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Measurements of RME ADI-2 DAC and Headphone Amp

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Does the RME ADI-2 have a digital volume control, not analog? I ask because at low volumes (around 9-10 o'clock), I have channel imbalance with the Atom, which is no doubt due to the analog volume pot. I am considering the ADI-2 DAC for a future proof headphone DAC/Amp, mostly for driving the HD600/650.
 
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Ok... I knew this was coming. As I told here earlier, I sold my ADI-2 Pro Anniversary Edition and I miss it and also regret selling it. I now have Topping D50 + Atom combo, and they are nice, but... they are not RME ADI-2.

So thus I pulled the trigger on ADI-2 DAC :cool:
Sound quality wise, how would you compare the Topping D50 with the ADI-2 Pro?
 

daftcombo

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Does the RME ADI-2 have a digital volume control, not analog? I ask because at low volumes (around 9-10 o'clock), I have channel imbalance with the Atom, which is no doubt due to the analog volume pot. I am considering the ADI-2 DAC for a future proof headphone DAC/Amp, mostly for driving the HD600/650.
Same thing here with the Atom.
Not a problem worthy of a 900$ solution though. Solved by reducing the output volume from the computer a bit.
 

soundwave76

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Sound quality wise, how would you compare the Topping D50 with the ADI-2 Pro?
I don't think nobody can hear a difference between these two DACs. I am sure I don't.

Others reasons why I am switching back to ADI-2 are:

- The problems with the D50 coax input discussed also in this thread before
- ADI-2 very nice and useful EQ possibilities
- The 'smart loudness' ADI-2 has -> once you use this with headphones, there really is no turning back (a mistake I made)
 

Music1969

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@MC_RME

When not using DSD Direct mode and when using digital volume control with DSD content, is DSD converted to PCM?

There was discussion years ago that ESS Sabre chips don't technically convert to PCM for DSD digital volume control but at the same time it's no longer strictly DSD (1 bit SDM).

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/19381-ess-sabre-and-dsd-volume-control/

How does the AKM chip do it or is it an unknown 'black box' also?
 

orangejello

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I was listening to some CDs through the RME and once in a while I heard some distortion that sounded like my midrange driver was blown. It sounded like a vinyl cartridge mistracking during loud passages. Changed out the dac and the problem went away. I was very confused and began imagining a bunch of ridiculous explanations. I contacted RME, and they asked me to record the output and send the original music file.

Well, it turns out that the problem was major user error due to ignorance. I can see that the RME is clearly intended for studio use or for more sophisticated users. By selling to the consumer market I am sure that their support team gets a lot of questions that have them just shaking their heads :) Between their complex user interface and general lack of knowledge on the part of us consumers... whew. For one thing, I don't understand how digital volume control works...

In any case, I resolved the problem before I had any further communications with them (it is the weekend). Below is the email that I sent to them telling them that I had resolved the problem. It may be useful to anyone else who messes things up like I did. I asked a few question just for my edification. So if anyone here wants to lend their expertise and provide some answers, that would be welcome.

My setup is RME (RCA outputs) -> passive preamp (volume control and switching only) -> amplifier

"I am overloading the output! I didn't realize that this kind of thing was possible. I assumed that the DAC would not permit "clipping" (if that is the right term?) at the output. I had set the reference level and turned the volume up to its maximum, +6db! It finally occurred to me that the red and yellow that were being displayed on the level meters was analogous to the levels on tape recorders and ADAT machines, where in the case of tape recorders it indicates tape saturation. So I just reduced the DAC volume and the distortion went away. It also explains why I could hear the distortion on some CDs and not others. Some CDs are recorded at higher levels than others. Watching the level meters made this very clear. Could you explain what is going on when I see red and yellow and hear distortion? I would like to know so that I have a clearer understanding. Also could you explain what is going on when I increase the reference level? The reason I ask is that the if I set the volume so that there is no distortion and then increase the reference level, their is still no distortion even though the volume increases with the reference level.

What is the best way to ensure that I get the widest dynamic range using the DAC volume reference level and DAC volume control? There is some kind of "auto" feature, but I am not sure what it does. Remember that I am running the DAC into a passive preamp from which I can control the volume. At the moment I set the dac volume to the highest it can be set without the level meters turning red. Then I adjust the preamp volume."
 

Frank Dernie

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turned the volume up to its maximum
Pretty well every component will distort with some music with this setting.
When I first bought hifi 50 years ago amps produced full power with the rated input voltage with the volume control at around 2 o'clock. The rest of the travel was there for use with lower level (than the rating) sources.
AFAIK, and it could have changed in the last 50 years, if you need much more than 2 o'clock on the volume control you can run into problems.
My current amp has a dB scale and 0dB is maximum power at rated input. It can go to +15dB at "maximum volume" but that is only any use for low level sources, with a CD player anything above 0dB on their scale will clip. Thankfully I never get near that level listening since it is plenty loud enough at -15dB :)
 

orangejello

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Pretty well every component will distort with some music with this setting.
When I first bought hifi 50 years ago amps produced full power with the rated input voltage with the volume control at around 2 o'clock. The rest of the travel was there for use with lower level (than the rating) sources.
AFAIK, and it could have changed in the last 50 years, if you need much more than 2 o'clock on the volume control you can run into problems.
My current amp has a dB scale and 0dB is maximum power at rated input. It can go to +15dB at "maximum volume" but that is only any use for low level sources, with a CD player anything above 0dB on their scale will clip. Thankfully I never get near that level listening since it is plenty loud enough at -15dB :)
I was always aware of this with regards to amplifiers' output clipping. Just didn't occur to me to apply the same principles to a DAC. If you get a DAC without volume control the DAC output itself will never clip, I presume. I assumed that DACs with volume controls would never clip either - meaning that the manufacturer would govern the ability of the DAC to distort the output at any supported volume, which is what I think is going on with the RME.
 
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I don't think nobody can hear a difference between these two DACs. I am sure I don't.

Others reasons why I am switching back to ADI-2 are:

- The problems with the D50 coax input discussed also in this thread before
- ADI-2 very nice and useful EQ possibilities
- The 'smart loudness' ADI-2 has -> once you use this with headphones, there really is no turning back (a mistake I made)
I compared my aging Logitech Transporter to the D50 and it wasn't even close, the Transporter was leaps better. And I was not on the Transporters side when doing my comparisons, I really want to ditch it and get a USB DAC instead. So when I hear that the D50 sounds about the same as the ADI-2, it has me a little disillusioned when it comes to finding a replacement for the Transporter.

Maybe I'll try another Topping DAC with the AKM (which is what the Transporter has) and see what happens. But I don't want to spend over $1000 on a DAC only to find that I'm on the same boat again. Although that said, I have a feeling it has less to do with DAC vs DAC (chip) and more likely to do with Analog output and/or FLAC decoding.
 
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VintageFlanker

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I compared my aging Logitech Transporter to the D50 and it wasn't even close, the Transporter was leaps better.
Dude, you know you're on ASR, so someone will ask:

- Did you compare both level matched in blind test condition?

Maybe the Transporter simply has higher voltage? "leaps better" doesn't mean nothing in scientific terms. ;)
 

Blumlein 88

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I compared my aging Logitech Transporter to the D50 and it wasn't even close, the Transporter was leaps better. And I was not on the Transporters side when doing my comparisons, I really want to ditch it and get a USB DAC instead. So when I hear that the D50 sounds about the same as the ADI-2, it has me a little disillusioned when it comes to finding a replacement for the Transporter.

Maybe I'll try another Topping DAC with the AKM (which is what the Transporter has) and see what happens. But I don't want to spend over $1000 on a DAC only to find that I'm on the same boat again. Although that said, I have a feeling it has less to do with DAC vs DAC (chip) and more likely to do with Analog output and/or FLAC decoding.
FLAC decoding is FLAC decoding. It will have nothing to do with that.
 

Blumlein 88

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I was always aware of this with regards to amplifiers' output clipping. Just didn't occur to me to apply the same principles to a DAC. If you get a DAC without volume control the DAC output itself will never clip, I presume. I assumed that DACs with volume controls would never clip either - meaning that the manufacturer would govern the ability of the DAC to distort the output at any supported volume, which is what I think is going on with the RME.
Alright I looked at the manual to your RME. Volume is digital. So they offer up to 6 db of digital gain which can clip the DAC in some cases. You are correct in that a DAC with no volume control normally can't be clipped. I mean they put the red flashing lights there to warn you. If you had some signal that was recorded lower than normal you can access the extra 6 db of gain just fine as long as those red lights are staying off.

I wonder why you use passive volume between the RME and amps. If it is just for switching, then turn volume up to max and use it for switching only. There is nothing all that odd or wrong with how the RME works. In fact, it might be a good idea to ditch whatever passive and switcher you have and instead use a two channel recording ADC to digitize any of the other sources you have and pass them along to the RME for handling everything else.
 

orangejello

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I wonder why you use passive volume between the RME and amps. If it is just for switching, then turn volume up to max and use it for switching only. There is nothing all that odd or wrong with how the RME works. In fact, it might be a good idea to ditch whatever passive and switcher you have and instead use a two channel recording ADC to digitize any of the other sources you have and pass them along to the RME for handling everything else.
I use the passive preamp for convenience. The current setup sounds great. I have an analog rig with a really nice SUT and tube phono preamp. At the moment I am happy with what I am hearing and don't want to perturb anything. The ADC would just add more variables that I would have to sort out . I am not up for that at the current time.

I have turned the phono preamp volume control all the way up in order to optimize the S/N. So I need the volume control in the passive preamp. It also allows me to to set the DAC volume to a max before clipping and then control the volume to the amp passively.

At the moment I am more satisfied with my system and its performance than I have been in quite some time. The RME and the NAD M22 v2 are a significant step up from my Cayin SACD player and my massive push-pull class A tube amp (and don't get me wrong, I loved that setup for many years). This all started when I started looking for a DAC for streaming audio. I had been only listening to CDs and LPs. So finding a suitable DAC led me to this web site, which in turn opened a can of worms, and I wound up with the NAD as well. I am very grateful to ASR for getting me to rethink what I was doing.
 
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