It’s an extremely enjoyable amp, even in it’s most basic form. Much more so if used the way it is designed to be used (with higher-impedance headphones). And being a pure-tube design rather than a hybrid it will yield more audible changes if/when rolling tubes.

And it’ll be, I expect, an illuminating experience put back-to-back with the MCTH …


I’m looking forward to it, I think I’ve had enough run time with the MCTH to appreciate the Bottlehead even more now. Just have to solder the thing together now.

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So since I’ve been playing with the ADI-2 DAC…I’ve been having this problem where when I’m listening with my HD800 specifically, I can’t tell when I have it switched from my JBL 30X or the headphones. It is a good problem to have :wink: I’m really loving this little bit of kit more an more. Current “endgame” DAC at least for now :smile:

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Thanks for all the feedback guys. I really must save and get me a better Amp first.


I see you’re getting some Hollow Knight in. Great game!

It is a great looking DAC. Looks like there are lot of fun features to play with. If there’s something I love almost as much as great sound its being able to have fun screwing around with all the new features of whatever new gear has arrived. Makes me feel like a kid again.

Currently working on convincing @andrew that we need one in the office.


Hollow Knight sooo very good!!! I’m addicted to Destiny 2 but hit the wall with it and need to take a break before the big drop next month. Iconoclast is another really fun and good looking game (soundtrack is cool too). I also picked up the first collection of Megaman X and I’m working my way through them (only on the first one and halfway through the first set of bosses). Also DeadCells is super fun (playing on PC, I picked it up almost a year ago in early access).

I think you guys definitely need the ADI-2 DAC in your office, it is such a great piece of kit, and a lot of fun to mess with and learn. I agree messing with new gear reminds me of being a kid taking apart and putting back together my toys.

I can definitely hear the difference with it compared to my other DACs and honestly the IEM output is phenomenal (probably because I’m used to them out of my Pixel2 phone) it makes them come alive and a whole new experience. I’m not the most experienced DAC/amp guy to convince you guys though…
@Torq would be better at that I think. I’m more of an enthusiast still learning what I’m hearing.

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Made some progress but it’s getting late I’ll have to do the next steps tomorrow…so far super fun…only a few hiccups (was using an older manual for solder points initially. Caught it before making any major mistakes).

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Progress this morning…


For those of you that have the RME ADI-2 DAC, and perhaps don’t follow (or know where they post) RME’s firmware updates, there was a new update posted on 8/10/18.

You can find it here (2nd post); the links to the Windows and MAC firmware updates are at the bottom of the post.

This brings the USB firmware up to v.20 and the DSP to v.22. Principal updates appear to be some menu reorganization and provision for additional headroom for sample rate conversion when dealing with “intersample overs”.

(Note that I generally give firmware updates a couple of weeks in the wild before applying them - may as well let others act as canaries for any undiscovered issues - hence the timing of this post).

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Updated, kind of nice to have the dedicated display menu, but nothing groundbreaking . I would like more color options for the graphs other than green and cyan…don’t get me wrong they are nice looking but I would like a purple or some other colors…

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…And me too…

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So much great info on this thread! I have been looking at the RME ADI-2 DAC for my Andromeda, Sony EX1000, Massdrop Sennheiser HD6xx and HD58x. I am only concerned that many people mention that the amp section is not up to the same level as the DAC. Has anyone used the RME with either of these Massdrop Sennheiser? I really would love to just have one amp/dac for a long time. If anything, I would like to keep trying or upgrading headphones instead of amp/dacs as well!


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I actually found the amp quite adequate, but not as resolving as my other dedicated amps…that being said it works really well with the Andromeda. I think you would be perfectly fine with it as a standalone. But depending on what you were looking for, you could get more options by going with multiple cheaper options. What is your goal for this combo unit? If you are going to get into EQ’ng your headphones this is a solid buy, that will serve later on with better amps as you get them. If you don’t care for EQ then I would suggest looking at other DAC options and separate amps. What is your preferred sound profile?


I can’t name a combined DAC/amp has a perfect balance between the capability of the DAC vs. the amp sections. One aspect is almost always somewhat better than the other.

With the RME ADI-2 DAC it’s the DAC that’s the better of the two pieces. With something like the SPL Phonitor x then it’s the amp that is the better element. Maybe the closest balance is between the DAC/amp sections of the Holo Audio CYAN (PCM version).

The amp-stage on the RME unit isn’t bad … it’s just not quite as good as it needs to be to get the absolute best out of the DAC section. Mostly it’s about raw resolution, micro-dynamicis and slam. And given how good the DAC section is, and how good the overall unit manages to sound, it’s not a big deal at all … as long as your headphones don’t demand so much power that other aspects of the amps performance start to become an issue as well.

It’ll drive all of your listed headphone just fine in terms of raw power. The Andromeda, HD6XX and maybe the HD58X are capable of more resolution and micro-dynamic subtelty than the RME ADI-2 DAC’s amp stage will deliver. But then the Andromeda and HD6XX will continue scaling beyond the capabilities of many much more expensive dedicated amplifiers anyway.

Now, with the Andromeda I find they’re too bass-heavy and a bit tonally off when driven straight out of the IEM output on that unit (and, in fact, any unit with such a low output impedance … the Andromeda really sound best with about 2 ohms of OI). Using an iEMatch inline with them will largely take care of that. Because this change in tone/balance at low OI is down to the varying impedance curve of the IEMs themselves, you can’t EQ it out perfectly … hence the recommendation for the iEMatch.

This is a long winded way of saying that overall, you’ll have to spend quite a bit more than the asking price of the RME unit if you want a DAC that’s as good AND then an amp that can do the DAC (and the headphones) justice.


Thanks DarthPool!

I am currently only using the Sony nw-zx300 and the Spectra NextDrive with my Andromeda, EX1000, DH6XX and HD65X. The zx300 is great with Andromeda and EX1000. Both Sennheiser headphones sound good on the zx300 but I don’t think the DAP is driving them to their full potential so I don’t really know how much i am missing with them. The Spectra NextDrive has similar power as the zx300 and the zx300 can output a maximum of 200ma at 16Ohms using the 4.4mm balanced input on high gain. The phones get pretty loud but I wonder how much better these headphones would scale. My intended purpose is to get an all-in-one unit for my current headphones and IEMs. I will be mainly playing music from iTunes using a small plugin called BitPerfect which allows the iTunes to play songs at their current bit depth and sample rate so that I don’t have to change these on System Preferences every time the audio has a different bit depth and sample rate. I would connect the iMac to the DAC/AMP through USB. For now I don’t see myself getting new headphones but I know that in the future I will probably get the HD800s or something comparable.

EQ and DSP seem cool on the RME but I don’t have much experience with DSP so it will be a learning curve. The parametric EQ would be great to try and EQ headphones/IEM to approximate their frequency response to say the Harman Target.

I am assuming the RME will wow me given that all I have used are the zx300 and the Spectra NextDrive. But I also wonder if the difference will really be marginal at best. I have noticed that the difference between the EX1000 and Andromeda or Shore SRH840 to the HD6XX was noticeable but not huge as compared to the difference from a lower end iem/headphone to a decent one.

Thanks for your time!


Thanks Torq!

Which amps have you liked with the RME ADI-2? Maybe I can start with the RME ADI-2 for now and then get a nicer amp to pair with it. If i connect an amp to the ADI-2 can I use the DSP and Parametric EQ of the ADI-2?

Other amps I have considered are the ALO Continental Mono Duo, Sprout100, Massdrop Alex Cavalli Liquid Carbon, Massdrop Alex Cavali Tube Hybrid CTH, and Hefler HA-75.



The SPL Phonitor x was my favorite pairing with it - at least as far as solid-state amps go. The iFi Audio Pro iCAN was also excellent (with the “Tube+” input mode adding a little more body to the raw sound of the RME unit, while keeping the ability to run pure solid-state).

Both the Massdrop LCX and CTH will add some body to the RME unit’s sound as well, though the CTH will do this to a greater extent and, at the same time, will lose a little resolution vs. the built-in outputs (though it improves other areas - like slam and raw drive authority).

Initial evaluations show that the ADI-2 DAC also seems to go quite nicely with both the Schiit Jotunheim and the Lyr 3. I am planning to review both of those units, and that combination (and others) in the not super-distant future (once I get through some other reviews I am in the middle of).

Sure can.

I quite like the ALO CDM … but I wouldn’t bother with one unless I was going to use it as a portable. It’s good, but you’re paying a very high premium for that portability. If you’re spending that much, then the Pro iCAN is a much better performer across the board, and will resolve more of what the RME DAC can do than the ALO unit will manage.

Given the functionality on offer the value proposition of the Sprout is quite good. That is if you’re going to use all of it. But as a headphone amplifier … it’s not as good as the built-in output of the RME unit so there’s not much point in that pairing.

@torq will be able to give a more detailed experienced response, I’m still learning DACs. That being said you would not be disappointed with the ADI-2. It can use the EQ with any amp you eventually pick up, it really is a great piece of kit, and very versatile. Just keep the manual handy if you do pick one up for quick reference, and don’t be afraid to ask for help in figuring out how to get it to work for you. I’m still only using less than 50% of what is capable of doing. I would go into more detail but I’m on my phone and getting ready to board a plane. But this community is great and very helpful.

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Thanks Torq! I will look into the SPL Phonitor x and the iFi Pro iCan. Given that these two are more expensive than the ADI-2, i will probably start out with the ADI-2 and later down the road will get a better amp. I looked at the ALO CDM because it can be purchased for around $700 on the used market, if one is patient.

Thanks again!

Do you have any experience with the Questyle CMA400, CMA600, or CMA800?