Bluesound is keen to be seen as a leading 24-bit advocate in the wireless multiroom sound system arena, which brings us to the Pulse 2, the flagship of Bluesound’s Bluetooth speaker line-up. This second-generation active speaker features a number of significant revisions over its predecessor, which essentially means we’re dealing with a whole new kettle of fish.
In a recent Pulse 2 evaluation, Steve May of techradar utilized the Bluesound Vault 2, a hard-drive CD ripper with its own analog and digital outputs. Essentially, it’s a media player sibling to the Bluesound active speakers. The Vault 2 rips CDs to WAV, FLAC or 320kbps MP3, and can download hi-res audio files from commercial sites to its 2TB drive. CDs ripped into the Vault are playable from the app’s Music Library.
That provided the main network source of content for May’s audition, and was used in conjunction with streaming services pushed from the BluOS app, including Tidal, Spotify, TuneIn, Deezer, and Qobuz.
Bluesound clearly imagines most users will stick with this particular combination of sources. There’s no DNLA or UPnP support, which means you’d need to setup network shares to access any other music library you might have. As a user experience, this is arcane at best, May rightly observes, noting that pretty much every other premium wireless speaker system (Sonos, Heos, All Connected) offers less friction.
Like any multiroom speaker, the Pulse 2 can be used in isolation or grouped with connected speakers on your network. The key point of difference between this and its rivals are its audiophile aspirations. File support is wide. Bluesound is said to be the only multiroom vendor able to support the new hi-res audio codec on the block, MQA, although your title choices will be limited at best. It also plays 192/24 FLAC, WAV, AIFF, MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG and ALAC – but not DSD. . . at least not yet. A firmware update for DSD is apparently in the cards.
May found spatial imaging to be excellent with the Pulse 2. Dave Hentschel’s maudlin synth track for Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend,” from 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is given the space it needs to emote, before Davey Johnston’s guitar riff propels the track into “Love lies Bleeding.” The Pulse 2 is light and energetic, snapping along with the beat.
Read more of Steve May’s review here on techradar.