Hi All! I’m seriously considering the RME ADI-2 as my all-in-one desktop unit but am a bit concerned with comments regarding the quality of the amp output. How does the amp compare to other all-in-ones such as the Grace m9XX/00 or iFi iDSD Micro BL? I’ll be using the RME to drive low impedance, high sensitivity headphones such as the Focal Elegia (perhaps the Elex/Clear), Fostex variants, Ultrasone Signature’s, and IEM’s such as the Noble Audio Dulce Bass.

If the amp selection is similar to the iFi or Grace, I’ll probably just pocket the money as it’s 2x the cost of those units… unless the features more than make up for the price.


Well if you can wait until the 16th you will probably be able to hear all of those… I have no problem with my ADI-2DAC and it’s amp, but I prefer it with a more solid amp…but YMMV


I can totally wait. I’d also like to hear Holo’s Cyan as well but the RME is the perfect form factor for me. Plus, the EQ and treble/bass features are really attractive. I’ve owned the Grace m9XX in the past, so I’m familiar with it as a starting/reference point.


The RME ADI-2 DAC’s amp is pretty solid - and has enough power for most sane headphones. Its only real weakness is in its slightly compressed dynamics via the headphone output. You can minimize this by running the unit in “Hi Power” output mode for the headphone connection.

But even in “Lo Power” mode, it’s not that the dynamics via the amp are an issue - just that they’re not quite on par with what that DAC section is actually capable of.

To hear the difference you’ll need a transparent and reasonably powerful amplifier - something like the Massdrop x THX AAA 789 or the Schiit Jotunheim (both of which can be driven balanced, which helps in hearing the difference here).

It is also worth noting that this slight dynamic compression is not in evidence with IEMs (using the dedicated IEM output), at least with the IEMs I’ve tried it with. Indeed, the ADI-2 DAC’s IEM output is excellent - one of the best I’ve heard in fact (and the stuff that betters it is several times the price of the RME unit).

The iFi Micro iDSD Black Label is a bit less resolving (as a DAC or DAC/amp) and a little more relaxed/laid-back (when just used as an amp) with a higher noise floor. It is also requires engaging it’s IE Match functionality with sensitive/low-impedance IEMs which is sometimes awesome and sometimes not - varies with your IEMs - though it does unfailingly result in a silent background.


Ping Tim at Kitsune Hi-Fi … he’s the US arm of Holo Audio, and is local, he may be able to let you hear one (depends on availability at this time of year). I returned the loan units to him after I finished my Azure review so I won’t have one here for our upcoming little meet.


I still want that Cyan…for no other reason than the way it looks! Lol helps it rivals the ADI-2DAC


Which UI do you think is better/easier to use – Monolith THX vs ADI-2 DAC?


Monolith THX is easier, but only because it has less options. I keep the ADI-2DAC manual on my desk as reference at all times, it helps that it is a well written manual.


RME posted another firmware update for both the ADI-2 DAC and the ADI-2 Pro units.

In addition to the usual array of little fixes and tweaks, it adds a new feature that allows you to lock the volume control to a fixed level. Useful if you are using the unit as a pure-DAC feeding an external amp and want to make sure the output level isn’t accidentally changed.


Thanks so much for the detailed response! It seems like one can’t really go wrong with either choice. The difficult question… is the RME worth 2x (or close enough) the cost of the iFi? The RME feature set, in theory, seems fantastic. But, is it something you fiddle with a few times, set, and forget?


I suppose some of it comes down to how you think about feature-usage. When using EQ, for example, you might create a preset for each of your main headphones - and that might constitute the “fiddling” with it part … but if you’re then using that EQ when you’re listening then you’re still using the feature every time you listen.

If you do your EQ in software, or at the source, then obviously the EQ capability is not that valuable.

The RME is a lot more controllable than the iFi Micro iDSD Black Label.

With the iFi you either have bass-enhancement on (which for me was too overdone) or off. With the RME you can adjust it up or down by up to 6 dB very easily, and have a lot more flexibility via the EQ function. Similarly, if you want cross-feed it’s just an on-or-off setting on the iFi, where as you have multiple levels on the RME.

Personally I prefer the RME over the iFi as a complete package.

Also, the RME ADI-2 DAC can be bought, new, from an AD, for <$950 pretty routinely. Which makes it about 1.5 times the price of the iFi rather than double.

The biggest advantages of the iFi device are that a) it’s more transportable (and self-powered if you want it to be) and b) it can drive more demanding headphones.