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Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i & Pulse Mini 2i: Review

The Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i and Pulse Mini 2i are strong performers in the wireless speaker category and come with the fantastic BluOS app.

Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i Wireless Speaker in the Kitchen

It was definitely fortuitous that COVID struck just days before Thanksgiving and after I had already concluded most of my listening sessions with the Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i and Pulse Mini 2i Wireless Loudspeakers.

My experience post-vaccination with COVID has definitely been worse than my initial bout in March 2020.

I’m going to blame the medical cocktail I’m currently on if I say anything odd in my review of these two excellent wireless loudspeakers.

Bluesound Product Family 2021
Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i (white speaker in center), Flex 2i (Black speaker on right)

I’m All Out of Theraflu

The congestion and coughing has been horrible (today is the fifth day that I’ve been sick) and I’m sure that my 3 children are already looking for a place in the backyard to bury me. I did raise 3 Shore kids who frequently check Discogs to see how much they would get for my record collection.

You know you raised your children well when the 8 year-old is already testing the waters on Audiogon for your equipment.

Where was I? I’ve lost myself in strange thoughts of unlimited dim sum and latkes that I can no longer taste or smell over the past week and headphone listening has been impossible. The pressure inside my cranium has been enough that I get agitated when the kids listen to the home theater system above a whisper.

I must confess that I don’t love wireless speakers. I draw the line at powered speakers like the Acoustic Energy AE1 that definitely come with a distinct sound which is a combination of the speakers, crossover, and class A/B amplifiers inside each enclosure. One of the things that I learned during my review of those loudspeakers, is that I had more flexibility than I thought.

Every single change mattered; changing from one DAC to another revealed the AE1 to be a canvas of sound that I could manipulate. Switching from a solid state to tube preamplifier resulted in a dramatic shift in the tonal balance; a warmer sounding source or preamplifier is definitely required with these speakers.

What Time Do They Start Serving Dinner?

Maybe it’s an age thing. I’ve lived the first 50 years of my existence and I find myself perfectly fine with fewer boxes. I’m not willing to sacrifice sound quality for convenience but I found myself quite engaged by both Bluesound wireless loudspeakers and I loved the ability to merge my TIDAL and Qobuz accounts into the BluOS desktop app and have access to all of my music.

Specific aspects of the wireless experience using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop — or even the Bluesound NODE as the hub, are hard to ignore because of how much they improve the “experience” of listening in your home.

Bluesound App Favorites

The multi-room experience using BluOS is a winner; primarily because the app actually works as advertised. There were a few moments when I had to adjust the volume settings of each wireless loudspeaker independently to avoid being stabbed by those in the other room who didn’t want to listen to Bill Evans or Green Day at really loud levels.

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Wireless and Bluetooth loudspeakers have made enormous strides in the past few years and there is not shortage of high-end products to meet the budgetary needs of every music listener. Sonos have a commanding slice of the pie in this category and with the S2 app — it’s not hard to understand why. Consumers want usability and the best possible sound quality at a price that they can afford. 

Consumers want the ability to stream Spotify, TIDAL, and Qobuz from their smartphones and tablets, and the process needs to be simple. Don’t tell people to pay $2,500 for your wireless loudspeakers if they need to use two apps to make it work. That doesn’t fly with consumers anymore.

Audiophiles are reluctant to go wireless unless the speakers can support Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Chromecast, or are Roon-Ready like the KEF LS50 Wireless II loudspeakers.

So where does that leave the Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i and Pulse Mini 2i?

Butter Tarts with Hot Chocolate

Are butter tarts a thing in America? I’ve lived here for almost 23 years and I’m not sure if I’ve ever enjoyed one outside of Vermont or upstate New York outside of Plattsburgh. They were definitely a savory pastry that I enjoyed every Saturday morning after ice hockey with a hot chocolate growing up in the Great White North.

It’s definitely a childhood memory that I enjoyed a great deal and when it disappeared (it’s not a thing in New Jersey), I moved on to a Greek original omelette with rye toast. The meds are kicking in folks so just roll with me on this one for another paragraph or so.

Another wonderful memory from my childhood was listening to baseball and NHL games on the radio with my father in the car or at home.

Imagine my delight logging into both my iHeart Radio and SiriusXM accounts via the BluOS app and finding multiple NHL feeds that I could listen to in the kitchen late at night while dreaming of butter tarts.

Bluesound offers access to 23 different music streaming platforms via the app and unless you really need something outside of Qobuz, TIDAL, Spotify, Deezer, iHeart Radio, and Amazon Music — you’re good to go.

The system supports Alexa, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, and it’s very easy to group a number of speakers together in a multi-room scenario and control the volume of each speaker independently.

All of the Bluesound wireless speakers are Roon-Ready as well if you utilize the platform.

The Sonos S2 app on my iPhone is still superior but I’ve fallen for the OS version of BluOS on my MacBook Pro which makes more sense for me as I’m working in front of my laptop all day long.

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The bigger takeaway is that BluOS offers an incredible amount of choice and flexibility.

Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i Wireless Speaker Lifestyle
Bluesound Flex 2i

The Skinny

The Pulse Flex 2i is the smallest wireless loudspeaker that Bluesound offers and what makes it more intriguing is the ability to take it with you by adding the BP100 Pulse Flex Battery Pack ($89 at Crutchfield).

The Sonos Move (which is $100 more) is probably the closest competitor in that regard, but having tried both outside on my deck (which is around 40 feet from our ASUS router), the Pulse Flex 2i wins in terms of clarity, tonal balance, and overall dynamic punch.

I really like the wireless charging base that comes with the Move and it definitely feels really robust. The Pulse Flex 2i is solidly constructed but not quite to the same level as the Sonos speakers which can take getting wet by the pool.

I would invest in a pair of Pulse Flex 2i for the backyard if we had a pool and just bring them back inside when the weather turned inclement; which is quite frequently here on the Shore and something those of us who live only blocks from the ocean have to contend with.

Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i Top
Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i

The top panel controls (because not everyone has their smartphone handy or the app installed) allow one to adjust the volume, pause the music, fast forward through tracks, and 5 presets.

Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i Wireless Speaker Front Back Side
Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i

The rear panel is quite busy for such a small wireless speaker; I really like the ability to connect an external phono preamp using a 3.5mm to RCA cable and the ability to go hardwired if you have an Ethernet cable connection in the same location.

When we moved into our home 14 years ago, we took advantage of the ability to install 9 runs of CAT6A to the kitchen, dining room, living room, den, basement, and 4 bedrooms. My basement office has a network switcher with independent runs to my iMac, Roku streamer, and Andover Songbird that sits on my desk.

Even with 1GB service here via Comcast, it’s a healthy battle for bandwidth with multiple people using computers, tablets, iPhones, and multiple streaming devices for listening to music and watching TV and movies.

Both Bluesound wireless speakers proved to be reliable via wireless or wired connections to our home network. I did experience some dropouts with both speakers in my basement office but that’s two floors below my router. Using the wired option delivered excellent reliability and improved sound quality in that particular situation.

Bluesound have implemented a very robust system that gets top marks for its reliability and range overall.

Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i Top Front
Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i

Product Highlights

  • Communicates with other Bluesound players via your home network (wired or wireless)
  • Plays MP3, AAC, WMA, WMA-L, OGG, FLAC, MQA, ALAC, WAV, and AIFF files
    • supported sample rates: 32kHz to 192kHz
    • supported bit depths 16-24
  • One 3-1/2″ woofer and one 1″ tweeter
  • Power output: 25 watts (20W woofer + 5W tweeter)
  • Frequency response: 45-20,000 Hz
  • Apple AirPlay® 2 lets you stream directly from an iPhone® or iPad® and ask Siri to play Apple Music
  • Top-mounted controls for volume and muting
  • USB Type-A port for connecting a flash drive with music files
  • Combination mini-optical/stereo minijack audio input
  • Headphone stereo minijack
  • Built-in dual band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Ethernet port
  • Detachable AC power cord
  • 7-3/16″W x 9-1/16″H x 7-3/16″D
  • Weight: 4.29 lbs.
  • Warranty: 1 year
Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i Wireless Speaker Top Front
Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i

The Fat

The Pulse Mini 2i is the mid-tier model from Bluesound and not out of place in a home office, kitchen, dining room, or bedroom. I kept the Pulse Mini 2i in the kitchen for the majority of the review and found that it was more than capable of filling the 16 x 20 room with sound placed on one of the countertops and 4 inches from the wall.

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The Pulse Mini 2i can get boomy in the low end if placed too close to a hard boundary like a wall and while most people will be tempted to do so in a kitchen to avoid interaction with pots, pans, and groceries left on the counter (glares at the dog who knows what I’m talking about), the sound quality will improve with some room.

One could also use the EQ settings to decrease the bass response but I left everything in the default settings throughout for most of my listening. The Pulse Mini 2i allows you to widen the stereo dispersion pattern through the app and I decided that “music” sounded the most natural.

Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i Wireless Speaker Top
Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i

Product Highlights

  • Communicates with other Bluesound players via your home network (wired or wireless)
  • Plays MP3, AAC, WMA, WMA-L, OGG, FLAC, MQA, ALAC, WAV, and AIFF files
    • supported sample rates: 32kHz to 192kHz
    • supported bit depths 16-24
  • Two 4″ woofers, two 3/4″ tweeters
  • Power output: 100 watts (40W X 2 woofers + 10W x 2 tweeters)
  • Two Pulse Mini 2i speakers can be paired together for even bigger stereo sound
  • Frequency response: 50-20,000 Hz
  • Moisture-resistant sealed enclosure
  • Bluetooth wireless audio streaming with aptX support for better sound with compatible devicesBluetooth streaming to paired headphones or speakers
  • Apple AirPlay® 2 lets you stream directly from an iPhone® or iPad® and ask Siri to play Apple Music
  • Top-mounted controls for volume and muting
  • USB Type-A port for connecting a flash drive with music files
  • Combination mini-optical/stereo minijack audio input
  • Headphone stereo minijack
  • Built-in dual band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Ethernet port
  • Detachable AC power cord
  • 13-3/8″W x 6-7/8″H x 6-1/8″D
  • Weight: 12.1 lbs.
  • Warranty: 1 year
Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i Wireless Speaker Rear
Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i

Sound

Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” (Takin’ Off, Qobuz, 24-bit/192kHz) seemed like a good place to start because if neither speaker could do jazz well — it certainly wasn’t going to last long in this house.

The Pulse Flex 2i sounds livelier to me and this was the case with almost every jazz recording that I played through both speakers. Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet on the track punches forward ahead of the rest of the all-star cast and while it doesn’t reach out and grab you by the throat, the Pulse Flex 2i has just enough top end energy to keep things interesting and it delivers music with solid pace.

The Pulse Mini 2i sounds larger (as it should) but was also slightly subdued sounding unless I raised the volume higher. The bass is decidedly more robust sounding with its two 4-inch woofers, but slightly less nimble.

I pressed ahead with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s rendition of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” (Georgia Blue, Qobuz, 24-bit/96kHz) and quickly realized that the Pulse Mini 2i can energize a large room with certain material.

The Pulse Flex 2i was more forward sounding without a strident treble but it lacked the low end punch to make this track come alive with the same degree of impact.

Green Day’s “21 Guns” (21st Century Breakdown, Qobuz, 24-bit/96kHz) and “Know Your Enemy” showcase Mike Dirnt’s driving bass lines and the Pulse Mini 2i did not disappoint with either track; although I would have preferred more definition and texture and less impact.

The larger Bluesound wireless speaker can play rock and hip-hop with some swagger but I found myself turning off the “deep bass” setting with some tracks because it wasn’t adding anything to the music aside from some rumble that one could feel along the surface of the Caesarstone countertop.

The Pulse Flex 2i doesn’t punch quite as hard and that might be just fine for many listeners using two in the kitchen; I will take midrange resolution and clarity over too much bass from a small enclosure 7 days a week.

Neither speaker ran out of gas with any genre of music and that’s a testament to Paul Barton’s engineering skills. PSB and Bluesound share the same design facility outside of Toronto and Paul Barton is definitely in the neutrality camp when it comes to his loudspeaker designs.

He’s very skilled at extracting every last bit of detail and resolution out of his drivers and considering the lack of real estate inside each enclosure — he succeeds with both Bluesound wireless speakers.

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A single Pulse Flex 2i doesn’t create a stereo image that is very convincing but it’s miles ahead of the Sonos One SL in terms of its overall sound quality. I really think you need a stereo pair for a kitchen or bedroom to really appreciate what it can do.

The Pulse Mini 2i creates a much wider stereo image but it’s still not the same experience as two speakers placed 7-8 feet apart. It does deliver substantially more bass than its smaller sibling; if you listen to music with a lot of bass information — it’s clearly the better option.

Bluesound App My Players

The App of My Eye

Bluesound has invested a lot of money and time into the BluOS app and ecosystem and it’s definitely one of the best; the Sonos S2 app is definitely slicker and easier to use.

I have two complaints about the app that I think require a fix at some point; the volume slider on the desktop app is not very precise and it always feels like there is a lag between the time you adjust it and when the volume actually changes.

The second issue involves a quirky lag that I experienced when I opened the app each morning; it always seemed to take longer to open specific sections within the app and I really disliked the delay when switching between tracks. What’s strange is that it didn’t happen with every album or when listening to specific playlists.

Conclusion

I really liked both Bluesound wireless speakers but I would buy a stereo pair of Pulse Flex 2i if you’re looking for a pair of wireless loudspeakers for the kitchen, outdoors, or even a small bedroom.

The ability to add a portable battery supply and mount them to the wall on an adjustable bracket makes them an even better option. I don’t need a lot of low end impact when cooking and they sound more transparent and detailed than anything else in the category right now.

The ability to access 20+ streaming services through the BluOS app and the ease of setting up a multi-room system with other Bluesound wireless speakers makes them a no-brainer. I look forward to mounting these on the wall in my new kitchen in the very near future. My kids are still looking for some butter tarts.

For more information: Bluesound.com

Where to buy:

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Darwin

    December 1, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    Excellent review. Thanks. I’m interested in the Mini 2i. I have paired Sonos Fives which sound great in some ways but too digital in some ways with a congested mids. I’m going to try stereo paired minis. I’ve heard then in a stereo shop and they sound less congested and digital to the fives.

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