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.
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.
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.
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!