Home Amp/DAC Comparisons JDS Labs Element vs. Objective 2: A Blast From The Past

JDS Labs Element vs. Objective 2: A Blast From The Past

by Stuart Charles Black
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Originally written 10/24/2018

Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

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

Today we’ll compare some long-time favorites in the original Objective 2 and Element; both from JDS Labs. We’ll go over Similarities and Differences, some notes I jotted down, sound, as well as my main takeaways.

Toward the end, I’ll put a section on why DACS are important/why you need one.

With that, let’s get into the Similarities & Differences between these two amps, shall we?

Similarities & Differences


  • Both amps provide a neutral, clean signal that will not color the sound in any way.
  • Both amps have a gain switch, power button, and USB type B input.
  • Both amps are meant to be used in the studio on your desktop.
  • Both amps have a very low Output Impedance. What is Output Impedance?


Power Brick

The Element has a 16VAC power input while the Objective 2 has 15VAC.

Make sure to only use the power bricks supplied for best results. The brick for the Element is also quite a bit larger. ‘Merica.

Power Output

The Element provides more power than the Objective 2. We’ll get into the numbers in a bit!

Power Indicator

When you turn on the Element, a halo ring light comes on below the large volume knob. On the Objective 2, a small red light comes on to the left of the smaller volume knob.


The Element looks radically different than the Objective 2. It resembles a small turntable, while the O2 looks like your standard issue Amplifier.

The Element also leaves a much larger footprint than the more compact O2. This could be a determining factor depending on the amount of space you have.


The Element has that huge knob in the middle and it sits on top. The Objective 2’s knob is small and sits on the front facing you.

JDS Labs Objective 2

AFAIK, the Objective 2 was a Class AB amplifier.

Both have indicators as to where they would sit on a clock, but only the Objective 2 has the dashes that mimic the time.


The gain switch and power button on the Objective 2 is a bit different than that of the Element.

On the Objective 2, you push the button in, and it comes back out slightly before clicking into place.

On the Element, the buttons just make a hard and fast click. The clicks also sound a bit different on each. Both are rugged in their own right.

Headphone Jack

While you can customize the size of the headphone jack, the default on the Objective 2 is a 3.5mm input. The Element provides a 1/4″ jack on the front and is geared more toward headphones needing more power.


The original Objective 2 had nothing on the back and didn’t provide RCA inputs or outputs.

Standalone Jones.

The Element does provide 2 pairs: 1 pair of Analog inputs and a pair of automatic DAC Line Outputs.

This enables you to switch between powered monitors and headphones with the click of a button. What are studio monitors?


  • Source File(s): 16-bit/44.1, 24-Bit/96kHz, 256/1411kbps, FLAC, etc. I also used iTunes CD quality as well as some Vinyl rips. If you’re like me, read ‘iTunes’ and laughed, so did I. Remember: this article was originally written in 2018.

As mentioned before, there is a small difference in sound quality between the two, but in my estimation, it’s fairly minuscule and takes a lot of going back and forth to discern.

A lot of the time you won’t even really hear a difference unless you turn up the volume a smidgen on the Objective 2 to match the Element (since it provides more power and doesn’t take as long to reach louder levels).

That said, the Element sometimes does provide a bit more clarity, resolution, air, and space, but it doesn’t happen on all tracks and it’s not a huge discrepancy.

Video Comparison

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Stu’s Notepad

By the second page, you can see that my impressions were mostly about the same from song to song.

There was no point in going any further. I have also tested both of these extensively while not directly A/B comparing and they both sound fantastic and roughly the same give or take.

I am also very familiar with all of these tracks and know how they sound like the back of my hand.

For the comparison, I mostly listened to Indie, Pop, Rock, Metal, and Hip-Hop.

Because the HD600 isn’t quite as good with Jazz or Classical as something like an HD598, I left those genres out this time around.

It’s also important (or not so important) to note that I was using a Modi DAC to pair with the Objective 2. Is there a whole heap of difference from DAC to DAC? Not really.

A $100 DAC will do you just fine in most cases and sounds pristine. The differences from DAC to DAC are even more minimal than that of headphone amps.

You’re just not going to perceive it very easily. I got a chance to try out a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100 as well and the conversion is a tad better but it could have just been my imagination.

Here I was comparing the Audioengine D1 with the Objective 2, this time pairing it with a DAC Magic 100.

Technical Specifications

  • JDS Labs Element: Check here for the official specs!
  • JDS Labs Objective 2: Check here for the official specs!

I will quickly outline some of the main considerations here as far as power output.

JDS Labs Element

  • Max Continuous Output at 600 Ohm: 140mW.
  • Max Continuous Output at 150 Ohm: 505mW.
  • Max Continuous Output at 32 Ohm: 1.1W.

JDS Labs Objective 2

  • Max Output (600 Ohm): 88mW.
  • Max Output (150 Ohm): 355mW.
  • Max Output (32 Ohm): 613mW.

Closing Thoughts and Main Takeaways

I A/B tested both of these Amps back and forth for a while and concluded that there isn’t a huge difference in sound between them.

Admittedly, the Element did sound a tad better on a few tracks, but it was very subtle and may not be noticeable to an everyday listener. Plus, it could have just been a placebo and/or my imagination running wild.

When the Element did sound better, it was because it provided a tad better resolution, life, space, clarity, and thump. It also seemed to handle the fast-paced nature of “Peace Sells” by Megadeth better than the Objective 2.

The differences however are very subtle and could simply boil down to the track in question sounding better than another one.

The actual, measurable differences come in the form of power output, signal-to-noise ratio (slight), Output Impedance, and some cosmetic changes. The Element does provide more power into all Impedance ratings, but the Objective 2 is still very powerful in its own right as well.

So what’s my recommendation?

It’s been many years since I originally wrote this article, and times have changed quite a bit.

For one, the Objective 2 has been discontinued and replaced with the ATOM line.

Secondly, there are 3 versions of the Element now, but only 2 are available on JDS’ website: The Element III, and the EL Amp II.

For most people, the ATOM 2 is a perfect solution with plenty of power at a fantastic price.

JDS Labs ATOM 2 Review

With neutral amps like these, you’re going to be able to hear a lot of things that were lost before. I think the black background and overall cool sterility (yay word salad) do contribute to feeling like there’s a sense of space and depth, and I’ve been saying as much for many years.

I’m never going to claim it’s like you’re actually there, but you do get a slight feeling/illusion of sharing a space with the artist, hearing each individual note of say, John Paul Jones’ bass, or how the artists in a band interact with each other.

Still, a lot of this is the source quality and headphones first. The DAC is mostly the third wheel and a distant third wheel at that.

Amps & DACS Are Still Important

Choosing an Amp and DAC can seem like an arduous task.

There are so many to choose from nowadays that it’s getting quite ridiculous.

When I first started, I had no idea what a DAC even was. Two of the first questions you might ask yourself are “Do I need an Amp” and “Do I need a DAC?

These are both good questions and shouldn’t be ignored. The answer will largely depend on a couple of factors:

Generally speaking:

  • The lower the Sensitivity a headphone has, the more current it requires.
  • The higher the Impedance a headphone has, the more power it requires.

That’s a simplified way of looking at it, but it works well for our purposes today. Impedance is simply the resistance and reactivity that the headphones present to the amp as an electrical load.

For example, a headphone like the Sennheiser HD600 has a low (ish) Sensitivity at 97dB and has a high impedance (300 Ohm). It most certainly needs both power and current. If you don’t provide it, the headphones simply won’t sound loud enough and you’ll feel as if you wasted your money.

But as far as what a DAC is? Let’s go over it real quick!

What is a DAC anyway?

A DAC is simply a digital-to-analog converter my friend. It converts the digital signal from your computer (the 1’s and 0’s) into the sweet sweet analog sound that you hear.

In recording vocals/rap etc., you’re screaming obscenities into the mic and your computer has to process it into language that it can understand (called binary). It does this in the form of 1s and 0s. So essentially, either of these processes can be happening depending on what you’re doing.

That’s the basic gist of it!

So where does the headphone amp come into play?

Glad you asked.

A lot of what an amp does is amplify that conversion and resulting signal from the DAC to a listenable level. This is why it’s important to have a good DAC in the first place.

If you’re stuck with a poopy DAC like the built-in one of my old Lenovo T510, you’re in for a world of pain like Smokey from Big Lebowski.

It’s a league game Smokey. Lol.

Why will you be in for a world of pain like Smokey if you use a crappy internal DAC?

Simple answer: You will only end up amplifying an average, below average, or even downright bad signal.

To prove my point, I just did a little experiment with my Magni Amp from Schiit.

Right now I’m using the Element, as well as the Objective 2 Amp with the Modi DAC because I’m demoing both.

The Objective 2 does not have Analog or USB inputs, so we have to use one of these RCA to mini (3.5mm) cables.

This cable’s 3.5mm jack plugs into the front of the Objective 2. The RCA males run into the back of the Modi.

Now because I have this cable, I was able to experiment.

The Experiment

I ran the mini end of the cable into the 3.5mm jack on my laptop, and the RCA ends into the Magni. This basically means I’m using the internal Soundcard of my laptop as a DAC (discussed previously). What is a Soundcard?

In a nutshell?

The sound wasn’t bad per se, but it took the gain switch on PLUS the volume turned up all the way to reach a listenable level.

I was actually quite surprised by how decent the actual sound quality was once I got it loud enough, but you could hear a clear difference vs. the Objective 2. There was no comparison as far as crisp detail, impact, cleanliness, and weight.

My laptop’s internal Soundcard DAC was a bit flabby/loose sounding, with poor volume and some faint static/noise that I could hear.

In no way ideal, friend.

One thing to keep in mind is that I was using an older laptop with a somewhat bad internal Soundcard. Current laptops, PCs, and newer technology have come a long way.

Whereas 5-10 years ago (and beyond) you had to put up with this sort of thing, nowadays most computers, phones, tablets, etc. do provide better built-in converters. You may not even need a DAC at all in some cases but don’t tell that to an audiophile who claims he can hear the grass growing.

Alternatively, you could also use something like a FiiO E10K as a standalone DAC. Instead of using the RCA to mini that we discussed above, you would use a simple 3.5mm to 3.5mm interconnect cable such as this one.

The main point?

Invest in a good DAC. Also, understand that it’s not necessary to go crazy in buying an expensive one. The differences are fairly marginal in my opinion, and a DAC around $100-200 will be more than enough. The important thing is to just have one.

Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this JDS Labs Element vs. Objective 2 Comparison, and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Marvin, what do you make of all this? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..

All the best and God bless,





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