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

Blumlein 88

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Thanks to everyone who confirmed this box works fine with Linux. Now - where to buy one of these in the USA? I'm pretty wary of buying consumer electronic equipment on Amazon given their problems with co-mingling inventory from different sellers. Is there a good, reliable, and trustworthy mail order vendor of RME gear in the USA?
I'd second www.sweetwater.com they are pretty reputable. Sell mostly pro audio gear.
 

Labjr

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I would never use Sweetwater. I had it out with them a few years ago over a delay in shipping. Instead of helping me, they removed every trace of me from their system. They think everyone should pay MSRP because they know it all. Screw them!
 

MC_RME

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Nice. Original AEONS had 92dB/1mW sensitivity.

New AEON 2 are quite a bit harder to drive 86 dB/1mW (into 13 ohms again). This is actually harder to drive than the Ether CX @amirm tested (23 ohms / 92 dB per 1mW) and said started to distort.
It all depends what max volume you typically use. Amir said it was crazy loud when it started to distort - some people will run away screaming at much lower levels already. Those numbers simply mean the new AEON are 8 dB lower in volume. That indeed is a lot, but might still work for you (it most probably wouldn't work for me anymore as I am also a 'more loud' guy).
 

Music1969

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Those numbers simply mean the new AEON are 8 dB lower in volume. That indeed is a lot, but might still work for you
Yep, especially with transients (say 20dB transients) the new AEONs need more than 100 times more power than your older AEONs ?

It isn’t so much about baseline volume (for me - i don’t want to go deaf) but about these transients

And that is more difficult than the Ether CX Amir tested

Hence my question, can you measure to confirm the power and current outputs into 12 ohms?
 
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I would never use Sweetwater. I had it out with them a few years ago over a delay in shipping. Instead of helping me, they removed every trace of me from their system. They think everyone should pay MSRP because they know it all. Screw them!
I have had nothing but good experiences with Sweetwater and have never paid close to MSRP on anything from them. Like every company, who you deal with makes all the difference in the world. Get a bad person or someone on the wrong day and you'll have a vastly different experience than getting a good person.
 

MC_RME

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Nice. Original AEONS had 92dB/1mW sensitivity.

New AEON 2 are quite a bit harder to drive 86 dB/1mW (into 13 ohms again). This is actually harder to drive than the Ether CX @amirm tested (23 ohms / 92 dB per 1mW) and said started to distort.

View attachment 63735
I just checked on the Dan Clark website - the Aeon 2 is specced 92 dB/mW (the original was specced 93 dB/mW), so basically no change. You need to ask your quoted source how they come up with such a misleading number.
 
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Music1969

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MC_RME

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Well, it is misleading as you have just proven, thinking that the phones have become 8 dB quiter when they haven't. Problem here is that you used numbers from different measurement setups. If Soundstage had measured the original Aeon before they most probably would have published 87 dB....
 
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@MC_RME - Hey, am I really interested in purchasing Version 2 of the ADI-2 FS.

Since it is an order-only product in my country, how could I be sure that it is Version 2 that I purchase? It might have been answered earlier, but I am on a mobile - and the search on Xenforo isn't ideal.
 

Zeus+Leto

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the updated version 2 of the RME ADI-2 FS DAC and headphone amplifier. It was kindly sent to me by the company. The cost us US $1,149.

The ADI-2 looks very nice in black with a bright, super responsive display (doesn't come out as well in the picture):

View attachment 63548

I usually only focus on performance of audio products and DACs don't have much to talk about anyway. Not so with RME products. There are tons and tons of features including two different headphone outputs with automatic detection and settings. There is a built-in parametric EQ which can help you optimize your room or headphones. And on and on.

The display is highly informative which I appreciate. I like to know what my settings are, sample rate, volume, etc. at a glance and they are all here and then some.

Soft white LEDs surround the power button, the main rotary controller and backlight for the switches.

A nice reassuring set of relays click on power on. A compact 12 volt, 2 amp power supply with a clever locking mechanism comes with the unit. As does a remote control (which I did not use).

The back panel is tidy:

View attachment 63550

Of course the product is made in Germany which makes availability much better for our EU members. Support is superb on our forum and RME's own and company makes frequent updates to the unit through firmware updates.

Overall, this is a beautiful DAC with extensive feature list.

DAC Audio Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard of 1 kHz tone and measure what comes out of the XLR balanced connectors (used for all the DAC tests):

View attachment 63551

The distortion level now is state of the art with levels at -130 dB (15 dB better that best case human hearing). Noise level is higher though and dominates, resulting in SINAD of 115 dB. This is 3 dB better than version one of this DAC so definitely improved but not the best we have seen:

View attachment 63553

Yellow is the version 2 under test, and purple is the older one.

The reason noise level is not as good as seemingly cheaper DACs is because the ADI-2 is a pro product and can produce much higher output level. When we let it loose this way, performance improves yet again:

View attachment 63554

SINAD reaches a maximum of 117 dB now with nearly 7 volts output. You can use this higher level output with amplifiers like Benchmark, Purifi, hypex ncore, etc. to get the best performance out of them.

We can see that in our dynamic range tests:
View attachment 63555

IMD test is likewise impacted by the output level although it is excellent both ways:
View attachment 63556

There is tiniest hint of jitter (hugging our main tone of 12 kHz and a pair at 6.2 and 17.8 kHz) but at -140 dB and lower, are utterly inaudible:
View attachment 63557

32-tone test resembling "music" shows very low levels of intermodulation distortion:
View attachment 63558

Linearity is essentially perfect to the maximum level I measure:
View attachment 63559

There are a set of filters. In the interest of time, I just tested the default:

View attachment 63560

THD+N versus frequency is low but perhaps not as perfect as it could be:

View attachment 63565

Headphone Amplifier Measurements
Since there is no analog input, these measurements are the combination of the performance of the DAC plus the headphone amplifier. With stand-alone analog headphone amplifiers, you would lose a few dBs of performance when you pair a DAC with them. Also, the volume control here is digital which means channel matching is excellent unlike analog solutions.

Let's start with our usual power measurement into 300 ohm:

View attachment 63561

310 milliwatts of power into 300 ohm is superb as my threshold of excellence is 100 milliwatts. This means you can drive high impedance headphones with ease. Combined DAC+amp in high power clocks at 110 dB SINAD which is just shy of best case theoretical threshold of hearing (again, 115 dB).

If you want lower noise, you can use the IEM output in low power mode (blue):

View attachment 63562

You have three nice settings for three different scenarios.

Switching to 33 ohm load we get:
View attachment 63563

We have 1.5 watts of power which should be good for most headphones. I did not bother to test the IEM output as the low power mode (red) already had excellent low noise performance.

I was surprised that with 50 millivolts output, performance was not as good as version 1:
View attachment 63564

I use different fixtures to wire up to my analyzer so perhaps that is the reason for slight regression. Still, what is there at 89 dB, beats majority of headphone amplifiers out there.

I did not bother to measure the output impedance and trust the RME spec of it being near zero.

Headphone Listening Tests
I started testing with my Sennheiser HD-650. Wow, these sounded super with incredible amount of power available on tap. I had no trouble getting my ear lobes to resonate with bass heavy music! :D If I did not fear for quick loss of hearing, I would listen that way for hours. :) Ample power, low noise and distortion meant great dynamic range, detail, lack of noise, etc. Everything reflected the fidelity of the source.

I then switched to my super inefficient and low impedance (25 ohm) Ether CX headphone. Here performance was very good but I could get the amp to distort. Granted, by then it was too loud for me to tolerate but still, I like to see some headroom there. Again, these are super difficult headphones to drive.

Conclusions
The RME ADI-2 FS V2 improves on the first generation design in lowering distortion levels. The slick look and huge feature list is a major add-on which doesn't exist in DAC-only products. Headphone amplifier is very powerful and is able to drive most headphones with authority and high fidelity. No records have been broken on the performance though.

Overall combination of features and performance pushes me to give the RME ADI-2 FS DAC V2 my strong recommendation. Indeed, I am still listening to it as I type this and will make it my everyday DAC+amp at my workstation.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

I have packed so many heavy and big boxes and dropped off at UPS store that I am starting to feel sorry for the guy there and want to buy him a gift. So please donate a few dollars toward that if you can. Be on notice though that I might be tempted to keep said money and just use it for myself. :) Here is the link: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Thanks amir for another great review.
If you wanted a noticeable better headphone Amp but keep the RME ADI-2 as a DAC, which amp would that be?
Thanks.
 

LTig

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Thanks amir for another great review.
If you wanted a noticeable better headphone Amp but keep the RME ADI-2 as a DAC, which amp would that be?
Thanks.
You'll need a better DAC as well. But even then I don't think there is a noticable improvement.
 

Zeus+Leto

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Thanks.
I have tried the SP-200, THX AAA-789 & Rupert Neve Headphone Amp and I did not find any of them superior to the RME ADI-2 headphone amp.
 
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Agree with Sweetwater, never had an issue there. However, this product is sooo much cheaper when purchased from Nord or RME Shop. I'm not sure if the adapter is 60Hz, or if it matters, though.
The power adapter is 100-240 V, 50-60 Hz. So, if you in US and getting it from EU, you only need to order a US power cord.
 

DeepSpace57

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I think RME should release a new version with AK4499 as soon as possible. I am not impressed of the results at all considering its price tag.
 

Blumlein 88

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Agree with Sweetwater, never had an issue there. However, this product is sooo much cheaper when purchased from Nord or RME Shop. I'm not sure if the adapter is 60Hz, or if it matters, though.
Didn't know you could purchase directly from RME shop. Is that
https://www.rme-usa.com/adi-2-pro-be.html
Or is there another place to purchase one?

Or is this just a UK/EU situation?
 
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