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RME ADI-2 FS Version 2 DAC and Headphone Amp Review

Franlober

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I had, until recently, an RME ADI-2 DAC FS. It developed a fault and so I had to send it in for repairs. In the meantime, I used a Topping D10 DAC and the headphone jack on my integrated amp. I did not notice any audible difference between the two set-ups. Therefore, when they sent me a brand new RME DAC (they couldn’t repair it), I sold it and kept using the “replacement” system.

That is a long-winded way of saying that I do not think you will notice a difference by changing the DAC. The main advantage of the RME is the rich feature set it has, but I didn’t use these and therefore they weren’t of value to me.

I really don't know what to make of so many DAc reviewers talking about musicality, sonic space, nuance, etc. And in practice, according to your comments, you do not notice the difference between a DAc of € 80 and another of € 1000, which also, according to these reviewers, beats a DAC of € 3000.
In the end, I think we will have to give more credit to those who think that the sound space, the position of the instruments, etc. it has more to do with your room, speakers and their position.
I think that finally maybe I will change the amplifier for a tube one where depending on which tubes are used, the changes will really be noticed.
 

Franlober

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First of all, I think you are being very modest when you say you have a "very modest" system! Those Focal Arias are very fine speakers--I run a pair of them in my home theater; I've listened to music on them and they are very nice.:)

Secondly, you haven't really said what your objective is, but I take it that you are looking for "better sound," or at least a different sound. To that end, upgrading the DAC is probably one of the LAST things I'd do, though the PEQ capability on the ADI-2 could at least enable you to play with the sound a bit.

I'm not familiar with your amp, but in general Class D amps have a very neutral, accurate sound. People who like the warm, fuzzy euphonic distortion produced by tube amps often describe Class D as "sterile, cold, thin, ...". So, if you are looking for something different, moving to a "warmer" amp might be a way to go. Whether "different" is really "better" is a matter of subjective opinion!

Before buying any new equipment, however, I'd play around with speaker placement, and perhaps apply some room treatments to the corners, first-reflection points, and behind the main listening position (if applicable) to reduce any unhelpful resonance in your room.

The Focal Aria are the star part of my system, the sum of the rest of the components does not reach € 300.
Perhaps I am influenced by the comments of the reviewers and their bombastic phrases, I listen carefully and do not perceive those things in my room that is moderately equipped, thick curtains, rugs, cushions, conditioned corners, etc.
I have made measurements with the Ypao of a Yamaha RXV-685 and I have transferred the values to the JRiver parametric equalizer.
What am I after? a clean, transparent, enveloping sound and if possible something warmer and I think this is not going to give me as you indicate just by changing the DAC.
 

Music1969

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Hi @MC_RME

Can you kindly share the full plots of FR for all the filters, showing overall amount of attenuation?

1626607710230.png
 

Manojrc

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I had, until recently, an RME ADI-2 DAC FS. It developed a fault and so I had to send it in for repairs. In the meantime, I used a Topping D10 DAC and the headphone jack on my integrated amp. I did not notice any audible difference between the two set-ups. Therefore, when they sent me a brand new RME DAC (they couldn’t repair it), I sold it and kept using the “replacement” system.

That is a long-winded way of saying that I do not think you will notice a difference by changing the DAC. The main advantage of the RME is the rich feature set it has, but I didn’t use these and therefore they weren’t of value to me.

Interestingly I did a Topping E10 (Roon -> USB ) Vs RME ADI-2 DAC FS (Roon -> USB) Vs Yamaha CD-S300 CDP Vs Audioengine B1 (Roon - > bluetooth) comparison and I couldn't find any SQ difference !! Absolutely none ! However, RME is useful if you use CDP as transport and want to use EQ of DAC. Obviously, there are other useful features like volume knob, louduness ( I love this ), a catchy display and a german build quality ( if you have a problem with Chinese products ). In the end, RME is still a much better product overall because of the additional feautures it offers but if you are looking for better SQ over E10 or Audioengine, you will be disappointed. Other biggest problems with RME is it's lack of wireless option & relatively high price. In my case, I use Audioengine because of Bluetooth functionality which is a much more useful feature, IMHO. For DSP, roon serves the purpose.
 

Matias

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amper42

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Not sure I understand "Loopback to USB". If you are simply playing music with the ADI-2 using the USB port you don't need this feature? I updated the firmware to 66 / 41 with my MacBook Pro. Not noticing a difference. Any idea what change Mac users will experience? Thank you.
 

ElNino

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Not sure I understand "Loopback to USB". If you are simply playing music with the ADI-2 using the USB port you don't need this feature? I updated the firmware to 66 / 41 with my MacBook Pro. Not noticing a difference. Any idea what change Mac users will experience? Thank you.

If you turn it on, you can record what's being played back on the RME, either pre- or post- EQ on the unit. There are a variety of niche uses for this, e.g., checking that your software really is bit-perfect or using the RME as a digital EQ processor. The biggest use might be for livestreamers who want to record the audio from their livestreams.

I haven't installed the update yet, but what I *don't* think it lets you do is insert a host-based processor (like Dirac Live) into your playback loop without at least a cable; it's not that kind of loopback. You *can* already use Dirac Live with the regular ADI-2 (non-Pro) if your computer has an optical or coax output that you can feed into the S/PDIF input of the ADI-2, and you enable full duplex mode. I've tested that and it works. It would be a killer feature if the driver allowed you to do host-based processing without needing a separate optical or coax output, and without having to buy the ADI-2 Pro. I know there are software-based alternatives but none are as bulletproof in my experience as just the pure ADI-2.

RME deserves a lot of kudos IMHO for continuing to add new features you didn't expect when you first bought the unit.
 
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Music1969

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I love my ADI-2 (V2) but I kind of wish I bought the (now out of production) ADI-2 Pro FS, for it's iconic blue/silver look

Same high power headphone output I believe (just missing IEM which I don't need).

1628434486345.png


1628434298120.png


1628434401527.png
 

Nuwanda

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New units with new chip

At the end of 2020 a fire destroyed AKM's production facilities for AD and DA converter chips.
A resumption of production and thus availability of these components is not expected before 2022.
Therefore, many manufacturers - like RME - are forced to either discontinue products based on AKM chips, or to use other chips for the foreseeable future. The ADI-2 DAC was initially based on an AK4490, later on the AK4493. The current unit uses an ES9028Q2M for its high-quality DA conversion. This chip is very similar to the AK4493 in features and technical specifications, which allows RME to continue offering the ADI-2 DAC in its well-known supreme quality, and with a nearly identical feature set. Even though this chip is a central (sometimes sole) quality determining element, the ADI-2 DAC is just not a normal DAC. Tech specs and features are based on RME technologies, and they are available unchanged also with the ESS chip:  Complete DSP functionality (PEQ, Bass/Treble, Loudness etc.).  All sample rates, PCM as well as DSD  All digital formats (SPDIF/AES/ADAT)  Analog output circuitry, including Auto Ref and 2.5 dB digital headroom  Very fast switching between different sample rates  Extreme Power headphone output stage  SteadyClock FS, including the latest 1 Hz filter technology  Remote, display, general behavior, operation and handling.... ADI-2 DACs with AK4493 and ES9028Q2M are neither sonically nor visually easily distinguishable. However, the ESS version is recognized by a small C at the end of the serial number sticker (B stood for AKM 4493). Furthermore, the units differ in the available filters. The unit with AKM has a filter called Short Delay Low Dispersion, while the one with ESS has a filter called Brickwall (the other filters, SD Sharp, SD Slow, Sharp, Slow, NOS, are identical). Further Chip dependent differences are mentioned in this manual.
 

nagster

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This 'revision' was necessary to keep the unit available - we don't waste our engineering time for new revisions just to annoy our customers. It is in no way an upgrade, but carefully selected to get more or less the same performance as before - exactly to avoid that 'it lowers the value of the prior DACs'. No one needs to update. If you think that the Brickwall filter is a reason to update then sorry, I don't agree. It's importance for proper music playback is not as high as some people think. This has also been discussed here before.
I was disappointed with RME when I heard that the performance of adi-2dac v3 was stagnant.
Even if the main purpose is to continue supply.
I look forward to the progress of v4.

The crisis is also an opportunity.
Topping may be crazy, but it should have been possible to improve it to the same level of performance as smsl and matrix.
If it is RME's ability and resource amount.

I start with multiface + pci and have about 15 RMEs. I am very grateful to you.
I bought a second adi-2dac v2 in the spring.
Even if the performance of v3 overwhelms v2, there is no complaint at all.
Technological progress is fascinating. The difference is natural.
The new RME should be the best RME.

It's great if its performance and the functionality and stability of the adi-2 dac co-exist.
If it sells for less than USD 1500, it's almost invincible.
 

nagster

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They were doing their best not to stop, so maybe they didn't have any spare capacity left.
Or they may have some spare capacity, but performance suppression is their policy.
There must have been some reason, but as a user, I wanted the adi-2dac to make progress at the opportunity of design changes.
 

Jimbob54

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They were doing their best not to stop, so maybe they didn't have any spare capacity left.
Or they may have some spare capacity, but performance suppression is their policy.
There must have been some reason, but as a user, I wanted the adi-2dac to make progress at the opportunity of design changes.
I'd like to think they were more concerned on ensuring a forced change in key component didn't impact already excellent performance and reliability.
 

Matias

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I think you're missing the point. The only reason for the new version is the lack of AKM chips. RME want the V3 revision to be as close to identical as possible.
His point is that other manufacturers (Topping and their D90SE) had the same supply issue but chose to upgrade the product instead of keeping the same level of performance. The price increased a bit, true, and how audible is the improvement is questionable, but still.
 

nagster

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From a multifaceted perspective, adi-2dac v2 may still be one of the best DACs.
However, it became increasingly difficult to ignore the measurement difference with the top group.
 

Jimbob54

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From a multifaceted perspective, adi-2dac v2 may still be one of the best DACs.
However, it became increasingly difficult to ignore the measurement difference with the top group.
And?

Given sentence 1, what is the real relevance of sentence 2?
 

markb

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From a multifaceted perspective, adi-2dac v2 may still be one of the best DACs.
However, it became increasingly difficult to ignore the measurement difference with the top group.

All well beyond the thresholds of audibility, so why would it matter? Probably best that RME doesn't spend its time chasing the very last bit of performance, but rather focuses on features and usability - and their other products, of course.
 

ReaderZ

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All well beyond the thresholds of audibility, so why would it matter? Probably best that RME doesn't spend its time chasing the very last bit of performance, but rather focuses on features and usability - and their other products, of course.

I think it's because the cost is about double of the ones that does chase last bit of performance, at same price point, I totally agree other factor is more important, but at a much higher price, maybe we want both.
 
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