At first sight
Exceptional audio detail Easy to set up Roon Ready Works with almost any audio source imaginable
No Chromecast support Limited ability to customize EQ BluOS app does not display resolution of streaming tracks
Bluesound played no small part in creating the high-resolution streaming market, and the Node X is a fitting way to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary.
Price at time of review
Today’s best prices: Bluesound Node X
Retail Price Audio Consulting $749.00
Blue Sound $749.00
Price comparison of over 24,000 shops worldwide
In the decade since Canadian audio company Bluesound first launched its Node wireless streamer, audiophiles have embraced the idea of high-resolution audio streaming. The new Node X, released in a limited edition to celebrate the device’s 10th anniversary, is Bluesound’s best streamer.
Think of the Node series as a Swiss army knife for all types of wireless playback. It can play your music files from a local server (including There are servers), stream music from subscription music services, tune in to internet radio stations, acts as a Bluetooth receiver for a home audio system, and integrates with powered speakers (including the one from Bluesound). It can also work with other BluOS devices as a multi-room audio system.
What’s different about Node X? Bluesound gave it a new silver finish, updated its DAC and internal headphone amplifier, and included a 1/4″ jack for headphone playback. Most of the new technology will likely eventually appear in later Node models, but that striking silver case is likely to be exclusive to the Node X.
Very few users will benefit from this Everything is fine Node X functionality, but Bluesound has designed a device that can handle whatever wireless music option you’re using now, and will adjust if you want to switch things up later with new sources.
Is the Bluesound Node X a well built audio device?
The Bluesound Node X is a sleek rectangular box that measures 1.8 x 8.7 x 5.7 inches (HxWxD) and weighs approximately 3 pounds. It has a recessed black band around the center, creating a reverse ice cream sandwich look. There’s a Bluesound logo on the front top half and a 1/4-inch headphone jack on the bottom half.
The top surface of the Node X has a touchscreen with a proximity sensor, so it lights up when your hand gets close. Volume control is an LED slider, and there are LED touch controls for play/pause, next track, previous track, and five station or playlist preset buttons.
The Node X could make an excellent desktop audio system when used with powered speakers. This setup would make it easier to use the built-in THX achromatic audio amplifier with headphones. I used the Node X with a home audio setup and controlled it with the BluOS app or the included RC1 remote.
At the heart of the Node X is a new Saber ESS 9028Q2M DAC supporting resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz, with support for MQA playback. This is the biggest upgrade in this unit and is the same DAC used in the lauded Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M. The DAC is paired with a 1.8GHz quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor.
There are several ways to put audio into Node X, including HDMI eARC, Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth (with support for aptX HD), and USB Type-A. Bluetooth is bi-directional, so you can stream music from an Android device to the unit or send a signal to a wireless headphone and listen without being connected to the device.
Using Streaming Services with Node X
Node X is the perfect partner for both Qobuz and Tidal. Listeners can take advantage of these services’ best-of-service quality streams and control them via the excellent BluOS app for iOS and Android.
I usually listen to Qobuz and Tidal with headphones and a DAC, as it has been the best way to enjoy the immersive detail each service can offer with its hi-res audio files. Listening to the 2023 remaster of Miles Davis’ 1960 album Working with the Miles Davis Quintet via a 24bit/96kHz stream via Qobuz, I was blown away by how much better it sounded than my CD copy. The silent parts are absolutely silent and the breaths that both Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane take have a presence that I have never felt before. Would a new copy of an LP from six decades ago sound better than this one? I suppose it’s possible, but the Node X offers a listening experience that turntables or CD players in the same price range can’t even match.
Other music services that can be controlled directly from the app include Neil Young Archives, Spotify, Nugs.net, SiriusXM, TuneIn Radio, Deezer, Amazon Music, Napster and iHeartRadio.
Unfortunately, Apple Music subscribers can’t join in the hi-res action with this streamer. The Node X sounds great playing songs from Apple Music via AirPlay 2, but the stream lacks the detail you’ll get from a Qobuz or Tidal stream because Apple limits the output to CD quality on third-party devices. This is frustrating, as Apple Music playback sounds fantastic with headphones and a DAC.
Spotify also sounds good, but the Spotify Connect stream is still lossy. If Spotify delivers on its promise to deliver hi-res audio, Node X will be able to handle any audio resolution the streaming service could conceivably choose to use.
Early streaming boxes advertised their ability to stream internet radio stations, and the Node X continues that tradition. You can create station presets on top of the unit and in the BluOS app and easily keep track of your favorite sources. However, bandwidth costs broadcasters money, so you should realize that those radio streams usually have a low bit rate.
To be clear, Node X is a terrific option for any online streaming source you’d choose to use, and each one will sound as good as possible. If your listening is limited to Spotify and internet radio, you won’t be taking advantage of everything Node X has to offer.
Using the BluOS app
The BluOS app makes it easy to add supported streaming services to the app and access your catalog from the interface. None of these interfaces quite match what you’ll see with each service’s standalone app, but Bluesound designed the BluOS app to feature a consistent interface that’s easy to use once you get the hang of how it works.
For anything that isn’t accessible from within the app, such as Apple Music, game streams offered by Major League Baseball, or radio stations that don’t stream through one of the supported radio apps, users can use AirPlay 2 or Bluetooth to fill in those gaps. Android users should know that BluOS does not support Chromecast.
Users looking for elaborate EQ tweaks may be disappointed, because only treble and bass levels can be adjusted in the Tone Control setting. There’s also an option to adjust the crossover if you’re using an external subwoofer.
The best features of the BluOS app are the My Playlists and My Favorites options. Each feature aggregates your selections from subscription services, and favorites include artists, albums, songs, playlists and stations. Each list is broken down by service, making it easy to keep track of your favorites without remembering which service you saved them to. This is especially useful with radio stations, as many of them are exclusive to iHeartRadio and don’t appear on TuneIn or vice versa.
The worst feature of the app is that it doesn’t display the streaming resolution of the original track beyond “CD” or “HR” for Qobuz. Users can always jump to the Qobuz app for details, but that’s a pain because the track you’re playing won’t be the first thing you see when you switch. Maybe it’s a restriction of the streaming services or maybe it’s a limitation in how the app has been coded, but a fix to this would be nice. Those of us who pay extra for hi-res streaming services want to see that level of detail.
Should you buy the Bluesound Node X?
The Node X is a dynamite upgrade to a home audio system for anyone looking to integrate modern streaming music into a setup that plays vinyl, CDs and tapes. If you have an open input on your pre-amplifier or receiver, you will have access to a world of digital music via the internet and from files stored on your home network.
If you haven’t already invested in a home audio system, you can hook up the Node X to powered speakers and you’ve got a digital music streaming setup capable of playing any file or online source you might choose. You could later add a nearby Bluesound Hub ($319) and hook up a turntable, CD player, or any other legacy format with an RCA connection to the hub and enjoy the benefits of whatever source you wanted.
If you’re already enjoying hi-res audio from a personal collection of audio files or via a streaming service like Qobuz or Tidal, Node X is a great value proposition at this price point. There are other wireless streaming DACs that have more expensive front panel display and conversion chips, but these can cost two, three, or even five times as much as the Node X. Many vinyl purists are starting to recognize that high resolution l Digital audio can be an attractive addition to a sound system setup rather than a replacement for turntables, cartridges and their beloved round PVC plates. The Node X and its companion BluOS app make streaming a compelling proposition for integrating both formats into your system.