JDS Labs Atom 2 Stack Review

In this article, we review the JDS Labs Atom 2 Bundle / Stack, which is their Atom DAC 2 & the Atom AMP 2. Each one retails for $129 USD.


Disclaimer: JDS Labs sent us the Atom 2 stack for this review, free of charge. The review reflects my unbiased opinion as always.

This review consists of 3 pages. The Atom DAC 2 will be reviewed on page 1, the Atom AMP 2 will be reviewed on page 2, and the stack performance of the two will be evaluated on page 3.

JDS Labs

Chances are, you’ve already heard of JDS Labs, thanks to their insanely popular DACs and amps. They’re one of my all-time favorite audio companies, and I’ve owned a ton of their gear over the years, even way back to the NwAvGuy’s O2 amp and the classic Altoid CMoys. It’s pretty safe to say that JDS Labs has an immaculate track record in my head. Today, we’re checking out their updated Atom line version 2, but let’s back up a bit.

Behind JDS Labs is the drive for audio excellence that started with John Seaber, the company’s namesake. In his quest to improve the bass response of his Sennheiser HD-280 Pro headphones, John created a bass boost circuit that quickly gained popularity within the audio community. Nick’s arrival in 2011 as a co-founder marked the company’s official beginning, transforming JDS Labs into the trusted audio brand it is today. If you are curious, you can read more about them here.

Their commitment to transparency and value proposition has earned them a loyal following throughout the years. We’ve had the pleasure of reviewing and awarding numerous JDS Labs products on Headfonia over the years. You can explore those reviews through this link: Headfonia JDS Labs reviews.

Now, let’s dive into their latest offerings!

JDS Atom DAC 2 

After five successful years with their original Atom Amp+ and Atom DAC+, JDS Labs isn’t waiting on the side-lines. They’ve introduced the Atom Amp 2 and Atom DAC 2, boasting refinements and upgrades while maintaining the core transparency and value that made the originals popular. They also emphasize that the standard Atom Amp+ and Atom DAC+ aren’t going away. They remain reliable, affordable options at a slightly lower price as the base MSRP increased from $109 USD to $129 USD. 

  • Frequency Response, 20Hz-20kHz: +/- 0.12dB
  • SINAD @ 1kHz, 20-22.4kHz: 113 dB
  • THD+N, 20Hz-20kHz: < 0.0004%
  • SNR, 20Hz-20kHz: 117 dB
  • Dynamic Range, AES17, A-Weighted 119 dB
  • USB Jitter Components @ 12kHz: 129 dB
  • Maximum DAC Line-Output, 100K: 2 VRMS
  • PCB Stackup: 4 Layers
  • Upgradable XMOS FW, Auto Standby, UAC1/2, 32/384kHz PCM, RCA, Optical, Type C & more.

So What’s The Difference? – Atom+ vs. Atom 2

Firstly, Atom DAC 2 now comes with an anodized aluminum enclosure, something that I’ve wanted for a long time. JDS Labs states that the Atom DAC 2 offers several refinements over the original Atom DAC+. Internally, it employs triple OPA1692s in its trans-impedance stage, lowering both power consumption and operating temperature. Design improvements include a more secure light ring and a modern USB-C input instead of the traditional USB-B. Additionally, there’s no need for a rocker anymore, as it now comes with an integrated power button. While the Atom DAC 2’s already impressive performance receives a slight boost, these changes solidify its position as a more durable, user-friendly iteration of its predecessor for an extra 20 bucks.

Packaging & Accessories

JDS Labs maintains a no-frills approach to packaging. Their cardboard boxes remind me of DIY kits that I used to buy when I was younger. I received two boxes: one for the DAC along with the accessories and one for the 15VAC power adapter that we’ve seen multiple times before with JDS Labs gear. The 15VAC power adapter still feels really heavy and still occupies more than one power outlet socket, so there is no change there either.

As for the accessories, the Atom DAC 2 now comes with a new USB Type A to Type C cable. Like the old cable, it features a ferrite core loop that helps reduce noise and improve jitter performance. I always appreciate the traditional stamped inspection card JDS Labs includes. It’s a small but reassuring touch, promising that your new DAC has been thoroughly examined for top-notch quality.

Design & Build Quality

The Atom DAC 2 shares the same compact footprint (131 x 130 x 34mm) as the Atom+, but switching to a rugged aluminum chassis has added significantly to its weight. It now weighs 425 grams, more than double the weight of its predecessor, the Atom+ DAC. This increased structural integrity is immediately noticeable and conveys a reassuring sense of quality compared to the previous gen. JDS Labs have cleverly moved the mounting screws to the side, adding a touch of industrial flair. The signature light ring remains, providing a beautifully even glow. The satisfyingly tactile input switch, along with the gold-plated RCA plugs, feel solid and well-assembled, as you’d expect from JDS. At this price point, it probably won’t get any better than this, build-wise. Kudos.

I stand by my take on the Atom line as I’ve written in the Atom+ review; I appreciate the simple elegance of the Atom line. The white light ring is aesthetically appealing, and its soft glow is perfect for listening at night without strain. It’s a marvel how this compact stack can deliver such clean sound and power while taking up such minimal desk space.

The front panel features a handy input switch for selecting between USB and optical sources. At the rear are RCA outputs, a USB-C input, an optical input, a 15VAC barrel style power socket and a discreetly placed power switch. A welcome change is the RCA alignment between the Atom DAC 2 and Atom AMP 2, allowing the use of ultra-short interconnects.

Additionally, all-metal enclosure Atoms come with a custom engraving option. Make sure you check out this post to see what’s possible and what’s not. Fans sent some fantastic designs for their orders. You can get inspired!


JDS Labs Atom DAC 2 features upgradeable firmware via XMOS’ USB controller. Keep an eye on the blog and the main webpage so you can update your DAC with the latest FW. There is no new FW as of now.

Atom DAC 2’s native USB Type C input receives up to 32/384kHz PCM over a custom XMOS-based UAC2 engine with ASIO and DSD support. UAC1 mode for PS5 or Nintendo Switch is activated when using a UAC1 Fallback Cable.

Atom DAC 2 features an Auto-Standby feature, which means that it automatically enters standby after 15 minutes of inactivity, powering down its light ring and D/A circuitry, and wakes up when you need it, within milliseconds.

DAC Performance

I will try to describe the DAC’s signature without the Atom AMP 2. For this test, I am pairing the DAC directly with my active reference monitors. Let’s start with the signature. Just like all the other Atoms, the Atom DAC 2 sounds transparent and uncolored. It is immensely clean and perfectly reflects the gear you pair it with, as-is, without any saturation. I am actually quite amazed at how JDS is able to achieve this level of performance with the old, reliable 9018K2M DAC from ESS. Of course, their precisely tuned trans-impedance stage utilizes six OPA1692 opamps, but still, it is one hell of an achievement and makes you question the must-have-latest-dac-chip race among Chinese manufacturers. JDS is once again showing off its expertise, a powerful reminder that implementation and execution reign supreme in audio design.

This linear, transparent signature makes the Atom DAC 2 an incredibly versatile pairing for virtually any amplifier. To test this claim, I hooked it up to both the Geshelli Archel 3 Pro and the Drop HO150x – both excellent amplifiers well-matched to the Atom DAC 2’s clean output. I did not feel like the Atom DAC 2 is bottlenecking these amps at all. Important note: the Atom DAC 2 offers a 2VRMS output rather than 4VRMS. While not crucial for this DAC’s intended use, it’s worth mentioning.

The Atom+ and the Atom DAC 2 share the same signature, the same SQ, and I was not able to perceive any difference between the two, using my Focal 80 active monitors. Atom 2 is a highly resolving, linear and clean DAC that costs a little over a hundred bucks and it is a serious contender at this price range.

The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

Page 2: JDS Labs Atom AMP 2, Packaging & Accessories, Design & Build Quality, Features, AMP Performance

Page 3: JDS Labs Atom 2 DAC & AMP Stack Performance, Pairings & Comparison, Last Words


4.4/5 - (230 votes)

Long time Tech Enthusiast, an ambitious petrol-head, Yagiz likes his gadgets and always finds new ways into the tinkerer's world. He tries to improve anything and everything he gets his hands onto. Loves an occasional shine on the rocks.

1 Comment

  • Reply March 20, 2024

    Gregory Davis

    Having owned & enjoyed the JDS labs Atom+ stack for 2+ years… I feel it is important to comment on the benefit of the “huge” power adapters that are a definite PRO!

    They are passive analog transformers that Do Not Radiate power supply switching noise which pollutes the immediate local RF zone! My vintage – yet exceptionally good FM tuners – can be made unlistenable by insufficiently shielded devices (the SMSL SU/SA 6 & others are quite guilty of this radiated switching psu noise pollution).

    In future reviews I (& others to be sure) would appreciate and benefit if you could include radiated noise from switching power supplies & cpu processing.

    Thank you for earning the #1 qualitative reviewer position in my lovely world of Headphonia listening.

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