It might be reductive to call the Bluesound Powernode Edge a smaller, more affordable, slimmed-down version of the five-star Bluesound Powernode (2021) system, but it’s not far from the truth.
The Powernode Edge (£599) offers smart network streaming, complementing connectivity and amplification in a very neat and compact box that you just need to add speakers to. It couldn’t be simpler.
It’s the most affordable all-in-one add-on speaker system we’ve come across to date. The larger Powernode costs £849 / $899 / AU$1599, while the new, smaller Powernode Edge shaves off a few hundred and costs just £599 / $649 / AU$1199.
Canadian brand Bluesound has a knack for creating modern-looking boxes that are designed to fit and blend into any space, while still offering a wealth of streaming connections and great sound quality. So this latest mini Powernode Edge should go off without a hitch, but this is starting to become a hotly contested category.
Construction & design
If we look at the two Bluesound Powernode units side by side, the difference is clear. The double-decker look of the Powernode (2021) is out, the Powernode Edge is a single-storey unit. It is small. It’s more like a space age modem than the traditional add-on speaker all-in-one system that we’re used to seeing from the likes of Naim, Marantz and Cambridge Audio.
What is still known is the ultra-compact design and uncluttered aesthetic that Bluesound favors in all of its products. The result of this means that the Powernode Edge is a device that can be placed anywhere in small rooms: on a desk, on its own, on a TV stand… If your excuse for not investing in a proper hi-fi system is a lack of space, the Edge immediately ignores that excuse.
Bluesound Powernode Edge technical specifications
Network Wi-Fi, Ethernet
Inputs Optical/3.5mm combined, HDMI eARC, USB
Headphone output? No
Maximum file resolution 24-bit/192kHz, MQA
Streaming features AirPlay 2, Bluetooth (aptX HD), Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Qobuz, Deezer, Amazon Music, Roon Ready, internet radio
Assets 40 watts per channel
Dimensions (hwd) 4.45 x 21.9 x 193cm
Finishes x 2 (black, white)
The unit itself is also well built. There’s no physical remote included, but there are basic touch controls for play, pause, skip tracks and change volume on the front panel. They’re all responsive, and we especially like the subtle fade-in/out effect when pausing or resuming the game. It’s a nice change from the abrupt stop/start we normally see in most products.
On the back you’ll find a neat array of connections: a set of speaker connections, an HDMI eARC input, a combined digital optical/3.5mm analog input (an adapter is conveniently included in the box), a USB port, an Ethernet port and a subwoofer output. It’s not too different from the larger Powernode connectivity offering (which has two optical / 3.5m inputs), but we think the Edge has kept it simple and sensible while offering a good variety of connections that let you connect a TV , you can connect a CD player or even an external phono stage (using adapters) for your record player, for example.
Don’t be put off by the lack of a remote, as your main point of control is via the well-featured BluOS app on your smartphone or tablet.
When streaming, the Bluesound really comes into its own, thanks to the proven BluOS streaming platform and the accompanying app. It offers such a wealth of streaming features and versatility that the Powernode Edge is such an attractive option at this new ‘entry-level’ price point. In short, this Edge has pretty much all the streaming features you’d get from a Sonos system.
Whether you stream from a smartphone, have music stored on your laptop, use music streaming services or are a lover of high-res audio, the Bluesound is suitable for everyone.
It provides support for the most popular music streaming services through the BluOS Controller app, including Tidal Connect, Amazon Music, Spotify Connect, Qobuz, Deezer, and various internet radio stations. There’s no Apple Music support, though, with subscribers instead streaming their playlists through the Edge’s built-in AirPlay 2.
We logged into Tidal and our playlists and favorites were easily accessible and a breeze to stream from the app. Once connected to your home network via Wi-Fi or the more stable Ethernet connection), the Edge can also stream music files from any network-connected NAS device, computer or mobile device. Two-way aptX Bluetooth (acting as a transmitter and receiver) also returns, giving yet another element of playback flexibility.
The app also lets you organize your multiroom system across other BluOS-compatible devices if you have them, and access tone controls, NAS devices on your network, system settings, and more. There are similarities to Sonos’ excellent S2 control app in terms of the breadth of options (if not the overall friendliness of the layout), but the BluOS is generally easy to navigate, use, and every aspect of the Powernode Edge to serve.
So where has Bluesound made its savings over the more affordable Edge? It’s all in the tidy unit. While BluOS gives you full access to the streaming features, the hardware components had to be modified and limited in some ways to match the new price. This means your maximum file resolution support in the Edge is 24-bit/192kHz PCM (the Powernode goes up to 32-bit/384kHz), but all major file types – PCM, FLAC, MQA – are still supported. We feel this should cover most high-resolution music libraries.
The other major difference is the lack of a headphone port. Where the Powernode has a 3.5mm headphone jack, the Powernode Edge omits it altogether, so there’s no physical way to plug in your trusty cans. However, the aptX Bluetooth connection should save the day for wireless headphone users here.
And finally, the power delivered is halved. The Edge offers a claimed 40W per channel into 8 ohms through its DirectDigital amplification technology, a step down from the Powernode’s 80W per channel with HybridDigital amplification (developed by sister brand NAD). We’ve heard fantastic performers using low-power amps, so that’s not necessarily a sign against the Edge here at all; it’s all in the tuning.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to pairing stereo speakers at this level, but we’re using our trusted reference ATC SCM50 speakers and the more price-compliant KEF LS50 Meta speakers for our testing.
Whichever method you use to stream and play music through the Powernode Edge, it sounds capable from the start. There’s clarity in spades and a generous amount of wide, open space around each instrument. Power and volume are not a problem at all: the Powernode Edge can go really hard when it lashes out System Of A Down or the more subdued Gladiator soundtrack.
There is also a good level of detail. Wet Leg’s infectious debut album comes through in all its hazy melodic alt-pop glory; there is a click on the drums, the rhythm rolls forward in a pleasant way and the voices come through clearly and straight.
The Edge proves its mettle with System’s meaty, visceral guitars and fighting tone BYOB. – it does well not to deliver it as an amorphous wall of sound (as lesser kits can when faced with heavy metal tracks), and the shift in tone from Serj Tankian’s grand, manic vocals to the more melodic chorus good on.
Listen any longer, though, and we find ourselves simply shutting down the Powernode Edge as it runs through our playlists. While his easygoing demeanor is commendable, he also shows the cracks in his armor. There’s a lack of dynamic punch, so songs don’t quite land with their intended impact. The Edge also isn’t that adept when it comes to rhythmic nuances, meaning the ebb and flow of songs are interspersed; we could also use an extra helping of subtlety on the levels of detail.
How does this translate when playing music? It means Nick Cave’s bittersweet vocals are on In my arms do not tug at our hearts; he sounds a bit too punchy and not really invested in what he’s singing.
The punctuating “Oh No” lyric in Wet Leg’s track of the same name doesn’t convey the witty humor behind that pithy tongue-in-cheek moment, and we could certainly use more texture subtlety when faced with deep cellos and soulful violins in van Agnes Obel Aventine album. It’s just not as musically expressive or as nimble with dynamics as its larger Powernode brother, or the award-winning and brilliant-sounding Technics SA-C600, which also adds a CD player for the price of £899 / $999 / AU$1749 .
If you’re looking for affordability and compactness, we can point you towards the Triangle AIO Twin (£699 / $1000 / AU$1099), which completely eliminates the need for a separate box by adding amplification and streaming capabilities. smart all in the speakers themselves. The feature set is about the same between this and the Bluesound, but the Triangle all-in-one speaker system is easily the nicer of the two. And you don’t even have to spend extra money on speakers or cables.
The Powernode Edge may not be an all-around musical marvel, but it’s competent, compact and versatile – a neat solution. We would like to see more hi-fi products of this style coming to market as it could form the basis of a truly modern music system.
Read our review of the Bluesound Powernode (2021)
Also consider the Marantz PM7000N
Read our Technics SA-C600 judgement
Best Hi-Fi Systems: Micro, Vinyl, and Streaming Music Systems for the Home