Topic: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Hello, this is my first post! I’m looking to buy an ADI-2 DAC FS as soon as I can.  I’m wondering if I should partly fund it by the sale of my current preamp.

None of the reviews I’ve seen seem to discuss the quality of this unit as a preamp; and understandably focus on the performance of the DAC.

I’m really interested to hear your views on the performance of this unit’s preamp.

Best

David

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Because the DAC model has no analog inputs, if you need those go for the Pro version.

BR
Ramses
X10SRi-F, E5-1650v4, Win10Pro20H2, Cub11Pro, UFX+ (v0.9734), XTC, 12Mic, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Thanks for your reply. No I only need digital inputs (streamer and sometimes a CD player). Would you say it’s a good quality preamp for this? Many thanks

4 (edited by N00b 2020-06-11 15:43:14)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Vorty wrote:

Hello, this is my first post! I’m looking to buy an ADI-2 DAC FS as soon as I can.  I’m wondering if I should partly fund it by the sale of my current preamp.

None of the reviews I’ve seen seem to discuss the quality of this unit as a preamp; and understandably focus on the performance of the DAC.

I’m really interested to hear your views on the performance of this unit’s preamp.

Best

David

Hi Vorty smile
In the old time of Hi-Fi, preamps did have there own "sound" because they introduce various distorsions... Tube etc.

Thankfully, these times are over and if a preamp has a different "sound" than another, it is very poorly designed or is defectuous... Or one can look for the warm sound (due to distorsion) of a device with tube for instance. The ADI-2 DAC and Pro are not in this category of course.


A modern preamp has 3 tasks:
1) Selecting the source you want to listen.
2) Offering different settings and features (bass/treble, balance, loudness, remote etc.)
3) Include a system to lower the volume from 0 dB to the desired volume without introducing noise or distorsion.


For item 1), if you have only digital sources, ADI2 DAC is perfect. If you have analog source in your system, the ADI-2 Pro is more suitable.

For 2), the ADI-2 DAC and Pro are among the most poserful preamps available these days: B/T, balance, stereo width, phase, dynamic loudness, 5 bands parametric EQ, variable crossfeed, M/S proc. etc. And the remote is very convenient and powerful!

For 3), RME uses a digital volume control (controlled by the DSP) and 4 hardware levels in order to optimize the levels and the S/N ratio. The Auto Vol Ref function automatically switches between these 4 levels to always be in the optimum S/N ratio zone.
Please see the manual on page 63 if you want more explanations.

So yes, ADI-2 are "good quality preamp", except if you look for distorsion smile

ADI-2 DAC (with stock PSU) - Neumann KH 310 A monitors - Cheap USB and XLR cables

5 (edited by ramses 2020-06-11 17:46:54)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Vorty wrote:

Thanks for your reply. No I only need digital inputs (streamer and sometimes a CD player). Would you say it’s a good quality preamp for this? Many thanks

Of course.

The digital inputs simply forward a digital signal that has been A/D converted somewhere else.
There you have no sound degradation.

Even jitter is eleminated by RME's steadyclock mechanism fully and D/A conversion happens inside of the device
by using its internal extremely accurate FS (Femto Second) clock.

Well and about the quality of the RME circuit design and the Quality of the D/A converter from AKM I think we do not need to discuss. Technical data / measurements underpins that.

BR
Ramses
X10SRi-F, E5-1650v4, Win10Pro20H2, Cub11Pro, UFX+ (v0.9734), XTC, 12Mic, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

ramses wrote:
Vorty wrote:

Thanks for your reply. No I only need digital inputs (streamer and sometimes a CD player). Would you say it’s a good quality preamp for this? Many thanks

Of course.

The digital inputs simply forward a digital signal that has been A/D converted somewhere else.
There you have no sound degradation.

Even jitter is eleminated by RME's steadyclock mechanism fully and D/A conversion happens inside of the device
by using its internal extremely accurate FS (Femto Second) clock.

Well and about the quality of the RME circuit design and the Quality of the D/A converter from AKM I think we do not need to discuss. Technical data / measurements underpins that.

Hi Ramses. You only comment the DAC part, but when I read the first OP post, the question is about the pre-amp (what occur after DAC). wink

ADI-2 DAC (with stock PSU) - Neumann KH 310 A monitors - Cheap USB and XLR cables

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

N00b wrote:
ramses wrote:
Vorty wrote:

Thanks for your reply. No I only need digital inputs (streamer and sometimes a CD player). Would you say it’s a good quality preamp for this? Many thanks

Of course.

The digital inputs simply forward a digital signal that has been A/D converted somewhere else.
There you have no sound degradation.

Even jitter is eleminated by RME's steadyclock mechanism fully and D/A conversion happens inside of the device
by using its internal extremely accurate FS (Femto Second) clock.

Well and about the quality of the RME circuit design and the Quality of the D/A converter from AKM I think we do not need to discuss. Technical data / measurements underpins that.

Hi Ramses. You only comment the DAC part, but when I read the first OP post, the question is about the pre-amp (what occur after DAC). wink

Yes and that was my statement about Steadyclock an the D/A part of the AKM and the circuit part in general wink

That's why I'm not quite sure what you mean by your comment, or whether you simply misunderstood me.
Anyway, no big deal, I'm just wondering about your comment, nothing more wink wink

BR
Ramses
X10SRi-F, E5-1650v4, Win10Pro20H2, Cub11Pro, UFX+ (v0.9734), XTC, 12Mic, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE

8 (edited by Curt962 2020-06-11 23:39:43)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Hi Vorty!  Welcome to the Forum!

ADI-2 DAC...all day long.  It's a Thoroughbred!   The Lab reviews speak for themselves.  All you need to do now is download the User Manual, and begin familiarizing yourself with it's astonishing versatility.   You surely will want the RME in your System.  Trust me!

High WAF!  (Wife Acceptance Factor)

That's helpful, because Wife and I evaluate a lot of Children's Music for the Schools...and we love our ADI-2DAC!!    Why we would have EVER considered anything else is just incomprehensible.   The RME is your Answer.

Best in Fidelity!

Curt

Vintage 2018 ADI-2 DAC. "Classic AKM4490 Edition"
Cables:  Red, and White Ones.
Speakers:  Yes

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Hi all, thanks so much for your comments, they are really helpful! I was hoping this was the case. I’ve got a 15 year old Cyrus 8 integrated amp that I’m using as a preamp, alongside a separate power supply. If I sell both of these I think I will (a) be 70% of the way to the cost of an ADI-2 and (b) have fewer boxes (which will please my wife)!

I’m suffering from a serious case of upgrade-itis at the moment!

Thanks again all.

10 (edited by Curt962 2020-06-13 04:11:28)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Thanks to You Vorty.

We like Gushing about our RMEs. smile

It's a Reference Grade Unit that owes no apologies to anyone. 

Get yourself an RME, and then place the rest of the Upgrade-Itis into remission!     Perhaps then, we can take a look at your Room/Speaker/Seating arrangement.  Oh Manoman!!  Those aspects of Sound Reproduction hold the Key!! 

Maybe a few tweaks to Speaker/Seating location, and some Artistic Brush Strokes with your RME's PEQ...  WOW!!!

We've done it before.  Typically to great effect.

Your Wife will Love us.  big_smile. (She gets to spend the Money that you didn't!)

Best to You

Curt

Vintage 2018 ADI-2 DAC. "Classic AKM4490 Edition"
Cables:  Red, and White Ones.
Speakers:  Yes

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

This is not true. All converters create sound degradation and loss in comparison to an analog waveform, and all converters sound different. They may not be drastically different, but they are different. Like roses or anything in the world. There's variation in design resulting in different sound.

ramses wrote:
Vorty wrote:

Thanks for your reply. No I only need digital inputs (streamer and sometimes a CD player). Would you say it’s a good quality preamp for this? Many thanks

Of course.

The digital inputs simply forward a digital signal that has been A/D converted somewhere else.
There you have no sound degradation.

Even jitter is eleminated by RME's steadyclock mechanism fully and D/A conversion happens inside of the device
by using its internal extremely accurate FS (Femto Second) clock.

Well and about the quality of the RME circuit design and the Quality of the D/A converter from AKM I think we do not need to discuss. Technical data / measurements underpins that.

12 (edited by ramses 2020-06-15 16:18:00)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Misunderstanding .. I talked about the further transport of the already digitzed signal towards ADI-2 *
as you mentioned that you only need digital inputs ...

BR
Ramses
X10SRi-F, E5-1650v4, Win10Pro20H2, Cub11Pro, UFX+ (v0.9734), XTC, 12Mic, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

ezrashanti wrote:

... all converters sound different. They may not be drastically different, but they are different.

As long as DA-converters do follow the common standard -
absolute linear frequency response up to 20 kHz, above a sharp brick wall filter
- the differences are really minor and, in true blind A/B comparison with precisely equal levels set, hard to detect.


ezrashanti wrote:

... All converters create sound degradation and loss in comparison to an analog waveform, ...

Anyway, consumers playing recorded music do not have access to the original analog waveform.

I am running a high end recording studio for decades now,
I have, permanently!


Hearing the difference between the analog input, and what is delivered from my digital recording system all the time is part of my daily job.
I'm doing quasi- permanent A/B all day long.
I can assure you, with professional converters the difference, "the loss" is extremely hard to detect.

Remember, in the studio you have perfectly controlled acoustics and best possible monitoring situation, still!


In a recording situation a dozen and more things matter for creating great sound:
The artist's mood, how the producer works with the artists, microphone selections and placements, the room the recording is done in, analog equipment choice and settings, ..., finally all the decisions that have to be made while mixing and mastering.
I could fill a book with this.

The AD converter is not part of this equation, it simply delivers, period.


Recording is comparable to something like inbetween painting a picture and artistically doing a photograph.
Never will we be able to put the artist into your living room, we don't even want to.
We want to create a piece of art, something special that touches your heart.



Coming back to the RME ADI-2 DAC after this sidemark:
What really matters on your side -
The ADI-2 DAC offers the choice betweeen 6 different so called DA-filters.

The shape of the DA-filter is what affects the sound of a DA converter by far the most.
There is an inseparable, physically link between linearity in the upper octave's frequency response and precision of impulse reproduction.

"Sharp" would represent what is standard for 99.999% of all converters on the market, now you have 5 other options to choose from.
Personally, I use "Slow" quite often.


You can find detailed explanations in the manual page 56 ff.
But I suggest to use your ears to select, graphs may cause pre-justice and can be be misleading.



Finally: While in that, try the "Phase Invert" between "Off" and "Both" (NOT "left" or "right"!). Might be the difference will astonish.

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Another quality a preamp needs is the ability to output the analog signal at a reasonably high voltage (around 1.5 - 2V for RCA, double that for balanced outputs) with low distortion to the amp so that the amp can be driven at rated voltage.

Is the RME ADI-2 capable of this?

Are there any disadvantages to having a digital voltage control as opposed to a analog one?

TIA.

15 (edited by KaiS 2020-12-02 18:43:14)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Reg19 wrote:

Another quality a preamp needs is the ability to output the analog signal at a reasonably high voltage (around 1.5 - 2V for RCA, double that for balanced outputs) with low distortion to the amp so that the amp can be driven at rated voltage.

Easily, as ADI-2 DAC puts out up to about 10 V balanced, with exceptional low distortions.

Reg19 wrote:

Are there any disadvantages to having a digital voltage control as opposed to a analog one?

The disadvantage could be not to max out the DA-converters signal to noise ratio.

But ADI-2 cleverly works around that problem with it's "Auto Reference Level"- feature.
Read here, how to use it and get a basic explanation how it works (pt. 2):
https://forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.ph … 21#p161721

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Reg19 wrote:

Another quality a preamp needs is the ability to output the analog signal at a reasonably high voltage (around 1.5 - 2V for RCA, double that for balanced outputs) with low distortion to the amp so that the amp can be driven at rated voltage.

Is the RME ADI-2 capable of this?

Hi, it's easy to find this info on the product page:

  • XLR: Output level switchable +19 dBu, +13 dBu, +7 dBu, +1 dBu @ 0 dBFS

  • RCA: Output level 6 dB lower than XLR (-5 dBu to +13 dBu @ 0 dBFS)

Then you can use this tool to convert dBu to V rms:
XLR: 19 dBu -> 6.9 V rms max.
RCA: 13 dBu -> 3.46 V rms max.

(This is for the DAC version, because this thread is about it; the Pro outputs are even higher.)


Reg19 wrote:

Are there any disadvantages to having a digital voltage control as opposed to a analog one?

TIA.

There is a full page (page 63) dedicated to this in the user manual...
https://www.rme-audio.de/downloads/adi2dacr_e.pdf

http://alexandremaller.free.fr/hfr/rtfm.jpg

ADI-2 DAC (with stock PSU) - Neumann KH 310 A monitors - Cheap USB and XLR cables

17 (edited by Reg19 2020-12-04 18:39:57)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Thanks for the reply on output voltage levels.

My first day with this product.

Prior setup: Tidal HiFi and Qobuz Studio using the Auralic Aries streamer (with dual Femto clocks) --> Parasound P6 Preamp --> Parasound A21 power amp --> Focal Electra 1038Be speakers
The P6 was also feeding twin subs (Martin Logan Dynamo 1000W). Also, I have a receiver (Denon X3700H) connected to the P6 in HT Bypass mode (so, I can use the subs / power amp for HT as well).

In the Auralic Aries, I do upsample the music to 384 KHz or 352.8 KHz.

Now, I have tried replacing my P6 with this unit: the balanced outputs of the ADI-2 go to the power amp and the RCA outputs of the ADI-2 go to each sub (I use the sub's internal crossover).

Comments on Day 1:

Clean. Powerful output indeed (while listening, my line out volume never exceeds -25 using the -5 dBu reference level. And this is with the power amp gain level set at 50%!). I need to improve on soundstage (I use the SD-slow DA filter and no other EQ) as I feel it is quite narrow. Very good bass.

Question: Does anyone know any way by which I can integrate my receiver with this unit such that while listening to 2-channel music (+ subs), I only use the ADI-2 DAC FS as preamp (& no receiver being used) but, while watching a HT movie, I can use the receiver in conjunction with the ADI-2 DAC FS unit? The receiver does have unbalanced pre-outs and 2 subwoofer outs (in case I need them).

Thanks in advance.

18 (edited by KaiS 2020-12-05 01:40:54)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

I suggest a passive (unpowered) switch unit to select sources.
Or maybe 2, as a 5.1 switcher is hard to find.

This company builds switchboxes on demand, but ask some price.
https://www.dodocus.de/individuelle-umschalter.html

Or use the switches on the back of you power amp, ... or... DIY, mod based on this:
https://smile.amazon.de/gp/product/B07D … =pd_gw_unk


The power amp's input level controls need to be dialed down much more too, see (again) here:
https://forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.ph … 21#p161721

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

KaiS wrote:

The power amp's input level controls need to be dialed down much more too, see (again) here:
https://forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.ph … 21#p161721

Thanks.

I looked at the link, specifically, this:

KaiS wrote:

2. If you want to use ADI-2's digital volume control, ADI-2 DAC / (Pro) has a clever option that increases the usable dynamic range by 18 / (20) dB: "Auto Reference Level":

• Switch ON ADI-2's "Auto Reference Level".
• Set ADI-2 DAC's (Pro's) volume control to -18 / (-20) dBr.
• Set ext. amp's volume control slightly above your normal listening level.
• Use ADI-2's volume control to set the final listening level.

Now ADI-2 automatically selects the reference level that fits best to your loudness demands, while maximizing it's DAC's dynamic range.

I don't quite understand (sorry: I'm a noob).

In my case (with balanced out cables going from ADI-2 DAC FS to the power amp and the L / R RCA output of the ADI-2 DAC FS connected to the subwoofers), I currently have level at ~ -30 dbr re -5 dbu reference level. So, do I need to lower the power amplifier gain such that -18 dbr re -5dbu is slightly louder than my current listening level? Or such that -18 dbr re +1 dbu is slightly louder than my listening level?

Thanks.

20 (edited by KaiS 2020-12-05 10:06:55)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Reg19 wrote:
KaiS wrote:

The power amp's input level controls need to be dialed down much more too, see (again) here:
https://forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.ph … 21#p161721

Thanks.

I looked at the link, specifically, this:

KaiS wrote:

2. If you want to use ADI-2's digital volume control, ADI-2 DAC / (Pro) has a clever option that increases the usable dynamic range by 18 / (20) dB: "Auto Reference Level":

• Switch ON ADI-2's "Auto Reference Level".
• Set ADI-2 DAC's (Pro's) volume control to -18 / (-20) dBr.
• Set ext. amp's volume control slightly above your normal listening level.
• Use ADI-2's volume control to set the final listening level.

Now ADI-2 automatically selects the reference level that fits best to your loudness demands, while maximizing it's DAC's dynamic range.

I don't quite understand (sorry: I'm a noob).

In my case (with balanced out cables going from ADI-2 DAC FS to the power amp and the L / R RCA output of the ADI-2 DAC FS connected to the subwoofers), I currently have level at ~ -30 dbr re -5 dbu reference level. So, do I need to lower the power amplifier gain such that -18 dbr re -5dbu is slightly louder than my current listening level? Or such that -18 dbr re +1 dbu is slightly louder than my listening level?

Thanks.

From your answer I think you missed to switch on "Auto Reference Level".

This step is essential to maximize ADI-2's signal to noise ratio.

Only then you see the volume level in dBr.
Else you see dB, without r.

When reducing power amp's volume, of course you have to reduce subwoofer's level accordingly.

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

KaiS: the Auto Reference Level was always set to 'ON' (default value).

22 (edited by KaiS 2020-12-05 18:28:29)

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Reg19 wrote:

KaiS: the Auto Reference Level was always set to 'ON' (default value).

Then take the 1st step literaly:

• Set ADI-2 DAC's Volume Control to -18 dBr, this automatically selects the lowest Reference Level of nominal -5 dBu (maybe switch point is at -18.5 dBr, but that 1/2 dB doesn't matter for the setup process).


Now ADI-2 DAC's DA-converter works with close to full digital signal level = optimum signal to noise ratio.

There are 3 higher Reference Level steps, nominal +1 dBu, +7 dBu and +13 dBu, switched in the analog domain, after the DA-conversion.
"Auto Reference Level" automatically selects the best fitting next higher step when you dial the volume up.

This way the DA-converter chip works with very close to optimum signal to noise ratio from your most used volume range up to maximum.



BTW: dBr is not relative to the nominal Reference Level, but to the maximum possible Volume setting, r = relative.
Compared to simple dB, which is referenced to the (manually) set absolute level in dBu.
0 dBu = 0.775 V, or 1 mW @ 600 Ω - this value origins from early telephone line standards.

You know the good thing:
You don't need to understand that, RME takes care for you on that purpose.

Re: ADI-2 DAC FS Preamp quality

Thanks, KaiS. Very useful. smile