• RME ADI-2 Pro FS Review

    October 15, 2019 Luckbad 3

    Almost an age ago, I reviewed the RME ADI-2 DAC. It seemed like it was going to be an interesting piece of kit to check out and press all of the buttons on. I recommend reading that, because virtually everything I said there applies here, and I’m not going to repeat myself too much.

    As a longtime proponent of non-delta sigma DACs, I didn’t expect to enjoy the sound. We’re talking old R-2R pieces like the Sonic Frontiers SFD-1 MKII on up to modern multibit like the Schiit Gungnir or modern old school like the MHDT Labs NOS tube DACs.

    The RME ADI-2 DAC astonished me. I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed using it as the backbone for my music listening setup. From the sound to the versatility, I was enchanted. I purchased one in January of 2018 right as the first units hit the USA with no intention of keeping it.

    About 1.5 years later, I not only still loved the ADI-2 DAC, I decided to further enhance my system by committing to its big brother, the ADI-2 Pro FS. The “FS” designates it as the follow-up to the RME ADI-2 Pro as it includes the SteadyClock FS (FemtoSecond) technology first introduced in the ADI-2 DAC.

    Not only is the ADI-2 Pro FS a digital-to-analog converter, it also converts analog to digital, digital to digital, and… well, there are so many features it would take up the entire review to even list them all. Check them out for yourself: https://www.rme-audio.de/en/products/adi_2-pro.php

    In addition to being a music listener, I’ve played the guitar for a number of years and have done some recording here and there as a hobby. When stepping up to the ADI-2 Pro FS from the ADI-2 DAC as the centerpiece for my audio system, I had high expectations. And my expectations were far exceeded.

    About the only the RME ADI-2 Pro FS does not have is a microphone or instrument preamp. For those duties, I use a Steinberg UR28M (I’d love to check out the RME Babyface Pro but it’s currently out of my price range). Leveraging the rock-solid, and ultra fast drivers of the RME, I can now play my guitar through the Steinberg going to the RME ADI-2 Pro FS for real-time software amplification. It’s a heck of a setup, and a notable step up from the native Steinberg drivers if I use the UR28M alone.

    Having the ADI-2 Pro FS for a few months now, I’ve found a lot of random reasons to use it as the heart of my audio system. I had a RIVA Festival with digital input that I wanted to connect to my PS4. I didn’t want to permanently connect the two, so I just have TOSLINK going from the PS4 to my ADI-2 Pro FS, then output that signal to the speaker. I can change the sources whenever I feel like it without unhooking anything.

    As a certified basshead, I love subwoofers. But I usually listen to headphones. Not a problem, there. I use my XLR outs to go an SPL Phonitor XE which feeds my headphones and the single-ended outputs to my subwoofer, so I can enjoy big bass even with my beloved Sennheiser HD650s. And you can use EQ with each output separately! Yep, that means you can send just the bass signals to the subwoofer if you like. Magic.

    Now when I test DACs, I also use the ADI-2 Pro FS. The RME unit’s USB implementation is superlative and is a known quantity to me. My SPL Phonitor XE headphone amplifier is transparent as well. So, when testing a DAC that has USB input, I use the ADI-2 Pro FS to output a digital signal to the DAC as well as the DAC-under-testing’s native USB input and can quickly compare them on the Phonitor XE (which also allows me to test the volume balance easily using its VU meters).

    Again, the versatility is second to none.

    Now, what criticisms do I have? I have a few. The first is purely cosmetic: the RME ADI-2 Pro FS Black Edition is not available in the USA. I think that version looks sexier than the silver and blue standard edition and would love to have it.

    The main criticism I have is as a result of having owned the ADI-2 DAC for a long time: there is no remote! The ADI-2 DAC’s remote is incredibly convenient and can now even be programmed with the Logitech Harmony. That’s freakin’ awesome, but the ADI-2 Pro FS has no remote support, and it’s sorely missed after getting used to having it on the sibling.

    And the last criticism is also because of the ADI-2 DAC: The ADI-2 DAC’s IEM output is unbelievable for in-ear monitors. The ADI-2 Pro FS does not have an IEM output. My preferred in-ears are the Future Sonics MG5HX. The ADI-2 Pro FS is dead silent with them, but the Andromeda earphones likely have some hiss because they need super quiet amps (like the IEM out on the ADI-2 DAC).

    That’s really it. The flaws are just “wants” that are either cosmetic or only exist as a criticism because I’ve also owned the ADI-2 DAC.

    Can I recommend the ADI-2 Pro FS? 100%, yes. It’s outstanding. I purchased one for myself after reviewing it. If you have any need for conversion from analog to digital or digital to digital, it’s an incredible solution. If you don’t, the ADI-2 DAC might be the better option.

    Congratulations to RME for another astonishingly good audio interface!

    Categories: Amp, DAC, Gear, Reviews

    3 thoughts on “RME ADI-2 Pro FS Review

    • Aaron says:

      Great review, you have sold me on the RME, just unsure which model to get at the moment, the DAC or the PRO. Just quickly, does either model allow normalising of the volume in real time via USB input?

      • Luckbad says:

        Not exactly sure what you mean by normalizing volume. You can adjust the volume for sure. It can’t analyze the data in real time with R128 or anything. That would require sending an entire file, scanning it, then playing it.

    • Aaron says:

      Right, I should have thought about that a little more before asking the question. I am still torn between the pro and the dac, the dac seems to be a bit more what I am looking for, but what really attracts me to the pro is the dual headphone output allowing for a truly balanced output. I have the Sennheiser 800S headphones and one of the most important elements to me is soundstage, and I understand the balanced output allows for excellent soundstage.

    Drop the Bass

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