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Bluesound Node 2i/Pro-ject Debut Carbon EVO combo - can they get along?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Barney_Tabasco, Jan 8, 2021.

  1. Barney_Tabasco

    Barney_Tabasco Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Hi everyone - i'm new here and this is my first post. Be gentle

    Me and my partner have loved rediscovering vinyl in the last year and after struggling through with a wretched all-in-one unit that skipped, crackled and in some cases wouldn’t even play new vinyl, we decided to invest in some kit that was up to the job.

    We love the tangible aspect of vinyl and after hearing a demo in a music store last November were utterly sold on the warmth, natural sound and even just the aspect of watching the music play. Ah, old pleasures eh!

    The few caveats we (OK, my partner) had were that the turntable must look aesthetically pleasing and suit the house - ideally wood and ‘traditional’ looking. To be fair, i have no issue with this - i love the wood turntables and 60’s/70’s style. Secondly, and a little more concerning, the amp must be ‘discreet’. I’d never seen a discreet amp in my life ha. Plus, its 2021 - we want to stream. Vinyl is great, but for when we’re just pottering around or want background music then we’re avid streamers.

    The main advice we received is from a specialist audio store. I already had a pair of KEF Q35.2 floor standing speakers that, although old, i remember sounding decent. The guy in the store confirmed they should be up to the job and i could upgrade later - makes sense to me! He recommended bringing them into store to test.

    In nutshell, we did that and the setup that appealed for the above reasons and because the sales guy did a convincing job of explaining was the following:

    Bluesound POWERNODE 2i V2
    NAD PP 2e (Graphite) Phono Preamp
    Project Debut Carbon EVO Walnut Turntable
    Chord Company Shawline X Speaker Cable

    The turntable felt like a no-brainer - looked great, sounded good and the reviews were glowing (wish it had automatic stop but hey, you can’t have everything).

    The amp - looks nothing like an amp i’ve seen before but the test was very enticing. Full sound on both vinyl and streaming. Streaming sounded a tad stronger/fuller which was odd during the test but figured it can’t be a bad thing.

    Got it home, setup and initial reaction was satisfaction. We did the right thing.

    However, now i’ve lived with it a few weeks i’m increasingly disappointed in the vinyl. It doesn’t have the warmth or detail i would expect. I mean it sounds good and such a step up from what we had its crazy. But it seems lacking somehow.

    The streaming however just through basic Spotify over wifi/Airplay sounds better than i ever thought (which in my head makes no sense - better than vinyl!?!?!). Although i wonder if its just a trick - it sounds louder/fuller but is it better? These old ears can’t quite tell. But to my GF she thinks its great.

    Overall it's lacking the bass we had in the store - they had a listening room with carpet. We have solid floor. I’d like more bass.

    So whats happening here? I did some reading up and a few people said the Node was digitising the vinyl analogue sound. Then many people disputed this. Is it true? Surely the sales man misinformed me if that’s the case - why would i want digitised vinyl sound?

    Is there a weak link here. The phono stage?? Could i do better?

    The speakers? If it is then that’s OK - i will upgrade when i can. As long as i know the rest of the setup is all good.

    Also, the settings on the Node - can they help? I turned off the tone settings and it all sounds even thinner (even without changing any tones controls when its turned on).

    I feel the Node is a fantastic piece of kit. But i also worry i have the wrong amp for the TT. Please say it ain’t so and i’m just missing something?

    I’m reaching out to you guys because based on my recent discovery of this place, you seem to know your stuff!!!! Thank you all.
    Tim 2 likes this.
  2. Technocentral

    Technocentral Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    I have a Debut Evo and a Thorens td 160, both sound great with the following gear, loads of punch in the bass frequency, ifi Zen phono preamp, Arcam Alpha 8 integrated amp and Q Acoustics speakers. My Evo has a 2m Blue, my Thorens a at vm95e I'm getting the vm95ml this weekend and expect it to sound even better. If you have the 2m Red get the Blue much better cart and as I say lovely bass response on my vinyl system. The main thing is to keep a analogue wired chain, any Bluetooth or wireless connection will degrade your vinyl sound and is pointless, only point in having a turntable is to listen to it through an analogue setup imo.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2021
    SpeedMorris and Barney_Tabasco like this.
  3. Barney_Tabasco

    Barney_Tabasco Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for replying. My turntable is wired to the Node. But is the Node digitising the signal? Sorry, my naivety is very transparent here.

    Forgot to mention - although i clearly have all the above setup, i can still return it hence the questions. Thanks.
  4. Technocentral

    Technocentral Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    I honestly don't know anything about digitising etc , personally I only listen to vinyl, I bought my system based around analogue use only.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2021
    Barney_Tabasco likes this.
  5. Roger P

    Roger P Forum Resident

    Richmond VA
    I am new here as well amd just got back into vinyl.

    I use just the regular node 2i for streaming audio and I believe that is where the Node really shines.

    The power node could be the weak link in the chain.

    Also, the sound you heard in the store compared to your space at home could very possibly be the difference you hear in the SQ. Every room will have a different effect on the sound, some spaces way more than others.

    I could be totally wrong about this.
    Lowrider75 and Barney_Tabasco like this.
  6. woodpigeon

    woodpigeon Forum Resident

    New Zealand
    If streaming sounds good through the Powernode amplifier, then any issues you are having with the sound quality of vinyl will likely be to do with your turntable, cartridge or phono pre-amp.

    Did the turntable come with a good cartridge/stylus? Have you checked the alignment and tracking force? Is the turntable level and isolated? Etc.

    Personally I found I had to tinker a lot with setup, and do a few gear upgrades to get to the point where vinyl sounded nearly as good as a digital source in my system. Fortunately this board has lots of people who really know their stuff and are very helpful with that aspect of things :)

    If you’re lacking bass compared to what you heard in the store, you could try moving the speakers around, varying the distance from the back and side walls can make a surprising amount of difference.
    Barney_Tabasco and Eurofan like this.
  7. fried

    fried Forum Resident

    If I were you I'd look at a Rega amp, easily available in the U.K, good internal phono stage, discreet. The Bluesound node 2 works well as a streamer,maybe just leave it at doing that.

    Depending on what mastering you're listening to vinyl may sound better or worse than streaming.
    Lowrider75 and Barney_Tabasco like this.
  8. Diapason

    Diapason Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    The problem with getting another amp now is that the Powernode will become effectively useless, since I don't believe it has line outs to allow connection to an amp.

    I think you'll be able to get where you want to get with careful setup and *maybe* a change of cartridge. That said (controversial content incoming, trigger warning!) you may just find you prefer the sound of digital streaming when done well, even if you get everything dialled in. Many of us have come to a similar conclusion, although as always YMMV.

    Do you know anyone else who has a TT you like the sound of, that has that warmth? Maybe even the dealer? It would be great to try that into your Powernode and phono stage to see if the problems lie there.
    woodpigeon and Barney_Tabasco like this.
  9. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    Welcome aboard :wave:
    Barney_Tabasco likes this.
  10. Mindhead1

    Mindhead1 Well-Known Member

    I think the Powernode maybe your weak link. If you can still return it I’d do that and get an integrated amp like a Rega IO or Rega Brio. Use the Phono Stage on those amps and for streaming get a Node 2i.

    If you like to tinker you might consider building your own streamer with a Raspberry Pi and a Hifiberry or Allo DAC hat and Volumio or MoOde Audio software. It’ll give you a Spotify compatible streamer with AirPlay and Bluetooth for around $200 USD.
    Barney_Tabasco likes this.
  11. Barney_Tabasco

    Barney_Tabasco Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for the replies everyone. I see a few of you point out the Powernode as the potential problem here (although as @woodpigeon points out, if it sounds good streaming, why not for vinyl?). So frustrating as its a neat and discreet little device and as i said the streaming sound full and great (all considered). I just want my vinyl to sound as good (and surely not should sound better?). Worried it may be too late to return the Powernode now but think i'll give the store a call.
    woodpigeon likes this.
  12. Diapason

    Diapason Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    I'll say one thing that might be controversial: don't assume that vinyl should sound better by definition. I've been in the audio hobby for a long time and I often see that kind of thing stated as if it's self-evidently true, but for my ears, tastes and musical requirements digital often/generally wins. I don't say this to start an argument, I've long since given up on that kind of pointless back-and-forth, but more to temper your expectations. I certainly haven't managed to get my Rega P3 to sound as consistently good as a (first-gen) Bluesound Node streaming digital. Sometimes vinyl sounds just as good or better, but certainly not always. Again, to my ears, etc.

    Still, I know the feeling of not *quite* getting the performance you want, and how frustrating it is. You'll get there.
    timind, woodpigeon and Barney_Tabasco like this.
  13. Glmoneydawg

    Glmoneydawg Forum Resident

    Ontario Canada
    Matching the volume of the 2 different sources is important here(for a fair comparison) ....i would think phono section would need the volume turned up for volume equal to streaming.
    Barney_Tabasco likes this.
  14. Barney_Tabasco

    Barney_Tabasco Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Not sure how to match the volume of the phono output to be same as the streaming - if anyone has any tips?
  15. JimmieP

    JimmieP Forum Resident

    Hampshire, UK
    I was interested in running my turntable through a Powernode and found that it does indeed digitise the signal as confirmed by a Bluesound product manager in this thread: Powernode 2i and Vinyl

    However, hard to say if that is the reason that you found it underwhelming, but could be a factor. There's a lot of focus on DACs (understandably) in the digital/analog conversion conversation, but not so much with ADCs so I don't know if perhaps the ADC that Bluesound build into their products is lesser quality perhaps. As noted up thread, a good digital conversion of an analog signal (i.e. needledrop) can still sound good and 'like vinyl', but of course it isn't truly analog anymore.
    Barney_Tabasco likes this.
  16. Barney_Tabasco

    Barney_Tabasco Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for the detailed reply. That’s very disappointing to hear.

    So all these analog remastered albums I have are potentially pointless ha? I know that if it sounds good, it sounds good, so what’s the problem. But knowing it’s digitised will always be at the forefront of my mind.

    And yes, I’m still disappointed how the vinyl stacks up to the streaming all considered.
    JimmieP likes this.
  17. ernest787

    ernest787 Forum Resident

    I don't have experience with the power node but have the 2i. I also have a vinyl set up.

    In my experience, you can get a very good sounding digital set up at a much more reasonable cost basis than with vinyl.

    I dont have any experience with your phono, turntable or cartridge. But my best guess is that the culprit is somewhere in that chain and that you may have to upgrade multiple components to get the sound where you'd like it.
  18. JimmieP

    JimmieP Forum Resident

    Hampshire, UK
    yeah it's a shame, I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in the future bluesound add an analog phono stage to the powernode. As for all your 'analog remastered albums' being 'pointless' - I'd say not at all! even playing them digitised through the powernode, you're getting a different listening experience than you would listening to them as CDs or streams. Even though your powernode is digitising the vinyl, you're still getting the 'better' vinyl mastering coming out of your speakers. It's just psychologically we know it's now a digital signal. If it's still not 'warm' and 'vinyl sounding' enough for you, then the solution is to swap the Powernode for a Node, and get an amp with a phonostage in it, and keep things separated by switching inputs on the amp between phono and the node. As for whether you can find an amp that is discreet enough to match your decor aesthetic is another thing. The NAD D3020 V2 might fit the bill (tho I've not heard it), it can be kept upright or horizontal, and isn't as big as the usual 'rack-sized' amps you get. There's probably other options out there too.
  19. JimmieP

    JimmieP Forum Resident

    Hampshire, UK
    Just to add to this that I wouldn't always expect the vinyl route to offer better sound vs the streamer. It's an album by album thing. I have what I hoped would be great sounding analog albums, original pressings that haven't touched anything digital (e.g. Crosby, Stills and Nash 1969 self-titled album on Atalntic Plum label), that even when played through my vintage all analog gear sound crap compared to the streamed version. So many variables at play.
  20. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Westfield, IN USA
    Welcome to the forum @Barney_Tabasco.

    I'm another here with lots of experience with vinyl from the early days, but only occasionally listen to records theses days. Two night ago I was listening to a record, an album I never bought a cd copy. When I finished the album I decided to compare the album to the digital stream on Amazon HD. First off, there was a volume difference between the Node 2i and the vinyl with the digital being louder. This is normal in my view, that's what the volume control is for.

    Even after I adjusted for the level difference, there was a noticeable difference in the sound. The digital version had more punch, more vibrancy. I could definitely follow the drums and bass line better with the digital. The vinyl had a more laid back, softer sound. The record is in pristine condition and the stylus is fairly new. I preferred the sound of the digital.

    As for the difference in bass output in your room. Someone said above, every room is different, and the room is a very important part of what you hear. I don't think the equipment you're using is the issue. The differences you hear between stream and vinyl are real. The lack of bass is probably your room. The room can be worked on with speaker placement. Good luck.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021 at 8:59 AM
    BluTorch likes this.
  21. Lowrider75

    Lowrider75 Forum Resident

    Philadelphia, PA
    Streaming is internal in the Power Node. TT and other sources are external devices plugged into the amp section. The main function of the Power Node is as a streamer. You can do much better if using a dedicated amp which is designed to accept analogue (or digital sources).

    I wouldn't change the TT, but a better phonostage would be a necessary upgrade.
  22. BluTorch

    BluTorch Well-Known Member

    Battle Creek, MI
    Before I broke down what could be a very nice system, I would address the floors/room. The original post commented on the rug vs bare floors...I'd start with speaker placement and rugs to soften the sound. Drapes, furniture, rugs play a big role in "warmth" as opposed to "no bass."
    timind likes this.

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