Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Luckbad, Jan 12, 2018.
I'll bill you.
New variant RME ADI-2 FS with ESS sabre chip available now. https://www.rme-audio.de/adi-2-dac.html
This might be good news as I find well implemented Sabre chips can be musical and pleasant, I feel AKM is more difficult to whisper.
I will check one out...
Probably necessary change to ESS due to the fire in AKM‘s factory
Yes RME say this is the main reason.. It also seems like they've put in the effort to get the ESS chips well integrated with unique circuit variant etc. I got an ESS version next to me and will post my views later.. unfortunately I don't have the AKM ver for side by side comparison so I won't be able to do that.
What's the general feeling on Sabre these days? I remember they were the new hotness for a while (after the Wolfson dac phase?), but then there was a sort of mini rebellion against them as people started describing them as very harsh and it felt like their popularity dropped and AKM swooped in after.
I think AKM are touted to be the more “Audiophile” from what I’ve seen online, but I prefer the newish Sabre as it’s more honest and doesn’t try to do fake hifi magic like velvet mids and sparkly highs which to me can sound a bit dsp (when reasonably implemented). But well implemented akm vs Sabre can both be very good - it’s just that I haven’t heard that many well implemented akm solutions, most seem to give me ethereal velvet mids and etched highs - like a disjointed feel, where Sabre implementations I’ve heard are bit more cohesive and direct, bit more musical sounding. Although Sabre to me always retained a faster slightly more dynamic sound, even in warmer tunings.
Anyway this is all very subjective personal opinion.
The ADI Sabre is extremely good sounding with IEMs out of it's 3.5mm - the best I've heard my Sony IERM7/Andromeda. It's very wide, dynamic, but with a touch of warmth, and zero digitus (nice tone too, piano notes sound natural, not hard). I can't say it's cold/sterile, it's neutral but also vivid and real where the instruments jump out in front and I can almost reach out and touch them. It's relatively forward but not too aggressive thanks to it's inner warmth (a well implemented sabre?)
Using my HD800S and HD650 is a different story out of the higher power output: there's bit a sheen/glow and bit of smearing - EQ is very much required here (peak/bass corrections), and with it I can see there are some good qualities: the bass can reach deep and shake things up, soundstage is quite large and accurate, there is a touch of smoothness.. Without EQ it's too direct and lacks oomph. Not sure if I can sense some glare - but it might be there. It's certainly not offensive to listen to (with EQ). Not sure it's going to win any awards, but I think it might be better than my ifi iCan SE which has more glare.
* I am running things with iPower X 12V and ifi iUSB Micro - I'm sure this improves things (usually makes things sound warmer/calmer). I'm too lazy to compare without.
I will be comparing it with Chord Qutest and Apogee Element 24. I can say for certain the Element 24 head out is no way near as good with IEMs as the RME
With HD650/800S - best sound to my ears with Lo-Power and Auto Ref off - it's bit warmer and less strained. I turned Auto Ref on today and forgot about it, was wondering why the headout sounded leaner/more aggressive and the eq seemed to have less of an effect - Auto Ref was pushing Hi-Gain and perhaps doing something else detrimental to the headphone out in pursuit of best SNR..
RME strongly claim LO/HI power just affect amplitude but not sound. I own a number of amps that sound differently depending on their gain setting and how hot the signal going in is, so it's not implausible.
Anyway - worth tinkering with these settings as I think not all is what it seems.
I started using the 3.5mm jack with my HD650 - it's much better, and there is just about enough volume. The larger jack definitely has some glare, sounds a bit strained and is generally a bit tiring to listen to - i've compared it with a Liquid Spark which sounds more grounded and calmer. The 3.5mm jack relaxes things, adds bit of warm bloom and removes some or most of the glare... essentially what it did for my IEMs it kind of does for the HD650, a pleasant listen now for sure (no miracles though, Liquid Spark still better)! RME did OK with the 3.5mm.
How does this DAC compare to the Yggdrasil A2? I'm interested in the prospect of a DAC that is less warm to complement my Yggdrasil so I have two reference points for tuning orthos. Kind of unnecessary but would be fun. Is this DAC as technically capable as the Yggdrasil? As resolving?
Im not that interested in all the features or the iem outputs because I have a 789 for iems with a Lokius to EQ it.
The RME ADI-2 (AKM) has some similarities to the Yggdrasil A2 with respect to tone. Both are warm / organic with a bit of emphasis in the highest octave. I think it's really close with respect to resolution. The Yggdrasil A2 has stronger more incisive attackers, more low-end heft. The RME ADI has a bit of that AKM Velvet sound thing going where it hits like a wet noodle and puts everything into a blended mush (obvious exaggeration). I would avoid ADI-2 (AKM) unless you need its features (which are plenty). The FOTM train for the ADI-2 AKM (as a DAC) has passed by.
I have no idea how the ESS Sabre version sounds like.
If you are looking for a more neutral less U-shaped Yggdrasil but that is also kind like Yggdrasil A2 but kind of not like Yggdrasil A2, just wait. The Soekris DAC2541 right now would also fit the bill.
I'd try the ESS version as I can't hear the AKM velvet crap on mine - it's well implemented like other sabre whispered DACs I've heard (neutral, smooth, organic, direct etc).
The 3.5mm is stellar for IEMs, I bet it'll better the THX amps (RME have specially designed it for low voltage, removing crap from the signal path unlike the larger jack)_ it's bettered all my other amps and DAPs for IEMs (including a thx which crushes the dynamics a bit, ican se, woo wa8, liquid spark has more grain and is rolled off in the sub etc etc). It sounds very precise, dynamic and clean but it's also organic and smooth, it's a treat for Andromedas and Sony IERM7.
Factor in a power supply upgrade.
Pulling brief notes from my comparisons here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/rev...pro-schiit-yggdrasil-forssell-mdac-2a.867575/
RME ADI-2 Pro: super technical performance, amazing DSP options, somewhat dry
Schiit Yggdrasil: great cohesion, great overall resolution, yet at the same time a slight haze
Of note though is that the RME has gone through at least 3 revisions, changing the chip and clocks at bare minimum, and who knows what else. Plus there's the DAC version instead of the Pro as well which has similarly gone through changes. I know there are slight sonic changes and from my *very* brief listen I felt the newer ones were less dry, but I can't speak confidently beyond that.
Interesting. I was under the impression that the A2 was neutral but just on the warm side. I've never heard it being described as U shaped.
The new flavor board will be interesting. And I'm auditioning the 2541 soon.
Do you think the Yggdrasil A2 is a good reference DAC in general?
It's just a tiny bit tipped up, and really in the top octave.
Depends upon what you mean by reference. Reference gear to me is means two things:
One where I can obtain superb results with other carefully chosen components. Audio is like cooking, ultimately it's the final dish. However the ingredients must be good even if they vary, i.e. corn-fed beef vs. grass-fed beef. However certain cuts and grades of beef are better off turned into dog food.
Sufficient number of people are familiar with it, have owned, it, heard how it sounds.
Has a certain level of longevity. Not FOTM. The decision that is was reference worthy wasn't based on initial excitement, but rather based on "it's not the best, but I don't feel the need to upgrade / sidegrade really".
@rhythmdevils, for your amusement: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/prism-callia-flush-your-schiit.9408/
Having had an ADI-2 DAC and an ADI-2 Pro. I think my thoughts can basically be summed up as this:
As a DAC and nothing else, it's fine, it's not the greatest, and for the money you can definitely get better sounding options, but it's not bad.
But what REALLY makes this product great is the featureset. That manual isn't that thick just for fun, the ADI-2 packs a huge number of features that set it apart from the rest.
- Actual hardware reference level volume control. This is great and much better than the standard DSP-Only volume control you see on many other dacs because it allows for a wider range of volume adjustment without actually losing dynamic range. Have a look at the 'dynamic range' row below for the various volume methods. All the DSP options lost around 16dB of dynamic range whilst the ADI-2 with ref level adjustment did not, only beaten slightly by the goldpoint attenuator.
- Inbuilt parametric EQ, not just basic tone controls, but a fully customisable DSP suite with parametric EQ, crossfeed, mono/stereo adjustment and much more.
- Lovely display and visualiser which whilst not always 'useful' is most definitely pleasing to have.
- True, unprocessed, 1-bit DSD support (which ESS dacs do not have)
- Inbuilt headphone amp (I found the regular headphone amp too sterile for my tastes, but for some reason, in balanced, it was very good indeed. And also measures exceptionally.
(Single ended phones out, 300ohm load, 700mv)
(Balanced phones out, 300ohm load, 700mv)
- The pro model features an exceptional ADC (with input sensitivity adjustment!!), fantastic routing and SRC options, and can even record digital inputs, as well as being able to be operated as an upto 8 channel output device.
If I had to pick something for similar money for sound quality alone, something like the SMSL D1SE would beat it for me. But as a package, there aren't any other products which offer all that the ADI-2 does
I am almost positive any ESS part, even their latest 9038 which is less crispy, will make @rhythmdevils head explode.
That is very interesting indeed! Feeling like a dummy but which RME balanced output is that exactly?
It's a combination of the two 6.35mm jacks on the front. You have to get/make an adapter, and then set it to use balanced.
It can only be done on the pro model
This is also one of the rare balanced setups without an analog pot, so there's a plethora of problems which get dodged. Despite not being "the best" for the money sound wise, I have immense respect for the ADI-2 Pro and its cousins. It's an engineering tour de force for RME.
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