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RME ADI-2 DAC fs against the Topping D90SE

ahofer

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To me (as an RME ADI-2 DAC owner) the dynamic loudness feature was the deciding feature. EQ was #2, although I can do that in Roon.
 

meshplate

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This group has an article of faith that perceived differences don't exist if measurements are the same. The problem with this is that it is a hypothesis and has to be proved. It is simply empirical fact that different DACs and amplifiers often sound different. Moreover, whenever someone claims the contrary, you all pile on to say that they have deceived themselves somehow. That has to be proved. Amongst other things, science should explain what we perceive, not to say that our perceptions are illusions and browbeat the person into submission by adopting a superior attitude. It is not uncommon for doctors are unable to detect the cause of a patient's discomfort. That means that medical science hasn't developed the right tests, not that the patient is deluded.
 
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Willem

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It is simply empirical fact that different DACs and amplifiers often sound different.
This is not a scientific fact (I am a research scientist). As I wrote earlier, there is extensive scientific literature on the limits of human hearing acuity, and anything below those will simply be inaudible. This result can be validated or falsified with listening tests, provided these are done under controled conditions. Again, there is extensive scientific literature about the requirements for such listening tests.
Just as an example, this is the classic publication applied to audio tests: https://quadrevisie.nl/quadinfo/pdf/a29.pdf
 

Trell

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To me (as an RME ADI-2 DAC owner) the dynamic loudness feature was the deciding feature. EQ was #2, although I can do that in Roon.
Same for me though I only use EQ to level the Beyerdynamic peak somewhat of my DT1770 and DT1990 while for my Genelecs I use their GLM Kit for room EQ.

RME is doing the right thing by adding many useful DSP features. The other manufacturers have a long road ahead of them to catch up with RME and then price difference will be smaller as well.
 

meshplate

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This is not a scientific fact (I am a research scientist). As I wrote earlier, there is extensive scientific literature on the limits of human hearing acuity, and anything below those will simply be inaudible. This result can be validated or falsified with listening tests, provided these are done under controled conditions. Again, there is extensive scientific literature about the requirements for such listening tests.
Just as an example, this is the classic publication applied to audio tests: https://quadrevisie.nl/quadinfo/pdf/a29.pdf
Well, I have to say that I owned QUAD IIs, a 303 and a 405. And to me and many others precisely the QUAD IIs has a very distinctive sound. They sound very different to the subsequent transistor amps. I grew up with them in my childhood. I bought the QUAD 303 and 405 hoping to recover that and failed. It was only when I got the QUAD IIs that I succeeded. I would say of the many amplifiers that I have owned it is the QUAD II that has a very characteristic sound, particularly noticeable in the bass. I don't know who the people were but if you were to do this test properly they shouldn't have been people "off the street" who care nothing about music and sound, but rather should have been a group composed of musicians, audio engineers and audiophiles ie people interested in perceiving sound and how it is presented. Also to make to make the test more objective it should have been simply a matter of perceiving a difference, not of preference.
 

Willem

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The listening panel was in fact one of professionals. I have personally participated in one of the subsequent presentations, and indeed under the proper controled conditions I could not distinguish the amplifiers. I only used this example because it is the paradigmatic one, but there are many others, and they all have the same result. And that is mostly with amplifiers - DACs are an order of magnitude better and are a solved problem if ever there was one.
 

ahofer

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The problem with this is that it is a hypothesis and has to be proved. It is simply empirical fact that different DACs and amplifiers often sound different.
You have this exactly backward:

1. It is most certainly not an empirical fact that amps and DACs *sound* different. There is a large amount of evidence to the contrary (see my catalogue of blind tests thread).

2. You cannot *prove* this hypothesis (or any such positive hypothesis) through testing/listening. The starting point is a *null hypothesis* that electronics do not affect sound within reasonable measured tolerances (let alone if they measure exactly the same). You could then do properly controlled trials to cast doubt on the null hypothesis. Controlled trials have overwhelmingly been unable to challenge the Null Hypothesis..

I suggest you look up Clark's amplifier challenge and go from there. I once was a subjectivist like many of these newcomers, but that was before the internet gave us the evidence at a few keystrokes. It's pretty overwhelming. I and others here have offered large sums of money to charity for passing a double blind test, as Clark did. No takers. You need to be open to changing your mind, or believe you can perform in tests that hundreds have failed, and furthermore are backed up by published audiology, psychoacoustics and audio design science.
 

manisandher

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I had heard so much hype about the Topping D90SE I decided to buy it and compare against my RME ADI-2. Here is what I heard.

Caveats: Before I get started I wish to state I have no idea what the engineers were trying to attempt when they recorded the music I was listening to. All I can do is attempt to articulate what differences I heard between the two DAC’s and how they each exited my hearing. What I look for in a recording is my idea of a ‘true to life’ playback of I what I understand instruments and vocals should sound like in various spaces. My assessment is based around these 9 attributes:

  • Clarity/transparency of sound stage – separation of instruments and vocals and type of room I can image I am listening too (club, auditorium, outside venue, small room, large room etc). My guess as to what the engineer is attempting in the recording v what the DAC engineers and designers are doing with their chip sets and electronics.
  • Air in the clarity – muffling v top end articulation
  • Bottom end articulation
  • Mid-range articulation
  • Front to back imaging
  • Side to side imaging
  • Dynamics/attack
  • Scale – size of the performance in my room
  • Value for money
What I hear in my room (4.76m L x 3.74m W x 2.38m H) will be different to what others hear in theirs. My speakers sit about 1m from the short wall (3.74m) I sit 2.65m away from the front of the speakers and they are about 75cm from the side walls. It’s a small room! My hearing is still ok in the bottom frequencies but my top end stops at about 12k to 13k. I’m getting old!

Gear: Speakers – Revel Performa F228be, CD Transport – Cyrus XT SE + PSX-R, Amps – Pass XA25 and Bryston 4BSST 2, Cables - Mogami/Canare and my own, Interconnects – my own and Chord C-line. To give the XA25 more grunt I use the Burson Buffer Amp 160 (Class A Singled ended). I also used USB connection through my laptop using JRiver media. I don’t use pre-amps and rely on the pre-amp inside each unit.

Listening: I started my testing with the Pass XA25 then moved to the Bryston 4BSST 2 and quickly realized my testing is better off with the Pass + Burson buffer (the buffer provides more gain). The Pass is much more resolving, tonally more real and the imagery the best I have ever heard from any amp! The air and top end smoothness is something to be heard. Only drawback is it doesn’t put out enough watts to drive the Revels. They work extremely well with the horns I have built but that’s a review for another day. Don’t get me wrong, the Bryston is still a great amp and dynamics are superb with bottom end punch to leave you breathless and of course much more powerful than the Pass. But the Bryston’s top end has an edginess that doesn’t work with either of the D90SE or the ADI-2

Off the bat I can say that there is more energy and depth in bottom-end response in the D90SE than the ADI-2. The ADI-2 however had more energy and resolve in its top end. The D90SE provides an overarching sound of a smaller venue with little reverberation whereas the ADI-2 sounds more open in a more lively and larger venue. Therein lies the difference of the two units in my room!

The D90SE bass response is exciting without being bloated, it seems to garner another ½ octave. The ADI-2 is tighter and a little restrained in its lower registers. The ADI-2 shines with the air it brings to the top-end and the openness of instrumentation in staging.

The openness of the ADI-2 continues down to upper mids which brings out more detail in the human voice. The D90SE has less openness/air in its top-end but adds depth/density into the midrange over the ADI-2. Voices have less sibilance with the D90SE.

I found both to have similar side-to-side imaging but the ADI-2 had better front-to-back imaging. This I think came from the openness it brings to the party.

The ADI-2 clearly had more dynamics in its delivery. It seemed to work better and ‘louder’ with the XA25 + Burson Buffer. Not sure why? I had the D90SE on the 5v setting and I think the output of the ADI-2 reaches 3.46v at its maximum. The D90SE seemed to be ‘steady’ and the ADI-2 got more exited. Just like some people I know!

One interesting thing I noted was the D90SE seemed to present a bigger image on the staging, taller than the ADI-2. Both never seemed to faulter when driven hard but again a little more definition with the ADI-2.

When it comes to value for money (D90SE about $AUD 1300 and ADI-2 about $AUD $1700) I think both offer good value. I turned off the DSP/PEQ on the ADI-2 to compare DAC to DAC on an even playing field but this feature is remarkable and does help better integrate loudspeakers into rooms. The D90SE does allow greater connectivity for streaming and input functionality. The ADI-2 has two connections for headphones the D90SE has none. The ADI-2 is a complicated beast, it has a 69 page instruction booklet, the D90SE has a brochure and you are better off going to the web to find out how users use the device.

So what do I think? The ADI-2 still grabs me because it has the extra DSP/PEQ feature I enjoy and the air/openness and front-to-back localization of instruments/voices I crave in imaging. The D90SE is not far behind. If I could put the bass response and midrange warmth of the D90SE with the ADI-2 I don’t think there would be a DAC under $10,000 that could compete.

I for one appreciated your post. Thanks for sharing.

Mani.
 

meshplate

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You have this exactly backward:

1. It is most certainly not an empirical fact that amps and DACs *sound* different. There is a large amount of evidence to the contrary (see my catalogue of blind tests thread).

2. You cannot *prove* this hypothesis (or any such positive hypothesis) through testing/listening. The starting point is a *null hypothesis* that electronics do not affect sound within reasonable measured tolerances (let alone if they measure exactly the same). You could then do properly controlled trials to cast doubt on the null hypothesis. Controlled trials have overwhelmingly been unable to challenge the Null Hypothesis..

I suggest you look up Clark's amplifier challenge and go from there. I once was a subjectivist like many of these newcomers, but that was before the internet gave us the evidence at a few keystrokes. It's pretty overwhelming. I and others here have offered large sums of money to charity for passing a double blind test, as Clark did. No takers. You need to be open to changing your mind, or believe you can perform in tests that hundreds have failed, and furthermore are backed up by published audiology, psychoacoustics and audio design science.
Actually, no I have the right to my perceptions. It is when the authorities that your perceptions must not be trusted under any circumstances that they are at their most perniciously totalitarian. See George Orwell. However, the bottom line is that it doesn't matter either way. You will be satisfied with your Chinese class D amp an Chifi DAC because you will have convinced yourself out of spending anything more $500 for the pair because these items measure perfectly. You can close your ears and mind. There is not need to hear anything else because you know in advance if it doesn't measure as well as it can be dismissed and ignored. Actually the problem of amps was solved way back in the seventies by cheap Japanese amps according to the objective measurements. The rest of us are free to do as we like thank god without being brow beaten by this Soviet-like thinking that one perfect cheap class d amp and perfect cheap dac are perfect for everyone. Indeed, in that objectivist world view, the rest of products of the world are quasi-fraudulent and should be denounced as being to superfluous the objective needs of the proletariat. Totalitarian objectivism indeed. Remember this listening to music is an aesthetic experience, not a science experiment.
 

NiagaraPete

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Surely members in this forum don’t go out and buy audio gear based on measurement alone
Yes. I have been buying and selling audio gear since the 70’s. In 2022 I sold my mountain of gear and replaced all by spec.
 

ahofer

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ctually, no I have the right to my perceptions. It is when the authorities that your perceptions must not be trusted under any circumstances that they are at their most perniciously totalitarian. See George Orwell.
Good lord, you are equating time-tested controlled listening procedures and/or acknowledging the proven suggestibility of our hearing to totalitarianism?

Is this Poe's Law in action?

Off to the ignore list with you.
 

Jimbob54

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Actually, no I have the right to my perceptions
No matter how ill judged they may be.

Why bring Chinese products or cost into this?
 
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meshplate

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Good lord, you are equating time-tested controlled listening procedures and/or acknowledging the proven suggestibility of our hearing to totalitarianism?

Is this Poe's Law in action?

Off to the ignore list with you.
You are the example of Poe's law because your position is a parody of itself. Best measurements mean best sound. Sorry no they don't and they never have, which is why there is so much gear in the world. I have been listening for 45 years to audio equipment and have a collection of pieces of equipment whose characteristics are perfectly apparent to me. No beginner I. You are telling me that I cannot/must not/should not believe the evidence of my perception. That is the definition of totalitarian: reject what you perceive, accept what the authorities tell you. I don't care how many studies you wave as proof because the one produced today was utterly laughable as no amplifier that has ever been made has a more marked sonic character than a QUAD II. It is utterly distinctive. I'd love take a piece of your cheap, but perfect measuring chifi and compare it to something let's just say different and see if it is so very hard to perceive the difference, a difference that would be as clear as day or the nose on your face. I am being polite because in truth your position is just utterly risible. Surely you know that in the pro audio world things are exactly the same. Engineers use a variety of mic preamps because of their different sonic character, and EQs and compressors and so on including ADCs and DA converters. If they didn't listen and just rigidly adhered to specs, they surely wouldn't bother. Thankfully they are not so obtuse or they would be out of a career. Actually I have no idea by your lights there could be anything left to say or debate. The matter should have been closed 50 years ago for you. So there is clearly another agenda which is to attack those who listen as opposed to read specs, probably because you can't afford more expensive equipment, attacking what you can't have. It's called envy and it's very typical and clearly not scientific. Let me be crystal clear and state the glaringly obvious: the best measuring piece of equipment is not necessarily the best sounding. Repeat, the best measuring is not necessarily the best sounding. If you say well that is because your perceptions are false, you are entitled to enjoy all your measurements and measuring gear and leave others to enjoy what they hear. The latter being none of your business. You have decided what you believe which you have the right to do. Ironically, while the Japanese were flooding the west with their perfect cheap transistor amps and other pieces and talking up the specs back in the 70s (you bought into that hook line and sinker), they were buying up all the vintage European and American gear that they could for themselves. No fools the Japanese.
 

Blumlein 88

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You are the example of Poe's law because your position is a parody of itself. Best measurements mean best sound. Sorry no they don't and they never have, which is why there is so much gear in the world. I have been listening for 45 years to audio equipment and have a collection of pieces of equipment whose characteristics are perfectly apparent to me. No beginner I. You are telling me that I cannot/must not/should not believe the evidence of my perception. That is the definition of totalitarian: reject what you perceive, accept what the authorities tell you. I don't care how many studies you wave as proof because the one produced today was utterly laughable as no amplifier that has ever been made has a more marked sonic character than a QUAD II. It is utterly distinctive. I'd love take a piece of your cheap, but perfect measuring chifi and compare it to something let's just say different and see if it is so very hard to perceive the difference, a difference that would be as clear as day or the nose on your face. I am being polite because in truth your position is just utterly risible. Surely you know that in the pro audio world things are exactly the same. Engineers use a variety of mic preamps because of their different sonic character, and EQs and compressors and so on including ADCs and DA converters. If they didn't listen and just rigidly adhered to specs, they surely wouldn't bother. Thankfully they are not so obtuse or they would be out of a career. Actually I have no idea by your lights there could be anything left to say or debate. The matter should have been closed 50 years ago for you. So there is clearly another agenda which is to attack those who listen as opposed to read specs, probably because you can't afford more expensive equipment, attacking what you can't have. It's called envy and it's very typical and clearly not scientific. Let me be crystal clear and state the glaringly obvious: the best measuring piece of equipment is not necessarily the best sounding. Repeat, the best measuring is not necessarily the best sounding. If you say well that is because your perceptions are false, you are entitled to enjoy all your measurements and measuring gear and leave others to enjoy what they hear. The latter being none of your business. You have decided what you believe which you have the right to do. Ironically, while the Japanese were flooding the west with their perfect cheap transistor amps and other pieces and talking up the specs back in the 70s (you bought into that hook line and sinker), they were buying up all the vintage European and American gear that they could for themselves. No fools the Japanese.
Have you in the last 45 years let your ears and only your ears do the deciding? Have you tested your perceptions to find out if they are accurate and trustworthy?
 

Andreas007

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You are the example of Poe's law because your position is a parody of itself. Best measurements mean best sound. Sorry no they don't and they never have, which is why there is so much gear in the world. I have been listening for 45 years to audio equipment and have a collection of pieces of equipment whose characteristics are perfectly apparent to me. No beginner I. You are telling me that I cannot/must not/should not believe the evidence of my perception. That is the definition of totalitarian: reject what you perceive, accept what the authorities tell you. I don't care how many studies you wave as proof because the one produced today was utterly laughable as no amplifier that has ever been made has a more marked sonic character than a QUAD II. It is utterly distinctive. I'd love take a piece of your cheap, but perfect measuring chifi and compare it to something let's just say different and see if it is so very hard to perceive the difference, a difference that would be as clear as day or the nose on your face. I am being polite because in truth your position is just utterly risible. Surely you know that in the pro audio world things are exactly the same. Engineers use a variety of mic preamps because of their different sonic character, and EQs and compressors and so on including ADCs and DA converters. If they didn't listen and just rigidly adhered to specs, they surely wouldn't bother. Thankfully they are not so obtuse or they would be out of a career. Actually I have no idea by your lights there could be anything left to say or debate. The matter should have been closed 50 years ago for you. So there is clearly another agenda which is to attack those who listen as opposed to read specs, probably because you can't afford more expensive equipment, attacking what you can't have. It's called envy and it's very typical and clearly not scientific. Let me be crystal clear and state the glaringly obvious: the best measuring piece of equipment is not necessarily the best sounding. Repeat, the best measuring is not necessarily the best sounding. If you say well that is because your perceptions are false, you are entitled to enjoy all your measurements and measuring gear and leave others to enjoy what they hear. The latter being none of your business. You have decided what you believe which you have the right to do. Ironically, while the Japanese were flooding the west with their perfect cheap transistor amps and other pieces and talking up the specs back in the 70s (you bought into that hook line and sinker), they were buying up all the vintage European and American gear that they could for themselves. No fools the Japanese.

Writing style often reveals character traits. I know this kind of writing and the people behind it.
Best advice is to stay away from them and resist the urge to illuminate.
 

Willem

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Actually, no I have the right to my perceptions
Sure, but that does not make it science. I am afraid science is not a democracy, or as Daniel Moynihan once put it succinctly: "you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts." So, to be honest, I do take exception to the equation of scientific criticism with Soviet style thought police.
 

Willem

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So there is clearly another agenda which is to attack those who listen as opposed to read specs, probably because you can't afford more expensive equipment, attacking what you can't have.
This is quite insulting, politically egregious as far as I am concerned, and untrue in many cases, including my own (CCA/LP12&SME/RME ADI-2/Quad 606-2/Quad 2805s/B&W PV1d/Kef Kube8b/Antimode 8033). And as for experience, I bought my first Quad 33/303 in 1971, and my ELS57s in 1976.
 
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