This combo RME/AFC is very much growing on me (and breaking in still).. I have had the RME for just over 2 weeks and the AFC only for about 3.. but the combo is now getting more and more musical - especially the last couple of days. Lacking proper reference material.. but I think the detail, black background and separation is on a very high level for both and a match. To be honest.. I'm very much still getting to terms with both and this level of equipment.. there's lot's to be discovered.. so don't take anything as an absolute. Years ago, I had the Quad ESL57 speaker + Beard P35 tube amp + Philips CD880 with TDA1541A/S1 as reference, so good sound by itself is not entirely new to me. I'll share impressions from this journey below related to other components as well to give some context hopefully. So for the relative impression regarding the AFC/RME combo...I have/had available the Oppo PM3, HE4XX, LG V30+, Arcam IrDac 2 and Chord Mojo. None of the other components comes close, the closest in enjoyment is the irDAC2 + AFC which is very enjoyable but the RME's DAC is quite a bit more refined (and I like the irDAC2!) Given the price differential to many that makes sense but I find RME+AFC a good return on money spend. I felt that the irDAC 2's headphone amp is slightly more authoritative, dynamic, impactful - despite the weaker DAC. Arcam apparently took the headamp out of the A49 amp, which has a 2W into 16ohm and <1ohm output imp .... so it may well have the qualities that suit the AFC better than the RME's headphone amp. We'll see - this is what I want to experiment with. The AFC responded so well to better amping (going V30+ > Mojo > IrDac2 and RME), I sense that a better amp could well get quite a bit more out of the AFC (and as a result, the RME). It's very likely I'll do this (Gilmore Lite Mk2 is very recommended for AFC).. if only to know what's what! I also have the LCD2classic coming so that will be interesting too. Chord Mojo + AFC.. unimpressed (unlike many). Detail + high end sounding ... but it seems to describe music rather than sound real, it also has a weak bass LG V30+ +AFC .. no bass, collapsed fuzzy soundstage, lacking detail, can't listen to it anymore It was impressive how well the HE4XX scaled and improved with the RME. No match for the AFC though - even comparing open with closed here. As for settings / pads for this combo ...I moved to listening without filters in the AFC and put the RME in NOS filter mode. I found the overtones of plucked/struck strings, piano, voices sound most close to reality and have more emotional, rhythmic cohesion. I've also put some EQ (+3.5db/40/0.5 -1db/130/1.8, -2db/1.1/1.6, +1db/4k/1.0, -1.5db/9k/2.4) for listening with the AFC.