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Antelope Amari, Antelope Pure2, RME ADI-2 Pro FS R Black Edition or soon to be released RME ADI-2/4 Pro SE

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Rngrsn94

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RME is considered good, although overkill for even most studios.

If you don't need the features of these DACs you can probably spend 1/5 as much to get the same sound quality from Topping or whoever. Flat FR and -100dB SINAD sounds exactly the same wherever you get it. It is like asking which brand of 100% pure distilled water tastes the best. By definition, if it has a taste, something has gone wrong.
I'd have to go with RME over Topping, slightly more money... but I'd have piece of mind.
 
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Rngrsn94

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Yes, among DACs in the >$1K range RME are the ones that are least often considered a ripoff, for these reasons among others.

But you could get a modest yet mighty Topping or Schiit or JDS (or whatever brand you like) setup and some Audeze LCD-XC cans and still have money left for dinner instead of the RME, and you would not miss any sound quality, the differences in which would be mostly theoretical at best. Just saying. :)
Thanks, I'll keep that in mind.
 

FINFET

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If you just listening to music then like people said an ADI-2 Dac or a 150 dollar Chinese dac will do everything good enough for you. So I’d assume the “home setup” to be a home studio and desktop hifi setup so in that case you need the ADC. I recommend you get two devices: ADI-2 Pro FS BE plus Fireface UCX II, the total price is just slightly over ADI-2/4 Pro for now. You get the most stable and flexible half rack audio interface with full TotalMix FX support with DSP, plus one of the best ADDA converter and headphone amp which can be integrated to the UCX II via AES or SPDIF in/out easily. They can nail everything in home studio or desktop hifi demands.
Edit: UCX II seems very hard to get from the market or more expensive than before. Babyface Pro FS or if you don’t mind a used UC/UCX will do the job as well.

If you don’t need an audio interface and the extra cost is trivial to you, you can of course get the new ADI-2/4 Pro for extended refLevel, pentaconn connector, better output stage, some small improvements in THD+N, flexible routing and RIAA support. It’s always satisfying to buy new stuff on the market.
 
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Rngrsn94

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RME is considered good, although overkill for even most studios.

If you don't need the features of these DACs you can probably spend 1/5 as much to get the same sound quality from Topping or whoever. Flat FR and -100dB SINAD sounds exactly the same wherever you get it. It is like asking which brand of 100% pure distilled water tastes the best. By definition, if it has a taste, something has gone wrong.
Nothing against Topping DAC'S as I have no experience with them, but I'm leaning towards RME or Antelope. Wish there was a store near me where I could demo multiple DAC's. If I was able to bring my laptop, listen to my music through my HD 650's then I'd know which DAC I prefer and if I couldn't tell the difference between the two for example... I would purchase the cheaper DAC.
 
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Rngrsn94

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If you just listening to music then like people said an ADI-2 Dac or a 150 dollar Chinese dac will do everything good enough for you. So I’d assume the “home setup” to be a home studio and desktop hifi setup so in that case you need the ADC. I recommend you get two devices: ADI-2 Pro FS BE plus Fireface UCX II, the total price is just slightly over ADI-2/4 Pro for now. You get the most stable and flexible half rack audio interface with full TotalMix FX support with DSP, plus one of the best ADDA converter and headphone amp which can be integrated to the UCX II via AES or SPDIF in/out easily. They can nail everything in home studio or desktop hifi demands.
Edit: UCX II seems very hard to get from the market or more expensive than before. Babyface Pro FS or if you don’t mind a used UC/UCX will do the job as well.

If you don’t need an audio interface and the extra cost is trivial to you, you can of course get the new ADI-2/4 Pro for extended refLevel, pentaconn connector, better output stage, some small improvements in THD+N, flexible routing and RIAA support. It’s always satisfying to buy new stuff on the market.
Not a home studio setup, just 2 channel stereo listening and headphones.
 
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Rngrsn94

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This is an excellent point.

As long as the DAC in question has SINAD in a range you are happy with, prioritize connectivity and DRIVER QUALITY. Driver updates in particular. I liked my Alesis interface back in the day, but had to return it because the drivers were trash. Less happy with my Mackie / Echo interface (who used Firewire even 10 years ago?) but the drivers were SOLID.

Your experience is dictated by drivers above SINAD for sure... especially if you ever intend to use the ADC.
Well, I have heard from many others that the RME drivers are rock solid!
 

Doodski

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Not a home studio setup, just 2 channel stereo listening and headphones.
Anything from this upwards will be good. $109 starting point.
 
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Rngrsn94

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That's believable because a throwaway headphone amp in the Yamaha unit from ages ago might have been noticeably worse than one in a new Apogee.

Analog amplifiers have more (not to say a lot, or very) noticeable differences than DACs.

In the past few years the $150-$1000 DACs have gotten to the point where it would be physically impossible for most people to distinguish them - with most content, on most speakers or headphones. The same also applies to a lot of upper-consumer-grade headphone amps. Realistically a JDS Atom setup will sound exactly (I don't mean "exactly", I mean exactly) the same for 99.9% of use cases as the RME.

Given your current setup I would strongly advise you to spend way less on the DAC and way more on speakers, unless you also have a healthy speaker budget we're not yet aware of. In terms of sound quality improvements in 2022, pretty much all the action is in the speaker or headphone. :)

However, I used to use the headphone output on a Lenovo laptop and it was horrible, so I think there's a chance you'll hear real gains regardless of what you end up with.

Oh and welcome to ASR! It's sometimes no fun to hear your plans for new gear are considered pointless, but at the end of the day this site mostly exists to help people spend their money on what matters. If you look at the SINAD charts and consider that anything under -80dB is really hard to hear and anything under -120dB is verging on "has never been heard even in a laboratory" you will realize why we are trying to steer you away from the expensive DACs. :)

e: further explanation: The RME costs what it costs in part because of high quality ADCs, in part because of nice features, and in part because it's well supported by the manufacturer, and in part because it's considered pro gear. The smallest part of that cost is probably the DA performance. You don't need all that to get good sound quality output. That is not to say it's not worth paying for, but you said your priority is sound quality.
Good advice, but I do plan on upgrading my speakers in the future, and if for some reason I decide to start listening to headphones more than speakers I eliminate most of the acoustic issues in the room. The HD 650 headphones are good headphones and surely with a better DAC than what's in my Lenovo it will sound better. My old phone was an LG G8xThinQ before I dropped it, the DAC chip inside sounded way better than my Lenovo laptop even when listening using cheap IEM's.
 
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Rngrsn94

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Anything from this upwards will be good. $109 starting point.
Thanks, I don't like buying/upgrading every couple of years in regards to any electronics unless something comes out that is exceptionally better or it died. For instance my laptop was purchased in 2018 and it does everything I need it to do except the DAC/3.5 mm headphone output are lousy as expected. I'm OK with spending $900+ on the RME DAC if it suits me for many years.
 
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Rngrsn94

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Yes, among DACs in the >$1K range RME are the ones that are least often considered a ripoff, for these reasons among others.

But you could get a modest yet mighty Topping or Schiit or JDS (or whatever brand you like) setup and some Audeze LCD-XC cans and still have money left for dinner instead of the RME, and you would not miss any sound quality, the differences in which would be mostly theoretical at best. Just saying. :)
Damn $1300 for headphones?
 
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Rngrsn94

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Do you really have a use for the ADC?

None of the DACs will have an issue for sound quality. Antelope has had some issues for flaky software support. They've been better the last couple of years. RME is the standard of good long term support in the industry. They have up to date drivers for their gear over a decade old.

I have an RME Babyface Pro FS and Antelope Zen Tour device. Not those you are considering. Both are good pieces of gear, but for the money you are putting in I'd go RME. Although that Amari is a pretty bit of kit.

You could have the sonic equivalent for less money, but might need two or three boxes instead of one. Maybe one box is important to you. It is more convenient for sure.
 
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Rngrsn94

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Don't really need the AD conversion, although I could find a use case for it. You make really valid points! Wish someone would send in there Amari so it could be tested. Not many reviews on it, but all I've seen are very positive.
 
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Rngrsn94

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Adding an ADC will add cost. Most people don't need an ADC, because they are not turning analogue sources (such as microphones, LPs etc) into Digital bitstreams or files. So there's not the demand-volume driving down costs, unlike DACs. If you want to see the widest choice of options and costs, excluding the ADC makes sense.
If I exclude the AD conversion I would probably choose the RME DAC.
 

Willem

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I have a previous generation RME ADI-2 DAC. It is sonically perfect, and I mean perfect as in cannot be improved upon. It is also rock solid. What makes it stand out, however, is the feature set, with tone and balance controls, filters, dynamic loudness, auto reference level and more. And I use all of these features.
 
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Rngrsn94

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I have a previous generation RME ADI-2 DAC. It is sonically perfect, and I mean perfect as in cannot be improved upon. It is also rock solid. What makes it stand out, however, is the feature set, with tone and balance controls, filters, dynamic loudness, auto reference level and more. And I use all of these features.
As far as I've heard everyone loves their RME DA & AD/DA converters even if they don't use all of the features. Do you think the converter you have is your endgame DAC and you never need to upgrade? I know "never" is a tricky word.
 

Blumlein 88

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Don't really need the AD conversion, although I could find a use case for it. You make really valid points! Wish someone would send in there Amari so it could be tested. Not many reviews on it, but all I've seen are very positive.
I don't think you need to worry about the Amari in terms of performance. ADC will be at least very good. It might not be SOTA. The DAC will be very good. The Antelope hardware is good hardware. Their failing in the past has been software support.

So you don't really need a test of the Amari though it would be nice. I think effectively for sound quality you'll have no difference you will hear in the Amari vs the RME. It is down to features, cost, looks, and software support. Pick the one you like for these other reasons. Sound quality is good enough either way it becomes a non-factor.
 
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