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.
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the JDS Labs Objective 2 Headphone Amp 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 Objective 2, a powerful entry-level amp from JDS Labs that trumps pretty much anything else in its price range or otherwise as far as value, price-to-performance ratio, clarity, and cleanliness.
With that, let’s dive in.
I’ll outline the importance of both the amp and dac (and why they’re needed) at the end in addition to an experiment I did that clarifies my point.
So stick around!
The JDS Labs Objective 2
All specs are taken from the JDS Labs website.
- Frequency Response: +/-0.1 dB (20Hz – 20kHz)
- THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) 1Khz 150 Ohms: 0.0016%
- IMD CCIF 15 Ohms: 0.001%
- IMD SMPTE: 0.002%
- Noise (ref 400 mV): -105 dB
- Max Output (33 Ohms): 613 mW
- Max Output (150 Ohms): 355 mW
- Max Output (600 Ohms): 88 mW
- Output Impedance: 0.54 Ohms
- Crosstalk (15 Ohms): -65 dB
- Channel Balance (50% volume): 0.6 dB
- Battery Run Time: 6-8 Hours
* = Denotes Custom Configurations Available
- Input: 3.5mm or RCA*
- Output: 3.5mm or 6.35mm*
- Power: Battery or 14-20VAC
- Gain: 2.5x and 6.5x*
- Volume Potentiometer Taper: Alps 15A
- Batteries: 2x9V LSD NiMH
- Genuine Objective 2 Headphone Amplifier
- 15VAC Power Adapter
- 2x Tenergy 9V NiMH, Low-Self Discharge Batteries
- Rubber Feet
Objective 2 ships with one free 15VAC Power Adapter.
- Black and Silver Edition: Default configuration, featuring front-mounted 3.5mm (1/8″) headphone jack, 3.5mm input jack, and AC power jack
- Customize: Choose a 3.5mm or 6.35mm (1/4″) headphone jack, front or rear-mounted AC power jack, 3.5mm or RCA analog input jack, and custom gain levels.
The build quality of the Objective 2 is most excellent.
It’s just heavy enough and feels solid, rugged, and durable.
I feel like if I dropped it on the floor it would survive rather easily, and be ready to take more abuse. 😛
this thing would probably survive a nuclear holocaust, so there’s that. It just feels like an asteroid in your hand.
The volume knob feels solid, along with all of the input and output jacks.
The gain button as well as the power switch both feel satisfying to push and aren’t cheap at all.
We’ll talk about the gain and its effects on sound in a bit.
There’s really not much more to say about this puppy.
Surely it’s a bare-bones unit simply because it’s a standalone amp, but the build quality is fantastic and far exceeds what it should feel like given how affordable it is.
Bulletproof design? Just might be!
BUILD SCORE: A+
As mentioned above, this is a bare-bones amp, but it does provide a gain button which will come in handy for headphones that simply need more juice.
The great news is that this baby provides a ton of power to almost any impedance level.
Let’s look at the specs:
- Max Output (33 Ohms): 613 mW
- Max Output (150 Ohms): 355 mW
- Max Output (600 Ohms): 88 mW.
With my HD600 it provides more power than you could ever want or need.
For reference, the 600s with their 300 Ohm impedance need around 20mW of power to perform at an optimal level.
You can see that the O2 easily meets and surpasses these requirements.
For comparison’s sake, an HA-2 from Oppo provides 30mW into 300 Ohm, which just makes the cut.
Without the gain button pushed, I find 2 o’clock to be around the sweet spot for this headphone.
You simply won’t need to push it past this, so there’s a ton of headroom which I always appreciate out of an amp.
With the gain button pushed in, I find 10-11 o’clock just about right.
Even pushed past 2 ‘o clock and beyond, distortion is non-existent.
this amp is clean as a whistle.
Keep in mind that the HD600’s Sensitivity sits right on the cusp of being low.
- Recommended: What is Sensitivity in Headphones? [Explained]
At 97dB, it needs a fair amount of current to sound loud enough.
The fact that the Objective 2 drives the Sennheiser to listenable levels with absolute ease tells you just how valuable a piece of equipment it is.
With something like an HD650, I find it’s much easier to reach a stable spot with the volume level and leave it there.
At 103dB of Sensitivity, you’ll discover that it doesn’t need as much current and therefore is more predictable with regard to the sound level.
I tend to adjust and re-adjust the volume a lot more with an HD600, whereas with the 650 it’s more “set it and forget it.”
Add to that its low output impedance, and you have an amp that effectively works with any headphones.
- Related: What is Output Impedance?
Aside from a gain button, there are no other features. I would have liked a bass boost but that’s a minor nitpick.
FEATURES SCORE: A
Ergonomics & Sound
It most certainly is.
Not only does it work with all headphones, but it leaves a pretty small footprint on your desk.
It’s extremely good at its job, much like an efficient co-worker who gets sh** done.
The sound of the Objective 2 is certainly its most impressive quality.
In 2 words: Cleanliness & Clarity.
This amp is one of the most transparent offerings that I’ve heard out of everything I’ve demoed.
In a comparison with the HA-2 and E10K, you can tell that there’s a hint of warmth in those, vs. the complete sterility of the Objective.
It reminds me of ice actually.
It’s cold and clinical, so be prepared to hear everything in its most raw state (good or bad).
If the song sounds bad, it’s most certainly the source, and not the headphones or amp.
Fortunately, the majority of tracks left me speechless with regard to clarity, micro detail, air, space, dynamics, instrument timbre, resolution, attack, sustain, and decay.
This amp really has a way of separating instruments and pinpointing specific sounds with laser-like precision and accuracy.
- Related: What is Timbre?
It’s like you’re getting a glimpse into the recording environment where the track was made.
You kind of get a sense of being in the studio with certain tracks, as there’s this phenomenal sense of spacing and air.
You may be familiar with the somewhat narrow image of the venerable HD600.
They are almost notorious for not having a very good Soundstage.
The precision and instrument separation is there, but the image itself isn’t very wide.
Enter the Objective 2.
I’m not saying that the Soundstage here magically becomes 100x better, but what I am saying is that you may feel it improves somewhat.
I’ve experienced more “out of my head” feelings with the 600 paired with this amp than any other I’ve tried.
There were a few times in particular when I perceived the sound coming from outside of the cans, which is something that rarely happens with these headphones.
In more recent years I’ve sort of chalked this up to the track in question, but there’s no doubt that the Objective 2 was a fantastic amp.
ERGONOMICS & SOUND SCORE: A+
Fortunately, I also got to try out the Objective 2 paired with a DAC Magic 100 for Gaming as well!
The results were stunning, to say the least.
There was again, a ridiculous amount of headroom with the amp, and I only had to turn the dial to around 12-1 ‘o clock to get a loud and crisp sound.
The clarity and dynamics of the gaming environment in Fallout 4 really came to life to a startling degree.
The soundstage opened up considerably, and I was able to hear sounds all around me with great precision.
As with music, the amp is also squeaky clean for Gaming, with no distortion even at much louder levels.
Every intricate detail can be heard and felt with this thing, and in my mind, it’s one of the only rigs one would ever need for console gaming.
If you’re into FPS shooters, I would imagine having either of these setups with a great pair of headphones and a mic would be like cheating.
There’s simply not a sound that escapes your perception.
If you’re familiar with the PS4, there’s ambient music that plays when you’re at the dashboard.
I always thought that the music itself was pleasant, but never gave it much of an in-depth listen.
With the Objective 2, the sound took on an entirely different character.
I sat still for 10 minutes dissecting the intricacies of the song, which is fairly stunning when you consider that I have bad ADD. 😛
It was as if the song itself longed to be understood, admired, or even just thought about.
I heard micro details and instrumental passages seemingly so far away through the headphones that it simply astounded me.
I highly recommend an Objective 2 for gaming!
Hook it up Homie!
(For Your PC/Laptop)
Click to enlarge!
Note: These same steps can be applied to the ATOM as well. (For Your Console)
Click to enlarge!
Some DAC Options
(Specifically for Gaming Consoles)
In order to hook up a DAC to your console, it will need to have Toslink/Optical capabilities.
Here are some DACs I recommend for this purpose to pair with the updated ATOM.
More on the ATOM in the final word.
- Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100. This is a great unit and comes equipped with RCA output, Toslink/Optical, S/PDIF, and USB. It’s a great unit and one that I personally used with the Objective 2.
- JDS’ own ATOM DAC. The ATOM DAC is more affordable than the above DAC Magic 100 and should likely be paired with the ATOM. It also has an optical input for use with a console so you’re able to stack them and game just as you would with the original Objective 2 (as seen above).
Video Comparison to ATOM
Final Word & 2023 Update
I loved the original Objective 2 and recommended it until it was discontinued and replaced with the ATOM.
Both the ATOM and FiiO’s K5 Pro are my top 2 recommendations for beginners just starting out.
The ATOM is more neutral at around 0.7 Ohms Output Impedance while the K5 Pro is around 1.2.
In short, the ATOM is a bit more neutral while the K5 Pro has a warm-ish tilt to my ears.
In any event,
the ATOM is a fantastic amp and should definitely be high on your list of priorities when searching for a fantastic desktop solution.
The Importance of an Amp & DAC
One of the first things you might ask yourself before purchasing a set of audiophile headphones is: “Will I need an Amp?”
- Related: How to Choose a Headphone Amp!
The second question might be: “Will I also need a DAC?”
The issue of Amps and DACs can be confusing if you’re new to the hobby, and a lot of the time it’s simply because people fail to explain it with any sort of clarity.
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 1s and 0s that your PC understands) into the sweet sweet analog sound that you hear and understand.
In a microphone recording, 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.
- Related: Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?
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.
All 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 from 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 Objective 2 Amp with the Modi DAC because I’m demoing the O2.
Objective 2 does not have Analog 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 Objective 2.
The RCA males run into the back of the Modi.
Now because I have this cable, I was able to do an 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. Objective 2.
There was really 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 in fact using an older laptop with a somewhat bad internal Soundcard.
Newer 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 for audiophiles, it’s kind of how they roll. 😛
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 a really expensive one.
The differences are fairly marginal in my opinion, and a DAC of 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 Objective 2 Headphone Amp Review 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,