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.


Uhm, this might be a dumb question, but is there any way to connect a turntable to an ADI-2 DAC - or at least the amp-section of it? Or would I have to get the ADI-2 Pro to do this?


There’s not a practical way to do it, absent having a phono-stage that has a COAX or TOSLINK S/PDIF output (and even then it’s not guaranteed to work).

The ADI-2 DAC only has digital inputs, and the “amp” is purely driven from the unit’s internal DAC so there’s no other way to address it.

You can connect a phono-stage to the analog inputs on an ADI-2 Pro, but the first thing it will do is digitize that input - which may not be what you want.


Okay. I’m going to pair the ADI DAC with an amp at some point anyway, so I’ll just have to make sure that I can connect a turntable to that, I guess. Thanks for the clarification :slight_smile:


You’ll just need an amp with two inputs, or a simple switch feeding a single input then.

If you want to keep things really simple, in terms of cables and number of boxes, then something like the Schiit Jotunheim would take the balanced output from the RME ADI-2 DAC, and then if you got the Jotunheim with the built-in phono-stage, you could plug the turntable into that for a two-box solution.

The Lyr 3 would let you do the same thing, but you’d have to use the single-ended. output of the ADI-2 DAC.

Both are a nice complement to the RME ADI-2 DAC, though any amp with two inputs would work - you just may need a phono-stage in the mix as well, depending on the amp and turntable in question.


I was actually considering the Massdrop THX or waiting a bit longer and go for the Phonitor X/XE. But the Jotunheim might be a solid pairing as well :slight_smile:


I have both of those here, and both pair very well with the RME ADI-2 DAC. They have the requisite inputs as well, and in both cases I’d use the ADI-2 DACs balanced output into them and use the single-ended inputs with a suitable phono-stage.


It would be interesting to see what everyones settings for the RME ADI-2DAC are, I was playing around with my settings again late last night after a work call (damn international timezones :wink: ) and this morning I had this thought driving into work, and after the gym. When I get home I’ll go through and either take pictures of my settings or just list them.
I know @Torq has preferred settings.

I’m still trying to figure out what my preferred settings are, but I was messing with crossfeed last night…need to play with it more and research more on what I’m hearing when I change it.


It depends … especially as I have a couple of these units in different locations (well, three … I suppose, if we include the ADI-2 Pro fs Black)

At home … my RME ADI-2 DAC spends the majority of its life running the “Sharp” filter (which is linear phase), with no EQ or crossfeed enabled, bass and treble at 0 dB, no loudness contour specified, with Auto Ref level enabled, and set at 0 dB output.

The headphone output is set to normal power (i.e. “High Power: Off”).

And in general I listen via an external amplifier; almost always my SPL Phonitor X.

In special circumstances I will sometimes run the “SD Sharp” filter (usually for monitoring, where I want lower latency), and in the “day job” office I have different EQ curves setup for different headphones as I do not have a way to do EQ in software there. For long listening background-listening sessions, I will sometimes turn on crossfeed, with the level being dictated by which headphones I’m using. And I’ve been known to turn up the bass or lower the treble depending on the content in question and how I am feeling (if I’m physically tired I’ll often turn them both down a couple of dB).

If I’m using the built-in headphone output (common for IEMs, less so for full-sized headphones), then choice of headphone will dictate the output power level.


I look forward to getting home and tinkering with it more… I have probably similar settings on a day to day as your at home settings…as of late I’ve been playing with the crossfeed, for no particular reason other than tinkering… I have it at 3 with the HD820 once again for no particular reason than 3 being one of my favorite #s