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JDS Labs Atom DAC Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the JDS Labs Atom DAC. It was kindly sent to me by the company and costs US $99.

As the name indicates, this is the long anticipated companion to the JDS Labs Atom headphone amplifier:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC Audio Review.jpg


I like the big circle but oddly, it is not a switch. There is an inline switch with the power supply for that purpose:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC Back Panel Input Output Audio Review.jpg


And that is the other odd thing. Typical DACs in this category are just USB powered. This one comes with the standard AC transformer JDS ships with their other products. It is not an issue for performance but I would think it is a cost that could have been optimized.

There are no other inputs which is fine with me but some want optical, etc.

DAC Audio Measurements
The JDS Labs Atom set a new bar for high performance headphone amplifier at very low cost. Can the DAC repeat the same? Here is our dashboard:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC Audio Measurements.png


This is very good performance. Alas, it now slots in a very crowded segment of excellent budget DACs:

best usb DAC review.png


Zooming in:

best usb DAC review zoomed.png


Signal to noise ratio is in the same category of above rating:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


IMD+noise is very good:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC IMD Audio Measurements.png


As is 32-tone test:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC Multitone Audio Measurements.png


Some harmless spurious tones are visible in jitter test:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC jitter Audio Measurements.png


Linearity which is a measure of accuracy is superb:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Only one filter response is provided:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC Filter Audio Measurements.png


Good attenuation of out of band spectrum results in good THD+N versus frequency:

JDS Labs Atom USB DAC THD+N vs Freq Audio Measurements.png


Conclusion
For anyone looking for a perfect match with JDS Labs Atom, the DAC is naturally a perfect fit. Its distortion is below threshold of audibility so can be proven to be totally transparent to what you play.

The company is in US and provides superb support -- something that is next to impossible to get at times from bargain offerings elsewhere.

Overall, I am happy to recommend the JDS Labs Atom DAC.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

261.... that is the number of products I have tested with a DAC in them!!! How about you all donate that much in dollars by the end of the week? Fair exchange, no? https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

KR8NUX

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#2
First here !
Yes, it's a good match in the stack, but the price doesn't match performance. Also, lack of a screen and lesser inputs seem to be a bit of a dealbreaker. I guess it's to be expected due to the made in USA.
 

3125b

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#3
I like my Atom Amp, and this one isn't too bad either based on performance alone.
It's just not competitive on features. Only USB in, no controls at all (no volume control [stacked with the the Atom amp and its analog control that's not ideal with low impedance haedphones], no display, no remote) ... just nothing.
Also the same mediocre plastic case and bulky transformer.
They are building down to a price, but for me as a consumer, that still just doesn't cut it compared to the chinese competition.
 

GPJ

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#5
Top tier DAC performance, inexpensive, great match with Atom, simple as it gets. Bang for buck!

Better than humpy Khadas tone board plus it has a case. Looks like an E30 clone on multi tone (great implementation of 4490 vs 4493)

And no ridiculous "sound color" modes like S.M.S.L. offers. How embarrassing to advertise that on any DAC!

Solid offering! Go JDS Labs!
 
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Veri

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#6
I think the big transformer eats up a lot of the cost. But you get stellar support included in the price, too :) it's not a bad deal!

My only nitpick is ak4490 instead of the better ak4493 but seeing performance, not really an issue. Lack of optical will hopefully be fixed in an optional version just like they did for OL Dac.
 
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#8
I ordered this. My only issue was that I was charged separately for the USB Type B cable ($4.99) and the Rocker Power Switch ($2.99), on top of the $99 for the DAC. I don't mind paying for it but I just wished they were upfront about it.

As mentioned in their blog, "For the first batch only, we are shipping a free in-line power switch as well.". So I don't know why it was charged separately. Will check in with them but a thing to note if you are considering getting this DAC.
 
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Jimbob54

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#9
Posted this a couple of days ago on another thread. Having read the review and specs etc, pretty sure its got to be true. Or maybe I am wrong and people want to spend $200-250 on two box simple solutions, rather than have to.

I can see a shift coming in the desktop component market. The days of standalone cheap single ended DACs must be coming to an end soon. Given the "they all sound the same" mantra and the dongle class leaders showing what can be done in such a small package- surely the future will be $100-$150 USB / Bluetooth Headamps which of course include a DAC chip. Essentially the Atom HPA v2 includes a DAC. Undercutting the likes of the Topping DX3.

Standalone DACs become multiple input and output devices (as most new ones are anyway)- RCA and XLR outputs for what I will call "power" users who want more than one box and output. Not sure why anyone would either make or buy an $80-120 standalone single ended only DAC.
 

ichonderoga

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#12
*whoaa* the market is just getting flooded with excellent measuring dacs for bargain prices. I like this trend :)

Though (as @Jimbob54 also points out) I think that the lack of inputs might hurt it a bit and make similarly priced/performing dacs more attractive.
 

LTig

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#15
Only one filter response is provided:

View attachment 68343

Good attenuation of out of band spectrum results in good THD+N versus frequency:
As an EE I'm still unhappy regarding this filter as its stop band should start at fs/2 (22.05 kHz) and not at 24 kHz (perfect for 48 kHz sample rate). Unfortunately this seems to be rather the norm nowadays - not for RME though.
 
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#16
I ordered this. My only issue was that I was charged separately for the USB Type B cable ($4.99) and the Rocker Power Switch ($2.99), on top of the $99 for the DAC. I don't mind paying for it but I just wished they were upfront about it.

As mentioned in their blog, "For the first batch only, we are shipping a free in-line power switch as well.". So I don't know why it was charged separately. Will check in with them but a thing to note if you are considering getting this DAC.
According to their website, the atom DAC comes packaged with the USB cable no? Is the RCA stack cable what ya meant?
 
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#17
Hi, long time lurker here. Decided to make an account cause I have several questions and if anyone would be kind enough to help me out. Kind of an audio-noob here!

1. I noticed that a few are disappointed at the lack of Toslink and Coaxial. As I am new to this hobby, I am just wondering what these 2 connection types are for and if they have advantages over a USB implementation.(Like why are people upset at these 2 types of missing inputs?)

2. Given the lack of Toslink and Coaxial, will I be limited in options in terms of connectivity to another device?

Just curious as I purchased the atom DAC yesterday and am half regretting not going with the schiit stack or waiting for the liquid spark DAC to be released.
 

Tks

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#18
As an EE I'm still unhappy regarding this filter as its stop band should start at fs/2 (22.05 kHz) and not at 24 kHz (perfect for 48 kHz sample rate). Unfortunately this seems to be rather the norm nowadays - not for RME though.
I thought the same until @Veri brought to my attention, this isn't actually the case. Filters are determined by the DAC chip, and AKM doesn't have a truly sharp filter like the one you describe. For some reason I thought their older chips did, because I started noticing on the 4499 devices there was no 22.05 brickwall, and thought AKM blundered the filters for their next-generation DAC chips. Only after a little bit of research, did I realize all AKM based devices have this problem.

The ESS chips have proper filter options (sometimes two or three that hit the 22.05kHz cuttoff target).
 

Yuno

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#19
For sure this is not a competitive product compared to Topping E30, however frankly I don't think it's bad. Yes, it's very basic, and I'm sure for some people this will not be a bad thing. I don't think it's all that bad for dac to be basic - it just needs to feed the signal into amp. If amp has good gain controls, volume control on dac is not needed.
I actually think that including power brick is a good thing - no possibility of bad performance due to noisy USB. If I were in market for a simple dac, I would pick this over Khadas.
Also, one advantage of JDS Labs products is that they are reliable, and generally just work for years to come. It helps that there is not much to break here too.

1. I noticed that a few are disappointed at the lack of Toslink and Coaxial. As I am new to this hobby, I am just wondering what these 2 connection types are for and if they have advantages over a USB implementation.(Like why are people upset at these 2 types of missing inputs?)

2. Given the lack of Toslink and Coaxial, will I be limited in options in terms of connectivity to another device?
The only real adventage is that you can connect 2 devices to dac and switch between inputs (I think that's your point 2?). If you are using your dac just for a single device, it doesn't matter.
 

Robbo99999

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#20
Hi, long time lurker here. Decided to make an account cause I have several questions and if anyone would be kind enough to help me out. Kind of an audio-noob here!

1. I noticed that a few are disappointed at the lack of Toslink and Coaxial. As I am new to this hobby, I am just wondering what these 2 connection types are for and if they have advantages over a USB implementation.(Like why are people upset at these 2 types of missing inputs?)

2. Given the lack of Toslink and Coaxial, will I be limited in options in terms of connectivity to another device?

Just curious as I purchased the atom DAC yesterday and am half regretting not going with the schiit stack or waiting for the liquid spark DAC to be released.
Well, Toslink (optical) would allow you to hook the DAC directly to the Optical Out of your TV for instance....so it would enable you to route TV/movie audio through the DAC and to speakers. If you're limiting your DAC to USB input only then I think that's mostly limiting you to PC use.
 
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