Combine several digital & analogue connections – inputs and outputs – with the well-regarded BlueOS streaming platform and you get the Bluesound Node streaming preamplifier. A product that’s been very well received in the marketplace, not least for it’s attractive £549 price. 

Hence HiFi Starters requesting a model to test alongside the Acoustic Energy AE1 Active speakers. We thought it would make a stonking 3-box £1,600 system. For once the stars didn’t align, the Node not being available soon enough. No worries, we’ve put together a DAC and streamer from our stable to keep the AE1 Actives company. And we’re still planning to review the Node as and when one becomes available. 

Or are we?

Because Bluesound has put the cat amongst the pigeons by announcing a limited edition version of the Node as part of its 10th birthday celebrations. Welcome to the Bluesound Node X that combines a new finish with some solid engineering upgrades. Yours for £699 / US$749 / €799 and available now. The original Node continues, but the spec of the Node X looks very appealing. Were we buying, gut feel says we’d dig a little deeper and grab a Node X whilst they’re still available.

Most obvious of the changes is the new silver finish. On paper it looks fabulous. And with the standard version only available in black or white there’ll be no doubting you have a Node X.

On the engineering front, Bluesound was coy about the specific DAC incorporated in the Node. Not so the Node X, which benefits from an ESS 9028Q2M Sabre DAC chip. That bodes well; it’s used in many a reputable DAC.

The headphone amplifier has also been upgraded. Firstly there’s a full size ¼” connector on the front panel. And the headamp section is now driven by THX AAA™ (Achromatic Audio Amplifier) technology. Bluesound says this provides near-zero levels of clock jitter, ultra-low noise and a wide dynamic range to give a no-compromise headphone listening experience. Reading between the lines that feels like more than marketing speak. 

The BlueOS platform remains the same. We’re getting our first taste of it through Bluesound’s stablemate PSB, whose Alpha iQ wireless streaming speakers use it. So far so good, it’s living up to expectations (as are the speakers). And don’t forget the multiroom capabilities, allowing BlueOS powered devices to work together in a whole-house system. 

All of which has frankly got the juices flowing here at HiFi Starters. Yes we’ve asked to review one – a shame the AE1 Actives will be long gone before that happens. We’re still keen though, keep your fingers crossed we can snag one soon.

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