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RME ADI-2 DAC Thread

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  1. money4me247 Contributor

    I have both. I recently purchased the RME ADI-2 dac specifically because my IEMs (andromeda and xelento) would hiss on the grace m900 and I also wanted balanced pre-amp output. They both use the same AKM4490 dac chip. I've only had the RME ADI-2 for a day though.

    To be perfectly honest but also very unhelpful, I personally don't think there are very big of sonic differences between the majority of dacs despite what it reads on head-fi. I have done tons of direct comparisons of different dacs with TOTL headphones, and it is extremely difficult for me to pick out which dac I am listening to in a blinded volume-matched comparison, unless the dac actually sucks. When comparing two good dacs, if there are any sonic differences, they are inconsequential to me, as I have tried and failed to consistently identify which dac is which when blinded, and I believe that good dacs should be transparent so there should not be any significant additional coloring that would allow me to tell which dac is which. If you have a different personal experience or perspective, then I think my perspective will not be helpful for you. The ADI-2 measured extremely well by ASR, so should be basically transparent. I am sure the m900 would also measure very well though.

    Subjectively, the ADI-2 definitely sounds really good. I did a quick side-by-side comparison just now. For my HD800S, very rough approximately volume levels, I am around the -25 to -20.0 dB low power mode volume setting on the ADI-2 for comfortable listening levels and on the grace m900 I usually go to 60-65.

    Personally, if the m9xx had balanced outputs and black background with IEMs, I would not have upgraded, and I always believe my money goes further when spent in my headphone/IEM/speaker budget, so I would recommend If you are already happy with the m900 to just stay with it, but if you would benefit from the features of the ADI-2 dac, it is an extremely good dac/amp.

    If you had any more specific questions, I can try to be more helpful.
  2. AlanU
    Nice to read your comments even after spending some coin on new gear.

    I do think many solid state dacs simply fall into a character sound of the make/brand. Detail overload is very common and this is where I almost find a lot of solid state dacs sound similar to an extent and has acceptable meat/mids. Clarity with detail to my ears can sound thin.

    Listening to many solid state dacs with my HD800 will produce a hyper detailed experience and bite me with fatigue in a short period of time. Oddly enough grabbing my portable affordable Peachtree Shift (dac/amp)with a warmer sound signature is a very nice match not feeling thin or very lacking in convincing vocals. Using my spacetech labs tube dac for jazzy vocals is incredibly convincing with realism and analog life unlike almost every solid state dac I've auditioned/owned. However this is where I will use solid state dacs for some different genre or the mood I'm in.

    Since we all experiment with gear I think many should consider solid state and Tube. Finding audio nirvana is the fun of audio isn't it :)
  3. TypodCrowd
    Any chance you had the opportunity to post your comparative review? I've been a die-hard benchmark believer for years and I'm this close to ordering one of these. Just looking for some ideas on how you felt they compared.
  4. technobear
    There are several sources of fatigue. Timing is the major one to my ears which is why I use NOS (no oversampling, no digital filtering) whenever possible. The ADI2-DAC has a NOS mode and this one sounds the best to me. It is the most musical and involving and real and the least fatiguing.
  5. Dave S
    A quick update, unfortunately I had to return my RME AD-I DAC as it had a ground loop issue manifesting itself as a low volume buzzing in my speakers.

    There were no problems using headphones, but as my main listing is with speakers I could not accept a product that caused issues upstream in my system...
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  6. CaptainFantastic
    @money4me247 Thank you for such a quick, helpful, and detailed response. The decision I have to take is not for replacing the m900, which I like very much, but what to get for a second unit since I need one at work. I was thinking of "upgrading" at home to the ADI-2 and moving the m900 to work. Hearing your experience with these, I think I will just go with a second m900. I like the simplicity/functionality/sound well enough that only a detectable sound improvement would make me go for a more expensive unit at home. I was looking at the Violectric v200 too for awhile, but I read quite a few opinions elsewhere that it's dull sounding and not worth the price.
  7. unmaker
    As a DAC, how would you compare the ADI-2 DAC to the Schiit Gungnir? Secondly, how would you compare the ADI-2 DAC as a headphone amp/dac to the Schiit Gungnir/Mjolnir 2?
  8. mcgo
    Pretty lame reason to return the equipment. You’ll have ground loop issues regardless if your electrical wiring permits it. Additionally the RME power supply has no ground pin!

    Did you try plugging all needed equipment into the same outlet? That’s generally a good start to debug your setup.
    audiobomber likes this.
  9. jerick70
    Yes it sounds like an issue in your audio chain not the ADI-2.
  10. Slaphead
    Just picked one of these up as I could use it as an AIO solution for both my Mac (USB) and Playstation (Optical) to my active computer speakers

    So far so good. It works as intended. Can't say I'm really noticing that much difference between the previous two solutions that I was using other than the ADI seems a bit laid back, but the spectrum analyser makes it a keeper.
  11. AlanU
    Just my opinion....try something else as all of this money pit audio stuff is all about adventure.

    At home you have the opportunity to possibly have a larger footprint/gear that may elevate your music listening experience.

    Another consideration is to simply buy different set of headphones. Largest change with different transducers in some cases.
    cardeli22 likes this.
  12. JSOppenheimer
    Like others before, I doubt it. Personally, I believe that the difference between a good DAC (like M900) and excellent DAC (like ADI-2 DAC) is nearly impossible to hear in practice, and you really shouldn't go for RME ADI-2 DAC expecting a massive increase in base sound quality. What really makes ADI-2 DAC special is its massive set of features (adjustable crossfeed, EQ, DAC filters etc.) that allow for you to fine-tune your listening experience, and if you have no interest in dabbling in things like that, then you're just paying a large amount of money for imperceptible differences.

    And yeah, I absolutely love my ADI-2 DAC, but I certainly wouldn't be able to justify its price if it weren't for the fact that I actively use a large part of its feature set.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
    CaptainFantastic likes this.
  13. CaptainFantastic
    I am open to the idea of getting something bigger, suited to home use and discernably better than the m900. What would you suggest given the following:

    1) I want to stay with solid state.
    2) My end-game headphones are the LCD-MX4, which are planars and very easy to drive, so I need low output impedence.
    3) I don't like sterile sound, hence the warm Audioquest headphones for when I want ultimate comfort. I do realize that this means that I shouldn't pair them with an amp/dac which is also warm.
    4) I don't like the idea of Chinese brands / order from China.
    5) I do want a reasonable price. I am not one of those people that bought high-end Audeze because money is of no concern.

    Any suggestions on what I could spend a few hours researching? :)
  14. Dave S
    "No Ground Pin" exactly, that is the problem, my Naim amp expects all sources to be grounded so I am told.

    Out of interest how is it lame to return an item that does not work in my setup?
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  15. money4me247 Contributor
    @unmaker, I used to be really interested in trying to pick out the subtle differences between gear, but I've reached a point in this hobby where I don't really care very much about really pinpointing the small differences in dac and amplifiers. The headphones or speakers make such a larger degree of difference that I just focus my time trying to make sure I find the right headphones for my tastes. Spending extra money on headphones is usually more interesting and more enjoyable for me as well.

    For picking dac/amplifiers, I really just go by what features I need. I am keeping the ADI-2 DAC over the Gungnir/Mjolnir 2 stack primarily because the hiss of the Andromeda was driving me nuts and I wanted gear that can play it with a black background. Even the Grace M9xx has hiss with the Andromeda which is crazy to me. The Mjolnir 2 is way too powerful for my Campfire Andromeda which I actually use more often than my HD800S nowadays, so I specifically searched for a well-recommended dac/amp in the $1k range that works well with very sensitive IEMs.

    From my prior personal subjective listening tests, I actually felt like different amplifiers actually made a bigger difference with the sound compared to dacs, and that differences between tube vs solid-state amplifiers were much more easily discernible. That is the exact reason why I originally choose the Mjolnir 2 specifically so I would have the flexibility to go with tubes or solid state depending on my mood, and I could actually hear a difference between the LISST vs stock tube different set-ups, so I felt like I was actually getting my moneys worth (basically two amplifiers bundled in one, right?). While I initially really enjoyed the tube set-up with my HD800S and preferred using tubes, I later found that with the Focal Utopia, the LISST set-up matched my tastes better. I haven't touched any tubes in the past 2 years, and I don't really miss tube rolling. Really the big reason to buy the Mjolnir 2 is if you specifically need a balanced amplifier that can do both tubes and solid state, and you have an interest in tube rolling. The ifi iCan Pro is the other balanced option with both tube & solid state modes off the top of my head, but you cannot tube roll with the iCan.

    For dacs, when I originally purchased the Gungnir multibit, there was soooo much hype on the forums about how much better R2R dacs are compared to delta-sigma dacs. I figured if I was going to be spending extra money on a balanced external dac, I might as well get something more unique. I also had a really good prior experience with the old Lyr 2 + Bifrost stack, so it just seemed like the natural upgrade for me. When I did my listening tests, I actually also preferred the Gungnir over the Yggdrasil in direct side-by-side comparisons as well, so it was perfect for my budget as well.

    Nowadays, I don't really care much. I would feel disingenuous to write up a side-by-side comparisons and wax on poetically about the sonic character of each specific combo when I personally don't even really feel like the differences are significant. I apologize I can't give a better answer.

    To be perfectly honest, I think the vast majority of things posted are 'hard to translate universally' at best or very misleading at worse, especially since I have personally frequently found a very jarring disconnect between my own subjective experiences vs many popular claims or impressions here. I would caution against placing any faith in other people's impressions as the subjective nature of the hobby is undeniable. I think it is best just to audition/compare yourself. I even think it is better not know anything, rather than believe other people's impressions or get biased by other people's perspectives.
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