Bluesound Node N130 vs Naim vs Alternatives

Apple Music (if chosen) will be used as a casual source for checking out new albums, so airplay would be just fine.

Yes, well aware of the UQ2’s Tidal compatibility.

I was using a Node as my first foray into streaming with a 500 system. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised. It responded well to each and every upgrade I made, Ndac then EE8, then Ethernet cables and finally a 555DR power supply on the Ndac. I use a Core for my stored CD collection and the Node could access these easily. Only trouble is the art work. The Node can’t see the art work on the Core and it stores them all in one folders in the BluOS app, so it’s a bit of a scroll when you want something. If I used the SPDIF connection I could see the artwork using the Naim app.

Other than that I thought it was a great little device for the money.

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Hi @YetiZone there have been many topics on this recently, several of which I happened to contribute to with @ratrat and even one I started myself :wink:
So there are a thousand options unlocked when you search for “innous zen” and/or “budget streamer” and/or “mac mini” and catch up on about six long recent threads.

My take away: With the Nait2, and a large collection of ripped CDs, the Innous Zen Mini (plus PSU) would replace the whole shebang of streamer, dac, ripper, internal storage of the Mac Mini in the same shoebox form factor as the Nait2.
Just no reliable Apple Airplay interface and no Spotify Direct with the Innous. You could add a NAD CS1 connect box (sounds nice actually) into the Innous’ dac just for that.
There are simply so many possibilities, also Cyrus has a new line of shoebox streamers.

If you just want a wonderful streamer with the Nait2 consider a pre-loved ND5 XS2 at 1/3 off list price for a clean solution. Use some mass storage device to hold your ripped CDs. As per advice of @ChrisSU in another thread, when in the Naim app “ignore the USB input icon and look in the Server input under Local Music where you will find the same music files with the option to browse metadata and see artwork.”
Note that it is only with the XS3 that I needed more than what a bare ND5 XS2 brings. So I’m now adding a Naim nDAC with DC1 cable (have the first, still waiting for the latter) by forum advice. Don’t get me wrong it’s a lovely machine on its own, especially when you hear the alternatives at that price point. It’s just that I’m generally more happy with a source-first system.

Finally for your third (?) system idea, don’t forget the DAC-V1 it is enormous fun! Since you like the Nait2 you’ll like that one as well. It will make the Unitiqute2 quite redundant though, you could again get something like the NAD (for the Spotify/Apple) or a Cambridge MXN10, or yes a NODE even, for less than what the UQ will sell for. Out into indeed a NAP100 or active speakers.
Alternatively, just get a pre-loved Uniti Atom, different sound than the UQ but all-in-one and up-to-date, and now easy to find used.

More fun projects to keep your mind of the coming major construction work in your house :wink:

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@daddycool & @Geko Thats fabulous, just the sort of info I was hopping for :+1:

I’d never even considered a dedicated server as I have such a faithful workhorse with my Mac mini, Asset UPnP and the Naim UQ2 that I thought it would mirroring what I already have, but just in a different form? I’ll certainly be researching that option tomorrow so I’m more informed as to the benefits, as it’s something I know nothing about.

Rather frazzled now, so with the aid of caffeine in the morning I’ll dive deeper down the rabbit hole :rabbit:

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Like you, I found the Node to be a good streamer. The included DAC is not state of the art, but not far behind the DACs in the Atom and other Naim devices – quite useable in other words – and easy to replace. I also found that the Node does not play nice with the Core. Much of the artwork does not appear in the BlueOS app for the Node, and a few files are inexplicably missing entirely. I think this is mostly down to how the Core stores files in the two folders it uses. Workarounds appear to be, moving all the rips into the downloads folder, but that is lots of work. The other workaround is to connect the Core to the DAC using a coax cable. I tend to prefer the Naim app more than the BlueOS app.

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OK, I’ve done my homework and read through the super thread started by @ratrat , so a huge thanks for sharing that experience, especially going though the process of setting up and all of the comparisons, ranging from the Zen in different systems, DAC use, and cable choices. Incredibly informative! :sunglasses:

So in a nutshell, an Innuos Zen Mini3 could potentially replace my Mac mini, UPnP Asset streaming software and the external CD ripper I currently use. This set up is the heart of my CD library and works pretty efficiently.

Mac server advantages…

  • Autonomy over my CD rips and metadata editing with dbPoweramp.

  • Autonomy over the choice and ability to edit album art (important) in Photoshop.

  • The Mac also performs other duties as well as being a dedicated server.

  • Time Machine back ups.

Mac server disadvantages …

  • The computer is a high noise environment for reading music files, so potentially degrading the signal.

  • Asset - Music replay dependent on the availability and update of the UPnP software - no Asset UPnP, no music database. Asset is fiddly to configure in terms of the browse tree - I’m still not a hundred percent happy with it. The icons were crudely designed so I redid them from scratch (I really shouldn’t have to).

  • It’s a faff keeping track of music folders, rips and album artwork.

  • I do need a new Mac, (New Year) and would have to spec a large-ish HD for music file storage (I prefer internal storage to a NAS).

Questions (excuse their naivety, this is all new!) …

  • Podcasts: What would be the best way to listen to podcasts with the Innuos? I listen to a lot of podcasts on my UQ2 using the Apple Podcasts App, sent to the UQ2 via Bluetooth. Sound quality is not a priority, but I still want this facility, either via Airplay (CD quality?), or lossy BT. This is a deal breaker.

  • What has been done internally to make the Zen quieter than the Mac mini in terms RFI noise?

  • How would a Naim streamer fit in with a Zen compared to using the Mac as server?

  • Would the Zen be just mirroring what I already have in some ways?

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There is so much info in that thread and others that I admire your moving fast!

Another thread on the Atom HE made me realise again that the challenge is in the hybrid environment with analogue and digital sources combined.

If digital only then things can be quite simple. Get an Atom HE with Uniti Core, a power amp of your choice a serviced 100/150/200/250 all availabe pre-loved and sell off all the rest.

For extravaganza perhaps add a few Powerlines. Yet even in this opinions vary on the forum, see for example Best way to connect Atom and Core?. I wish you luck finding what works for you. But perhaps I’m fatalistic :wink:

ps: Keep the Nait 2 with a Planar 6 / Exact and a MXN10 or NODE as a second system.

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Yes, it is a steep learning curve for sure! And thanks for the reference to the thread you started about your search for a streamer earlier, I’d completely forgotten about about that thread, and I’ve just re read it through - very interesting that you went for the ND5XS2 and the XS3 combination. Is your Nait2 now mothballed in preference for the XS3?

I’d already thought of a preloved Atom HE and ex dem NewClassic NAP250, as I know they are starting to become available, but wondered about the analogue side of things with the Rega RP6 feeding the Atom and digitising the signal.

I am open to ideas, and do have the luxury of a few months yet before I need to make a decision, so plenty of time to absorb the information and then act accordingly.

I do want to keep the UQ2 as I really like it and it helped me rethink how music could be presented, and think it could also make the heart of a nice second system. If there’s one thing I might sell, it is the Nait!

All being well, I hope to attend the Acoustica show this weekend, so that may present a few ideas.

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Yes very much so I’m afraid. Recently serviced at Naim HQ and sounding the best of all Nait2s I’ve ever heard (on this side of the ocean that is, can’t be sure about the cryo AV Options restorations in the US). Back in its new Naim box, I gave it a kiss before tucking it away after 16 years of dedication :slight_smile:

The XS3 is simply a full level up giving much more, without giving up much of what I liked previously. The only problem compared to the Nait2, is that it is so much more revealing that I needed to improve upon the ND5 XS2 to bring it closer to the LP12, now turbocharged by the XS3 phono stage.

All these threads to me are a reflection of the need to make choices. Like you I was “how about analogue into the Atom HE” and realised it doesn’t work that way. For me I wanted one system (for now) and that either had to be fully digital, or traditional catering for either source.

As analogue is one of the things where my teenage son and I now have a connection, I built one system with two equal sources. With LP12 Majik+ analogue on one hand and ND5 XS2 + nDAC/DC1 digital on the other it is mildly source-first. Fortunately my ripped CDs fitted a 512Gb quality usb drive.

Fully digital, Atom HE to whatever out (a NAP, active speakers) is a smashing proposition IMO. In your case with a Core to provide a NAS function. You’ll have the Naim sound and quality and service in a few boxes and done. The huge threads IMO are to come to terms with that there is no free lunch. Adding all things up, and spending a bit more, it can be quite simple in the Naim ecosystem.

You could add a second system with the bias on analogue then with the Nait2 or the UQ. But I must say the latter is now the worst of both worlds, dated digital and not the highest level analogue. That said, if you’re fond of it, keep it. Add a NODE or MXN10 for the latest streaming tech and you already have a separate phono stage and turntable. Rega Fono and PSU look nice together. Just beware that from what I’ve heard adding a NAP100 to the UQ2 will not bring much. DAC-V1 plus NAP100 is something else, but then it will be fully digital again, albeit much fun at not much outlay. Headache stuff!

I hope the Acoustica show gives you fresh inspiration, as will rereading and rethinking all this.

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So much choice out there YetiZone.

I’ve had a few streaming options over the years: UQ, SU, UQ2, AURALiC Aries Mini, BS Node (N130) with Chord Qutest which, in the system at that time, bettered the ND5 XS2 that I was demoing. Linn Selekt with amp section (amp part was the problem). I then had a Lumïn D2 for a long while which has a very good app and was a fantastic piece of kit considering the price (now superseded by the D3).

With the release of the Linn Selekt the older Linn streamers have dropped in price considerably in the secondhand market. I picked up a Linn Akurate DSM/3 (Katalyst) at a very good price and could not be happier. As it has the preamp section it makes it highly adaptable. Great app with great support from Linn (you know they are not going anywhere). Worth a look considering your budget.

And then there is the new kid on the block - Eversolo DMP-A8 (the better version of the A6). Getting really good reviews but what is the support like? And the longevity? Or maybe these things need regularly replacing as the tech moves on? I’m expecting to have my ADSM for quite a while.

Incidentally, I also use an old Mac Mini and Asset with no problems at all. The Mini is fitted with a SSD (easy to do).

You pays your money……

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Good to read @anon27418182’s considerations from long and wide experience.

Just a short note as Neil sparked my curiosity there:

In a quick and dirty comparison my MacbookPro and Asset indeed work wonderfully, shows up perfectly in the Naim app with all artwork. I hadn’t done that exercise yet so that is good to know.

(the same files via the usb in the back of the ND5 XS2 do seem to sound a little bit better, audible in percussion, space, clarity. The difference is not staggering but there, and that’s perhaps also good to know. This was via Wifi, it may very well be different via a wired connection, though.)

Amazing that the point we all and always come back to is that there are so/too many options!

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I used a Mac mini with Asset as a upnp server (I also tried using the Mac mini with an optical out to a digital input on my 272) . I demoed a Zen Mini but ended up going with a ZenMk3. When I demoed the Zen mini , the music had more detail, more dynamics, it was just superior. The other advantage all the Zens have is you can plug your streamer directly into them because they have a network port specifically for a streamer to connect to. The music is being streamed through one less switch port. Essentially the Zen doubles as a network switch (for only one device) and a music server.

Initially with my Xen Mk3 I imported all my music ripped by dbpoweramp to the Zen, and then I tried a couple of rips on the Zen, I ended up re ripping everything on the Zen as the rips were superior, there was just a little bit more of everything. You can also back up the Zen to a NAS and the rips from the Zen can be copied and played elsewhere. And it is easy to copy music to the Zen, you can either download directly to it, or download to your computer and copy across. You can also get to any Zen’s interface through the Innuos app or a web browser. And using the Naim app, I find the Zen presents the music the same way as Asset.

Improving the quality of the music I was listening to was the priority and I just found the Zen was better sounding (by a considerable margin) than both a Mac mini and a Synology NAS and a neater way to store and play music.

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@anon27418182 Yes, it is a luxury of choices in some ways - bewildering! When I bought the UQ2 a few years ago, the options were simple and fairly few and far between, the options are now many.

Linn was not even on my radar, so thanks for that pointer. Assuming a very different sound signature to Naim, but certainly worth more investigation. I do like the design of the new casework but (guessing) that will be out of budget. More homework!

@daddycool I’ve found Asset to be very stable, fair play - just wish it was a little more user friendly in terms of choosing and setting up the browse tree.

@QlderBrad Very interesting. So an almost identical ripping station and server to my Mac. If you experienced such an improvement when playing the Zen ripped CDs then I’m assuming that would be dbPoweramp that isn’t as effective? Hard to understand how, as their software compares online rips for accuracy - perhaps that the problem? Wonder how much the RFI Mac & NAS noise factored into the equation as well. The thought of re-ripping 1500 CDs doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm though - blimey!

So how does the Zen work with your 272? Assuming its just a line level analogue input, and full control of music stored on the Zen is controlled via the Pulse App, and the Naim App just used for source selection and volume?

Have to admit, from the opening main question about a BS Node’s ability to read local files, this thread has gone in an unexpected direction with new possibilities opening up - literally from the ground up in terms of organising and setting up a music library. Blimey!

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When I just asked about adding a budget streamer I ended up with half of my system revamped :wink:

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@YetiZone
Just caught up reading your thread. Interesting read.
Have you considered budget yet…

So far, you’ve mentioned several things that imply figures for budget. Such as pre-loved SuperNAIT 2 or maybe NDX2 pre-loved or new ?

Do you have any thoughts on likely budget ?

Kind regards
R

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@daddycool This indeed could now be happening in my system. In some ways I’m starting to think a clean sheet approach may well be the best bet.

@ratrat Budget currently stands at 4.5K, plus the value of my current equipment, and I’m also now considering letting both the UQ2 and Nait2 go.

Choices so far are exactly as you mention - a used SN2 & NDX2 are very high on the list, although I could also go source heavy and consider a power supply or even an N-DAC for the NDX2, and run that with the Nait2.

Of course my budget doesn’t factor a Zen into the equation, but that could be added at a later date.

The set up of NDX2 & SN2 would allow my streaming options to be established and chosen, local streaming taken care of by the Mac & Asset for now, and also give my Dynaudio’s a little more control as well.

I’m going to the Acoustica show tomorrow and that may help with a few more pointers, with either set ups there or talking to bods at the show.

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Okay. Roger that.
Another question - do you intend for one good system, or move towards two systems?

R

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I’m aiming towards one good system in my work room (its on all day) and if I keep the UQ2, then that will form the basis of the second system - to be used for casual listening like internet radio, plus local streaming too, but I can see the UQ2 being primarily set to Radio 4 and 6 Music most of the time.

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Understood :+1:
BTW, always liked the UQ2 and what it does

Great that you have the chance to go to that show tomorrow. When I get home - situation now reversed, currently out and about - I’ll try and share some thoughts for you and ideas to explore and take to that show…

First of all my respect for coming to terms with this so quickly, took me a week :slight_smile:

Then allow me to stir it up a bit more and make a prediction / recommendation, based on your profile and what I’ve read (trust me you don’t need/want a SN2 is an underlying premise):

Next system 1:
Nait XS3 amp, ND5 XS2 streamer plus nDAC via DC1 cable BNC > BNC , Rega turntable with MM directly into XS3, your wonderful Rega Ela speakers (you should have these restored/refurbished though) via NACA5. A Fraimlite would accommodate al that nicely.

Next system 2:
UnitiQute2 with your also wonderful Rega Kyte speakers (you should have these restored/refurbished though), the inevitable Innous Zen Mini + PSU, via DC1 cable RCA>RCA or equivalent, also serving the whole house with music as a NAS via network. Three nice shoeboxes there, fit the Ikea Kallax (with the divider insert) quite well, UQ on top.

And:
We won’t hear from you for a while since you’ll be 1) re-ripping 1500 CDs and 2) selling off quite a bit of gear and recouping a considerable amount to extend your budget and 3) your house project.
You don’t need the AV system, I’m totally amazed at what an Apple TV with AirPods Pro does when watching a movie, let alone the Max pods. Also, find some hifi headphones for the main system, more fun than you might think.
Finally, to use up the last remainder of your budget you could find several used Naim Powerlines.

Enjoy the ride and do keep us posted!

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