High-resolution audio is starting to become a little more recognised within consumer circles, thanks primarily to products such as the new Sony Xperia Z3 Compact smartphone, which supports the playback of 24-bit audio. Now, a new Hi-Fi brand called Bluesound is aiming to bring that same high-resolution experience into your home with a wireless system that can scale from one room to many rooms. Think Sonos, but with higher quality sound reproduction for those of you who are more serious about your audio than the average listener.
The Bluesound ecosystem comprises of five physical products, and a controller app that can be used on Android and iOS devices, as well as desktop computers. The key to the ecosystem is the ability to stream pretty much any type of audio file, but with the focus being on high-resolution files (24-bit) that contain more audio information than typical CD-quality (16-bit) files.
For the most basic set-up, the Bluesound Node is a $649 non-amplified streamer that can be connected to any existing audio system to provide wireless streaming of traditional and high-resolution audio. It has built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi.
The next product is the Bluesound Powernode, which is a $999 amplified version of the Node. It has the same streaming capabilities for high-resolution audio, but it also has a built-in amplifier (80W, 4-ohm) so that all you have to do is connect speakers. Bluesound has a speaker system called Duo, which is a system of two satellites and a sub-woofer, which can be used with the Powernode. These are $1499.
Perhaps the most interesting product in the range is the Vault, which offers a built-in CD player that can rip audio CDs to the quality of your choice, including FLAC. There is a built-in hard drive to store the music, the network interfaces are Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi, and the unit contacts the Internet to grab file names and album artwork. This one is great for those of us with shelves of CDs that need to be digitised.
An all-in-one speaker and streaming unit called the Pulse is also available for $999. Again, this is a high-resolution player that forms part of the Bluesound ecosystem and can be controlled from the app just like the other products. It's a product for convenience and can be placed anywhere in the home.
While high-resolution audio files are still limited in their availability, there are some sites, such as HDTracks that offer popular albums with 24-bit audio. Otherwise, for independent music releases, sites such as Bandcamp offer users the ability to download music using the FLAC format, which is superior to MP3s. For streaming sites, Bluesound told us that its app is designed to grab the highest possible bit rate. The Wi-Fi streaming of high-resolution files requires a robust and fast wireless network.