Pleased with RME ADI-2 DAC fs

I had a Node N130 with a LPS, and a SMSL M400 DAC, into powered B&O speakers.  But this gave me almost no ability to adjust the sound (e.g.-tone controls).  And I could only plug headphones into the Node, bypassing the better DAC.

So I thought I’d buy a headphone amp.  But that would lead to more cables, switching from one component to another, and another remote.  I found the RME ADI-2 DAC fs a great solution.  If I want to use headphones, I just plug them in.  I also now have an (over?)abundant supply of controls, which will allow me to experiment with all sorts of adjustments.  I now have full DSP processing with Bass, Treble, Loudness, 5 Band Parametric EQ, Crossfeed and much more.

Upon setting up the RME I found some bass on some recordings to be unpleasantly muddled.  This is inconsistent, and could be electrical interference from the use of other things in the house, (e.g.-dimmer switches, dryers, etc.), something rattling on a shelf, my room acoustics, or just bad recordings.  I’ll be working on that.  But most of my music is great, including when listening on headphones!


Which version of the ADI-2 FS do you have? The AKM or ESS version? Despite RME stating there is virtually no difference in sound signature between the AKM and ESS versions, my experience was otherwise. I'd originally picked up the AKM (the v2 DAC) version and found it was too bright and fatiguing in the highs. Thus I stuck with the NAD M51 I had been using. Fast forward a few years and I figured I'd try the ADI-2 FS again since they switched to the ESS chipset. I ended up keeping the ESS (v3 DAC). It doesn't seem to be as musical as the M51, but the difference is minimal and the RME has far superior detail retrieval than the NAD without the fatiguing brightness of the AKM version. Note the difference in high frequencies between the AKM and ESS is very slight and the majority of people cannot differentiate between the two versions.

I do not use the headphone amp of the ADI-2 FS. Despite the abundance of options to shape the sound, I only use the bass/treble controls, and even then it's mostly to attenuate bass frequencies late at night.

Admittedly I haven't compared the ADI-2 FS to any DACs other than the NAD M51 that I previously owned. However, that will change soon as a Chord Mojo is on the way.

@jeenam I have the AKM version.  I think it’s the second version, as mine came with the remote with more functions.  I recently tested high frequencies and found that I could hear 2000 Hz, but nothing above that.  My wife could clearly hear 4000 and 8000 Hz.  So for me I either wouldn’t hear brighter highs, or they would sound better.

Since you tried the ADI-2 twice, what was drawing you to it?  

I have a UMIK 1 and plan to do some room testing this winter.  I know that room treatment is supposed to be the best solution to room problems, but I’ll give DSP a try.  There are so many choices in audio equipment and it’s difficult to make comparisons, but I’m happy with my results so far.

Yes, the AKM v2 comes with the updated remote control.

The NAD M51 was at one time a highly regarded DAC. I still enjoy listening to it and am fond of how it sounds. The reason I upgraded from the M51 was I knew it was long in tooth and the newer DACs had made leaps and bounds in the Signal to Noise Ratio realm (SNR). I listen with my ears for the most part, but the massive increase in SNR with modern DACs suggested it was time for an upgrade.

As to why I chose RME; it was based on the great reviews. RME has a phenomenal reputation with pro audio so I figured their gear would be up to snuff. As mentioned, I can do without all the fancy bells and whistles the ADI-2 FS offers, but it's a good value sound-wise at used rates (typically <$900 USD at the time of writing). With the rise of Audio Science Review and the legions of music listeners that prefer measurements over subjective listening preferences, I knew the Chi-Fi brands would be lacking in substance. In other words, cold and sterile. So that basically eliminated all of the new breed of Chinese crap. I was left with exploring the 'old guard' of audio brands, so to speak.

As with many folks in this hobby I spent hours upon hours researching DACs within my budget before deciding on the ADI-2 FS. I had also owned numerous pairs of speakers from PMC so I was familiar with vendors in the professional space that had crossed over to releasing hi-fi gear, and that's basically how RME framed the ADI-2 FS. A DAC built by pro audio specialists that could also function in the hi-fi realm without sounding clinical.