I agree it may be a little early to worry about “next steps,” unless you have the funds to dive into the deeper end of the pool right from the start. I would certainly not discourage that if it’s possible. But by all accounts the Sprout is a wonderful sounding device. And I’ll add that I thought (and still do think) that the Node is a great piece of gear, particularly for its price and features. The only place the 2i (which is not the current version) really falls short, in my opinion, is the software’s inability to locate and read hard drives that are external to the iMac I use as a server. Bluesound has confirmed their 2i won’t find that external drive. They say content has to be stored internally on the server for the Node to find it over the network. But all those files are still available to play through the Node by using Apple’s iTunes Remote app from my iOS mobile devices. That process uses the mobile device to read the files via wifi, but then pushes them to the Node via AirPlay. And while AirPlay is limited to Redbook resolution, those files, all ripped via iTunes/Music aren’t any higher in resolution than that anyway. I do own about 30 or 40 hi-res album downloads, but unlike my iTunes library, they’re all stored internally on the iMac, and the Node reads them just fine.
Some folks complain about connectivity problems with the Node, and it’s true that I very occasionally have connection issues with mine. But it never seems to be anything that can’t be fixed by turning Bluetooth off and on again on the mobile device I’m using to control it, or, on the very rare times that fails, by rebooting the Node, something that doesn’t take long unless you have a large external drive connected to it, in which case the unit won’t be available to play any source until it reindexes that drive. When I’ve plugged a nearly full 1TB drive into my Node, I’d guess it’s taken about 5 or 6 minutes to do that each time. Could be a little longer than that, or maybe even quicker - I’ve never timed it. Just a guess.
But these are issues of minor inconvenience. In terms of sound quality and access to hi-res streaming and other sources, I’d probably be sticking with the Node long-term except for the fact that I realized one day that I could plug it into my SGCD through both analog and digital inputs at the same time, and compare the sound of the Node’s internal DAC with the one in the Stellar. Once adjusted for volume differences, the Stellar was the noticeable winner. That led me to wonder whether a similar gain could be had on the streaming side of things, and as it happened, my brother was willing to sell me his very lightly used Aurender N100H at an absurdly low price, so it’s waiting in the wings to be swapped in for the Node. I expect I’ll hear the same differences that @roninaudio did when he made the same change. But keep in mind that when new, the Aurender costs about 5 times what the Node does.
Sorry to be so long-winded. This started out as a short post.