In the world of high-end digital-to-analog converters (DACs), two models that have been generating a lot of hype are the RME ADI 2 DAC FS and the Topping D90.
Both of these devices have reputations for their high-quality audio output, extensive features, and intuitive user interfaces. But how do they compare, and which should you buy?
The RME ADI 2 DAC FS’s main selling point over the Topping D90 is its pure sound signature, while the Topping D90 sounds slightly warmer. They are very evenly matched in technical specifications, and there’s little difference except that the D90 has more inputs, while the ADI has more outputs.
It’s not always easy to determine a clear winner, even more so because you should choose a DAC that suits your musical style and audio preferences. Both DACs are excellent buys, but not everyone will be pleased with their choice if they don’t ensure they get the right one.
Let’s compare them more closely to see which one you will most likely prefer.
Table of Contents
Design And Build Quality
The Topping D90 and RME ADI 2 DAC FS are both high-end DACs, and their designs and build quality reflect that fact.
The Topping D90 (on Amazon) is big but sleek. It almost seems to have been carved out of a single block of aluminum, giving it a rugged and heavy look, though, at 1.4kg, it’s not all that heavy. It is very sturdy, though, and despite its slightly rugged looks, it manages to look modern, too.
It comes in black and silver, so you can choose the one that best suits your aesthetic.
The front panel has an LED display that shows the current volume (in decibels), the encoding standard used in the audio stream you’re currently listening to, the audio bitrate, and the current input channel, among others.
Its design is reminiscent of an old DVD player in some ways, but not in a bad way at all.
It’s important to note that the Topping’s surface can get quite hot. Depending on how you use the DAC, its temperatures can get high enough to cause some concern, so it’s probably best not to stack other devices on top of it and ensure proper ventilation around it.
RME ADI 2 DAC FS
The RME ADI 2 DAC FS (on Amazon) is a bit smaller and feels less solid than the D90. It also weighs less than 1kg, which adds to the less-premium feel. That does not mean that it doesn’t look and feel premium, though.
The first thing that you notice is its display. The ADI has a more detailed and impressive display than the D90, even showing your equalizer settings and audio balance. While the D90 looks like a DVD player, the ADI looks like the expensive piece of audio equipment that it is.
Input / Output
The two devices have similar but different inputs and outputs to fit their unique approaches and usage scenarios.
The Topping D90 has the following inputs:
- USB-B (XMOS)
- IIS LVDS (HDMI)
- Coaxial S/PDIF
- AES / EBU
Its outputs are:
- Balanced XLR
- Single-Ended RCA
RME ADI 2 DAC FS
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
In summary, the ADI doesn’t have as many inputs as the D90, but it has more outputs, so your ideal choice will depend on your preference in this case.
RME ADI 2 DAC FS
The ADI has a few features that set it apart from other DACs in its price range:
Parametric Equalizer (PEQ)
The RME ADI 2 DAC FS (Amazon) is equipped with a parametric equalizer, which allows users to adjust the device’s frequency response to match their listening preferences.
The PEQ provides excellent flexibility and precision, allowing users to adjust specific frequencies and bandwidths to correct for room acoustics or adjust the sound to their liking.
The device also has a crossfeed feature that simulates the experience of listening to speakers in a room, even when you’re listening over headphones. This feature can improve the perception of imaging and soundstage for headphone listening, making the sound seem more natural and spacious.
Digital Signal Processor (DSP)
The RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a built-in digital signal processor with advanced signal processing capabilities. The DSP includes various features, such as a de-esser, a compressor, an expander, and a limiter, which can be used to improve the quality of the audio output or add creative effects.
The RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a user-configurable display that allows users to customize the information displayed on the LCD screen according to their preferences. Users can choose from various options, such as the input source, sample rate, volume level, or other settings.
Not to be outdone, the Topping has a few unique features as well:
Ultra-low Phase Noise Oscillator
The Topping D90 (Amazon) has an ultra-low phase noise oscillator that reduces jitter and improves the overall audio quality. The oscillator uses a high-precision crystal to generate an extremely stable clock signal that minimizes timing errors and reduces the noise floor.
Volume Control Chip
The device has a volume control chip that provides precise volume adjustment and low noise. The chip ensures the volume is adjusted in small and accurate increments, preventing any loss of detail or distortion.
FPGA-based Audio Processing
The Topping D90 uses a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) to process the audio signal. The FPGA is a highly flexible and robust digital logic device that can be programmed to perform complex audio processing tasks with high precision and low latency.
The Topping D90 has a large, informative display that shows the incoming sample rate and volume level. The display provides a clear and detailed view of the current settings, making it easy to adjust the device to match the user’s preferences.
Overall, both the RME ADI 2 DAC FS and the Topping D90 offer a set of unique features that make them unique from other DACs, especially in their price range.
If you prefer flexibility, customization, and advanced signal processing, you may like the RME ADI 2 DAC FS. For greater precision, low noise, and large displays, you should opt for the Topping D90 instead.
RME ADI 2 DAC FS
- Dynamic Range: The RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a dynamic range of 120 decibels. This means it can reproduce a wide range of sound levels with high fidelity and close to no distortion.
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): The THD of the RME ADI 2 DAC FS is rated at -110 dB, an extremely low distortion level that ensures accurate reproduction of the source material.
- Sample Rates: The device can support sample rates up to 768 kHz, which is well beyond the capabilities of most other DACs in its price range. It can also support bit depths of up to 32 bits.
- Headphone Amplifier: The RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a headphone amplifier that can deliver up to 1.5 watts per channel, which provides plenty of power to drive high-impedance headphones. This is not the most powerful headphone amp on the market (in fact, not by a long shot), but it’s quite capable for most use cases.
- Dynamic Range: The Topping D90 has a dynamic range of 130 dB, which is an exceptionally high level of dynamic range that ensures accurate reproduction of quiet and loud passages.
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): The THD of the Topping D90 is rated at -120 dB, which is an extremely low level of distortion that ensures faithful reproduction of the source material.
- Sample Rates: The device can support sample rates up to 768 kHz, which is among the highest available on any DAC in the market today. It can also support bit depths of up to 32 bits.
- Headphone Amplifier: The Topping D90 has a powerful headphone amplifier that can deliver up to 2 watts per channel, which is more than capable of driving most headphones, even those with high impedance; it’s also 50% stronger than that of the ADI.
Ultimately, it all comes down to getting the best audio quality possible. Both of these devices offer exceptional sound quality that is hard to criticize and will please most audiophiles.
The RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a neutral and transparent sound signature that aims to reproduce the source material accurately without coloring the sound. The sound is highly detailed and has a surprisingly wide soundstage. The result is a very natural sound, though it might be a bit clinical and sterile for some listeners.
The Topping D90 also has a neutral sound signature that is detailed and clear, but it has a slightly warmer sound than the ADI 2 DAC FS, which may appeal to some listeners.
It also has excellent dynamics and a wide soundstage, providing a rich and immersive listening experience. It beats the ADI in most technical aspects, but only slightly, so the sound quality is very similar.
Overall, both devices offer exceptional sound quality, and choosing between them may come down to personal preference and system matching rather than overall sound quality. However, the warmer sound of the D90 may appeal to some.
Regarding user experience, 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.
However, it’s worth mentioning that the RME ADI 2 DAC FS has a ring-bound user manual that looks like a throwback to the 1980s and 90s. It’s a complex device that’s easy to use for basics, but you will have to do some studying to get the most out of your device.
In this regard, the Topping D90 has a much simpler interface and a more effortless user experience. That might give the impression that it’s not as powerful as the ADI, but that is not true. The manufacturer just put plenty of effort into making the device user-friendly, which is never a bad thing.
Which One Should You Buy? My Opinion
The truth is both devices are excellent and similar in many regards. However, if I’m to choose between the two, I’ll go for the RME ADI-2 DAC FS (Amazon). And my reasons are simple.
Firstly, RME Audio is, overall, known for making premium and high-end audio devices. The crossfeed feature is also I find fascinating. I listen to music through my Audio Technica ATH-M50x Headphones (Amazon) while I work. And the crossfeed feature will simulate the audio as if I were listening through a pair of studio monitors.
The DSP on the RME ADI 2 DAC FS is also something I’ll enjoy as well. As an audio enthusiast, having the tweak and process the audio how I want is definitely something you can sell me on.
The Topping D90 and RME ADI 2 DAC FS are very similar devices overall. Though they have different inputs and outputs, they are very evenly matched regarding sound quality.
The Topping D90 is easier to use, but the ADI offers a cleaner and more “pure” sound with no frills. If you want a warmer sound, you should go for the D90. If you want pure audio, the ADI is worth the extra effort.
Hi, I’m Raymond. A keyboard player, music producer, and writer. And I’m also the founder of this blog. As someone who has been working with several audio and music equipment and different musicians for many years, my goal is to answer all your questions on music and equipment, as well as the latest music software and technology. For more info, check out my about me page