Home Amp/DAC Guides JDS Labs’ ATOM Series: A Look Back To 2018

JDS Labs’ ATOM Series: A Look Back To 2018

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

Out of all the companies I’ve dealt with over the years, JDS Labs is the one I respect the most. Thus why I have no qualms about writing more articles saying as much.

The reason why I respect them is simple: They have a limited amount of products and adhere to an Ethos that reflects their actions perfectly.

In addition to that, their amps and dacs are a good value and they don’t unnecessarily jack up the price for no reason. The ATOM series has stayed at around $100 or a bit over for many years, and to me that’s admirable.

This article will cover the ATOM lineup and any future iterations. We’ll go back to where it started with the original ATOM and talk about all subsequent updates.

So sit tight and strap on, because this write-up will attempt to outline everything about this series; good or bad.

Now let’s dive in!

What Is It?

JDS Labs ATOM 2 Review

It’s always helpful to clarify exactly what we’re working with here.

All iterations of the ATOM are standalone headphone amplifiers and preamps that need a separate DAC to function.

I’ve used many different DACS with ATOM/Objective 2 over the years, including but not limited to the FiiO K3, FiiO E10K, AudioQuest DragonFly Red, Schiit Modi, Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100, and others I can’t think of at the moment. 

If you’re reading this and wondering what to go with, I’d suggest JDS’ own ATOM DAC as they were meant for each other.

With that, let’s delve a little deeper into ATOM and see what he’s all about; starting with the earliest homie.

JDS Labs ATOM AMP+ (OG Version, 2018)

Price: Discontinued | Official Review: Here!

FiiO K5 Pro Review

Here I had the OG Atom paired up to a K3.

My, how time flies.

You know the years are going fast when the original ATOM is now ancient history.

Succeeded by the one and only Objective 2, ATOM was an upgrade in many ways and a downgrade in others.

If you’ll recall, the Objective 2 had nothing on the back panel; all the connections were on the front which made it pretty awkward to use.

Standalone Jones.

JDS Labs Atom vs. Objective 2

The Objective 2 had a 0.002% IMD (Intermodulation Distortion).

That said, the rock-solid build of the O2 was conspicuously absent in the ATOM, and many people complained.

Coming in at a breezy 9.3 Oz (263g), the original ATOM was lighter than light. It honestly felt like a toy you’d find in your local Wal-Mart.

In addition, some of the buttons were a bit wonky to push, and overall, the unit felt pretty cheap.

For me and many others, the disappointment was palpable considering how hefty the O2 was. That thing was built like airplane and felt great in your hands.

Even despite the lack of weight, ATOM functioned flawlessly and I never had any issues.

Speaking of functionality, the OG ATOM homie expanded the O2’s capability by providing a set of RCA outputs on the back for use with separate active speakers/monitors (hence Atom is also a preamp), and RCA inputs as an extra option for use with a separate DAC.

Like the Objective 2, it also had the standard, but incredibly convenient 3.5mm line input for use with almost any DAC.

The O2 only had a 3.5mm input in addition to a 3.5mm headphone output (No RCA), gain, and of course the 16V AC Power jack. 

JDS Labs Objective 2

AFAIK, the Objective 2 was a Class AB amplifier.

Sound & Power Output

It’s quite astonishing to consider that the original ATOM had excellent specs; especially for 2018.

With an output impedance of around <0.7, a Signal-to-noise ratio of 122dB, and heaps of power, it’s no wonder it took off and became a mainstay recommendation on this blog.

Let’s take a look:

  • Max Continuous Power @ 600Ω 136mW (9.05VRMS)
  • Max Continuous Power @ 150Ω 545 mW (9.04VRMS)
  • Max Continuous Power @ 32Ω 1 Watt (5.66 VRMS)

That’s way more than you’ll ever need, and before I start ranting, I’ll just say that I really appreciate JDS specifying Continuous power rather than peak.

Many companies do not differentiate between the 2, and for a person new to audio, peak power numbers can be rather deceptive; especially since they likely aren’t aware of the difference and would never know unless you pointed it out.

Put simply, continuous power is what you can actually use over extended listening periods, while peak power is what the amp can handle for maybe 2 seconds before something explodes. I’m exaggerating slightly, but you get the idea.

In any event, the above metrics are arguably some of the most important, with SNR taking center stage as anything over the 90dB SINAD (Signal to noise and distortion) standard will result in a crystal-clean sound free of distortion.

Speaking of, the ATOM provides just that; a neutral, clean sound that complements 99.987542% of headphones incredibly well.

It helps to portray the music exactly how it was recorded, mixed, and mastered; and this can be both a good and bad thing for obvious reasons:

If the recording is bad, the music will sound bad, and this is in large part due to the ATOM’s unabashed transparency. If the recording is good, the ATOM + your headphones just enhance that goodness; sometimes to splurge-inducing levels of excitement.

Just pay shipping and handling.

Jokes aside, I’ve tested countless tracks with this series over the years, and I’ve always felt that, whether I’m right or wrong, JDS products contribute to the sensation of what it may feel like to be in the room with the artist.

Please understand that this is very subtle and has more to do with your headphones and the source, but with an ATOM and a good pair of headphones, you sort of feel like the music occupies an actual space rather than just being sound that emanates from a driver.

This is what neutrality can do for you and a huge reason why I prefer solid-state amps over tubes.

Fortunately, this same sensation applies to Hevi D up in the Limousine.

JDS ATOM AMP+ HEVI-D-Up-in-the-Limousine (Revision 2, 2023)

Price: Check JDS! | Official Review: Here!


Hevi D

To be clear, this iteration was called the ATOM AMP+ Hevi, while the OG from earlier is simply referred to as ATOM AMP+.

The Hevi-D-Up-In-The-Limousine version is also still available on their website as of this writeup (Subject to change, I will edit accordingly).

I spoke with John Seaber about this and here’s what he said:

As for performance, Atom Amp+ Hevi is built on the same circuit board as Atom Amp+, so all published specifications are still valid. “Hevi” is purely a mechanical upgrade.John Seaber, JDS Labs

So the HEVI is just an OG ATOM that’s built better. All other specs are identical.

That said, the one thing that does stand out and has changed considerably is the volume pot.

You may recall the original was very loose, flimsy, and felt pretty cheap.

The ATOM Amp+ Hevi’s knob feels incredibly solid and a lot more durable.

Interestingly enough, JDS’ transition to an all-aluminum chassis caught a snag when the original engineering samples rattled unacceptably (as they put it).

Because of this, a separate version was prototyped in the interim, and, due to a manufacturing delay of the metal chassis, they decided to release this surprisingly good “Hevi” model while waiting.

So just think of the Hevi as a stopgap of sorts. In other words, all HEVI editions are being replaced by Atom Amp 2 and Atom DAC 2.

Speaking of…

JDS Labs ATOM AMP 2 (Revision 3, 2023)

Price: Check JDS! | Official Review: Here!

JDS Labs ATOM 2 Review

Here it is, folks. The ATOM Amp 2.


Sorry, had to bring that Fallout reference back. Gotta stay in line with tradition; because nostalgia.

Check it out:

In all seriousness, the ATOM Amp 2 improves on the OG and HEVI versions by providing even more power that you’re not going to need. Oh boy. It’s about to get snarky.

For reference:

  • JDS ATOM AMP+ (OG): 1W @ 32 Ohm
  • JDS ATOM AMP+ HEVI: 1W @ 32 Ohm
  • JDS ATOM AMP+ 2: 2.65W @ 32 Ohm

John was catching some heat from “Audiofiles” who can’t, for whatever reason, just stop the incessant whining and complaining about things that don’t matter in the slightest.

Here’s what he said in the PDF (with Audiofile quote at the end). I bolded my reactions:

“We’ve held off on drastic changes to Atom Amp+ for two key reasons. First, power has not been a priority to most of our customers (as it shouldn’t be). Second, we’ve been hesitant to make changes that might impact Atom’s high reliability.

As often as we have advocated that most headphone listening requires below 1W of power (THANK YOU) we continue to field questions and concerns (LOL OH NO) over how much power headphones require (Hardly Any). And after five years delivering the same 1W Atom Amps, perhaps our time is better spent, well, delivering more power? (Sigh)

Some listen at extreme volumes with inefficient headphones (Damaged Hearing). Or as one Youtuber commented:

“How much I need is not as important as how much I want, imo that’s how the market works.” (Extreme Eyeroll)

End Quote(s).

Concerns? LOL.

Cool, well, you’re still a crybaby like Veruca Salt who will never use the extra Watt and a half plus of unnecessary power. Ugh. I honestly cannot stand audiophiles. They’re insufferable.

When I commented to John about it through email he said,

“You got it! Audiophiles are the worst.”

So there you have it folks. In a surprise to absolutely no one, the engineer who designs and builds Amps and DACS for a living and also adheres to a strict Ethos while not spamming new products every few months thinks Audiophiles are awful.

And they are.

They emphasize pretty much everything that doesn’t matter at all while simultaneously ignoring basic engineering principles and everything else that does matter.

Other Improvements

Rant aside, it’s cool that JDS went ahead and improved some of the other specs, including Signal-to-noise ratio, Intermodulation Distortion, Dynamic Range, Overall Noise floor, and Weight.

  • JDS ATOM AMP+ (OG): 263g
  • JDS ATOM AMP+ HEVI: 436g
  • JDS ATOM AMP+ 2: 461g

Output impedance is still less than 1, and this time around it’s exactly 0.7Ω. If you’ll recall, the original ATOM came in at <0.7. A small discrepancy, but should be noted.

By now you may be wondering about the 4.4mm jack on the ATOM 2. Is it balanced?

JDS Labs ATOM 2 Review

Not quite.

The 4.4mm connection doesn’t employ a differential bridged mode circuit, commonly associated with fully balanced outputs, to achieve doubled voltage swing despite the potential increase in noise and total harmonic distortion (THD).

However, what it does offer is quite impressive. Testing reveals that both headphone jacks of the Atom Amp 2 deliver a substantial 26 volts peak-to-peak (Vpp) in a single-ended mode, showcasing a remarkably low noise floor.

Sound & Potential Drawbacks

As you can imagine, the “sound” is still the same across the lineup, ensuring accuracy, transparency, and neutrality above all.

And, the same concept regarding source discrepancy as mentioned earlier applies here:

If the music was recorded, mixed, and/or mastered badly, the ATOM 2 will reveal that. No question.

So prepare to hear everything in its entirety; a quality of Amps and DACS that can make for an interesting experience regardless of if it’s good or bad.

If the source quality is subpar, an amp like the ATOM, combined with your headphones, will vividly expose these flaws, potentially leading to an unpleasant experience depending on individual preferences.

JDS Labs ATOM 2 Review

Conversely, at times, this can enrich the experience, allowing appreciation for peculiar errors or anomalies in the track—something I personally find enjoyable.

It brings a freshness to the music listening experience, often revealing new elements in older tracks that had faded from memory.

You may also find yourself thinking or saying out loud something like “What the crap is going on?”

Things may not sound quite right until you realize that you’re starting to hear all the small morsels and grains you missed before with other dog food headphones and setups.

These types of subtleties can range anywhere from guitar plucks, fingers sliding down the fretboard, breathy/throaty utterances, background soundscapes, general wispy ambiance, additional instruments you may have missed, backing vocals that sound clearer and more distinct, the hum of a synth or whatever else you weren’t aware of, a cool organ you missed before, a dog barking, someone pooping their brains out, you name it.

In essence, tube amps tend to conceal errors and subtle imperfections in recordings, whereas solid-state amps like the ATOM 2 certainly do not, offering a more transparent playback of the original recording.

Other Differences

The only other differences are minor but still noteworthy.

The back is the same, only they gave it a much more professional look by having all of the jacks seated in a recessed position, providing a more secure and stable placement while reducing the risk of accidental damage or disconnection.


ATOM 2 Amp (Top), Hevi (Bottom)

In addition, you’ll notice the Atom Amp 2’s RCA Inputs now physically align with Atom DAC 2’s RCA Outputs.

Refer to this image of the ATOM DAC 2 for clarification.

Closing Thoughts

JDS Labs ATOM 2 Review

It’s refreshing that JDS has only come out with 3 revisions since 2018. And while the Hevi version technically counts as one, it was more of a stopgap due to some challenges faced by the company.

JDS ATOM 2 remains a terrific value in entry-level audio, and the fact that the price has only gone up a measly $30 is a testament to their steadfast integrity, fair pricing, and commitment to excellence.

Because let’s face it: if you’re new to this hobby, you’re absolutely going to get confused in a hurry without my guidance.

And, considering how oversaturated this market has become, it’s imperative that you listen to someone who’s been through it all.

As of this writing, I’ve tested 74+ Amps & DACS and have extensive experience with them dating back to around 2017.

I’ve given the hobby countless hours of my time and, as a producer, I understand how sound works. Audiophiles don’t because they have never mixed down a track and thus can’t understand basic things like frequency response and the limitations of human hearing.

And I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to get sucked down into the abyss of neverending products; or, as I like to call it: The Audiophile Rabbit Hole of Enduring Sadness.

Really, you don’t.

Because trust me when I say that, eventually, it will take a toll on your mental well-being. xD

So just chill out, buy an ATOM Amp and DAC, and enjoy your music. Because that’s what matters.

Act Now:


ATOM 2 Specs

Bolded are changes

  • Frequency Response, 20Hz – 20kHz: +/- 0.01dB
  • SINAD @ 2VRMS, 1kHz: 120dB
  • SINAD @ 50mV, 1kHz: 93dB
  • IMD SMPTE: -97dB
  • Noise (20-20kHz): 1.33μV
  • Crosstalk @ 10kHz (RCA Out): -97dB
  • SNR (20-20kHz): 123dB
  • Dynamic Range (AES17): 122dB
  • Input Impedance: 10kΩ
  • Output Impedance: 0.7Ω
  • Max Continuous Power @ 600Ω: 143mW (9.28VRMS)
  • Max Continuous Power @ 32Ω: 2.65 Watts (9.22VRMS)

ATOM Amp+ (OG ATOM) Specs

  • Frequency Response, 20Hz – 20kHz: +/- 0.01dB
  • SINAD @ 2VRMS, 1kHz: 119dB
  • SINAD @ 50mV, 1kHz: 90dB
  • IMD SMPTE: -95dB
  • Noise (20-20kHz): 1.99μV
  • Crosstalk @ 10kHz (RCA Out): -92dB
  • SNR (20-20kHz): 122dB
  • Dynamic Range (AES17): 120dB
  • Input Impedance: 10kΩ
  • Output Impedance: <0.7Ω
  • Max Continuous Power @ 600Ω: 136mW (9.05VRMS)
  • Max Continuous Power @ 32Ω: 1W (5.66 VRMS)

Does the ATOM sound like a can’t-go-wrong purchase? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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