New to Bluesound is the HUB, a networking accessory that streams a turntable’s output to compatible network endpoints like Bluesound’s NODE and POWERNODE; or its range of wireless speakers.
Concrete example: for a week, my turntable has remained inactive, its distance from the amplifier being too great for an analog interconnection to connect it. However, if I had a Bluesound NODE connected to the amplifier, I could connect the output of the turntable to the input of the HUB’s MM phono stage to create a network audio bridge between the two Bluesound devices. Additionally, the HUB would allow me to stream the turntable’s output to the POWERNODE which drives a pair of speakers upstairs.
Now comes the plot twist: the HUB also has a line-level input on its rear panel for connecting a phono stage or other analogue sources. TOSLINK and coaxial inputs are also present for game consoles, CD players and legacy music streamers. And anyone worried about latency should note the HUB’s inclusion of an HDMI eARC input which most likely maintains believable lip-sync when streaming audio from its smart TV over the network to a NODE or POWERNODE.
The HUB is not for purists who want their turntable output to stay in the analog realm forever. But again, the NODE and POWERNODE’s own analog inputs aren’t aimed at analog or die vinylistas either – these streaming devices digitize all incoming analog signals for the internal DSP to perform all EQ adjustments and the subwoofer cross-filtering.
The more pragmatic will want to know if a digitization process like that of Bluesound will homogenize the sound of the analog source. In my experience, the answer is no firm. Depending on the quality of the A/D converter, it can “reduce” anything from a few tenths of a percent to one percent. Differences in flavor of phono cartridges are retained, just as differences in recording quality are retained by streaming services such as Tidal and Apple Music.
It’s a sacrifice that many pragmatists – including yours truly – are willing to make. Why? Because hi-fi equipment must adapt to our way of life and not to us. In addition, the power of DSP gives us much more than converting the signal to digital could take away from us.
The Bluesound HUB will sell for US$319 / €349 / £309 when it goes on sale in mid-June.
Further information : Bluesound