Topic: Budget puzzle dac vs amp incremental increase

Dear all and all RME fans,
I have no clue to where else I'd share my thoughts around this.
I'm on a path forward to bring my audio chain up to a better quality. RME ADI2 Pro is still high on my list, though budget is limited, and I have the following what I think about and try to puzzle out.
I have a simple amp with fairly confident grip on the speakers, but I have my eye on a better one with more horsepower that will increase the grip and that will bring a more steady bass and a more stable soundstage. I'd say this is 2% upgrade in the soundstage for 3k. But, tempting is the RME ADI2 Pro. I'd say this upgrade will cost me near 2k from my older but good implemented DAC and I'm fairly sure it will also bring peace and quietness in the soundstage, but just unsure on the quality improvement as I cannot measure that internal DAC from the amp.
What would you do? Go for RME ADI direct, or first make sure you have an amp that grips the speakers properly and thereafter upgrade the DAC?

ADI2, Digiface, ARC

2 (edited by ramses 2022-04-15 12:30:51)

Re: Budget puzzle dac vs amp incremental increase

Hi, my personal opinion / experience:

1. It cannot be diagnosed remotely. You have to try something like that yourself with different devices in listening tests.
Everybody has different ears, listening habits, a different sounding room and if you produce music, then you have additional requirements for a production environment compared to a pure listening environment.

2. Unfortunately you didn't give any concrete information about the devices in your current setup or whether the room has already been acoustically treated/optimized. By this I am getting absolutely no idea whether a €1800 converter could be perhaps beneficial for your setup or to better spend the money elsewhere.

Generally speaking. I would put the money in areas, where the biggest deficits are and where an improvement would most likely make a much more audible difference compared to investing solely in a more expensive converter: speaker/amplifier combination (also suitable for the purpose) and room acoustic.

In the field of AD/DA converters, one tends to deal with minor differences that only really come into their own when the things that have a more significant influence on the sound have been satisfactorily resolved.

On the other hand an ADI-2 Pro FS can give you a lot of fun and value, not only because everything is implemented very cleanly, but also because the feature set is unique, offers many advantages which is simply fun to use every day. I couldn't live without one, in my case even two, one for the recording corner and one in front of a high-end HiFi setup.

Some reports regarding your expectation to get better sound:
a) I got a report from a forum member, that the ADI-2 Pro improved the sound in his home studio compared to using other non-RME recording interfaces.
b) in the converter shootout, see the blog article below, a mastering engineer compared the ADI-2 Pro to other much more expensive high end mastering converter. You can download and compare the recorded soundfiles. The outcome for him, working with different converters, is, that some converter have sonic advantages for the one or other music material and one of the virtues of the ADI-2 Pro is, that he seems to have advantages esp. in the bass area. Watch the video.

I collected many interesting information about ADI-2 DAC and Pro in this blog article, maybe worth a look for you: … ses-EN-DE/

Another thing: basically, I've found that better components sound better even in acoustically untreated rooms. But only if you don't listen too loud, like I do, then even an untreated living room (besides couch and carpet) doesn't create too many problems for bass. Or in the recording corner where I listen in the near-field, but also at more lower listening levels.

BR Ramses - UFX III, 12Mic, XTC, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE, RayDAT, X10SRi-F, E5-1680v4, Win10Pro22H2, Cub13

3 (edited by fieldstu 2022-04-15 15:27:57)

Re: Budget puzzle dac vs amp incremental increase

thanks ramses for sharing your personal experience. I have the same experience that even in untreated rooms when listing upon lower auditioning/listening levels the room issues are less prone than when playing loud. my room is lightly but fairly treated for mid/higher freq and lesser for bass.

I checked my speakers, they're dynaudio x18's, for me up to par, as they with each change in the source, cables or amp reveal me detail or bring more peace in the sound image. also they give me insight in the placement of instruments or singer in the soundstage, also they reveal s's sound issues in the dac in my current amp that is a hegel h90. (ref when compared to a better non RME dac the s's seemed less nasty to listen to). as such I got thinking that a dac replacement might be worth the investment.

the amp itself is sofar difficult to replace for decent budget, as it's integrated with digital ins. to cut loose from it's digital section I'd look for a dac myself and RME is top of my list for that. My way of thinking is that when I would go for the dac it would open up endless choices for a (then just analog) amp. Also I suspect I can squeeze out a little bit more performance when I deliver stable analog input to it.

Hope this sheds some light

ADI2, Digiface, ARC

4 (edited by ramses 2022-04-16 06:48:08)

Re: Budget puzzle dac vs amp incremental increase

I think you also have headroom in terms of monitors.

I would get active monitors, this ensures to have a combination of amp and speaker that fits and you do not pile up more and more equipment. I would avoid getting a subwoofer based system to make things easier.

I am very satisfied with coaxial systems, e.g. those from Geithain. I own a RL906 since many years.
Perfect for the nearfield and a nice sound stage.
Read some reviews, then you will learn about the company.

Maybe you want / need some bigger. Although Bass presentation of this monitor is already quite nice.
I would listen to many active monitors, also very expensive ones, to get an idea whats possible,
what you can get for which amount of money, before making a selection.

BR Ramses - UFX III, 12Mic, XTC, ADI-2 Pro FS R BE, RayDAT, X10SRi-F, E5-1680v4, Win10Pro22H2, Cub13

Re: Budget puzzle dac vs amp incremental increase

I think you're right about the headroom in monitors. For now all works perfect but i'll keep it in mind for the future as well. I'm not jumping ship so quick as that makes no sense. I know my system in and out and that's more important than the best on the shelf if unknown.

Would you recommend active monitoring also in a listening situation to replace a proper hifi system? I see prices of active monitoring are below that of " reference " amps. Any thoughts in terms of fatigue and/or just listening? My case I found my former nearfields (KRK V8II active) tiring after prolonged listening even @ moderate level.

ADI2, Digiface, ARC

6 (edited by vinark 2022-04-18 09:34:44)

Re: Budget puzzle dac vs amp incremental increase

I would not expect much from a better amp! In blind testing amps with pro audio engineers there was no difference. If anything at all they very slightly preferred the very cheap amp, 200$. The others were in the 1000-10000$ range.
In control of bass, damping factor, I would say 98% room, 1.99% speakers, if decent and 0.01% amp.
If getting a adi2 will be audible depends on what you have now. If it is not really old or bad you will probably not hear it in a blind test.

I would say audio qualities like fatiguing, transparency etc are speaker qualities and bass problems are from room for 99%. Sound stage a real mix of speaker and room.
Throwing money at the wrong thing can be a bottomless pit.

Vincent, Amsterdam
Babyface pro fs, HDSP9652+ADI-8AE, HDSP9632

7 (edited by fieldstu 2022-05-13 19:57:31)

Re: Budget puzzle dac vs amp incremental increase

all solved, the problems were nor room nor speakers.

ADI2, Digiface, ARC