RME ADI 2 DAC FS vs Benchmark DAC3: Which Should You Buy?

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If you’re in the market for a high-end digital-to-analog converter (DAC), you might have encountered the RME ADI 2 DAC FS and the Benchmark DAC3. 

Both these DACs are designed for audiophiles who demand the highest level of performance, and they are similar in many ways, but they also have some key differences. But which one should you spend your money on?

The RME ADI 2 DAC FS and Benchmark DAC3 are similar in many ways and offer comparable sound quality. The ADI has a neutral sound signature, while that of the DAC3 is just slightly warmer. The ADI is very complex, but the DAC3 offers some professional features that the ADI does not.

These are both high-end DACs and are made for excellent audio quality and performance. Choosing the absolute best is difficult since everyone expects something different from their DACs. Let’s compare them more closely so you can buy the one that will work best for you.

Design And Build Quality

The RME ADI 2 DAC FS (on Amazon) and Benchmark DAC3 (also on Amazon) both have sturdy, high-quality aluminum cases. They are well-built and feel like the premium devices they are, and most of the differences lie in their designs.


The ADI’s measurements are 21.5 cm x 15 cm x 5.2 cm. It’s quite a sizeable device that won’t necessarily work well on a desk, but if you have a dedicated shelf for your audio equipment, it will fit perfectly.

Its front panel looks impressive. The matte black finish looks clean on the left, but it has one of the most impressive OLED displays of any DAC on the right.

The display will show more than just your volume and inputs; it also shows your current equalizer settings and various other factors. It has the most essential control buttons right there, next to the screen.

Overall, it looks like an impressive high-end piece of audio equipment.

Benchmark DAC3

The DAC3 is a bit larger than the ADI and has a square design of 44.45 cm x 44.45 cm x 4.5 cm. It’s also more minimalist, in a way, since it has no OLED display. But what it lacks in display, it makes up for with buttons and knobs.

Compared to the ADI’s two buttons and one knob, the DAC3 has five buttons and one knob. This makes the controls slightly more straightforward, and the overall design is still great, though it looks a bit more like a piece of audio equipment from the 1980s or 90s.

Its stainless steel chassis comes in silver and black color options, so you can choose the one that best matches the aesthetic you’re going for.

Also: RME ADI 2 DAC FS vs Topping D90

Input / Output

One of the areas where DACs differ considerably is their range of inputs and outputs. This is crucial since you want something that will serve your purposes.


The ADI’s inputs are:

  • USB -B (USB 2.0 but compatible with USB 3.0)
  • S/PDIF Coaxial
  • Toslink (Optical)

It has the following outputs:

  • Single-ended RCA
  • XLR Balanced stereo line output
  • 3.5 mm TRS mini-jack (“super low noise”)
  • 6.35 mm TRS headphone jack
  • Recording output over S/PDIF and USB signals

Benchmark DAC3

The Benchmark has the following set of inputs:

  • USB-B
  • 2x Optical
  • 2x Coaxial

Its outputs are:

  • Balanced Left and Right outputs
  • 2x Coaxial outputs
  • 2x Headphone outputs

In Summary

Though the DAC3 has similar inputs and more outputs, the two are very similar in terms of I/O. In this aspect, the win could go either way.

Unique Features

The RME ADI 2 DAC FS and the Benchmark DAC3 have unique features that set them apart from other DACs on the market.

The ADI has a parametric equalizer that allows you to fine-tune the frequency response of your audio. It features up to 15 bands of EQ with adjustable gain, frequency, and Q factor. This level of control allows you to correct any frequency imbalances in your system or adjust the sound to your personal preference.

It also features a built-in digital signal processor (DSP). The DSP offers a range of effects that can be applied to your audio, such as reverb, delay, and compression. 

It allows you to experiment with different effects and add more depth and dimension to your sound.

The ADI also has a Bass and Treble Adjustment feature, which allows you to boost or cut the bass and treble frequencies independently. This feature can be helpful for tailoring the sound to your specific headphones or speakers or simply adjusting the sound to your preference.

The Benchmark DAC3, on the other hand, features a proprietary clocking technology called “UltraLock3.” This technology minimizes jitter and ensures accurate digital-to-analog conversion. 

Jitter is a frequent problem with digital audio that can result in timing errors and a loss of resolution. The UltraLock3 technology ensures that the DAC receives a stable and accurate clock signal, which reduces jitter and improves overall sound quality.

On top of that, it also features a System Lock feature, which synchronizes the DAC with an external clock source. This is useful for professional recording studios that use multiple devices and need precise timing between them.

By synchronizing with an external clock source, the Benchmark DAC3 can maintain consistent timing with other devices in the system, resulting in more accurate recordings.

Also: iFi Zen DAC V2 vs FiiO K7

Technical Specifications

The RME ADI 2 DAC FS uses a dual AK4493 chipset, which is known for its high performance and low distortion. The AK4493 chipset has a signal-to-noise ratio of 120dB, a dynamic range of 120dB, and a THD+N of -110 dB. It supports PCM audio up to 768kHz and DSD up to DSD256.

The Benchmark DAC3 uses the ESS ES9028PRO chipset, which is a top-of-the-line chipset that is often used in high-end audio equipment. The ES9028PRO chipset has a signal-to-noise ratio of 130dB, a dynamic range of 130dB, and a THD+N of -118 dB. It supports PCM audio up to 384kHz and DSD up to DSD128.

Both DACs also feature advanced digital signal processing capabilities. The RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a built-in DSP that can apply various effects to your audio, such as reverb, delay, and compression. It also has a parametric equalizer that allows you to fine-tune the frequency response of your audio.

The Benchmark DAC3 features a digital volume control that maintains resolution at all volume levels and the System Lock feature that synchronizes the DAC with an external clock source.

Sound Quality

Both DACs offer exceptional sound quality that will please any audiophile, but they have different sound signatures.

The RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a neutral sound signature, which means it reproduces sound as accurately as possible without adding any color or styles to it apart from the adjustments you make to the sound yourself. 

The Benchmark DAC3 also has a neutral sound signature, but it’s slightly warmer than the RME ADI 2 DAC FS, which gives it a more natural sound.

The ADI is a highly versatile DAC. Despite its neutral sound signature, it’s incredibly customizable, which allows you to tamper with the sound as much as you like. One of the benefits of a neutral sound signature is that there’s plenty of room for you to customize the sound to suit your requirements.

The DAC3 is also very customizable, though not as much as the ADI. However, if you’re looking for a warmer, natural sound, you may not want to adjust it too much as it’s already considerably warmer than that of the ADI.

Both DACs are incredibly detailed and reveal subtle nuances in the music. They also have excellent dynamics and punch, which make the music come alive. Overall, both the RME ADI 2 DAC FS and the Benchmark DAC3 offer top-of-the-line sound quality that will satisfy even the most demanding audiophiles.

User Experience

When it comes to user experience, the two devices are entirely different. Both feature remote controls, which is excellent and simplifies matters considerably. 

However, we must remember that these are both high-end devices with no shortage of settings and configurable options. This necessarily means that their user interfaces will take some getting used to.

Of the two, the DAC3 is much easier to learn and use. It has more buttons and no OLED display, so it has a more “traditional” interface. It’s the type of DAC that you will master within a few minutes of setting it up.

That’s not the case with the ADI, though. This is a highly complex DAC with so many features, tweaks, and options that it comes with a ring-bound user manual that looks like a training book. 

Though the basics are easy enough to figure out, you’re not paying a premium price to use only the essential functions, so you will likely want to take the time to get to know it.

Furthermore, you can install the driver software on your PC to configure your ADI even more, requiring even more training.

However, as complicated as it sounds, it’s worth it. Once you’ve figured out the controls of the ADI, you will get a sound experience that’s second to none. So, in the beginning, the DAC3 offers the best user experience, but as you get to know and understand the ADI, you will not want to go back to any other DAC.

Final Words

The RME ADI 2 DAC FS and the Benchmark DAC3 both offer exceptional sound quality and a wide range of features. 

The ADI has a more complex front panel and provides a parametric equalizer and built-in DSP, which makes it ideal for those who want more control over their sound. The DAC3 has a minimalist design and proprietary clocking technology for precise timing and jitter reduction.