The shape of the voice has changed in recent years and some of the reasons for this change can be attributed to strength. It used to be that the ‘real’ hi-fi enthusiast gave pride of place to a power-hungry amplifier that could shake the foundations of a house with its sound. Some of hi-fi enthusiasts’ favorite monster-sized power amplifiers can get hot enough to fry the proverbial egg.
Luckily, we live in a bit more enlightened times as the cost of electricity is rising more and more and we care a bit more about the environment. The quest for energy efficiency has led to a new generation of lightweight digital amplifiers that run cool and consume far less power than older Class A amplifiers.
Many of us also enjoy listening to our music around the house thanks to multiroom audio technology that allows us to stream our music throughout the house. The good old days of a single large sound system in a private music room are quickly over.
The Bluesound Powernode Edge is the embodiment of the next generation in car audio systems. A high quality digital amplifier powers this streaming device and is about the size of two paperbacks. All this little powerhouse needs is a decent pair of speakers and you’ve got a high-fidelity music system that can stream from almost any service. The only thing Edge doesn’t have is a colorful display of album art that some of the biggest amps include.
Bluesound is one of the brands belonging to the Lenbrook Group, the Canadian company behind the BluOS streaming platform which also owns the NAD and PSB speakers. BluOS is an excellent audio platform that offers full support for almost all music streaming services.
The slim Powernode Edge is small enough to fit on a shelf or desk. The front of the unit features backlit touch controls for adjusting volume levels, pausing music, and skipping or repeating tracks. It is easy to use and the device can also be controlled with the BluOS Control app or with almost any infrared remote control.
On the rear of the device is a small collection of connectors, including a pair of speaker terminals, an HDMI eARC port for the TV, a 3.5mm digital optical input, and a USB-A port for connect a storage drive, as well as an output for a subwoofer next to the Ethernet port. Most people probably use Edge’s built-in dual-band Wi-Fi to connect to a home network and stream music. And while Edge doesn’t have endless connectivity possibilities, there are enough options to handle sources like a turntable or CD player.
The Edge doesn’t have many outputs other than a pair of speaker terminals and an RCA connector for an amplifier. Unfortunately, there’s no way to take a preamp signal from the Edge to drive a separate power amplifier or other device. However, perhaps the most serious omission for me is the lack of a headphone jack. While the Edge can stream its audio output to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, which works well, it can’t power wired headphones.
Another omission is the lack of a remote control. There’s an optional Bluesound remote, but it’s not necessary as the Edge can learn from any old infrared remote you have around the house. The Edge can learn commands from virtually any remote by assigning functions using the BluOS Control app. Once programmed, the remote can switch sources, change audio settings and change volume levels.
The BluOS Controller app also supports Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon music streaming services and a range of internet radio stations. The only unsupported streaming service is Apple Music. If this is your streaming service, you can play it on a smartphone or tablet and stream using Bluetooth or Apple AirPlay. In addition to accessing streaming services, Edge can stream music stored locally on the user’s home network.
The Edge stumbles a bit when decoding hi-res music files, with audio files supported at a maximum of 24-bit/192kHz. Although most audio file types are supported – including MQA – to play hi-res music files, you’ll need to upgrade to the more expensive BluesoundPowernode. However, the 24-bit/192kHz limit is about right for most people.
Despite its small size, Edge’s DirectDigital amplifier can pump 40 watts per channel into 8 Ω speakers. If you want more oomph, you’ll have to upgrade to the more expensive Powernode, which doubles the power to 80 watts and uses more advanced technology called HybridDigital. However, don’t let the low output or the underlying speaker put you off as the Edge sounds great with an almost analog presence and a nice warm bass.
I teamed up with Edge with my trusty old pair of B&W DM303s. I should probably upgrade my 20-year-old bookshelf speakers, but they worked really well with the Edge, revealing plenty of detail and clarity while playing Seckou Keita’s “Simply Beautiful.”
I also streamed several of my favorite tracks from Tidal Masters, which streams MQA files. The Edge supports Tidal Connect, which means you can select music using the BluOS Connect or Tidal apps. The Edge then fetches the track directly from Tidal’s servers, so your music isn’t streamed wirelessly through your phone or tablet.
Verdict: The Bluesound Powernode Edge is a satisfying audio system for the money and offers most of the features you could want in such a small unit. Although it has an upper limit on the resolution of digital files that can be streamed, Edge’s 24-bit/192kHz cap will be fine for most people. However, the only downside for me was the lack of a proper headphone jack. The Edge fits perfectly into wireless Bluetooth headphones, but I have a lot of wired headphones that I’d like to try with the Edge. For its limits and price, Edge has remarkable quality. I haven’t tried adding a subwoofer to the setup because I don’t think most people probably would, but it was a pleasure to hear such a compact sound system pump out solid bass with a strong midrange. and high end that is smooth and not harsh or shocking. The Bluesound Powernode Edge is a great little subwoofer that sounds great and only needs a pair of speakers.
Price and availability: Bluesound Powernode Edge is available now and costs £599/$649
more information: bluesound.com
- Audio file formats: MP3, AAC, WMA, WMA-L, OGG, ALAC, OPUS
- HD file formats: FLAC, MQA, WAV, AIFF, MPEG-4 SLS.
- Multi-channel audio formats: Dolby Digital
- Maximum sampling frequency: 192 kHz.
- Bit depth: 16-24.
- Signal to noise ratio: -91dB.
- Distortion: THD+N, 0.008%
- Amplification: DirectDigital.
- Rated output power: 40W x 2 (8).
- Minimum impedance: 4Ω.
- Operating system: BluOS.
- Application console operating systems: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS.
- Processor: ARM Cortex-A53, quad-core, 1.8 GHz per core.
- Streaming services and Internet radio sources: 23.
- Voice assistants: Amazon Alexa skills; Stocks on Google.
- Third-party integrations: AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and Roon Ready.
- Power Source: 100-240AC.
- Ethernet/LAN: Ethernet RJ45, Gigabit 1000Mbps.
- Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), dual band.
- Bluetooth audio codec: Bluetooth 5.0 aptX HD
- Bluetooth communication: bi-directional (send and receive).
- Inputs: Built-in optical IR, built-in IR sensor with IR remote teach, IR in, 3.5mm jack (optical/analog combo, HDMI eARC, USB Type A (Fat32 format)
- Subwoofer output: Yes (RCA x 1; wireless to PULSE SUB+).
- Speaker terminals: 5-way connection column.
- Maximum power consumption: 210 watts.
- Weight: 1.37 kg.
- Dimensions: 219 x 44.5 x 193mm.