Looking for advice on dac upgrade

Hello, some time lurking here :D, but this is my first post looking for your advice on a new DAC or DAC / AMP.

I have an RME ADI-2 v2, which I bought as an upgrade for my iFi iDAC2, and while I like its features and form factor, unfortunately to me, it sounds too analytical, I find it too dry, lifeless and harsh. To me it almost feels like it’s having troubles to keep the music rhythm. IMHO even the much cheaper EL DAC (AKM4490), the EL DAC is more musical a little bit on the warm side, but smoother than RME and more fun to listen to.

By the other hand the iDAC2, while it’s on the warmer side, has some bright or accentuated treble which has grown on me and was the main reason I decided to upgrade it.

I was thinking in one of the following (in no particular order), but open to other options, preferable in the RME price range (or less).

  • iFi NEO iDSD

  • Burson Audio Playmate 2 (Vivid + Classics)

  • Topping D70s

Worth say I mostly use it on my desktop while working but also for fun with my iLoud MM speakers and Rupert Neve Headphone amp (which I love btw :D) with HD600 and HD560 .


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Welcome to the forum. Your comment on the RME ADI-2 v2 is feedback I’ve heard before from people whose ears and opinions I trust.

IMO thought you’re in a tough spot if you go with a DAC/Amp combo as either the DAC or the Amp will inevitably be a compromise. Disclaimer I’ve not heard any of the DACs you list but I did recently buy the Conductor 3X R (thankfully I bought it knowing going in that I was getting it for the amp) and the DAC leaves a lot on the table. So if you want to upgrade in earnest and you want a DAC, buy a DAC!

You should be able to get hold of something like a Holo Cyan (NOS PCM version) in the used market for about the same or maybe a little more than you’d get for selling your ADI. It’s a wonderful under the radar Holo product that gives you 70% of the high end Holo sound while haqving the same family DNA. The amp in it blows though. But you can then get an Burson amp only or even shop around for an amp with a signature that will pair well and give you the sound you described.

BTW I had a Liquid Platinum that paired well with the Holo Cyan and I know amps in the Violectric 200 family will also give you that warmer richer fun sound (with slam) but also be detailed and accurate.

Today I’m sitting on that Burson Conductor 3XR and an Yggdrasil. The Yggy has everything I described before and it adds a very impressive stage both on HP and on my monitors.

Hello @db_Cooper , thank you for the welcome and your answer! and yes, for me the RME was a disappointment.

I think you are right about the DAC vs DAC/AMP combo, and more since I have the RNHP which I like.

About the Holo Cyan, I have heard a lot of good things about it, so definitely worth checking it and more if I could get a good used one.

Another one which got my attention after many good comments here from but hard to get are soekris 1541, but once again it’s a combo rather than a pure dac.

BTW I had a Liquid Platinum that paired well with the Holo Cyan and I know amps in the Violectric 200 family will also give you that warmer richer fun sound (with slam) but also be detailed and accurate.

Oh yes, awesome combo without a doubt! I was close to getting a LP some time ago, but in the end I did not, because at that moment I was looking for an amp with pre-amp, so I went with a cheaper Gilmore Lite MK2…

I have also used some schiit dacs (cheaper) modi multi-bit + eitr in the past and while I liked, I perceived some signature similar to the iDAC somewhat warmer but with some incisive brightest I disliked, for this main reason I am not sure if should add Bifrost 2 as a candidate to pair with my speakers and RNHP

Yeap, you’re going to find compromise but there are two camps, DACs that throw in and amp and Amps that throw in a DAC. An in the lower price ranges you’re compromising on one but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pair a great DAC/amp with a great AMP/dac. lol ftw.

BF2, the Soekris line and the Ares II are all very well thought of and highly recommended and you can do a lot of reading about them here. The secret is more in the pairing and getting the most synergy you can with that pairing (including your headphones as part of the chain).

Schiit Bifrost 2. A standard forum pairing with the RNHP. Has the smaller form factor which is a plus. I would take that over other options if it’s available to you.


The Bifrost 2 is definitely a great sounding DAC. I know, I’ve had one in my stereo setup ever since it became available, and love it. I had the original Bifrost that Schiit came out with years ago and did all of the possible upgrades to it, and it too sounded great, but the BF2 is even better.

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I would def agree with the bf2 pairing, really great synergy there

Totally understand your concerns, the bf2 is a total rework and very different from the modi multi bit so you shouldn’t have to worry about that imo. Personally also wasn’t a fan of the modi mb but I really enjoy the bf2 at it’s price point

Thank you all for your help!

About the BF2 seems to be a solid option and definitely will consider it, how would it compare against my initial candidates ? Do you think it’s a better option than any of those?

By other hand, another DAC I have listened and really like it, it’s the Crane Song Solaris (AKM4490), could you suggest an alternative to it with similar sound signature as unfortunately it is out of budget and well its form factor it’s not so desktop friendly :slight_smile: .

Comparing to the adi 2, I think it would have similar surface level resolving power but with more lower level resolution imo, much better timbre and texture, slightly less treble extension (but not to a degree where you need to worry about it), more tonal density and body, more punch, a much more spacious stage with more accurate placement although slightly less sharp imaging, and better dynamics overall. Personally I don’t think too highly of the adi 2 as a dac only if you can’t tell lol. Also signature wise the adi 2 is more neutral forward, the bifrost 2 is more neutral slightly warmer smoother

The d70s is also a step down from the bifrost overall (where at least the adi 2 trades some detail in resolution) but is more neutral than the bf2 but personally I wouldn’t consider it competitive, somewhat similar to the adi 2

I haven’t heard the neo idsd yet so I can’t comment on there, same with the playmate 2 but I don’t know if I would get a playmate 2 for a dac only

Ah yeah that’s a great dac, unfortunately I can’t say I’ve heard anything that really sounds that similar to it at a lower price point

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So it seems the BF2 its really the best option and offers a performance above its price range.

Ill check it out, and report back when it arrives (some weeks later :() as it says 2-4 weeks.

Once again thank you for all your help and valuable feedback!

The bf2 just ends up having really good synergy with the rnhp, better synergy than something like a denfrips ares ii or holo cyan imo (although the aforementioned cyan does offer a bit higher technical performance) and that kinda makes it one of the reasons it’s recommended with the rnhp, but there other good options as well. I would say performance wise the bf2 offers at it’s price range, I don’t really think it punches above or anything, but it offers a lot for the money in compared to some other similarly priced dacs (like a topping d90 for example, imo handily beat by the bf2)

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I see, so what about speakers as I use both headphone and speakers equally I must say, do you think BF2 would work with active speakers (currently using iLoud MM) using a passive volume control?

Actually that was one of the reason I looked for combos in the beginning as being able to use both RNHP and use the pre-amp for desktop monitors.

Do you think an used Chord Qutest could be a good option? while I have not heard it, I have heard a chord mojo and I liked it, but not the best option for a desktop setup I must say.

With ilouds I think it would work pretty well, you would just want something to control volume, some passive solution like a schiit sys would work great there, and since the bf2 can output both at rca and xlr with no quality loss, it should work out just fine

If you liked the mojo it’s a step up with a bit more no nonsense signature. When you say not the best option for a desktop setup, do you mean sound wise or usability wise?

With ilouds I think it would work pretty well, you would just want something to control volume, some passive solution like a schiit sys would work great there, and since the bf2 can output both at rca and xlr with no quality loss, it should work out just fine

Yes, I am thinking on a passive volume control like this Which comes with an ALPS27 and seems pretty solid

If you liked the mojo it’s a step up with a bit more no nonsense signature. When you say not the best option for a desktop setup, do you mean sound wise or usability wise?

Yes, I liked the mojo sound, really smooth and IMHO somewhat unique sound, I can definitely notice a difference vs other DAC’s I have tried. What I do not like about it is using the mojo as a desktop dac, not the best for cable management and also have to deal with it being battery operated, so I prefer a more traditional setup.

However some reviews describe the qutest as analytical and lean, which seems very opposite to mojo to me.

From what you state as your goals so to speak, it seems to me that the BF2 is going to be your best choice out of all the DAC’s mentioned in this thread. It really ticks all the boxes, especially at its price point.

The BF2 plays nice with all of the different loudspeakers I’ve used in my system in this room without issue. When I bought my SMSL M400 DAC, I was going to put it in my main system to possibly upgrade from the BF2, but I decided against it because the BF2 just sounds right with all loudspeakers and all music, and movies.

I decided to keep the M400 in my headphone rig only.

Just as a side note, the BF2 replaced a brand new PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC. Using the BF2 in one of the balanced inputs on the Stellar was a major upgrade in sound over the built-in DAC of the Stellar, and that PS Audio piece is $1700. After 6 months of ownership, I sold the Stellar and purchased the Freya+ preamp to make the kit complete.

Hi @Chops, thank you for your help and yes definitely I am leaning towards the BF2 the downside is it is currently backordered for about 2-4 weeks.

Wow, That tells a lot, as PS Audio gear is considered to be high level

By other hand, while at schiit’s site I noticed the Gungnir and it intrigued me, as I commented I really like the Crane Song Quantum DS (AKM4490 i think), so always looking for a good DS implementation, but being honest I am not familiar with this Gungnir unison DS (non-multibit), is it any good? Can it be similar to Crane Song ? and how would it compare vs the BF2 ?

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You’re welcome. Personally, IMHO, the BF2 is worth the 2-4 week wait, but that’s just me.

The basic Gungnir is a great unit and it was the one I was considering at first. Before purchasing, I asked the guys at Schiit what they thought. Below are exact quotes from that email back in Oct 2019…

I currently have PS Audio Stellar gear, the Gain Cell DAC/preamp and a pair of M700 amps powering a pair of NHT 2.9’s that I’ve had for over 10 years now. Though it sounds good, it’s not getting me those fun-filled gooshy feelings, lacks any kind of body and warmth, nor do I get the dynamic swings that I crave that I know these speakers are capable of, so I’m wanting a change. The system just isn’t doing it for me. Hell, in fact, it puts me to sleep half of the time! This holds true with the Klipsch Heresy III’s that I also have, and those can definitely do dynamics.

My main goals for the new system is to have those dynamics, including detail and extension, as well as a nice full bodied midrange and refined, smooth top end.

Now the question is the DAC. I’m struggling to decide on whether I should go with the Bifrost 2 or the base Gungnir. I know I can also get the Gungnir mb or at least get the mb board later down the road, but I was just hoping you guys would be able to shed a little bit of light on the subject.

Grover @ Schiit Audio:
All sounds great! I would probably recommend the Bifrost 2 - I feel it’s the most compelling DAC in our lineup other than Yggy at the moment, and the best bang for the buck, especially for the sound signature you’re going after.


Chops has come to us from the future to tell us that nearly a millenia later the Bifrost2 is still a wise choice…


LOL! Oops!

BTW, great avatar. Kind of fitting for what you just said. LOL

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@M0N having skipped the BF2 natural progression how would you describe, differences/similarities between the BF2 and the Yggy? Signature, capabilities, strengths?

It seems to me as Schiit not really having a “house sound” neither in the amp or DAC offerings. They seem to just shoot for a good product at a certain price, then really upgrade that product in the version 2.

That’s the recurring theme with the Freya, the Bitfrost and some of their headphone amps.