Review: JDS Labs Atom – Exemplary

JDS Labs Atom

Today we’re looking at JDS Labs’ latest creation, their small Atom amplifier. A 99$ entry level headphone amplifier.

 

Disclaimer: JDS Labs provided the Atom amplifier free of charge. I only had to cover import fees and customs. Headfonia is not affiliated with JDS Labs in any way, they are not a site advertiser. Many thanks for the generosity and opportunity to review the Atom.

About JDS Labs:

JDS Labs is a US based brand that operates since 2007. They are the producer of many critically acclaimed products. Their main aim is to get great sounding and affordable gear out to the many consumers. Their vast product-line consists of amplifiers, digital to analogue converters, hardware equalizers, CMOY amps and even DIY kits. JDS Labs offers it all in pursuit to satisfy their customers. All of their products are made in the USA, which makes the impressive prices even more appealing.

We have covered a number of their products in the past, including the wonderful Element amplifier last year.

A selection of relevant links can be found at the end of the review.

JDS Labs Atom

JDS Labs Atom

About the Atom:

At the end of last year JDS Labs has introduced their latest creation, the Atom amplifier. It is very small for a desktop amplifier and measures pretty much the same as a CD cover. It is designed to offer a high performance for little money.

The Atom offer two analogue in- and outputs. You get a regular RCA and 3.5 mm stereo input as well as 6.3mm and RCA outputs. The outputs are both independent from each other and cannot be used simultaneously. Once you unplug the headphones you will get RCA pre-output at the current volume. So when you plug in your headphones, make sure that the volume is at a low level, to not blow out your ears.

Having pre-outputs you will be able to use your favorite active speakers with the Atom. That’s a big plus for versatility!

The inputs can be changed very easily by pushing the front-seated button. Atom offers two gain stages to power both efficient and hard to drive headphones. JDS decided to give the Atom loads of power as it fires one Watt into 32 ohms, that should be sufficient for most cans.

When we take a peek at the technical specifications we learn that the Atom has a low output impedance of only 0.7 ohms, so even super efficient multi driver monitors should not see any weird sound alterations.

JDS offers the Atom at 99$ in their online shop, I couldn’t spot a list of dealers on their website.

JDS Labs Atom

JDS Labs Atom

Package:

Delivered with the Atom comes a 16V/AC outboard power adapter. This is a pretty huge one, that really covers the full space of an output socket. Other than that you’ll only get the amp itself. No cables or accessories.
Build Quality:

When I reviewed the Element last year I was pretty impressed by the build quality, and my expectations for the Atom were clearly high. So when I unpacked the Atom I was a little disappointed to find a plastic body and even a plastic headphone output.

The Atom is very lightweight and comes in at 9.3 ounces, which translates to 263.65 grams. This low weight makes the Atom stand a bit too light on my table, as my RCA cable does pull the amplifier down. To have it stand more robust on my desk I needed to put some weight on it.

Editors note: JDS has told me that the weight of the Atom can be customized, so if you chose a higher weight you won’t run into the same problem as me with the RCA’s pulling it down.

On the front you’ll find the necessary control buttons, the volume knob and the 1/4” output. The knob uses a custom Alps 15A potentiometer. The implementation of the volume dial is well done, as it rotates with the right smoothness, it doesn’t sit flimsy and gives an overall good impression.

JDS did put four rubber feet on the bottom of the Atom, to keep it free of gliding around your table. I do appreciate this a lot, as nothing’s more annoying than a headphone amplifier that moves around too much.

The build quality is fair for the price, but I would have loved to see it sport more weight so it stands more secure on its own as well as a more premium 1/4” socket.

More about the Atom on page two!

Review: JDS Labs Atom – Exemplary
4.1 (81.43%) 42 vote[s]

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

    12 Comments

    • Reply January 17, 2019

      Wills

      Hi Linus, nice review as always : )
      This is very likely to be the one I am getting as an entry of the world of full-sized headphones.
      What dac would you recommend to pair with these? Or is it fine if I use the line-out from my ak70 mkii? Thanks!

      • Reply January 17, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Wills,
        thanks a lot for your comment. 🙂

        I think you’d be very well set with the AK70ii and this one.
        You can also take a look at some affordable units from JDS or Schiit. Have heard good things about their DACs. I only know their DAC/Amp combos and not their standalone converters though.

    • Reply January 24, 2019

      Tired_Guru

      One of the best, natural sounding amps no matter the price. No magic tricks here, no added distortion even on large dynamics peaks or very high volume levels. There is depth to the sound, texture, layering, instrument separation, upper harmonics of intruments, proper attack & decay, resolution and speed. There is black hole background. You can listen very quietly and still be able to hear a lot of details and punch, this is amazing.

    • Reply February 24, 2019

      Carl

      Thank you very much Linus for the review. Questions: do you think the Atom would pair well with the FiiO K3? Anything I would need to keep in mind? Might there even be synergy between these two?

      • Reply March 2, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Carl,
        thanks for the comment.
        The Atom should be fairly easy to match. Can’t say about the K3 though, I have zero experience with it.
        Cheers!

    • Reply March 27, 2019

      Darryl

      Now do the Monoprice Liquid Spark:).

    • Reply April 1, 2019

      Jasper Young

      Very nice review! Could you tell me more about the Atom amp’s pairing with the HD 800 S? I’m thinking of getting a tube for my cans but this review is swinging me to get the atom.

      I’ve heard the 800 S on solid states but usually the treble is peaky. I would like to know if there are any sort of peaks with the atom.

    • Reply April 4, 2019

      Mr. Bojangles

      First. They need to use your full name and not just your first name like the made up ones individuals give you at call centers.

      Second. Where is the weight customization here? I ordered an Atom and didn’t see that option and see nothing else listed on the site. I know you all have $1000 cords to review so this measly $100 amp isn’t a priority to follow up on, but still…

      • Reply April 4, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Mr. Bojangles (I love the song),

        I think you have to send them a mail about the weight. JDS told me about this option after the review has been published…

        If one of your previous comments has been missed I’m sorry, maybe you know this, but every single Headfonia writer has a daytime job. We all work during the week and this site is just a hobby. I also have two kids, with which I spend my spare time. Headfonia gets some evenings… 😉

      • Reply April 11, 2019

        Darryl

        I don’t remember where I saw it, but I saw a photo of the Atom with the top of the case off, and and it shows that they put a 1/2 oz. iron weight of the type used to balance automobile tires in each corner. $9 will get you more than you need:

        https://www.harborfreight.com/1-2-half-oz-wheel-weights-67226.html

    • Reply June 15, 2019

      Alan Tan

      Currently I am using the EGA from stoner ac. and also another is TEAC UD-301, matching with the HD650 and LCD-2C, do you think this will be a nice replacement of the EGA?

      • Reply June 20, 2019

        Linus

        Hi Alan,
        sorry for the late reply.
        Can’t say as I have zero experience with the EGA, but the Atom is really nice for the price.
        Hope that helps.

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