Big thanks to the folks over at JDS Labs for sending me this unit! I am not being compensated by them for this review in any way. I’m simply giving my impressions of the Amp. Read on to find out what I thought!
If you’re curious about how the Objective 2 stacks up, JDS Labs Element vs. Objective 2!
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the JDS Labs Element Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
My goal for this article (and all articles really) is an attempt to outline everything you could possibly want to know about the stuff in question. In the case of today, it concerns the fantastic Element, a powerful amp from JDS Labs that continues the tradition of excellence found in their entry-level Objective 2.
Table of Contents
Click any of these to navigate the page!
Features & Usage
My Video Review
Ergonomics & Sound
With that, let’s get into specifications and find out all about it!
The JDS Labs Element
- Combo on JDS Labs’ Website: Check Here!
All specs are taken from the JDS Labs website.
- Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz +/- 0.1dB
- THD+N 1kHz, 150 Ω 0.0009%
- IMD CCIF 19/20kHz 150 Ω 0.0004%
- IMD SMPTE 150 Ω 0.0005%
- Noise, A-Weighted -108 dBu
- Crosstalk @ 150 Ω -67 dB
- Output Impedance 0.1 Ω What is Output Impedance?
- Channel Balance +/- 0.56 dB
- Max Continuous Output, 600Ω 140 mW (9.4VRMS)
- Max Continuous Output, 150Ω 505 mW
- Max Continuous Output, 32Ω 1.1 W
- Peak Output Power, 32Ω 1.5W
- Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz +/- 0.15dB
- THD+N 100 Hz -0.15 dBFS 0.0023%
- THD+N 20 Hz -0.15 dBFS 0.0016%
- THD+N 10 kHz -0.15 dBFS 0.0019%
- IMD CCIF 19/20 kHz -6.03 dBFS 0.0011%
- IMD SMPTE -6.03 dBFS 0.0012%
- Noise A-Weighted dBu 24/96 -102 dBu
- Dynamic Range (A-Weighted) >112 dB
- Linearity Error -90 dBFS 24/96 -0.02 dB
- Crosstalk -10 dBFS 100K RCA -100 dB
- USB Jitter Components 11025Hz -113 dB
- PCB Stackup 4 Layers
- Maximum DAC Line-Output, 100K 2.10 VRMS
- Interface USB, Audio Class 1
- Native OS Support Windows XP/7/8/10, OS X, Linux
- Audio Formats 16/44, 16/48, 16/88.2, 16/96,
24/44, 24/48, 24/96
- Headphone Output 6.35mm (1/4″)
- Analog Input RCA
- DAC Line-Output RCA
- Digital Input USB – Type B
- View Connectivity Diagram
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the build. We’ll discuss some of the practicality of this stuff in a bit!
The build quality of the Element isn’t necessarily better than that of the Objective 2.
It’s just different.
It is heavier, so there’s that.
It does feel a bit more durable, but I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. Both are just designed differently.
For instance, the Element resembles a tiny turntable. It’s got a huge knob in the middle and has a square shape.
The Objective 2 is a standard-looking amp in the shape of a rectangle with all the knobs on the front.
The Element doesn’t have anything on the top or front beside the big volume knob.
It feels incredible though.
All of the buttons on the back feel solid, and when you turn it on, a light glows underneath the knob to indicate that it’s ready to go!
Overall, it’s a sleek and stylish unit that exudes class, simplicity, and elegance.
There’s not much more to say.
BUILD SCORE: A+
What about the Element’s features?
As far as features go, the Element is very similar to the Objective 2 in that there’s a gain switch, power jack, and USB input.
There’s also a headphone jack on the front, but it’s a 1/4″ instead of the 3.5mm on the Objective 2.
Like the Objective 2, the only real “feature” is the gain button.
There’s a small difference in the buttons on each, however.
When you push the button in on the Objective 2, it makes noise but feels softer.
It’s more of a fluid motion when it presses in and out.
The gain button on the Element makes a distinct clicking sound.
It takes less time for the entire process to happen and feels “harder” if you will.
Not harder in the sense that it’s hard to push, but rather it’s quicker and more to the point.
The Element is a combo Amp/DAC, and also comes with a pair of Analog inputs and automatic DAC Line Outputs which basically enable you to switch between powered monitors and headphones with the click of a button.
So all in all, there’s a USB Type B Jack, Power Button, Gain Button, and the inputs/outputs we discussed above.
On the front, there’s the 1/4″ headphone jack and the big volume knob is on the top!
FEATURES SCORE: A
My Video Review
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What about ergonomics and sound? Is it efficient? Does it sound good?
Ergonomics & Sound
Yes and yes, friend.
The Element is extremely powerful; even more so than an Objective 2!
If the Objective 2 powers 99% of headphones with ease, I would say the Element is even more efficient.
I do believe there isn’t a headphone out there that wouldn’t work with it.
Now, are all headphones the most ideal choice? It depends on who you ask.
The Element continues the tradition of sterile, clean sound that we’ve come to know and love from JDS Labs.
I feel confident though in saying that I would feel comfortable driving almost any pair of cans with this Amp/DAC.
It’s superb and provides plenty of power, even for your most demanding high impedance sets.
Let’s take a look at some numbers.
- Max Continuous Output, 600Ω: 140 mW (9.4VRMS)
- Max Continuous Output, 150Ω: 505 mW
- Max Continuous Output, 32Ω: 1.1 W
- Peak Output Power, 32Ω: 1.5W
How about comparing them to the Objective 2?
- Max Output (33 Ohms): 613 mW
- Max Output (150 Ohms): 355 mW
- Max Output (600 Ohms): 88 mW
You can see the Element is more powerful than the Objective 2.
How does this affect the sound?
I did some A/B testing on both.
Though there were a few songs where I felt the Element outclassed the Objective 2, by and large, they sound very similar.
It’s a crisp, clean, and neutral sound that reveals micro detail while providing a ton of space, air, and room to breathe.
The tracks feel like they have more life to them, and they’re also more transparent.
The raw honesty of the arrangement comes through with great precision and attention to detail.
This is a sound that the majority of people will fall in love with because the clarity of the instruments and the separation between them are outstanding.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth discussion on the Element vs. Objective 2: JDS Labs Element vs. Objective 2
ERGONOMICS & SOUND SCORE: A+
What’s the final grade for this beast?
Got to give this homie an A+.
It’s extremely durable, looks sexy in the studio, and has a huge knob.
I mean what else could you ask for? Sound? Impeccable!
You can even use it as a preamp for some speakers or monitors.
- Related: What are studio monitors?
It’s a step up from an Objective 2 in that it’s simply more powerful, and will likely work with more headphones.
Does that mean it sounds better than an Objective 2? With some songs, yes.
For the most part, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a huge difference in the sound of the Element vs. the sound of the O2.
As much as I loved the original Element I at the time of this review, I think the K5 Pro is a better value nowadays – especially given what I just said about the sound differences between the $99 Objective 2 vs. the more expensive Element.
In addition to that, the newer Element III is around $450. If you’re going to spend that much, I’d rather you just get a K9 Pro which can basically do anything and is much more versatile than the Element.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this JDS Labs Element Review.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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Marvin, what do you make of all this? Do you think the K5 Pro is a better value? Any thoughts on FiiO’s K9 Pro? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
All the best and God bless,