RME ADI-2 DAC FS is it "All That", especially for under $2,000?


I am upgrading my main system with a Mark Levinson No 532H and pair of Tekton MOABs, arriving in the next few weeks. I decided my Music Hall 25.3 DAC should probably be upgraded as well, I have a PS Audio preamp I was planning on still using.

I am getting a lot of recommendations for the RME ADI-2 DAC FS, and some are saying replace my PS Audio preamp with it also. Pretty much every review or even mention of it I can find, comes with descriptions like "End Game product regardless of price" and "State of the art".

Thoughts?
Thanks.
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 It depends on your ears, and your system. There’s only one way to know for sure. Buy one from a vendor that allows returns and give it a try.
The RME ADI-2 is an excellent AKM implementation. If that is the type of sound you like, and the complicated UI will not be a problem for you, then I would definitely recommend it.

Yes, its all that and more. You may sleep very well with the RME in your system. And it should be close to $1,000.

Hi Brad,
I had the RME in my last system and loved it. Very revealing and versatile. I didn’t think the UI was that bad. The manual is very detailed but once you get the hang of it it’s fine. With me it was set it and forget it. I really found that it did not color the music in any way and I’m thinking about getting another one at some point.
For the money it is an outstanding DAC

Great performance for the money.  There are better units around that do the same things (eg Mytek Brooklyn+ etc) but they are mostly double the price.
Another happy user of RME ADI-2 DAC FS newest generation here. "End game" for me. Especially (important point) with balanced XLR cables (to my MF M6si integrated). For balanced connection make sure to adjust DAC's reference level to +1 (see a lot of discussion about the topic on the excellent RME user forum.) This DAC is now the heart of my system. It is getting optical digital input from Node 2i. Node 2i gets music from Qobuz/Tidal, and from USB attached WD Passport disk with all my CDs ripped to FLAC. The DAC is also getting digital input from my CD player over a Mogami coax cable.
The manual is a great source of information about digital audio, UI is learnable and for me now it is set it and forget it. I use a very nice remote control to select input (optical vs coaxial) and to adjust volume/balance. 
The sound is wonderfully detailed and noise free.  
Expensive interconnects are not needed, mine are Sommer Epilogue for about $100. They beat Audioquest Colorado RCA. No 3rd party power supplies needed either.
At this point I no longer consider any further upgrades to my system, I totally love what I have today -- and just concentrate on music (not equipment)
A new DAC with no I2S input ? I don’t get it. For headphones this DAC is killer...if you have a dedicated system with an amp / pre-amp already and don’t listen through headphones then you have better options. Look at the Topping D90 for example.  Give it a try and purchase from somewhere that allows 30-60 day returns...you have nothing to loose.  Congrats on the MOABs.  Let us know how they work out.
I am really enjoying the Topping D90. It improved every aspect of sound from my system.  I got it for 630 from Apos Audio who will let you return it but I would be very surprised if you did.  This has the AKM 4499 with other high quality components.  Denafrips uses the R2R topology but is 8-10 wks out.  The Sabaj D5 for 469 uses the latest ESS chip and also got very good write ups.  Gustard A22 uses two AKM4499.  After that the price goes up and I don't know what configuration the other regarded brands use.  
I actually bought both the RME ADI-2  and a D90 just yesterday. I will try them in combination with my PS Audio pre and my Axiom II pre w/walker mod from my other system, and see what works best. I will also try the RME as DAC and preamp.

I have a 60 day return policy on the D90. I bought the RME from the manufacturer, forgot to inquire on their return policy, but unlikely I'll want to return it.

I do use XLR between components for 2 channel. I hook my HT Prepro main outputs to amp via RCA, and switch back and forth. Best of both worlds so to speak. 
Thanks @ghjuvanni. It will take a while to learn, but I am pretty good with electronics. All the DACs I have used have power and source select as only options...  :)  

Brad1138, I'm guessing you purchased both DAC's to A/B them? Please let us know if the Topping is on par with the RME at only $ 630-that would be a great value proposition!
I've had the RME for about three years. I find no reason to upgrade. It's extremely flexible. Also if you find the manual a little intimidating go to RME ADI-2 DAC walkthrough. There is a 25 minute step by step video on how to operate the DAC. 
I just received a new RME DAC today, am running it balanced, in bypass mode and it has impressed out of the box, without adjustment. I would be interested to hear suggestions for adjustments.
+ I need to connect 2 Macs, but there is only one USB socket. I am thinking about 2 possibilities. I already have an external USB to SPDIF converter (a Hag USB), so could connect one source via Coax. Alternatively I get a hub, to connect both sources to the one socket. I do not want to degrade the sound and ideally would prefer not to have to switch between the two sources on the hub.
Thoughts?

by the way, The RME feeds into a Pimare P30 pre-amp via balanced connections, in stereo bypass mode (so there is no reconversion to digital). I have active monitors, so everything has volume control.

I think you would want a USB switch instead of a hub. With a switch you can connect multiple computers to  multiple devices a hub you connect 1 computer to multiple devices. 
thanks. yes, i should have said a USB switch. presumably any of reasonable quality should suffice?

You just don't need to pay this much for what the RME does, unless you want its EQ capabilities for some reason.

Otherwise save your money can get superior, measured performance with the new Topping D90, which uses a latest generation AKM chip.
Yes, I thought about that, but for the extra there is some flexibility for room correction etc. I´ll get round to that once I´ve figured out the basics. And it´s German, for what it´s worth.

Although it sounds incredibly clear, when the volume is set in mid-range there is more audible white noise from the monitors, more than with the old DAC which is inside the pre-amp. Is there any reason why I should not set the volume to maximum and attentuate through the pre-amp?
I am very interested on hearing the comparison of the RME vs D90, I know the D90 measures outstandingly good and 4499 it is indeed a newer AKM but some people which have gotten the D90 have mentioned glitchy performance and said the sound is not engaging as with other similar DACs. Would you mind sharing @OP your upstream source? If you are using DSD with the RME you could take advantage of direct dsd but this will invalidate the DAC DSP and volume control in which case having a preamp still will be a good option.
Hello again. I did compare the RME vs D90 and my Music Hall 25.3 as well.

The RME and D90 sounded virtually identical to my ears. I really could not discern a meaningful difference, especially enough to sway me one way or the other. I am sending the D90 back, the added functionality of the RME is worth the extra $ to me. I will be using it as just a DAC, and will continue using my PS Audio preamp.

The Music Hall was less refined than either of the other 2, it did have more bass, but not as tight. It almost sounded like it had the slightest bit of reverb relative to the other 2. Which was nice in some ways.

Although I am good at critical listening, my ears unfortunately are not what they used to be.... :( Others with better ears might be able to pick out more subtle differences.
I have a RME coming in as well as a Chord Qutest and will compare to Chord 2Qute which I have had for some time.  The 2Qute has always amazed me with its clarity, drive and fullness, but then again I have alot of tube gear downstream from it.
I just have a question how were you able to get Topping 90 for $630 from Apos audio. I called them and they were not able to seel for 630.
Thanks, 
Great price for the Topping 90
I have and love the RME ADI-2 FS DAC.
I’m sure the Topping D90 and others are wonderful but there are several features that swayed me to the RME.

The RME has easy access to treble and bass adjustments. It has a choice of 5-6 filters to shape the music to my taste. It also has a parametric EQ on board for even more control of the sound.

 I know using those functions mentioned above is considered heresy by some, but for me, it’s all about getting the most from my system and enjoying my music to the fullest.

It’s great to see all these choices popping up on the market now.

@joeini how does it sounds? compared to other DACs you might have experienced?
@luisma31


Hi,

I also have an Audio Mirror Tubador III SE that I love. The reason I bought the RME was because I wanted a solid state dac that I could leave on all the time.

I’ve been burning in the RME ADI-2 for a few days. It’s neutral and clear as a bell but not aggressive or harsh. Actually, it’s pretty awesome. I’m going directly into my amp right now to make things easy. I always prefer a preamp in the chain but this unit might change my mind. Especially now with the choice of filters and on board treble and bass controls.
It’s dead quiet, has tons of details and a ballsy bass line. An unbelievable bargain for $1150.
My Audio Mirror is so good, it gives LampizatOr a run for its money. The Tubador is sweeter, meatier and a little fuller than the RME, but it’s all about the presentation you prefer.
I’m not getting rid of either and love them both for different reasons but the RME is a giant killer. Sorry for the cliche.

Monday I’m going to change up my system to something that I’m more used to hearing and I’ll update later on in the week.
returned the topping d90 mqa - my three dacs presently are rme adi 2, chord qutest and chord 2qute
Hey,
I "Mirror" luisma31 post.
I too have the RME. His remarks are spot on.

And I have a tube DAC (Musical Paradise MP D1 MKII with upgraded caps and 6922 tubes) which I enjoy as well.

The DAC's are at opposite ends of the audio spectrum.
Yes, the RME is crystal clear with no digital glare or harshness but the sound stage is a bit narrow and shallow.

The MP DAC o.t.h. is lush and full. It has a wonderful expansive sound stage.
The RME is a bit better at "hearing into" the mix (detail).

Truth be told; I can listen to either for hours with no listening fatigue.

That being said; The MP DAC is about 9 years old.
I wanted to ask Luisma about the sound qualities of the Audio Mirror Tubidour III.
What is your opinion of the Audio Mirror unit? 
Is it detailed as well as being musical?
That would seem to be the ideal character for a DAC.

Thanks very much.

Hi, I think you probably are asking someone else, I don't have the audio mirror dac, although I heard good things about it, I have a project s2 and denafrips terminator and was considering the RME adi-2 and tubadour as well
I am a recent RME owner and I would guess I have forty hours on my unit and I’m very impressed with this DAC, even out of the box I was impressed. As soon as I hooked it up I did not use use the stock PC into the switched power supply but an extra cable I built from VH Audio shielded PC with Furutech plugs into my PS Audio P5 so I’m not getting people describing the closed in or shallow stage as in my system which I have room treatment I find the complete opposite. I leave my system on 24/7 except my preamp being it is tube based.

I’m amazed how good this little box is for the money and trying to get my mind around how many manufactures have much bigger boxes filled with so many components inside. I think for the price of this DAC I’m using fairly adequate cables to pull out what this unit is capable of and maybe I’m not really hearing what this piece is capable of.

So far I have not tried the headphone amp but using only as DAC with the volume, and all the other variable settings set to fix. I’m using coax and balance out so maybe others are using other in/outputs. I’m extremely impressed with this DAC and dare say it’s the strongest component in my system today. My only negative comment is I wish it had more inputs as I have three devices I’d like to connect without having to unplug. I’d rather have a BNC input over the Toslink.

This DAC is very clean but without having any edge and I don’t want to call it smooth or analog but but I guess it is but not slow or boring. Absolutely no fatigue or ringing; this thing is dead quiet and in my system it throws a huge stage well beyond the sidewalls of my room and definitely beyond my speakers. What I’m amazed is, I’m hearing that the DAC in my Cambridge wasn’t delivering bass authority. Not that my Cambridge doesn’t produce adequate bottom end but the RME shows the Cambridge definitely has it weaknesses and it’s actually a great bargain but it’s not up to the RME... not even close

I know it’s all about system synergy but I don’t get how anyone feels this DAC is closed in, so maybe I just got lucky. Don’t know if owners that are talking about its shallow/narrow stage have the earlier unit as mine is the latest FS versions and they’re using the stock PC. I haven’t pulled my ModWright preamp out yet to run the RME direct but I will and I’m actually a little nervous because I love my ModWright. Another thing thing I’ve noticed is low level volume which my system excels at, but the RME is noticeably better than my Cambridge at this as well. I know the Cambridge isn’t a world class component but for the money it’s darn good. What I wasn’t expecting was how noticeable the difference would be and it’s not what many say is just a different sound, signature or presentation because any component such as preamps, cables and etc. will do the same. No, the RME just does everything better than my Cambridge which my Cambridge does better than my Oppo 205 does.

The RME is a great little DAC that really shows what great engineers are capable of who come from the pro engineering side of things. Made in Germany, can be had for $1099 new with a 30 day return policy from most if not all authorized retailers. It is a powerful DAC with more features than most users need but the menu is not that hard to learn and with the manual at hand it is easy to navigate through so don’t let that scare anyone off.

I’ve not heard a MHDT, Denafrips and other DACs mentioned here by many and I’m sure they sound wonderful. I was looking at these other brands and if it wasn’t for the current pandemic I would have made a purchase but stumbled on RME and glad I did. I’d say many manufacturers have a lot to be worried about on the RME ADI 2 fs. The box and feel/fit is very good but it’s not Audio jewelry so if one wants to pay 2-3X for that, if not more then have at it. As mentioned my only complaint and it is minor one, is limited inputs but I’m sure it would add cost and probably for most not an issue. Another great thing is I don’t feel the need to modify, change caps or roll a tube which it doesn’t have or need... it sounds great as it is.
@adg101: you mentioned that you compared cambridge audio DAC with RME ADI-2. May i know the Cambridge Audio model name..?
The RME is excellent as pre to a power amp or powered speakers. Also here lots of appraisals for the Matrix DAC regarding its output stage.
@sathtom
Cambridge 851C CDP/DAC. It’s a full CD player with preamp out and DAC input in - same as the 851D. The 851C is very good and I’m keeping it to use as a transport but the RME is a better DAC, more refined by a good margin. 
Saying the ADI-2 FS has a narrow soundstage compared to DAC's with tube outputs is...obvious. That's the point of tubes - fatten up the imaging and expand the soundstage.

Compared to other solid state DAC's the ADI-2 FS soundstage width/height/depth is fine. Imaging is very solid, which can contribute to the perception of a narrow soundstage. But I've found that recordings with big images and big soundstages are presented as such, and recordings with smaller images and narrow soundstages are presented accordingly. In short, it's an honest DAC.
Agree with @jeenam thats it’s an honest DAC. It is accurate but with no glare or harshness whatsoever. Can listen to the RME for hours with no fatigue whatsoever. Now if ones system is thin or bright to begin with then yeah it might just pass the [email protected] right on through, but on my system it’s smooth even on the most unforgiving filter which is what I use.

Just changed the power cord on my transport from a Nordost Vishnu, which is a very good cable, to a WyWires Silver Juice II Digital and the change was easily noticeable to a wider stage and dare I say smoother or the noise floor dropped a smidge. With my ModWright preamp and Pass amp this DAC is very musical, fast, exceptional bottom end and extracts more out of recordings than any digital front end I’ve heard. I run mine with everything off and the volume fixed and it’s smooth. If one did find it a little too clean there’s a ton of ways to go into the menu and blend away but I’ve not found the desire to mess with it as I find it great running it straight out.

Would love to compare this DAC to a +$4K machine as I suspect much of that cost is going into the big machined box. RME claims no need to try a linear power supply but I’m tempted to try a Sbooster or Pardo PS to hear if this thing can get any better. I run it off my PS Audio P5 so not sure It would make a difference, so if anyone has changed out the PS I’d appreciate their thoughts.
I am not an owner of this DAC neither I have tried it but I have read
I’m tempted to try a Sbooster or Pardo PS to hear if this thing can get any better.
That an LPS provides some enhancements, I am following this thread because I have been wanting to get one, very split between the DAC and the FS cause I would like to possibly record vinyl

Just to be clear I’m not saying one has to throw on LPS to get great sound out of the RME as it is an outstanding DAC regardless of the price. What I am implying is I’m curious if an LPS will take it to another level and if so I’d spend the $400. I have an email into Teddy Pardo on his thoughts and if he has or will build a LPS for the RME. If I don’t hear anything back then I’ll explore the Sbooster.
Agreed, most people report excellent results with the stock Dac.I would also look into John Kenny's (Ciunas Audio) super caps LPS, 3A nominal and good cost possibly under $400Anyone here using the ADC to record vinyl? Good results?
I just ordered this DAC.... can't wait !    I'm using a NAD M51 which is a fine DAC so the comparison should be interesting.    

One of the reasons I bought this DAC is to use its crossfeed circuit with my Quicksilver headphone amp.  That along with its feature set.  I rarely buy anything sight unseen or unheard but hopefully it's as great as everyone says it is.


I actually found the ADI-2 FS to be too much on the high frequencies for my liking and ended up keeping the NAD M51. The ADI-2 is definitely more detailed than the M51, but who cares about detail if you can’t actually enjoy listening. Compared to the ADI-2 FS, the M51 is rolled off on the high end. And that’s even with the ADI-2 FS using the NOS filter. I realize the ADI-2 FS has a parametric EQ, but what’s the point in eq’ing the thing to sound rolled off on the high end? With EQ adjustments it lost the edge in detail that it had over the M51.

Just my $0.02. I had high hopes for the ADI-2 FS but it ended up being too ’studio’ sounding for my tastes. I find the M51 to be more musical whereas the RME was more analytical.
I picked up an ADI-2 FS last week and have been letting it run in for a few days.  My previous DAC was a Bricasti M3.

For the money, I very much like its sound quality, and that doesn't take into account the many features it offers.

A question for other owners, has anyone had intermittent connection issues with the power cable?   The connection on my unit is not very good and I have to move/wiggle the connector to get it to power up, and then moving or touching the power cable can cause it to power off.
I'm wondering if this is a common problem or just related to my unit...

On the topic of the power supply, has anyone tried a power supply upgrade and did it make any difference?   One minor complaint I have with the sound is I don't find it overly dynamic or offering overly strong bass.  I am wondering if a better power supply might improve that aspect of its sound.
I love this DAC.   It is in an all tube system so I like a DAC that doesn’t add nor detract.  It is better in my current system than the M51 it replaced and although I posted the M51 for sale I think I am just going to keep is as the heart of a simple 2.1 system in another room

Rhe power connection is a locking connection.   Gently push in and turn to the right .  Gently !!!  It should turn about 1/4 way and stop.  


@ddafoe i run a Bricasti M3 in my main system and just ordered the ADI-2 DAC for my home office to use as a headphone amp/DAC.  
I’m curious to know what if any  differences you hear between the M3 and the ADI-2?

i did buy the MDx upgrade board and installed it several weeks ago.  Nice improvement and worth the price I paid.
@oddiofyl that was it, I wasn't locking it; thanks!

@sfseay, my M3 had the MDx board in it from the factory.   I find the ADI-2 to offer a little less resolution compared to the M3, and less drive and dynamics.   The ADI is smooth and very easy to listen to.   I found it lean sounding when I first hooked it up, but after running it 24/7 for a few days I feel like it has added a little more depth, although that might simply be related to me listening to the Topper D90 a lot recently which is very detailed and focused.    I found the M3 a little thin sounding compared to my previous DAC (380DSD) so I could see some folks liking the ADI sound better if ultimate resolution and dynamics isn't their number one goal in a DAC.   The ADI makes it very easy to listen to the music without having to focus on every little recording detail.   On the same hand, on some high quality recordings I wish for a little more detail and jump similar to what the M3 and D90 offer. 

For its 'relatively' modest asking price and throw in its many features, I think it is a great deal at 1/5 the cost of the M3.    When you have settled in with it, please let me know your thoughts on it...   I'm still tempted to try a M3 again but this time around get the integrated Ethernet board since I only stream; the big step up in price after hearing what is available for around $1K is making it hard on me to pull the trigger now though :)
@ddafoe I have the Ethernet port on my M3. However I rarely use it. I need to compare it to the Antipodes DX2. The DX2 runs Roon core and is a Roon Ready player. I connect it via USB to the M3.

One nice thing about Roon is I can group the M3 and the DX2 in Roon and switch back and forth using the M3 source button (LAN/USB).  I wish I had the M3 remote but I’m not going to pay $500.00 for a remote I would rarely use!  Also, I don’t see the M3 listed as a compatible device for my Logitech Harmony remote, which is a bummer.
Hi ddafoe,
Just a reminder that the power cord for the RME is a locking connection; twist clockwise to lock, counter to unlock.