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Article: Bluesound Pulse & Vault Review

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Thanks for the review Chris! I am looking to move on from my Squeezeboxes that are spread around the house and this looks like the ticket to me.

 

One thing your review didn't mention is that the NAD M50 streamer and M12 dac (with add-in card) run the same software and can integrate into the bluesound system. So if you want something a bit better than the bluesound label has to offer, you can keep the user interface but go to the NAD. I would be very curious what you thought of the NAD M50 running AES into your BerkeleyRS...


Roon ->allo Sparky-USBridge w/ SBooster 5V LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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Having previously owned the Node, I can vouch for the unit in terms of ease of use and sound quality. For those people with very large libraries will need to know that the system caps out at 100,000 tracks.

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FYI- I believe that you can add tracks to play next in the queue. Go to Settings in the Navigation Drawer. From here you can select Last, Next, or Now. I much prefer this to the press and hold technique. I keep deleting my playlists while streaming from my SBT.

 

Thanks for the review Chris- now I know why some of my album art doesn't show up while streaming from the Node. I stream from the Node thru wired Ethernet. Like you, I have not had any dropouts even while streaming 24/192. The Node is a great replacement for the SBT.

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my primary problem with the Vault is it's limited to ethernet- there's no wifi, which limits where i can place it.
Buy a Node instead its both. Then you can get a hard drive for your router for storage

Almarra 318B-Zu Audio Omen-Marantz SA15S1-Nottingham Analogue Interspace Jr.-BlueSound Node-Schiit Modi 2 Uber, Ifi SPDIF ipurifier-Clearday Shotgun speaker cables-Clarity HarvestII Interconnects-TWL powercords-ATS acoustic panels-Echo Buster corner traps

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Thanks for the review, these do sound like a solid choice if you've got the cash.

 

I'd be curious to see you review the new Harman Kardon Omni system. The Omnis are undoubtedly a step down from Bluesound, and the App and ecosystem are still very much a work in progress.

 

But the Omnis cost a lot less than than Bluesound, and can also be had for less than Sonos if you keep your eyes open. The Omnis supports 24-96, have Bluetooth built in, Qobuz and Tidal streaming, small footprint and good wife approval factor, and some other cool features.

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Having previously owned the Node, I can vouch for the unit in terms of ease of use and sound quality. For those people with very large libraries will need to know that the system caps out at 100,000 tracks.

 

What's with that track limit? I suspect many have already surpassed this number. Is that some kind of memory limitation to how they manage the database???


Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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What's with that track limit? I suspect many have already surpassed this number. Is that some kind of memory limitation to how they manage the database???

 

According to Bluesound the limit is 80,000 and may be lower depending on your metadata https://support.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/articles/201253417-How-many-tracks-can-my-Bluesound-Player-index-on-the-network-

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I bought a Bluesound Node based at least in part on this review. I’ve had NAD equipment since the eighties. Quality is a given, and the hardware is great here as well. Apparently, they can’t afford a software engineer though because unlike you, I found the app to be utter garbage. I tried the iOS iPad, iOS iPhone, and Mac OSX desktop versions. Since there’s no other way to control the hardware, I’ve had to return that too. High definition may sound better than what an Apple TV can do, but not at this price. Nothing is worth this. Do yourself a favor and stick to iTunes and Apple TV if you want wireless until someone comes up with an alternative with a credible user interface. Maybe the Auralic Aries? I'd like to try that next. If you use Bluesound, be prepared to: loose all your metadata and start from scratch for each and every track; loose all your playlists, and start from scratch reorganizing your entire library; not listen to classical music as it doesn’t sort sorting by composer; have the player play when you don’t want, not play when you do, and otherwise behave erratically; throw your laptop and Bluesound through the window after hours of frustration simply trying to get a playlist to behave like it does on every desktop music management software that’s been around for literally a decade (iTunes, J River, Audirvana+, Plex, etc…). Garbage, I think. Look at the reviews for the iOS app on the app store. Those (only 2) are my experience as well.

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I bought a Bluesound Node based at least in part on this review. I’ve had NAD equipment since the eighties. Quality is a given, and the hardware is great here as well. Apparently, they can’t afford a software engineer though because unlike you, I found the app to be utter garbage. I tried the iOS iPad, iOS iPhone, and Mac OSX desktop versions. Since there’s no other way to control the hardware, I’ve had to return that too. High definition may sound better than what an Apple TV can do, but not at this price. Nothing is worth this. Do yourself a favor and stick to iTunes and Apple TV if you want wireless until someone comes up with an alternative with a credible user interface. Maybe the Auralic Aries? I'd like to try that next. If you use Bluesound, be prepared to: loose all your metadata and start from scratch for each and every track; loose all your playlists, and start from scratch reorganizing your entire library; not listen to classical music as it doesn’t sort sorting by composer; have the player play when you don’t want, not play when you do, and otherwise behave erratically; throw your laptop and Bluesound through the window after hours of frustration simply trying to get a playlist to behave like it does on every desktop music management software that’s been around for literally a decade (iTunes, J River, Audirvana+, Plex, etc…). Garbage, I think. Look at the reviews for the iOS app on the app store. Those (only 2) are my experience as well.

Hi perizoqui - What iOS apps for music control do you like better than the Bluesound app?


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Hi Chris,

Well now that's a great question. The Apple Remote app has similar intended functionality (piping music from mac to dac) using the Apple TV instead of the Bluesound Node as the bridge. I think it's much much better. Wonderful actually. Recognizes all my metadata, playlists, etc... Supports listing and searching by composers for us classical music lovers, and much else besides. Then again, Apple is a user interface company so I'm not surprised they do this wonderfully. Their audio hardware on the other hand... Other (i.e. non-Apple) apps for music control? I haven't found any yet, but I just started looking. The Lightning DS seems to support composers, but I won't know more until if and when I get an Aries... Recommendations would be very welcome from the expert (i.e. you).

---Pedro

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Hi Chris,

Actually, I'm putting the Aries on hold while I build your BeagleBone solution. Thank you so much for setting this up! Can't wait to try it. While I wait for parts to arrive, two questions:

1) Given that you've tested the BBB to be bit perfect, how does the audio compare to the Auralic Aries and the SOtM? I don't want to get you in trouble with your sponsors, but I'm curious as to how close you get.

2) Using your BBB setup with MinimServer on my Synology NAS, what control point would you recommend on the iOS and on the Mac? I know you use JRiver, but if I don't, what would your second favorite be?

Thank you again for what you do here. You should set up a link to your favorite charity so those of us who want to thank you for what you've done can do so in that way.

Best,

---Pedro

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I bought a Bluesound Node based at least in part on this review. I’ve had NAD equipment since the eighties. Quality is a given, and the hardware is great here as well. Apparently, they can’t afford a software engineer though because unlike you, I found the app to be utter garbage. I tried the iOS iPad, iOS iPhone, and Mac OSX desktop versions. Since there’s no other way to control the hardware, I’ve had to return that too. High definition may sound better than what an Apple TV can do, but not at this price. Nothing is worth this. Do yourself a favor and stick to iTunes and Apple TV if you want wireless until someone comes up with an alternative with a credible user interface. Maybe the Auralic Aries? I'd like to try that next. If you use Bluesound, be prepared to: loose all your metadata and start from scratch for each and every track; loose all your playlists, and start from scratch reorganizing your entire library; not listen to classical music as it doesn’t sort sorting by composer; have the player play when you don’t want, not play when you do, and otherwise behave erratically; throw your laptop and Bluesound through the window after hours of frustration simply trying to get a playlist to behave like it does on every desktop music management software that’s been around for literally a decade (iTunes, J River, Audirvana+, Plex, etc…). Garbage, I think. Look at the reviews for the iOS app on the app store. Those (only 2) are my experience as well.

 

Dude, my experience was nothing like yours. I helped setup an NAD M12 with the BluOS card (identical software) and had only minor problems in setup. The library is stored on a Vortexbox and the majority of tracks were ripped by that particular votexbox but there is plenty of purchased hi-res stuff on there too. I had a few hickups with indexing the library because a few playlists had characters that were either Cyrillic or Asian (perhaps beyond normal ASCII range?) Once I got those figured out with the assistance of the online support guys it built the index and worked flawlessly. The other comment I would make is that the bluOS support guys were very responsive even around the holidays. Emails were replied to usually within 2 hours, or by the next morning at the longest. But your complaints of losing playlists and metadata weren't an issue at all. If this is your experience then something went very wrong. Technical problems only frustrated me for a few hours in total. I am coming from a Squeezebox so I was expecting some frustration but was actually pleasantly surprised by how slick the thing worked.


Roon ->allo Sparky-USBridge w/ SBooster 5V LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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Like a few others on here I'm looking to replace my squeezeboxes and this looks a very good candidate. I have a Sqzbx Classic, Boom and Touch and they all seem to be a good health - I'm more interested in the Vault at this stage in the hope that it will get rid of the glitches that my computer seems to occaisionally deliver when playing through my SQZBXs and my question is will they all play nicely together? Apprecaite any comments help anyone can give.

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Hi perizoqui - What iOS apps for music control do you like better than the Bluesound app?

 

I've tried a bunch in the last week. I found the Linn apps disappointing in the end as well. Lightning DS is okay, but not great. I'm using PlugPlayer now and I think it's far and away the best of the bunch. Better than iTunes user interface in everything except I haven't yet figured out how (if it's possible) to pull up information on a track with it (resolution, metadata, etc...), and I wish it had write privileges to the NAS so I can edit metadata and create playlists with them.

 

Having played more I think I understand the Bluesound app better. If you're already using UPnP and it's variants then it's not very different from the Linn, Lightning and other apps. My disappointment came from its promise to read your iTunes library and work well from there. I think it's a case of overpromising and underdelivering. Also, I couldn't get 24/96 streaming on my wireless network reliably and it had excellent signal strength. More overpromising and underdelivering. Even so I feel bad about how harsh I was initially. I've just always felt NAD/PSB overdeliver, and here I don't think they do.

 

Now I'm using your BeagleBoard setup (thank you), PlugPlayer, and happily running my library of 24/192 files with zero issues. And all for $82 all in. Amazing stuff and I owe this website for the education. Thanks. Next week it's Axpona and I'm looking forward to swinging by the Auralic room and comparing.

Best,

---Pedro

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I have always considered that the Golden Rule for quality reviewing is NOT to trash other products, no matter how subtly, to promote your own argument.

How disappointing then to find that the reviewer has chosen to casually traduce the excellent Sonos system not once but twice in his opening paragraph.

The niggly disparagement then continues throughout the article.

Sonos is deservedly the market leader in multi-room wireless hi-fi. When fed quality files, the SQ is excellent. The set-up and app are without peer. The experience is marvellous.

I have no doubt this Bluesound system is also very good; Sonos has created such a good product that the bar has been set very, very high.

Further, the debate about so-called high-resolution files will rage a lot longer. However, if recording and mastering are of an equal quality, then 16/44.1 is going to be good enough for almost everyone bar ten year olds and dogs.

I have had the good fortune to experience my youngest brother's in-built digital Linn system in his substantial London town house. The system consists of speakers built into the ceilings and stand-mounters throughout. My brother is a classical pianist and frequently cranks up the Chopin and Ravel; it sounds much like the Fazioli in his drawing-room.

When I play the same music in my home, it also sounds fantastic. On a Sonos system.

Okay, I am in my late 50's and life has no doubt taken a toll on my hearing and I am more susceptible to fatigue from poor music files than younger people but I do not accept your opinion on Bluesound on the grounds that your overt antipathy to Sonos has muddied and prejudiced your judgement.

Edited by Graham Luke
Greater clarity

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Chris - Thanks for the review. I was considering getting a Sonos Play5 to provide a wireless method for accessing my music outdoors. When you commended the superior sound of the BlueSound, I naturally had to rethink my plan. But its gaps in wirelessly streaming large audio files makes me wonder if this is the right choice for me.

 

My library includes a number of 192/24 FLAC albums and I'm starting to acquire DSD as well. But you discovered the Bluesound can't stream these files wirelesly without substantial dropouts. I was wondering if you know how well the Sonos handles these files. Even if the Sonos is not as good sonically, if it doesn't create dropouts, it may be the way for me to go. But if the Sonos won't handle those files either, I guess I need to wait a while till a better solution comes along.

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Chris - Thanks for the review. I was considering getting a Sonos Play5 to provide a wireless method for accessing my music outdoors. When you commended the superior sound of the BlueSound, I naturally had to rethink my plan. But its gaps in wirelessly streaming large audio files makes me wonder if this is the right choice for me.

 

My library includes a number of 192/24 FLAC albums and I'm starting to acquire DSD as well. But you discovered the Bluesound can't stream these files wirelesly without substantial dropouts. I was wondering if you know how well the Sonos handles these files. Even if the Sonos is not as good sonically, if it doesn't create dropouts, it may be the way for me to go. But if the Sonos won't handle those files either, I guess I need to wait a while till a better solution comes along.

Sonos is limited to 16/44.1 only.


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Sonos is limited to 16/44.1 only.

 

Sonos' website says: "Support for compressed MP3, iTunes Plus, WMA (including purchased Windows Media downloads), AAC (MPEG4), AAC+, Ogg Vorbis, Audible (format 4), Apple Lossless, Flac (lossless) music files, as well as uncompressed WAV and AIFF files. Native support for 44.1kHz sample rates. Additional support for 48kHz, 32kHz, 24kHz, 22kHz, 16kHz, 11kHz, and 8kHz sample rates."

 

I understood this to mean that there must be some firmware upgrades or other tweaks that allow the Play5 to run sample rates above 44.1. I just don't know if it fares an better at streaming wireless than the Bluesound.

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Sonos' website says: "Support for compressed MP3, iTunes Plus, WMA (including purchased Windows Media downloads), AAC (MPEG4), AAC+, Ogg Vorbis, Audible (format 4), Apple Lossless, Flac (lossless) music files, as well as uncompressed WAV and AIFF files. Native support for 44.1kHz sample rates. Additional support for 48kHz, 32kHz, 24kHz, 22kHz, 16kHz, 11kHz, and 8kHz sample rates."

 

I understood this to mean that there must be some firmware upgrades or other tweaks that allow the Play5 to run sample rates above 44.1. I just don't know if it fares an better at streaming wireless than the Bluesound.

Nope. No tweaks etc... For all intents and purposes Sonos is limited to 44.1. Listing all the other sample rates is for marketing because nobody has content below 44.1 that they want to stream through Sonos.


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Nope. No tweaks etc... For all intents and purposes Sonos is limited to 44.1. Listing all the other sample rates is for marketing because nobody has content below 44.1 that they want to stream through Sonos.

 

FYI Sonos can also play 16/48 KHz files. (I know, I know who cares, just pointing out for accuracy)

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Guys, I'm extremely interested in this topic because I do indeed want good sound in my bedroom without a lot of fuss, space, or cost. I've actually been thinking a lot about this for the last two months.

 

The first thing I had come up with after comparing 'one box' speaker systems at several stores - the only one worth giving 10 seconds of thought was the Bowers and Wilkins A7, but I still wanted more. The A7 was obviously better than the Martin Logan similar, which was a bit disappointing as the ML looks great from ML I would expect something quite serious. But, like everything, it is built to a price point.

 

Bowers & Wilkins A7 AirPlay Speaker

 

Which uses air play and has a control app. Download Bowers & Wilkins Setup Apps including AirPlay wireless iTunes Setup App

 

The other one I found, but couldn't listen to, is the Polk Woodbourne.

 

Woodbourne - Polk Audio

 

I'd be very interested to see how these compare to the Bluesound.

 

Note as a principle it is possible that 16/44.1 streamed ota will sound better with a better amp and speakers than 24/96 on a bad amp and speakers, so while I certainly want the highest quality streaming to take place I think the whole system will matter a lot and we can't just look at what rate is being sent over.

 

 

 

Okay, but then something crazy came to me. If we don't expect other people to put two devices together for us, perhaps we can do it ourselves, and better. So it isn't one box, but it can be minimal.

 

Where I ended up with that style of thinking is the NuForce DDA-120 and either Gallo A'Diva Speakers or my favourite company for small-space speakers, Mark and Daniel. The NuForce DDA-120 is sooooo small it is ridiculous. I recently put a DDA-100 (previous model) into someone's system which was over 15k and attached it to his 6k speakers, and at moderate volumes was not embarrased by the 15k system at all! His wife said 'Oh, that looks great, if that sounds so good why do we need those racks of other stuff.' My friend decided on the spot never to let me in his house again. In fact, it may have equaled or bettered his system in detail - one of the effects of pwm. In the end the DDA-100 has little oomph and can't drive low impedance low sensitivity speakers to high levels and lacks ultimate dynamics, but on many musical passages is *shockingly* good. I am saying it actually is on par with 10 - 15k systems given the limited dynamics. And it is around 5 inches by 5 inches!!!

 

NuForce DDA 120:

 

DDA120 :: Optoma NuForce

 

Now pair that with your favourite tiny speaker. For me that is A'Diva Ti (Oh, I guess now called A'Diva SE):

 

Anthony Gallo Acoustics | A'Diva SE Loudspeakers - Satellite Speakers

 

for 329 each, or if you want to go a little crazy the Mark and Daniel mini, which is well, I guess blowing the budget part of this out of the water.

 

Mark And Daniel Of America - Maximus Mini

 

 

So that gives a few options:

 

DDA-120 + ADiva SE = 700 + 330*2 = 1360

 

Note Gallo has less expensive speakers but the Adiva SE really does do a great job - sounds like a real hi-fi speaker in the right settings. I think of the small round speakers you need the highest end tweeter they offer to get rid of high-end harshness that may exist in the ones that are half the price.

 

Next option, and I know I'm getting too expensive here, but this is sooo tempting as you are now getting a system that given gentle music with little bass, i.e., female vocals, quite a bit of Jazz, non-romantic-era classical, a run for the money against 10k systems from 5 years ago:

 

DDA-120 + M&D Mini = 700 + 1260 = 1960

 

Now, at 2k you are also getting into other dangerous territory like the Devialet Phantom. The decision point there is likely the possible benefit of stereo separation and I would assume better highs with a true ribbon tweeter vs infinite bass on the side of the phantom and ease of install/placement/no wires and the fact that very few things look cooler.

 

 

So I'm sort of heading in those directions for the bedroom/2nd room. Some people here have amazingly expensive systems, so for a second system like the DDA-120+M&D Mini it isn't too expensive for what you get. Some people's main systems may even get jealous. :)

 

Both of those speakers can come in 100% white and are small enough to be mounted in a 2nd room on the walls or corners or whatever so except for speaker cable can disappear and should have really good WAF factor.

 

 

I always like it when a line of thought starts at 400 and ends up at 2k.

 

 

Oh - to be clear here are the DDA-120 connection options, since we are talking about wireless phone/device driven sound:

 

"For the very highest wireless Bluetooth sound quality the DDA120 supports aptX and AAC.

AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) was designed to achieve better sound quality than MP3 at similar bit rates. Unlike aptX, it is supported by iOS devices. Apple implements AAC over Bluetooth at about 250 kbps - near CD quality."

 

For a control app, you would just send direct from Tidal or wherever the music is as far as I can understand.

 

And of course, if you are willing to use a cable you can easily get the digital out at many rates from the iPhone using a digital-out dock (benefit of charging) or there is a trick using a couple of adapters on top of eachother ending in USB (How to Connect Android, iPad, or iPhone to a DAC | JDS Labs Blog).

 

 

 

Later, if that wasn't enough spend for a clock-radio speaker system :), while I don't think you want to mess with the speaker outputs on a class D pwm dac-amp going direct to a woofer, but who knows, maybe it is fine, the DDA-120 does have an optical digital out, which could be connected to any sub that takes a digital in, or you put inline there a really really cheap DAC, something at the $70 or $100 level and that allows any sub to be added later which is the one thing all of the options here lack - really good bass. Oh, and I should say, that is something you may be shocked at by the M&D speaker, how much bass they can get from such a small enclosure. In fact it claims to go down to 50 Hz. I'm more familiar with their slightly larger brethren and I can definitely say most will be quite shocked by what the high excursion woofer can do inside the marble (read: doesn't change shape/move under high pressure) cabinet.

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