🔶 RME ADI-2 DAC

This the unofficial thread for the RME ADI-2 DAC. This thread is for discussion and reviews.

  • Balanced Line Outs
  • Single Ended Headphone Outs
  • USB - Optical - Coax
  • Parametric EQ

Reviews…

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As a newborn audiophile, that looks intimidating as hell!

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My Brief Review:

SOUND
Unbalanced Line Outs: Very clean and uncolored as you would expect. I did some A/B testing with this and the Topping D50. In summary, I couldn’t hear a discernible difference. Equipment used was JDS Labs Atom and HD800S. I have a selector switch, so switch time was less than a quarter second. Volume was matched by ear (not ideal, I know).

Headphone Output: Again this was very clean and uncolored. So I couldn’t hear any significant difference between the ADI-2 and the Atom.

FEATURES
The HUGE amount of nonstandard Features is definitely the main reason why anyone should consider this DAC. The big ones for me are:

  • 5 Band parametric EQ. 20 Presets which can be applied to any output.
  • Room Correction. Which is possible because each individual channel can be EQ’d. (I will be trying this out later)
  • Treble/Bass adjustment with dedicated knobs. The Frequency and Q values can also be adjusted.
  • Programmable remote and Universal Remote support.
  • And a lot more. Check the 70 page manual if your curious.

Previously, I was using Equalizer APO + Peace UI if I ever needed to on PC. It’s a great program, but I have many computers and devices. With the ADI-2 DAC, I can now EQ my rhythm games on console and not bother with maintaining EQ APO on multiple PCs. Regarding that huge manual, I really appreciate the level detail they went into. It doesn’t just explain how to use the device; it also gives useful background info. Here’s an excerpt about its SteadyClock FS feature

31.3 SteadyClock FS (click arrow to expand)

RME’s SteadyClock technology guarantees an excellent performance in all clock modes. Its
highly efficient jitter suppression refreshes and cleans up any clock signal.
Usually a clock section consists of an analog PLL for external synchronization and several
quartz oscillators for internal synchronization. SteadyClock requires one quartz only, using a
frequency not equalling digital audio. Modern circuit designs like hi-speed digital synthesizer,
digital PLL, 1 GHz sample rate and analog filtering allow RME to realize a completely newly
developed clock technology, right within the FPGA at lowest costs. The clock’s performance
exceeds even professional expectations. Despite its remarkable features, SteadyClock reacts
quite fast compared to other techniques. It locks in fractions of a second to the input signal,
follows even extreme varipitch changes with phase accuracy, and locks directly within a range
of 28 kHz up to 200 kHz.
The further improved SteadyClock FS technology offers even lower self-jitter, and uses a low
phase noise quartz with jitter in the range of femto seconds. Thanks to the highly efficient jitter
suppression, the AD- and DA-conversion always operates on highest sonic level, being com-
pletely independent from the quality of the incoming clock signal.
SteadyClock has been originally developed to gain a stable and clean clock from the heavily
jittery MADI data signal (the embedded MADI clock suffers from about 80 ns jitter). Using the
input sources of the ADI-2 DAC, SPDIF, ADAT or AES, you’ll most probably never experience
such high jitter values. But SteadyClock is not only ready for them, it would handle them just on
the fly.

Flaws
The biggest flaw IMO is how much of a pain it is to configure and setup. Navigating all the menus and functions is not very intuitive. So it’s got the biggest learning curve of any DAC I’ve ever seen. It would be nice, especially for EQ setup, if we could configure it on PC. I also wish the remote had more programmable buttons. The 4 programmable buttons can be mapped to any of 9 settings presets. This is useful for quickly switching between headphone EQ’s or between Speakers or headphones.

In Summary, I freaking love this thing. For me it’s worth the $1,100 price since it has both top tier performance and an unrivaled featured set. Once my THX 789 arrives next month, I will have my “endgame” solid state setup for at least a few years. I will move my D50, Atom, Loki Stack to my nightstand.

UPDATE.
A couple more things to note.
Both unbalanced and balanced line outs are always active at the same time. Luckily, this shouldn’t pose a problem for my setup. Another thing I noticed is the power plug/jack are not well designed. Lightly pushing down on the connector will cause the unit to lose power… -_-

-----CUSTOM REMOTE SUPPORT-----
The newest version of the firmware has universal remote support and Logitech’s Harmony remotes support this DAC with no issue. Any other remotes require manual configuration using a list of IR codes available on RME’s website. One option is to use an Android phone with a built in IR blaster along with the IRplus app. Do yourself a favor and just use this config file if you want to try it out

IRplus XML Configuration
<irplus>
<device manufacturer="RME" model="ADI-2 DAC" columns="12" format="WINLIRC_SPACEENC" one-pulse="564" one-space="1692" zero-pulse="564" zero-space="564" header-pulse="9024" header-space="4512" gap-space="108000" gap-pulse="564" bits="32" pre-bits="32">
<button label="POW ON" labelSize="25.0" span="6">0x00000000482C04FB</button>
<button label="POW OFF" labelSize="25.0" span="6">0x00000000482C28D7</button>
<button label="+VOL" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C847B</button>
<button label="+B" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CF40B</button>
<button label="+T" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C8C73</button>
<button label="-VOL" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C44BB</button>
<button label="-B" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C0CF3</button>
<button label="-T" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C4CB3</button>
<button label="OPT" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C24DB</button>
<button label="USB" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CA45B</button>
<button label="COAX" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CC43B</button>
<button label="MUTE" labelSize="20.0" span="6">0x00000000482C54AB</button>
<button label="MUTE ALL" labelSize="20.0" span="6">0x00000000482C40BF</button>
<button label="B/T" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CD42B</button>
<button label="EQ" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C34CB</button>
<button label="LD" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CB44B</button>
<button label="EQ+B/T+LD OFF" labelSize="20.0" span="12">0x00000000482CC03F</button>
<button label="BAL L" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CCC33</button>
<button label="VOL" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C748B</button>
<button label="BAL R" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C2CD3</button>
<button label="MONO TO L" labelSize="14.0" span="4">0x00000000482C807F</button>
<button label="MONO" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C00FF</button>
<button label="POLARITY" labelSize="18.0" span="4">0x00000000482CA05F</button>
<button label="DIM" labelSize="15.0" span="4">0x00000000482CE01F</button>
<button label="AUTODARK" labelSize="15.0" span="4">0x00000000482C609F</button>
<button label="TOG VIEW" labelSize="15.0" span="4">0x00000000482C10EF</button>
<button label="PH/LINE SWITCH" labelSize="20.0" span="12">0x00000000482C20DF</button>
<button label="SETUP 1" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C649B</button>
<button label="SETUP 2" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CE41B</button>
<button label="SETUP 3" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C14EB</button>
<button label="SETUP 4" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C946B</button>
<button label="SETUP 5" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C5CA3</button>
<button label="SETUP 6" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CDC23</button>
<button label="SETUP 7" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C3CC3</button>
<button label="SETUP 8" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482CBC43</button>
<button label="SETUP 9" labelSize="20.0" span="4">0x00000000482C7C83</button>
<button label="CROSSFEED 1" labelSize="14.0" span="4">0x00000000482C906F</button>
<button label="CROSSFEED 2" labelSize="14.0" span="4">0x00000000482C50AF</button>
<button label="CROSSFEED 3" labelSize="14.0" span="4">0x00000000482CD02F</button>
<button label="CROSSFEED 4" labelSize="14.0" span="4">0x00000000482C30CF</button>
<button label="CROSSFEED 5" labelSize="14.0" span="4">0x00000000482CB04F</button>
<button label="DAC SD SHARP" labelSize="12.0" span="4">0x00000000482C708F</button>
<button label="DAC SD SLOW" labelSize="12.0" span="4">0x00000000482CF00F</button>
<button label="DAC SHARP" labelSize="12.0" span="4">0x00000000482C08F7</button>
<button label="DAC SLOW" labelSize="12.0" span="4">0x00000000482C8877</button>
<button label="DAC NOS" labelSize="12.0" span="4">0x00000000482C48B7</button>
</device>
</irplus>

Example Setup with a LG V20

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LOL. Yeah it’s definitely the most complicated DAC I’ve ever used.

I love my adi-2. Been messing around with all kinds of low end cheap stuff for so long, I figured I’d just treat myself and finally be done. And so I did it. Canceled my order for the 789 because I can almost guarantee I will not hear any discernable difference. Sure you make the argument of single ended vs. balanced headphones but i think im good with the adi-2. Probably the best all in one unit money can buy. The tweaking potential is enough to keep me busy for years.

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Yeah I’m not expecting to hear much difference once my 789 arrives. But there’s so many people insisting balanced does make a noticeable difference, I feel the need try it out myself.

I originally said the same thing, but after a lot of thinking about it I decided to cancel it.

I’d assume the main noticable difference is the power the 789 can push vs the rme

I’ve long flirted with idea of buying the RME. As an EQ devotee I’m attracted to the idea of a hardware-implemented parametric option, but haven’t yet decided whether the 5-band limitation would be an issue. But that would be moot if there’s no sonic benefit to doing EQ in the RME as opposed to using (competent) software on my laptop. Has anyone who has compared the two have an opinion on this?

There’s no benefit in using the ADI-2 DAC’s EQ if something like Equalizer APO meets all of your needs. This DAC is great to have if your using non computer sources, or simply don’t want to bother with Window’s software. Once I get my custom remote working, I’ll be able to switch between headphones, and my speakers much faster than I could on Windows.

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There isn’t a quality difference? I would assume that the built in eq of the rme would be better implemented with less quality loss then a software solution that would have to run through more paths

Well I’m sure there are some software implementations that do sound noticeably worse. But I don’t see a technical reason why a software solution must be inherently worse (sound-wise) compared to what the RME DAC does.
I use Equalizer APO (w/ Peace GUI) on Windows. Presumably some experts have evaluated the code and ensured it’s all solid.

At any rate, I haven’t noticed a difference between the two as of yet. I will try doing some A/B comparisons later.

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I also sometimes use EQAPO and it’s great. I just wondered weather there would be a difference

Another datum. The only diff I hear between a headphone EQ’d and its un-EQ’d sound is the frequency response change. This is true for EQAPO on a PC and eqMac2 on a Mac. (In contrast, using the built-in EQ applet in iTunes creates an obvious degradation.)

It sounds as though you two agree that EQAPO, at least, doesn’t degrade. And since the RME hardware EQ doesn’t claim to magically enhance the audio output (beyond the FR change)…

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Another passenger on the ADI-2 train. I had always meant to dabble in EQing with software, but I couldn’t shake the fact that a software solution can be prone to bugs and incompatibilities. Combined with the fact that my only amp was a tube amp that made my 1990s pretty sibilant despite a tube swap, it was just time for a change.

The 789 goes very well with the ADI-2. Highly recommend combo.

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Woohoo! I finally got my custom remote working. See my post above up top for the details. Getting an IR blaster app working turned out to be way harder than it should have been. The NEC IR standard allows for a wide range of different implementations. And RME’s IR codesheet turned out to be lacking in detail. I ended up needing to record the stock remote’s output using a Raspberry Pi and IR receiver (which luckily I owned) so that IRplus developer figure out the exact format RME was using.

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I purchased the ADI-2 Pro Anniversary Edition and agree. I put a Mytek Manhattan in the living room.

YouTuber Max Settings just released a review of the ADI-2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkS4oCOQjx8. He’s selling it after having it a year. Starts with a useful extended walk-through of entire menu, but skip to 21:45 if looking for the sound review. My synopsis of his thoughts:

RME as AIO: 1/4" headphone out has lots of power, SQ is good, about like Magni 3(!), maybe a little better, but amp holds back the DAC a little bit, esp. re dynamics.

RME as DAC: very flat/reference (designed for pro use not audiophile), clinical, kind of dry. Not most musical, instead very analytical. Great detail, not most dynamic but very good. Blows the SDAC and Topping D10 he was using previously out of water. Competitors: Soekris 1421 and 1541 (which he is buying), USB Pre(?), Schiit Gumby.

Reading between the lines: he is conflicted because he wants to sell his unit, so doesn’t want to pan it completely, but he really wants something more musical. Says he never once used the EQ.

Personally I thought RME amp sounded significantly cleaner (and better) than the Magni 3. He might be right about the dynamics though; I never tested for that.
I more or less agree with his comments about the DAC sound. But I still think it’s more of an audiophile device rather than a professional one. It’s full of features I don’t imagine any professional would use.