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Article: RME ADI-2 DAC FS Review

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9 hours ago, wgscott said:

I have the same DAC as one of the most unapologetically subjectivist people that posts here.

 

Out of curiosity, what DAC and what member? 

 

As I said above, I don't think of myself as solely "subjectivist" or "objectivist," and I certainly think that people are allowed to believe what they want. My preamble was an attempt to flag for self-identified objectivists that my review would involve my subjective impressions (like @austinpop's reviews and others') and to politely suggest not to read on if that's not their cup of tea. Unfortunately, judging by the reaction to this review by the ASR crowd, that didn't matter.

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8 hours ago, andrewinukm said:

I don't know why people who dismisses observational reviews (reviews based on individual listening), and insists on measurements plus bias-controlled-test come here and demands for all kinds of nonsense. They have their playground at ASR, go have fun there.

 

 

Please share a little more about the hearing training courses.

 

Harman How to Listen is the classic. The Sound Gym site is also great. I've used both. The only downside is that the Harman is a desktop app and the Sound Gym tends to work best on desktop. But there are also some good, if less full-featured, apps to use on smartphones and tablets. HearEQ, Quiztones, and StudioEars are my favorites. 

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Great review. I have an ADI-2 DAC and I agree with your assessment. I will say that any shortcomings of this DAC are easily forgotten if you rely on some of the impressive DSP software engineering in this product. For example, I have Sony MDR-Z1R headphones which famously suffer in some areas of its frequency response due to some poor design decisions, but they are nearly perfect with some parametric EQ. I also have some programmed “setups” for custom bass/treble tone adjustments for other cans, adaptive loudness for low-level listening, and don’t forget the huge database of IR commands, that any universal remote can support, to control almost every function of the DAC to include on-the-fly selection of DA filter or Crossfeed algorithm (works great with the Harmony Elite remote).

 

I don’t have very demanding or inefficient cans, so the headphone amp is more than adequate for my needs and I therefore can’t comment on it’s shortcomings. My most demanding cans (the aforementioned Z1Rs at 64 Ohms) are driven in low-power mode  and I never go higher than -20dB. For my very efficient cans or very noise sensitive IEMS, the IEM output of the DAC has been very adequate (I never go above -10bB) and noise is inaudible at any volume.

 

Thanks for a great review. Reviews like yours and @austinpop (like the recent dCS Bartok review) are a joy to read. I do follow ASR, I do appreciate objective measurements, but I also love a healthy combination of subjective and objective analysis.

 

Cheers.

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On 11/8/2019 at 11:03 AM, JoshM said:

As I said in the beginning of my review, if one doesn’t think it’s possible for DACs above a certain theshold to sound different, I’d suggest buying the Modi 3 and not reading my reviews. 

 

What is 'a certain threshold'?

 

I'd suggest purchasing a DAC that gets as close as it gets to reconstructing the source material.

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1 hour ago, plissken said:

 

What is 'a certain threshold'?

 

I'd suggest purchasing a DAC that gets as close as it gets to reconstructing the source material.

 

You’d have to ask the ASR crowd what that threshold is for them. According to Amir’s reviews, DACs that measure much “worse” than any mentioned in this review are audible identical to “perfect” DACs in his blind listening.

 

Personally, I think Marv’s SBAF post (linked as “realist” in my review) comes closer to the truth. 

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On 11/8/2019 at 6:34 PM, Ralf11 said:

 

 

were those 2 things done for this RME review?

 

BTW, Rajiv laid out a nice list of why different DACs might sound different - if you search under his username, or for "sticky" and mine you'll find it

 

My vote goes for analog stages in the DAC...

 

I think that austinpop was mostly quoting this post by the late Charles Hansen (Ayre):

 

On 9/1/2017 at 11:44 PM, Charles Hansen said:

 

Hi Mansr,

 

The thing that I see over and over and over in this thread is an irrational belief in the importance of the DAC chip itself. Just about everything affect the sound of an audio product, but when it comes to DACs, I would rank (in order or sonic importance the general categories as follows:

 

1) The analog circuitry - 99.9% of all DACs are designed by digital engineers who don't know enough about analog. They just follow the app note. The specs on the op-amps are fabulous and digital engineers are inherently seduced by the beauty of the math story. There are minor differences in the sound quality between various op-amps, but it's kind of like the difference between a Duncan-Heinz cake mix and a Betty Crocker cake mix. 99.8% of the op-amps are used a current-to-voltage converters with the inverting input operating as a virtual ground. This is probably the worst way to use an op-amp as the input signal will cause the internal circuitry to go into slewing-limited distortion. http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/anablog/4311648/Op-amp-myths-ndash-by-Barrie-Gilbert

 

With discrete circuitry, the only limit is your imagination. You are free to adjust the topology of the circuit, the brands of the parts, the active devices, the bias current in each stage - anything you can think of. Think of this as going to a world-class patisserie in Paris and seeing all the different things that can be made.

 

2) The power supplies - 99.9% of all DACs use "3-pin" power supply regulators, which are pretty much op-amps connected to a series pass transistor. Everything in #1 applies here.

 

3) The master clock - jitter is a single number assigned to measure the phase noise of an oscillator over a fixed bandwidth. It is far more i important to know the spectral distribution of the timing variations and how they correlate to audible problems. 99.9% of all DACs use a strip-cut AT crystal in a Pierce gate oscillator circuit. It's pretty good for the money but the results will depend heavily on the implementation, particularly in the PCB layout and the power supplies (#2).

 

It's hard to rank the rest of these so I will give them a tie score.

 

4) The digital filter - 99.9% of all DACs use the digital filter built into the DAC chip. About a dozen companies know how to make a custom digital filter based on either FPGAs or DSP chips.

 

4) PCB layout - grounding and shielding, impedance-controlled traces, return currents, and return current paths are all critical. For a complex digital PCB, 8 layers is the minimum for good results.

 

4) The DAC chip - almost everything these days is delta sigma with a built-in digital filter. Differences between different chips is one of the less important aspects of D/A converter designs. Both ESS and AKM have some special tricks to reduce out-of-band noise, which can be helpful, but not dramatic.

 

4) Passive parts - the quality of these can make a large difference in overall performance, especially for analog. Not many digital engineers sit around listening to different brands of resistors to see what sounds best.

 

These are just a few of the things that make differences in the way that a DAC will sound.

 

Hope this helps,

Charles Hansen


"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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On 11/12/2019 at 6:56 AM, JoshM said:

 

Out of curiosity, what DAC and what member? 

Teac, Theresa.

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I am an ADI 2 DAC user for a year.

I use Aurdivana on a DELL and send the sound to a mR(with Uptone ULTRACAPs) which is then connected with a Uptone USPCB A>B to ADI 2 DAC. I am upscaling in Audirvana and the dac understand whatever comes. 

Not many words from, it just sounds FANTASTIC!

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You lost me when you said you're using a crApple Mac Mini as a source. I you don't have a proper, purpose-built network bridge/streamer you shouldn't be reviewing DACs or file-based audio at all. 

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Hi Arthur,

I'd try to figure out what you mean, but ....
Could you decribe more precisely what would you expect as equipment baseline to validate (DAC) reviews and to feel happy about reading them?
And would you consider that "The best version of" from Josh has lost value for you as well, because he didn't do all his listening with "proper, purpose-built network bridge/streamer" set up?
Curious, Tom

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1 hour ago, ArthurOtt said:

You lost me when you said you're using a crApple Mac Mini as a source. I you don't have a proper, purpose-built network bridge/streamer you shouldn't be reviewing DACs or file-based audio at all. 


I didn’t specify this in my review, but all of my DACs are plugged into a CalDigit TS3+ thunderbolt interface, which is in turn hooked up to my Mac Mini. However, I don’t think it impacts sound so much as stability, and I’m puzzled as to what you think is necessary for a DAC to work properly. I can assure you than many albums today are recorded with modest audio interfaces plugged directly into a Mac, many of the DAC measurements one finds online are done via analyzers attached directly to a Mac or PC, and many of the DAC reviews in places like Stereophile are carried out with the DAC hooked up to a Mac or PC via USB. Most DACs today should have sufficient jitter rejection that a dedicated source isn’t necessary, since that’s not most people’s use case. Moreover, I have several well-measuring USB to SPDIF converters on hand, including a Schiit Eitr and Matrix X-SPDIF2, which I try to see if the sound through them into the DAC is superior to the sound through the DAC’s own USB input. 

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1 hour ago, JoshM said:

... I have several well-measuring USB to SPDIF converters on hand, including a Schiit Eitr and Matrix X-SPDIF2, which I try to see if the sound through them into the DAC is superior to the sound through the DAC’s own USB input. 

Personally I use: MacMini -> Intona Usb Isolator -> Schiit Eitr -> Delock Coax To Toslink Converter -> Rme Adi-2 Dac -> Etc. Sounds great! :) 

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19 hours ago, JoshM said:


I didn’t specify this in my review, but all of my DACs are plugged into a CalDigit TS3+ thunderbolt interface, which is in turn hooked up to my Mac Mini. However, I don’t think it impacts sound so much as stability, and I’m puzzled as to what you think is necessary for a DAC to work properly. I can assure you than many albums today are recorded with modest audio interfaces plugged directly into a Mac, many of the DAC measurements one finds online are done via analyzers attached directly to a Mac or PC, and many of the DAC reviews in places like Stereophile are carried out with the DAC hooked up to a Mac or PC via USB. Most DACs today should have sufficient jitter rejection that a dedicated source isn’t necessary, since that’s not most people’s use case. Moreover, I have several well-measuring USB to SPDIF converters on hand, including a Schiit Eitr and Matrix X-SPDIF2, which I try to see if the sound through them into the DAC is superior to the sound through the DAC’s own USB input. 

In the last year Stereophlle has reviewed the Innuous Statement and one of the Wolf servers (model number escapes me at the moment). Both are 5 figures and "audiophile optimized". 

JA couldn't measure any difference between them and his MAC when using a decent DAC like a Mytek. If you "read between the lines" of his subjective impressions, he couldn't hear any difference either, although he apparently wasn't willing (or able) to say this. 


Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>RPi4 (dietpi)>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: (1) CAPS Pipeline>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three .(2) CAPS>ifi iDAC SPDIF>Kii Control.

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup. Living Room/Kitchen: RB Pi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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7 minutes ago, firedog said:

he couldn't hear any difference either

 

The below is a reality every one of us faces at some point in life, but don't want to talk about...

 

image.png.ebfd68e219397ced8d519d1a1732b6f5.png

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14 minutes ago, firedog said:

it applies equally to almost every subjective listening impression posted about audio. 

 

Exactly... I can't speak for anyone else but I don't read subjective reviews for other people's thoughts on SQ... that doesn't make any sense to me.

 

Sometimes the reviews explain features I'm interested in, features that aren't perhaps explained well elsewhere.

 

For sound quality, I gotta listen myself.

 

14 minutes ago, firedog said:

And btw, if it was relevant, then almost every audio review written is useless

 

I think so... for reasons above. With the exception of reading about features/functionality.

 

Just me though.

 

I'm not sure how you can say "irrelevant" when it will affect all of us at different stages in life...

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I’m a long time fan of JA’s measurements though. I have a lot of trust in those.

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I look at reviews as data points, whether objective or subjective. Not every data point is created equal and all must be read with a greater understanding of surrounding circumstances than just as a review in a vacuum. 
 

If I hear the same thing that others I trust hear, then I’m more likely to find their reviews useful for me personally. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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