One of the most common questions we get at the store is - How do I play high resolution music files without a computer?
For those who are tech-savvy, using a computer makes perfect sense - it is infinitely configurable - and you can find an app that does pretty much exactly what you want to do. The problem is that computers sometimes act up. And that can really put a damper on your mood when you are settling in for some serious listening. And having a computer monitor, keyboard and mouse in your hifi rack just to troubleshoot computer issues adds clutter - that most of us would rather do without.
You have probably seen us referencing this range of products many times in the past. And for good reason. BlueSound just works. It takes away a lot of complexity and lets you concentrate on the fun part - choosing what songs to play and then enjoying the music.
BlueSound is a new player in the game but it is backed by decades of experience in the audio business. It is a sister company of NAD and PSB - whose engineers are involved in the digital/analogue audio circuitry and speakers respectively. All BlueSound supplies is the wizardry that controls them so you can stream music from your home network or the internet.
What makes BlueSound unique is that it doesn't just focus on the "computer" aspect of computer audio. Don't get me wrong - it is a superbly powerful computer with quad core processing designed to handle multi-room and high resolution audio at the same time. Most of the competition can do one or the other but not both at the same time. What makes BlueSound stand out for us is their focus on the "audio" part of the computer audio. They just sound great out of the box*.
There are a few different models to choose from, so let's take a look at some use cases.
The BlueSound Vault 2 is the one to use if you are starting out from scratch.
It looks just like a regular CD player - and you connect it the same way you would a CD player - with the red and white cables from the back of the Vault 2 to your amplifier - CD or AUX or LINE would work.
For the geeky ones out there who have a high quality Digital to Analog converter (DAC), you can use a coaxial or optical digital connection from the Vault 2 to the DAC.
The Vault 2 also has a CD drive to rip your CDs into lossless music files that can be streamed to your hifi system and stores them on a 2TB Ultra Quiet hard drive. The files are exact copies of your CDs and can be reproduced faithfully. The Vault 2 then connects to the Internet via a wired connection and downloads all the album data - the artist name, the album title, the track names and the even the album cover art. All done automatically for you. There's no need for you to mess with command lines and menus. All you have to do is to keep feeding the Vault 2 all your CDs.
The 2TB hard drive is able to store over 4000 CDs with lossless quality. That's plenty for most of us. You can also copy high resolution music that you have downloaded and purchased online to the 2TB drive and have it appear in the same library, sorted automatically - by artist, by album name so you can browse your entire library of music at your fingertips. Using the new and improved BluOS app on your favourite smartphone or tablet.
And if you suddenly remember a song that you can't find in your music library, you no longer have to run out to the shops to get the CD. All BlueSound units support music streaming services like Spotify or TIDAL as well as internet radio stations. We are big fans of TIDAL's subscription service as it offers lossless CD quality streams and is slated to support high resolution music streaming as well.
The other BlueSound unit we are particularly fond of is the BlueSound Node 2. In many ways, it offers the same functionality of the Vault 2 - just without the built in storage and the CD drive. You can connect a USB drive to the unit filled with your existing music or share the music from your computer over your home network. And like the Vault 2, you can stream music from TIDAL. If you already have a Vault 2 in another system, the Node 2 will also share the same music that is stored in the Vault 2.
BlueSound also produces a range of wireless speakers that are designed by PSB with NAD Digital amplifier modules for when you need good quality music in a tiny space. Despite their compact form factor, they deliver beautifully balanced sound - and can reproduce the same high resolution sources as the Node 2 and Vault 2.
You can also group these speakers with other Node 2s and Vault 2s to create a multi-room system playing the same high resolution music - perfectly synchronised.
For those of you who have yet to experience high resolution music, head down to our store for a demonstration on the entire BlueSound range. If you want to listen to them at home, you can download some free samples from the following sites:
Happy listening, folks.
* Don't just take our word for it. BlueSound units have been getting raving reviews in head to head comparisons with other brands.
“I have been using a Sonos Connect for this latter function, the Connect does not offer Toslink in, but the Node 2 can to do more of what I want and it sounds better than the Sonos. Interesting.”
“Call this former Sonos user a Bluesound convert, and it’s fair to say the Node 2 will remain here in our system. It's really been that good.”
The Absolute Sound
“I will be purchasing the review samples and a few additional Bluesound devices- that’s how much I like these products. Thank you Bluesound, and so long Sonos!”
Sound & Image
“While Sonos certainly delivers the app, the online services and a solid connection system, its sound quality was noticeably behind many of its rivals, and it can’t handle high-res audio files. So in answer to the question ‘Is anything better than Sonos?’, our answer would be yes. Bluesound is better than Sonos.”
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