Thanks to recent hardware and software developments, you can now stream high-res music in your living room with little effort. A high res file of a recording contains about twenty times the data of an MP3 file, the format used by the iPod, Spotify, Sirius/XM, etc.
When I co-wrote my book “To Feel the Music,” with Neil Young, we described how streaming music was synonymous with low quality audio, originally necessitated by slow bandwidths and high data costs. With data costs plummeting and speeds increasing, we urged any one of the large tech companies to step up and offer high-res.
A lot has happened since. Amazon responded and soon after announced high resolution music streaming, Qobuz cut their cost in half to compete, and Apple joined with their own high resolution streaming music service. All three stream audio recordings up to 24-bit/192kHz, a quality comparable to vinyl recordings, for $10-$15 per month, a couple of dollars more than MP3.
And now, with a new piece of hardware, the Bluesound Node-X, it’s easy to bring that high res content to any home stereo system.
The Node-X is a small box that connects to one of the audio inputs on your amplifier and to your home WiFi. The Bluesound phone app is used to select and play music that is sent to the Node X. The app works with NYA, Qobuz, Amazon and many other streaming services.
I have a simple, but excellent stereo system that I use to listen to vinyl. It consists of a Rega analog amp, a Rega turntable and a pair of 30-year-old Thiel speakers. I plugged the Node X into one of the source inputs on the amp and switch the input selector to listen to streaming music fill my living room.
One of my tests of audio quality is my wife Jane, a chorale singer and pianist with a great ear for every nuance. She’s critical and discerning in her judgement of audio quality and was blown away at the detail and depth while listening to pieces such as Haydn’s Trumpet concerto and Mendelssohn’s Violin concerto from Qobuz. She found it difficult to believe it was streaming. In my listening the sound was the best I’ve experienced from the Internet.
The Node X works well in part because it has a great DAC, the component that converts the streaming digital files from the Internet to an analog signal that goes to the amp. It’s an ESS 9028Q2M Sabre DAC that supports the 24-bit/192kHz files from all the high-res music streaming services.
The Node X is simply a great addition for those wanting to integrate high-res streaming music into a high quality home audio system. It retails for $749.
For more information check out https://www.bluesound.com/products/node-x/