RME’s ADI-2 DAC is a high-end playback and monitoring device with major crossover appeal, successfully planting a foot in the worlds of both Pro Audio and HiFi.
Transparent and highly accurate audio combines with formidable options for tweaking, and an on-board 5-band parametric EQ allows for adjusting the playback to match with any headphones and speakers you can throw at it (note: don’t throw speakers and headphones at it).
A string of highly positive reviews from well-known magazines and websites like Sound On Sound, Headfonics and Resolution Magazine brought the DAC to the attention of HiFi Wigwam, a forum dedicated to high-end audio discussion.
Pro audio devices often have a reputation in HiFi for being sonically too ‘clinical’ for use as a playback device. Reviewer George Sallit was therefore pleasantly surprised by the ADI-2 DAC’s sound, describing it as “neutral, 3D, with great clarity. In fact, I might even say it was on the warm side of neutral. Surprise 1.”
“Designed and built in Germany, by beautiful old men…”
The world of HiFi is also known for its love of technical detail, and as such the review includes a short interview with the ADI-2 DAC’s designer Matthias Carstens, answering questions on the choice of chipset, the NOS filter, and confirming the DAC is built entirely in Germany by ‘beautiful old men’.
George wraps up the review by concluding that the ADI-2 DAC was better than his “£1K references, already the best sub-£1K DACs I had heard, and it could be preferred to another twice as expensive.”
“I then left the test tracks behind and just played the music that appealed to me at that time, as opposed to being in reviewer mode with pen in hand and notebook at the ready. For me, that is a great sign as I am starting to enjoy the music.”
Boasting a feature set that will excite both HiFi enthusiasts and audio professionals, the ADI-2 DAC is a true reference-class converter with an incredible level of flexibility. All outputs can be adjusted to suit any pair of headphones or speakers via the independent 5-band parametric EQs found on each channel (independent for left and right). Each output’s EQ settings can then be saved to one of the ADI-2 DAC’s onboard memory slots for easy recall.
You’ll also find bass and treble switches, along with a ‘Loud’ mode – legacy features with a nod to traditional HiFi setups. These are also user-adjustable, so you’ll be able to quickly add the perfect amount of bass boost to a dance track, or instantly dial up the treble on an old jazz record.
Other unique features include automatic recognition of headphone impedance, ensuring you’ll always have enough volume regardless of your choice of cans, along with automatic volume reduction to prevent against accidental damage to your headphones (or ears!). RME even added a unique feature called ‘AutoDark’, for switching off all lights on the device when you want to enjoy music in total darkness.
More advanced features include adjustable crossfeed, which blends the left and right channels slightly for a more natural listening experience; a choice of 5 different anti-aliasing filters; and DSD playback and sample rates up to 768 kHz. The ADI-2 DAC is also class compliant / plug ‘n’ play with Windows, Mac and iOS devices.
A first for an RME device, the ADI-2 DAC features a remote control, which can be customised to provide quick control over your most commonly used features. Along with volume, power on/off and input selection, the remote features four additional user-definable buttons, with a total of 21 different parameters available for customising the remote to your liking.
Since its release, the RME ADI-2 DAC has received strong praise from both magazines and users, with Sound On Sound writing that they’re “very impressed with all that it can do, and the ease and quality with which it does it!”, and Headfonics going as far as to say they “can’t think of any other desktop DAC/amp combo that would be easier to recommend”.