On this page we’re checking out the JDS Labs Atom+ AMP
JDS Labs Atom+ AMP
The dedicated web page can be found here. It costs $99 USD.
Frequency Response, 20Hz-20kHz +/- 0.01dB
SINAD @ 2VRMS, 1kHz 119 dB
SINAD @ 50mV, 1kHz 90 dB
SNR (20-20kHz) > 122 dB
Output Impedance < 0.7 Ω
Channel Balance < 0.6 dB
Max Continuous Power @ 600Ω 136mW (9.05VRMS)
Max Continuous Power @ 150Ω 545 mW (9.04VRMS)
Max Continuous Power @ 32Ω 1 Watt (5.66 VRMS)
When we examine the detailed post shared by JDS, we see that JDS has improved the performance of the amp by making minor changes on the amp. They upgraded the input stage ICs from NJM2068 to NJM5532 and did small adjustments to supporting resistors. They state that they were not satisfied with the 2019 ALPS potentiometers used in the previous Atom Amp, so they switched to custom-made potentiometers which were produced specifically for the Atom+ Amp. All the custom-made potentiometers are hand-matched for tighter L/R balance to levels ~20dB lower than the Alps was able to offer. And best of all, none of these upgrades were reflected in the price.
Packaging & Accessories
The Atom+ Amp features the same experience as the Atom+ DAC. The packaging is quite straightforward. I received two boxes; one for the AMP and one for the 16VAC power adapter that we’ve seen multiple times before with JDS Labs gear. The Atom+ DAC and the Amp share this adapter and they occupy roughly 4 slots instead of 2 because of the huge adapter size. As for the accessories, there aren’t any. You only get the device and the adapter along with the stamped inspection card.
Design & Build Quality
The Atom+ Amp is naturally the best companion there is to the Atom+ DAC. They share the same build quality and design aesthetics. Their form-factor is roughly the same as well. Just like the DAC, the Atom+ Amp is quite light at around 260 grams and features the same good quality plastic chassis. I can’t see any assembly issues or case imperfections.
As for the layout, the unit has a volume pot that has a subtle light ring around it. It matches the Atom+ DAC’s front side with this detail and they look great when stacked. If we look at the right side of the volume pot, we see two spring-loaded push buttons. The gain and the input can be swiftly changed via those buttons. If we look at the left side of the volume pot, we see the 6.35mm headphone out. On the rear side, we see RCA inputs & outputs, a 3.5mm input socket, and lastly, a barrel-type power socket for the 16VAC adapter. The gold-plated plugs and the sockets feel solid and well-made, just like the DAC. The Atom+ Amp ticks all the boxes with its elegant but simple design.
Power & Technology
The Atom+ is small and light. For the form and factor, this may be the most powerful amplifier in sub 200, maybe 300 USD bracket. The amp can dish out 1w into a 32Ω load. This means that the amp is quite powerful and it can feed 90% of the headphones on the market. It also has two gain options, 1x and 4.5x. It also has preamp outputs. You can seamlessly plug your active speakers into the Atom+ and control their volume.
It is also as silent as it gets and has a very low output impedance of just 0.7 ohms. It matches with my multi-driver IEMs without any issues. The noise floor is ridiculously low and I can’t hear any hiss, even with highly sensitive IEMs in my possession. The custom-made potentiometer with hand-matched gangs offers a much better channel balance compared to the previous Atom Amp generation. The Atom line is focused on sheer performance and performance only. JDS aimed for a no-BS amplifier that is easy to operate, hella powerful, and compact. Under hundred dollars, it was crazy at the end of 2018, it is still crazy in 2021.
Controls & Operation
As I mentioned a couple of times already, the Atom+ Amp is very easy to operate. You connect the 16VAC adapter to the port, turn the knob clockwise and the amplifier will be turned on. If you turn it counterclockwise, it will power off. The beautiful light ring around the volume pot also acts as a power indicator. You can also connect up to two sources and select between 3.5mm and RCA input via the input button on the front panel. It’s straightforward, it’s easy, super-breezy. Plus, JDS Labs states that the Atom+ Amp can stay powered on 24/7 without any issue.
Warranty & Customer Relations
JDS Labs offers a 2-year warranty for their DACs & AMPs. Let’s go back a few years together and let me tell you a story.
As someone who has been in this industry for nearly 10 years, I have had to contact JDS Labs several times in the past. I was able to get answers to every question I asked, both about DIY projects and about their products. Moreover, even though I did not buy products from them afterwards, they tried to help me by suggesting different approaches. Shortly after this experience, I bought a few products from them and one of them broke down due to my fault. When I explained the situation to them, their attitude towards me and their solution-oriented approach made me really happy. I’m not usually a person who has frequent problems with electronics, but this was a very unique, one-of-a-kind experience. It was a niche market back then, compared to 2021. Getting good service and after-sales support was hard. After some research, I saw that JDS’s polite attitude towards its customers continues even years later. The existence of such companies is very valuable for us audiophiles. We thank you for that.
The sound signature of the Atom+ Amp is similar to the Atom+ DAC. It is neutral, clean, and transparent. JDS Labs has managed to upgrade a device that was already brilliant. Atom+ Amp is resolving, revealing, and clean, even at nearly max volume. It reflects the source and the track, without any coloration. I can’t hear any hiss or distortion. It punches way above the price tag. At 99 USD, this amp is basically a steal. If you follow my reviews, you know that I try to review devices that offer a good price-performance ratio. This amplifier may be the most valuable piece of gear that I’ve reviewed in 2021, in terms of value for the money spent. Yes, it does not have a fancy screen or a CNC case, or even a gold-plated 6.35mm HP socket but you pay every cent for the sheer performance and you get twice, thrice as much in return. Back to the sound, the amp does not feel particularly bright or warm, it is linear and it reflects the source as-is. If I pair it with Gustard X16, I hear the details-in-front-of-your-face approach of the Gustard easily. If I switch to the Topping D70s, I hear a more musical, slightly more articulate, and slightly more rounded reproduction. The Atom+ Amp makes it easy to distinguish the signature differences between my DACs. This product is the worst enemy of the concept of diminishing return. I hate it and I love it at the same time.
I paired it with a tribrid IEM and the bass acts the way this tribrid does, it is punchy, it is powerful, it is fast. The midrange is slightly recessed yet articulate, clean, and airy. Upper mids have great control and the extension is just brilliant. The treble range is breathy and clean with great extension to the top octave. It pairs extremely well with my modded 58X as well, it reflects the warmer signature of the 58X but boosts the perceived resolution and clarity while providing plenty of power to the cans. The control is very good across the spectrum, there is bleeding, no overlapping anywhere. No peaks, no dips, no sibilance. The amp also handles congestion well thanks to the wide stage. PRaT is excellent and technical-wise, this amp acts as if it is priced in a much higher price bracket. You can’t go wrong with it.
The review continues on Page Three, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.
Page 1: JDS Labs, JDS Labs Atom+ Desktop DAC, What’s New?, Packaging & Accessories, Design & Build Quality, Features, DAC Performance
Page 3: JDS Labs Atom+ DAC & AMP Stack Performance, Pairings, Last Words