Purple Flare— The perfect upgrade for the Bluesound NODE 2i

By James Davies of Absolute Audio

Any review of a product in context of the Bluesound NODE 2i will read like a love letter to the NODE itself! The NODE 2i is brilliantly engineered and executed; designed with audiophile sensibilities but with the features and form factor to appeal to a much larger consumer base, the NODE 2i perfectly bridges the gap between high performance audio and mass appeal.

For my review, I decided to use the NODE 2i “full monty”: I hooked the unit directly up to my power amplifier, using the NODE 2i’s streaming services through its built in DAC chips and digital volume control. I did not want to spoil or flavor the performance, nor did I want to introduce too many variables, which only prove to confuse things. In fact, using the NODE 2i in this manner gave me the chance to directly compare an otherwise bargain priced, single box, source/preamp (the two most critical items within a HiFi system) to my much higher priced, separate components. All cabling within the system was a combination of Purple Flare Interconnects and Speaker Cables, and Blue Heaven Power Cords. All components were connected to a QB8 power distribution bar, used in conjunction with a QKORE1.

The immediate impression the NODE 2i makes on the listener is of a very large scale sound for such an affordable piece. The sound-stage is both wide and tall, though with a relatively shallow sense of physical depth. This is not to say that the NODE 2i is flat sounding — just that its presentation is more on the forward and energetic side of things. At no time did the NODE 2i sound brash or unrefined. Tones and timbres, if not perfectly neutral, certainly never sounded anything other than correct. This is an area where affordable digital HiFi often shows its cards: the sound must be voiced to be appealing, but often ends up sounding grossly colored in some fashion. This is not the case with the NODE 2i — its sonics are otherwise unobtrusive.

After listening to the NODE 2i for several days I then swapped out its factory supplied two prong power cord for the Nordost Purple Flare Power Cord. I have to admit I am somewhat biased in favor of the Purple Flare, as I have firsthand experience with it, used on my AppleTV and Samsung TV. In both cases, the visual image was far more vibrant than when used with the factory power cords. I certainly expected the Purple Flare to bring improvements to the NODE 2i, but I wasn’t entirely sure in what ways.

With Purple Flare plugged in, the NODE 2i retained its overall appealing character. The sound was still energetic— fast and powerful. My “consumer” ears heard a further improvement of the NODE 2i’s overall sound. What was immediately apparent to my “audiophile” ears was that the higher and lower frequencies now had greater delineation. While this type of improvement is hard to quantify, it is important to stress that music in real life has a “continual” sound, where frequencies extend as far as the environment allows, rather than the more abrasive frequency roll off that electronics inevitably perform. While this more continuous presentation now allowed me to listen longer at higher volumes with less fatigue, it also represented a more natural overall sound at all volumes. Large scale and complex music had less confusion with the Purple Flare Power Cord in place.

The NODE 2i has a very present upper midrange, which is why I think it sounds so appealing and energetic. If a product were to couple this with less well represented higher frequency band, the presentation could become uneven and brash. While I alluded before that I would not characterize the NODE 2i as brash sounding per se, with the Purple Flare installed, the sound was certainly even smoother.

The NODE 2i’s bass frequencies are the only area where I could ever be truly critical—certainly not of the performance at the price—rather in terms of absolute resolution. The bass is somewhat compressed, giving the NODE 2i a great sense of punch, but without the dry control and heft of much more expensive digital components. With the Purple Flare in place, bass frequencies too are improved, gaining a degree of that dryness, which better represents natural bass instruments, without loosing the NODE 2i’s characteristic punch.

Things got really interesting after leaving the Purple Flare Power Cord in place for over 24 hours. When I returned to my system to listen further, I was presented with a more “liquid” presentation I’d not yet attributed to the NODE 2i. Frequencies across the range had more weight to them (in the sense that frequencies would sound closer to this in real life). However, where I was now most impressed was with a new found sense of physical depth to recordings through the NODE 2i via the Purple Flare. While still retaining the initial impressions of width and height, the sound of the NODE 2i was now more complete in all plains.

Depth of stereo image is something I normally exclusively attribute to higher end electronics. It is arguable that no one other than the recording engineer has any concrete knowledge of how much depth any one recording should have. The same goes for image specificity, width, height, and overall scale. I did not engineer any of these recordings and I am certainly not an authority on how they should sound 😉 but I’ll take any little improvement that further provides the illusion of a live performance.

What is so impressive about the NODE 2i combined with the Purple Flare Power Cord is how close their combined performance was to much, much more expensive equipment. The NODE 2i is a clearly well engineered component whose full potential can be easily realized with the affordable Purple Flare Power Cord.

2 thoughts on “Purple Flare— The perfect upgrade for the Bluesound NODE 2i

  1. Audio equipment reviews remind me of reading christian apologetics, belief based opinion, no evidence required. Great writing, don’t get me wrong, but, wow, no real evidence required assertions.

    Cheers, non-believer.

    • Having run a Node 2i as a source to test it for a kitchen/breakfast room system through a ‘well known competitor’ of Nordost’s cables. Alongside my £14,000 Aurender run through my – now replaced with Vivaldi – DCS Scarlatti DAC (around £15,000 in the day) on the dcs/aurender with the competitiors flagship cable and on the blusound with its previous flagship cable pair of RCA’s we had for effectively £500+£1900 of cables on the ‘cheap’ system. Something that was only being beaten by 5%-10% by the £29k+£12k of cables. When we removed the £3500 pre-amp+£1000 cables the dealer generally uses for similar and better sources and went straight to the balanced dcs and rca for node2i of the £3200 power amp both systems had significantly improved resolution, timing, bass weight and we are not talking subtle improvement, the difference probably increased to ‘10%’. But the Node2i was then sounding as good as the Scarlatti had when ‘restricted’ through the £4.5k preamp and cables. We did not have a ‘flagship pair of RCA’s to hand but A/B ing the RCA’s and XLR’s via the Scarlatti outputs showed the XLR flagships to be superior, though certainly not accounting for the full 10%. With regard on this basis to non-believer position on power cables we then with the RCA’s back in the Node2i we then improved the Node2i’s power cable from supplied to, base improvement £60 and then the next step to £200, we did not have a power cable above that with a Node2i compatible input – The Scarlatti/Aurender had been running on the £200 equivalent all the time. Both cable changes closed the gap. I would not that the speakers were a bit ‘above’ what I would be using in the kitchen system, but the speaker cable was a level down from the others we were using and I know from my system as well as what we experienced taking out the preamp/etc, that this was compressing the capability of the Scarlatti, but may also have restricted the Node2 (which I note has an MQA compatible external dac setting which I plan to try into the Vivaldi as the Scarlatti is not MQA upgradable) we will be trying that when I try the node2i into my £30k Vitus Amp and £22k+ Focal Speakers which do have the flagship cables.
      So please note I am not suggesting these are superior to Nordost I use both companies cables and had excellent improvements with both.
      Now you can say my judgements are not objective, but I do have 35 years of R&D engineering significant including NVH and Audio system experience. To be clear I have no affiliation to BluSound or NAD though have in the past had association to Dcs, but (not withstanding I did not have the clock in the system etc) I would not want my £29,000 of electronics to be anywhere near ‘close’ to an albeit much more recently designed £500 unit. But what I can unequivocally tell you is that all of the 10 different customers (the shops not mine many of whom were non-cable believers coming in for £300-£6000 items ) that ducked in and out as we were doing various stages of the test could hear clear improvements as we were ‘removing obstacles’ / improving the cables of what is clearly a very capable piece of electronics in the BluSound Node2i and nobody – including me – would pay £30k plus for the improvement. But of the 5 persons that heard the specific cable change improvements all acknowledged that rather than the old “10% of your system on cables” the improvements they heard by having more spent on the cables than the electronics – shown when we went back to base power cable and £50 interconnects (the 10%) – would make them consider a significantly bigger proportion the overall budget possibly 50% or even more towards the cables. So the point I wish to make from my perspective and those witnesses is in line with the original poster, cables do in most applications make a difference and should be considered as a substantive part of the system if you want to have the best value to sound performance ratio. This trial has made me move away from considering the NAD M10 (£2200) as an upgrade to spending £500 on the node2i and as I already have the £1900 RCA’s, and the best £1500 combination of power amplifier and power cables I can find to fit in the space. I assume the self professed “non-believer” is stating their position on experience rather than “belief”? What I can say is for both Nordost and other cable manufacturers is that my experience, even when I might have preferred a different result, is cables DO make a significant difference even to ‘modest’ systems and i applaud the original poster, I will be trying purple flare as an alternative for the power cable. [I note for the, until proven otherwise, exception of some applications of digital cables where I have yet to see an improvement over a decently constructed base (£20-£30) cable, this being server ethernet cables when attached to a server that has proper buffering and correction protocols]

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