When Bluesound refreshed its multi-room line-up last year, its biggest wireless speaker, the Pulse, was the only one not to get a makeover. That has changed with the arrival of the Pulse 2, the new head of the Bluesound family which features all the internal changes introduced elsewhere in the range.
This means the addition of optical and analogue inputs for playing digital and legacy sources throughout the house, a dedicated headphone output, a higher-power USB input for powering any hard-drive and a new wi-fi chipset to ensure a faster, more stable wireless connection.
Step in the right direction
There’s also aptX Bluetooth on board (previously you had to use a dongle), plus a more powerful ARM 9 processor that means library indexing and playback should be up to 20 per cent faster. It’s helped to halve the Pulse’s power consumption too.
Finally there’s an IR sensor built into the front panel for controlling playback from an external source using the device’s remote – handy for using the Pulse 2 to give your TV sound a boost, for example.
A whole bunch of functionality and usability upgrades then, but elsewhere it’s business as usual. The Pulse 2 is the same size as its predecessor, which means it requires a little space to breathe.
It ditches the fingerprint-harbouring glossy finish for matte, but packs the same touch-control panel and speaker arrangement as before, with two 7cm drivers and a 13cm woofer all individually amplified for up to 80W of power.
A big upgrade to the Bluesound experience is the updated app, with some much-needed improvements to design and usability. This includes a sleeker interface, improved menus and navigation, more intuitive speaker grouping and easy-to- follow set-up guides. It still can’t quite match Sonos for functionality and ease of use, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
As for performance, the Pulse 2 takes its character from its powerful predecessor. We don’t need to lift the volume much past halfway for it to fill our testing room with its rich, full-bodied sound. The deep bass response that was so prominent is back too, though much better controlled. It’ll still be too much for neutral tastes, but it manages to be more articulate this time round.
It does go impressively deep – giving it real solidity and authority. There’s decent precision here too, meaning the Pulse 2 times much better than you might expect from something with so much bass.
Play Cornfield Chase from Interstellar by Hans Zimmer and it shows just how rhythmic it is, demonstrating a lightfootedness that keeps a tight grip on the fast-paced organ pattern.
The smarter choice
Dynamically it’s talented too. Play Ultralight Beam by Kanye West and the bass lines kick with real force and impact. When the choir joins Kanye’s vocal, there’s an almost tangible uplift in excitement, and the differences between loud, soft and every level in between are articulated with expression and finesse.
At very high levels, the upper-mids and lower treble can take on a touch of coarseness, but it's not really an issue at normal volume levels. In fact, most of the Pulse 2's rivals would struggle to go quite as loud in the first place.
The bass emphasis does also tend to make the midrange sound a little recessed, but again this isn't a problem unless the vocals are buried deep in a particularly dense bass-heavy recording.
But these niggles don’t affect what is an altogether engaging and entertaining performance, with a sound that could fill a room much bigger than most will ever need. It’s solidly featured for its price too, and the new app only helps to make the user experience more enjoyable.
The Pulse Mini may still be the smarter choice for a lot of rooms, but if you want the biggest, boldest member of the Bluesound family, the Pulse 2 should be a keen contender for your audition list.
A big, bold and expressive speaker that will fill even the biggest rooms with its rich, engaging sound.