The Bluesound Pulse is an multi functional wi-fi music system designed to stream music – even in hi-res – from virtually wherever you’ll be able to consider.
In a position to type a part of a multi-room music system in the event you pair it with different Bluesound merchandise, the Pulse Mini can host net radio streams, music from the likes of Spotify, Amazon Music and Deezer (and lots of extra), and by way of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth from a cellphone. It might additionally stream from laptops and desktops, and community storage gadgets just like the Bluesound Vault and NAS drives. It connects to a house community by both Wi-Fi or an included Ethernet LAN cable.
Design and options
Let’s begin with the App.
BluOS is all about unity. Obtainable for gadgets operating iOS (together with Apple Watch), Android and Kindle Fireplace (and Home windows & Mac OS X desktops), the app places all of Bluesound’s sources on one display. Streams are processed by an ARM Cortex A9 1GHz multi-core processor.
To date, so Sonos. The place the Pulse Mini actually comes into its personal is audio high quality, and particularly, hi-res audio streaming.
Sure, it does supply Bluetooth four.zero (together with aptX) streaming, nevertheless it goes method past that by together with compatibility with 48kHz/24-bit file varieties like FLAC, WAV and the brand new child on the block, MQA. A digital amp and DAC then pushes as much as 60W by two 2-inch full-range drivers, every in a patented dual-acoustic chamber. The Pulse Mini additionally features a three.5-inch woofer.
All this comes at a really excessive value – the diminutive Pulse Mini prices $499 (£499 / AU$999) – in both matte black or white. There’s a plethora of different audio system in the identical multi-room household, from bigger Pulse 2, Pulse Soundbar and transportable PulseFlex to the Pulse Sub and Vault 2 arduous drive.
Set-up and efficiency
Set-up is theoretically easy; connect your cellphone to the gadget’s personal Wi-Fi community, then return to the BluOS app to enter your community password. Then get streaming.
Nonetheless, in our checks the app advised us that the Bluesound needed to be hooked up to the very same Wi-Fi community because the cellphone (our router has 2.4GHz and 5Ghz choices, which is hardly uncommon). That is positive, however the app then give up the setup process, which we had been unable to renew with out turning the Pulse Mini on and off once more – it simply wasn’t clear the place the settings are inside the app. Nonetheless, after downloading an app replace, the system reset itself and hooked up to our dwelling community with none fuss.
In brief, the app takes a bit of attending to know. Given the breadth of sources the Pulse Mini can fetch streams from, the app’s front-page can be a bit of overwhelming. In addition to shortcuts to playlists, presets and favourites there is a panel to decide on the supply (similar to your cellphone, Bluetooth, or optical), after which a protracted record of streaming providers.
Eleven are listed on the entrance web page – not together with Spotify, oddly – although there is a hyperlink to a extra complete record. Streaming providers embrace Amazon Music (a brand new addition), Spotify, Deezer, Napster, Qobuz, Slacker, TuneIn and Tidal (there are 15 in complete). Fortunately, it performs properly with the premium Tidal HiFi and Deezer HiFi subscriptions.
When it comes to enjoying songs, the app is much like Sonos, with an an identical strategy to each creating playlists, and putting songs in a queue. Although it is doable to tweak bass and treble ranges on a tone management panel, like loads of issues on BlueOS, it’s a must to go attempting to find it.
Nonetheless, judged purely on sound high quality, the Pulse Mini massively impressed us. We streamed Hunter by Björk in 16-bit FLAC (lossless CD-quality) from Tidal HiFi, and beloved the positive detailing the Pulse Mini revealed inside a deliciously heat soundstage.
Nonetheless, the Pulse Mini additionally impressed with mere MP3s streamed from an iPhone, delivering a properly balanced and surprisingly nuanced model of the identical music at simply 192 kbps. Not surprisingly, the identical music despatched over Bluetooth suffered from a scarcity of quantity (we needed to put it on full blast), and sounded muddy.
The Pulse Mini can be a very good platform on which to experiment in lossless music, although it is a area of interest inside a distinct segment; solely Deezer, Qobuz and Tidal Masters will give you lossless codecs (the Pulse Mini helps MQA, FLAC, ALAC, WAV and AIFF). The system works most easily in the event you purchase the Bluesound Vault2 for ripping CDs to (and for downloading lossless music from HDTracks and HiResAudio), although it’s an costly add-on.
In case you have one other Bluesound merchandise put in in your house, swapping from one product to a different is easy. Urgent the house icon on the app and choosing which speaker you need is a technique, however doing so recollects the earlier monitor you had been enjoying in that zone. To take a monitor with you means urgent a small arrow icon. You then have to decide on which zone you need to take it into. Nonetheless, you can too ship the identical stream by all audio system concurrently, which is a really good possibility in the event you’re internet hosting a get-together. Additionally, in the event you purchase two Pulse Minis, they are often daisy-chained collectively to create a large stereo soundstage.
Simple to reside with and with glorious sound high quality throughout a number of codecs and streaming providers, the Pulse Mini impresses as a standalone community speaker, or as a element in a multi-room system.
The spotlight of the Pulse Mini is its sound high quality, however do not get sidetracked by its area of interest skill with hi-res and lossless music. Sure, it does an incredible job with FLACs, however its behaviour with common compressed streams is nearly as spectacular. It is received greater than sufficient bass, and squeezes out loads of mid-range particulars that always get misplaced.
The ins and outs are unusually complete, numbering mini USB, a headphone jack, a jack that doubles as both optical audio in or analogue audio in (there’s an adapter within the field), a wired Ethernet LAN port, and a USB slot that may play tracks straight from a USB thumb drive.
We additionally preferred its design and construct; exceptionally stable and nicely constructed, the Pulse Mini (335x172x155mm, three.6kg) has a V-shaped profile from the highest, which makes it appropriate for putting in recesses and corners. There are some contact buttons on the highest for quantity and navigating songs, and so on., however the pad itself is ranged above a recessed chamber, so acts as an invisible carry deal with.
The Pulse Mini takes a bit of time to set-up. It might be nice with streaming from on-line libraries, nevertheless it’s not notably good with present music collections saved on NAS drives, laptops and desktops.
In our check, it proved time-consuming to set-up a community share with an iMac. The reason being that the Linux-built Bluesound OS is bespoke, so there is no third social gathering middleware. Nice, however the lack of DLNA and UPnP help means an infuriatingly handbook course of. Utilizing a separate Bluesound Vault (a wired arduous drive for ripping CDs to) as a hub is far simpler, however an costly addition.
There’s additionally no integration with Apple Airplay (but – although will probably be suitable with Apple Airplay 2) so it is not possible to stream music from an iPhone with out firing-up the BluOS app.
In the event you’re after one of many best-sounding wi-fi community audio system round, look no additional. Add choices for each lossless music streaming and multi-room, and the fabulously constructed Pulse Mini turns into a genuinely intriguing proposition. An app that takes a bit of attending to know and a handbook strategy to community sharing removes a bit of of the shine, however the Pulse Mini stays, if nothing else, a stable sonic improve over a Sonos.
- Our information to the best connected speakers is an all-in-one useful resource of the most effective round – that includes the Pulse Mini’s older sibling, the Pulse 2