My concern now is with the Pulse 2i’s two 5 inch woofers. Having two woofers will increase bass significantly but will the increased bass overpower the midrange? We have just one listening review, so far, from WhatHiFi and their review reflects my concern.

Just based on specs alone, I was hoping that Bluesound would have carried over the two 2.75 inch midrange drivers from the Pulse 2 into the Pulse 2i. Together, having two midrange drivers and two tweeters in the Pulse 2i would most likely have alleviated the concerns in the WhatHiFi review and truly make the Pulse 2i world class wireless speakers. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m sure that the engineers at Bluesound addressed these concerns when they designed the 2i and maybe they designed the woofers to both deepen the bass and clarify the midrange as well. We shall see.

I’m quite excited to get a Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i and do a comparison test with my Pulse 2. I love my Pulse 2 and I’m hoping I will love the 2i generation of speakers even more.


#2

I’m not sure that those of us who have been unable to use multiroom synchronised play since the start of their partnership, because of a known bug, would agree with this statement. Don’t get me wrong, their kit is good but I would not describe the relationship between Bluesound and Roon as harmonious, except perhaps in the literal sense.


(Chris ) #3

There are no sync issues for the two products mentioned here. I have a Pulse 2 and Mini and never have an issue.


#4

A Powernode 2 in combination with Pulse Flex was also never an issue.


(David Hunter) #5

Yes, I have used Roon with several Pulse 2’s and had intermittent issues with multiroom playback but nothing too bad. It could be my WiFi or Bluesound or some other cause such as an interruption due to weather. Bluesound support did say they were working on the issue. They said it is software related but I wonder if they made any hardware improvements with the Pulse 2i and Mini 2i so that there will be no connectivity or sync issues whatsoever moving forward.


#6

That may or may not be true - I was commenting on the relationship, not the specific products. A cursory read of the Bluesound forum will show that historically Roon queries have not been well received, and the lengthy time to move to the updated RAAT earlier this year (despite known issues which Brian has identified elsewhere on the forum) does not, in my uniformed opinion, speak to a harmonious relationship.

As for the sync issue itself, it has been identified and acknowledged by Bluesound so seems unlikely to be a figment of anyone’s imagination. That said, I do wonder if it’s only a problem when a Node 2 is in the mix - I haven’t taken the time to look at everyone’s setup with the issue but that certainly seems a common theme.

Update: As an aside, I was extremely disappointed by the customer service I received from Bluesound when my Flex died in the middle of the last firmware upgrade. Despite being only 2 years old and working fine before the update, Bluesound refused to replace the resulting brick directly. Fortunately the dealer was more accommodating.


(Chris ) #7

I was commenting only on those particular products. I agree it’s probably the node issue that is documented and will be solved for people soon I hope.
I have to send my Pulse 2 back for an intermittent fault. Bluesound acknowledges my issue and the dealer are happy to sort it. Can’t really ask for more.


(David Hunter) #8

Hello,
I just received the new Pulse 2i and I discovered that it is not RAAT certified so I get less than bit-perfect streaming. Frustrating. I will contact Bluesound to see what they have to say. Also, at the moment, I have to agree with the review in WhatHiFi about the sound quality of the Pulse 2i. I am not yet sure it’s an improvement from the Pulse 2.


(Avrom Gart) #9

So David, what’s the verdict on the Pulse 2i.


(David Hunter) #10

Hi Avrom,

I have now done extensive listening with the Pulse 2i and also the Pulse Mini 2i. I initially agreed with the lukewarm review of the Pulse 2i by WhatHiFi. I can see why they gave the new Pulse 2i only 3 out of 5 stars. I do think though that WhatHiFi missed something. The Pulse 2 and 2i have different interfaces in the Bluesound app. The settings and controls are more extensive with the new 2i than with the 2. It took a while for me to figure out but the devil is in the details.

Where I think WhatHiFi went wrong with their review on the new Pulse 2i is that they did their review without thoroughly checking its various sound settings. In comparison to the Pulse 2, straight out of the box, the Pulse 2i sounds a bit lifeless and flat. Certainly not an improvement on the Pulse 2 and I almost returned the 2i immediately. Like I said, the interface of the Pulse 2i and Mini 2i are different from the Pulse 2.

With the 2i there are now settings for, “TV”, “Kitchen”, and “Movie”. It’s a bit buggy at the moment because sometimes the Bluesound app automatically changes my sound preference to “TV” automatically while I’m listening to the “Music” setting. At the moment I am only listening to music with the 2i so why the app switches to “TV” is beyond me. At least when the “Music” setting is selected you do get the best sound quality for music with this setting.

One of the advantages of Roon is that I can toggle on and off the sound of the Pulse 2 and 2i with the speakers side-by-side. Whether I’m listening to MQA on Tidal or my ripped CD’s the source is always the same. I don’t think WhatHiFi had this capability and if they were doing a comparison test with different sources at different times or by comparing notes I believe they were at a disadvantage.

With the older Pulse 2, when the equalizer settings are turned “on” it only muddied the sound. When I called Bluesound support they said that if I increase the bass to its maximum on the Pulse 2 what happens is that the midrange is decreased by up to 6 decibels. What? If I increase the midrange to its maximum it decreases the bass by up to 6 decibels? None of this made sense to me. If I want to increase any signal level I should be able to do so without affecting any other level. This was impossible with the Pulse 2. Without a doubt, the most open, transparent, and best sound from the Pulse 2 is achieved with all equalizer settings turned off.

Again, the Pulse 2 sounds best with its equalizer settings turned off. Conversely, the Pulse 2i sounds flat and lifeless out of the box but with the equalizer sliders maximized the 2i the sound opens up and sounds much better. With this configuration the sound from the Pulse 2i is better than the Pulse 2. Perhaps Bluesound implemented a passive equalizer on the Pulse 2 and an active equalizer on the Pulse 2i. With the Pulse 2 you can only reduce the signal levels whereas with the 2i you can boost the signal levels. So with both speakers optimized for sound quality, how much better does the Pulse 2i sound than the older Pulse 2?

My roommate is an acoustic guitar player and computer geek and together we put both the Pulse 2 and 2i through their paces once we got the sound settings maximized for each speaker. Our conclusion was that the treble on the 2i was a good 30% better on the 2i than on the 2. Bass was about 20% better on the 2i than the 2 and the midrange was a bit of a mixed bag depended on whether you were listening to a symphonic orchestra or pop music. There is something to be said about the ease of the midrange on the Pulse 2 but overall the Pulse 2i sounds as if you were listening to the Pulse 2 but someone took the veil off of it. The Pulse 2i is just more open and transparent. For instance, when listening to jazz on the 2i I really can hear the thrush on high hat cymbals that was recessed on the Pulse 2.

Another issue of note is that the Pulse 2 has 80 watts of power and the Pulse 2i has 150 watts of power. The additional wattage on the 2i doesn’t seem to make a big improvement in sound nor does it allow the 2i to reach larger sound volumes without distortion.

Overall, however, both my roommate and I have come to the conclusion that the sound quality of the Pulse 2i is about 20 - 30% better than the Pulse 2. Yes, this might not seem like what I would conclude after my previous statements about the Pulse 2i but the Pulse 2 really is a special speaker and the 2i does build on this but not as substantially as I would’ve hoped for. The added tweeters on the 2i is the biggest improvement. In addition, the Pulse 2 has one 5 inch woofer with two bass ports and the Pulse 2i has two 5 inch woofers instead.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the Pulse 2i is that Bluesound should’ve carried over the two 2.75 inch midrange drivers from the Pulse 2 into the Pulse 2i. Though the Pulse 2i does sound better with two 5 inch woofers and two 1 inch tweeters the addition of the two midrange drivers would’ve added to the sound quality substantially. The 2i speaker enclosure is large enough to support the additional drivers.

With that said, I believe Bluesound’s strength is not only their pursuit of great sound quality but with their Roon integration. Bluesound is working tirelessly trying to make their speakers work seamlessly with Roon and every other source. For instance, I called Bluesound support because I could not adjust the volume of my Pulse 2 while listening to my TV through my Tivo Roamiio Plus. This is the kind of stuff Bluesound is dealing with. My hat is off to them.

Also, even though I don’t think the Pulse 2i is the hugely improved product we’ve been waiting for and Bluesound should’ve tried harder, the Pulse 2i is my only choice with Roon. For me, the improved sound quality and the improved software interface of the Pulse 2i is worth the upgrade from the Pulse 2. For others, the Pulse 2i might not be worth the upgrade because Bluesound doesn’t have the same name recognition as Sonos so selling your used Pulse 2’s on ebay may result in a bigger financial hit than its worth.

There is something else on my mind. Moving forward, if Devialet should ever equal Bluesound’s Roon integration I would definitely jump off the Bluesound ship. In Bluesound’s defense, their Roon integration is maturing at a brisk pace. As of now, Devialet’s Roon integration is a side note at best and a quick search on this forum shows that Devialet is riddled with other problems as well. Bluesound is an excellent speaker company but they need to double down on improving their already excellent sound quality if they want to thrive in these shark infested waters.

I have also done extensive testing between the Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i. I was excited about the Mini 2i because WhatHiFi gave the Mini 2i 4 out of 5 stars and only gave the Pulse 2i 3 out of 5 stars. Again, in a side-by-side comparison test with Roon, from the same source, and with the ability to quickly toggle between the speakers, the Pulse 2i is bigger and better than the Pulse Mini 2i. If you can spare the extra space and the extra cash, I would opt of the Pulse 2i.


(Avrom Gart) #11

Excellent Review. TY


(Chris ) #12

Thanks for your review here. I have a Pulse 2 and am not looking to change it as it sounds so damn good in my conservatory and works flawlessly with Roon and MQA. My Meridian F80 is being repaired as I type and I am looking forward to hearing that again although it won’t do the MQA thing.
All this aside, it’s good to see you looked further than a What Hi Fi review. I am disappointed they didn’t look deeper and perhaps discuss the EQ adjustments with Bluesound prior to publication. Maybe we would all be better informed if they had, or is the Sonus advertising budget just to large?


(I B) #13

Hi David,
Honestly I signed up just to be able to thank you. Great insight. I was hesitating first to proceed with a purchase of this device because I was reading the same HIFI review you mentioned. As I am looking to extend my Elac Discovery device with roon compatible endpoints (at least one to start with, I am all new to this :slight_smile: ) , the bluesound 2i was among my few choices. There are other out there but lack proper roon integration i.e. Mu So Qb ( can be seen apparently as an Airplay device only and not as roon endpoint), Audio Pro C10, and Elac Z3 (I was looking mainly at those 3; also I saw your review on the elac, and my enthusiasm for it diminished a bit). Also you were given a response I think by the Bluesound people about the Roon RAAT certification being in the works. Do you think it will happen sometime soon ? Again, many thanks !!!


(David Hunter) #14

So far, the Pulse 2i is not RAAT certified but it does not make a difference in terms of integration and sound quality. The Pulse 2i literally just picks up where the Pulse 2 was and moves forward. Yes, it is important for the Pulse 2i to be RAAT certified but I am not worried about the progress. It will happen.

The Pulse 2i has a couple more bugs that are more pressing that need to be worked out. Namely, the Pulse 2i automatically switches back and forth between, “TV, Stereo, and Movie” modes in the Bluesound app. Each mode significantly effects sound quality. When I’m listening to music in “Stereo” mode, the Pulse 2i will randomly switch to “TV” mode and I constantly have to go back into the app and switch it back to “Stereo” mode. It’s crucial that Bluesound fixes this glitch and not knowing about this to begin with colored my initial review. I bet this glitch colored the HiFi review as well. It is frustrating indeed.

I want to write a follow-up, long term listening review of the Pulse 2i now that I know the problem. The good news is that I would give the Pulse 2i even higher praise than I did in my initial review. Bluesound did a superb job at extending the bass and the highs while keeping that sweet midrange. The bass goes much deeper than I had originally reported (probably because the speaker had accidentally switched to “TV” mode and I had not noticed).

Right out of the box, the Pulse 2i is vexing. Most people will not see that the 2i is an improvement on the Pulse 2. It took me awhile to figure out but the Pulse 2i is most definitely a big improvement on the Pulse 2. Things to remember: 1) Get the equalizer set correctly. 2) Dial in the “Stereo” mode. 3) Set the speaker to “Wide”. 4) Let the speaker burn-in for a couple of weeks. 5) Get proper source material. Do these things and the Pulse 2i will shine.

Stay tuned for a more detailed follow up review…


(I B) #15

Thanks. I ordered one. I was wondering if for a second unit ( bedroom) I should go with the same or try the Muso or Muso Qb ? What would be your opinion on this ? Also, Price is pretty steady for the Bluesound around 900 $ Cad. Muso qb is around 800 $ Cad and Muso 1100 $. Thanks


(David Hunter) #16

[quote=“I_B, post:15, topic:50536, full:true”]
Thanks. I ordered one. I was wondering if for a second unit ( bedroom) I should go with the same or try the Muso or Muso Qb ? What would be your opinion on this ? Also, Price is pretty steady for the Bluesound around 900 $ Cad. Muso qb is around 800 $ Cad and Muso 1100 $. Thanks[/quote]

So I already went through this. I bought the Elac Discovery Z3 and the Pulse Mini 2i for my small kitchen to use in conjunction with my Pulse 2i. As impressive as these other speakers were they both had a different sound signature than the Pulse 2i. I also had the older Pulse 2 in my kitchen but the bass ports bounced the sound off my windows and made the sound boomy. The Pulse 2i has two 5” drivers and no bass port. This results in deeper bass (with the proper settings) and, surprisingly, no boominess in my kitchen. Walking from room to room and listening to music with the same sound signature is optimal. Another issue you would have with different speaker manufacturers is that, besides Roon, you would have to jump between different apps to address issues and, believe me, there will be issues. Having several Pulse 2i’s all in the Bluesound app makes diagnosing and resolving problems much easier. If I were you and if your budget allows stick with the Pulse 2i’s. You won’t be disappointed.

Also, I remember wrestling with whether or not to go the Naim route:


(I B) #17

Hello David. Your response is much appreciated. Yes you are absolutely right, it does make sense to keep the same sound signature, and based on your advice I will go the Bluesound route for my second device too. Thanks.


(David Hunter) #18

Terrific. Please post your listening impressions here too. We all have different ears to hear so various opinions will help other people decide what to do when they’re in a similar situation. Also, if you have any questions about setting up your Pulse 2i’s, don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck.


(I B) #19

Hello David . These past days I noticed a significant price drop of the blusound 2 speaker - 250 $ less than the 2i model. Considering this difference for 2 units that I intend to buy ( 500 $) I am thinking if I should be rather buying the older model instead. Is the price difference between the 2 models the 2 and the 2i from a sound quality perspective justified. ? THANKS


(David Hunter) #20

I_B
The short answer is, yes. The Pulse 2i is significantly better than the Pulse 2 and it’s worth the extra money you would spend for the upgrade. Generally with high-end speaker manufacturers each new generation of speaker is incrementally better than the previous generation. With the Pulse 2i optimally dialed in I would say it’s a good 30 - 40% better than the Pulse 2. This is a huge performance boost and worth the upgrade. Like I said earlier, I need to write an updated review of the Pulse 2i with my new findings and listening impressions. I hope this helps.

One suggestion is that you could call World Wide Stereo and talk to Ira or Andrew. They have a 60 day return policy which is much longer than the 30 days most businesses offer. You could get a Pulse 2 and Pulse 2i and do a comparison test and decide for yourself if the 2i is worth the extra expense.