What is the Pulse 2i?
The extra engineering requirements of making a decent wireless speaker mean that we shouldn’t simply assume though. It sounds counter intuitive but the number of different directions that the designers of a product like this are pulled means that this is arguably more challenging than making a high end device. A Pulse 2i could just as easily have YouTube as its primary content source as Tidal. It might be listened to on axis, it might be asked to sit in a corner and fill an unconventional space instead. All this needs to be factored into the design.
We also have to consider if this is the best form factor at the price. We’ve seen soundbars that cost buttons and do everything plus clever powered speakers and separates at this fairly hefty price point. Is this still a competitive way of getting a decent, room filling sound at the asking price or are there now some better approaches? Let’s find out.
Specification and Design
In terms of the sheer spread of product though, BluOS is more like the MusicCast system. As well as the Bluesound range of products - itself considerable - it is fitted to a very wide spread of NAD products including the AV receivers and the Masters Series high end models. This means that you can technically start with an all in one speaker like this and end up with a whole house of heavy duty NAD goodness. It might even include other brands too going forward as the software is now being licensed out.
The one exception to the third party software is a good one though. Should you wish, you can control a Bluesound product with Roon. I suspect that the Venn intersection between people who will buy one Bluesound speaker and pay out for Roon will be limited but if you have a Roon ecosystem, the Pulse 2i will join it. It’s telling that a company with a very good app still feels adding Roon integration is worth it. I hope other companies are taking notice. For people of a shoutier disposition, you can also integrate the Pulse with an Amazon Alexa.
The streaming module offers the standard wide spread of streaming services and includes some refinements like MQA support on Tidal and Hi-Res support via Qobuz Sublime+ and this is combined with Hi-Res via the streaming module too. Bluesound has also combined this with AirPlay 2, Bluetooth v5.0 with aptX and a combined optical and analogue input on a 3.5mm connection. In short, the Pulse does a great deal. One thing that you can also do is have a pair of them run in stereo. I have to be honest, at £750 a pop I think the number of people that actually do this can be counted on the fingers of one knee but it’s there if you want it.
How was the Pulse 2i Tested?
As we’ve noted, the Bluesound is at the top end of both size and price for a speaker of this nature. The good news is that in terms of pure room filling ability, it isn’t at any disadvantage to twin chassis rivals. At one third of its output, the Pulse 2i isn’t ‘loud for a one box’ it’s a genuinely visceral sounding thing. My test phase with the Bluesound coincided with the latest release from Paula Temple, Edge of Everything. This is Techno with a capital ‘T’, a cross between club music and two machines having a fight. Normally, something like the Bluesound would not be my go-to device for this sort of thing but it does a fine job.
Much of this is down to the bass response. The Bluesound has genuine and impressive bass for a single unported cabinet and the lack of ports or radiators means that is stops and starts with commendable urgency too. This weight imparts a scale that is enough to keep music sounding real and possessed of the sort of scale that it needs to sound right. Move away from the pounding techno and on to the rather more conventional Walking to New Orleans by George Benson and the Bluesound gives the supporting brass enough weight to be a real and palpable force. The tonality is good too although there is a very pronounced ‘step’ in the performance. Below a certain (admittedly fairly low level), the presentation is a little recessed and soft. Increase past that point though and it begins to open up considerably.
One area where the Pulse 2i really has considerable ability is as a TV speaker. The shape of the Bluesound isn’t perfect for the task- it’s going to need a complete shelf under a TV to not intrude into the viewing area but it does a great job of taking the events on screen and radiating them away towards the viewer in a fashion that is very convincing. A quick viewing of The Accountant on Amazon Prime sees the Bluesound manage to sound big and convincing, able to give gunshots the scale that they deserve and keeping dialogue clear and easy to follow.
No less impressive are the various extra features. Bluesound took a little while to get AirPlay 2 up and running on the 2i products but now they have, it works in an entirely stable and reliable fashion. It provides a quick and simple connection option for iOS users and would allow a Bluesound product to be incorporated in an unaffiliated network of similarly equipped device. The Bluetooth implementation is also brilliant. It’s unconditionally stable and used with Tidal, it’s harder than you might expect to tell it apart from Tidal streamed from the app. All of your ‘points of contact’ with the Pulse 2i - be they on the device, on the app or third party transmission systems - all exude impressive quality and stability.
- Excellent operating system with excellent spec
- Sounds big and confident
- Very well made
- Quite expensive
- Not terribly pretty
- Stiff competition
Bluesound Pulse 2i Wireless Speaker Review
If you need a single chassis speaker though, it’s hard to ignore just how good the Pulse 2i is across so many different functions. What it offers is excellent performance across the very wide selection of features and functions it possesses. No less importantly, it ties it together with a control and user experience that is genuinely excellent. It’s not cheap and there’s plenty of competition but very little feels as well sorted as the Bluesound does. For this reason, this big but capable all in one comes Highly Recommended.
Ease of Use
Value for Money
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