It might not deliver more power than your laptop or phone jack

A Review On: JDS Labs Assembled Objective2 Headphone Amplifier

JDS Labs Assembled Objective2 Headphone Amplifier

Rated # 1 in Desktop Amps
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Price paid: $130.00
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Pros: Very accurately reproduces the source signal; I guess it could help if the source's headphone jack isn't strong enough

Cons: Could use more power

The objective facts


Background: I listen to music on a higher-end (purchased for $800) Asus laptop, or my Galaxy Note 2 smartphone. With my SRH940s, the phone sounds better in terms of sound signature, but with my Sennheiser HD800s, the laptop sounds better for some reason. But they're both very close. All of these experiments were done listening to music on Spotify 320kbps; that's how I listen to headphones 99% of the time so that's the only way to test for my purposes.


How I tested this: I connected the O2 amp, with low gain, to my laptop's output jack. I set the volume of the O2 amp to its highest level (in other words, I controlled the volume of the music from my laptop's volume meter). The playback was set at 24bit / 192 khz (basic windows audio lets you pick this option). I plugged the HD800 into the amplifier.


The first thing I noticed was that this setup didn't cause the HD800 to be that much louder than it was when I simply plugged it directly into the laptop. In other words, with the O2 amp's volume set at max, and my laptop volume set at 25%, the headphones had close to the same volume as when I plugged the HD800 directly into my laptop and set the volume to 25%. So my laptop has as much power as this thing. Then I turned up the volume to the maximum and used a decibel meter to see how loud the two could make the headphones, and again, very similar. I repeated the above with the phone and got more or less similar results. 


Subjective observations


Next I cycled through a few songs that are very well recorded, to see if they sound better on one vs. the other. I listened once, twice, three times, again, again, focusing on very specific parts of the song, often playing 10 second portions of a song and repeatedly alternating between the two sources. I could find nothing. I would often focus on one tiny detail in a song, to see if the O2 and computer produce it the same, and they could. When the O2 was driving the phone, it had the phone's less desirable sound signature, and when it was driving the laptop, it had the laptop's sound signature, but the O2 didn't change the sound at all. I thought an amp was supposed to improve the sound of my "power hungry" HD800, but this did nothing. However, commenters say that this is exactly how it's supposed to work. In other words, it's not supposed to change the sound at all. So I guess I can't rate it poorly for doing what it's supposed to do.


Conclusion: If you have a severely underpowered source and need power, this will deliver it. But it could do more in this respect. It's not underpowered like some of those pathetic portable amps you see out there. But in my opinion, a $130 desktop headphone amp should provide boundless power, as much as you could ever want. When you buy a desktop amp, you should no longer be concerned about not having enough power. You should be concerned about keeping the volume low so as not to blow out your ears. To provide technical stats, on its website, it states that the O2 can only deliver a maximum of 88mW at 600 ohms. Well what if you're trying to drive a T1 or another 600 ohm headphone? Is 0.09 of a watt enough? Again, it has power, but you might not need the little bit of extra power this provides, and you might be fine sticking with your laptop or phone's amplifier. In light of the fact that it costs $130 and sits on your desktop, but doesn't have huge bountiful power, I'll subtract 2 stars. I'm just not sure why you would buy this if you want a desktop amp.


Interesting. Are you using high-quality source material? I.e. FLAC, ALAC, AIFF?
I edited to add the music source. Thanks
I think you don't quite understand the concept of amplifiers. They're not meant to change sound, just amplify the volume. But since you said that even the volume hasn't changed, there might be something wrong with your unit?
Suggestion: Use an external PC DAC. Don't double amp it. Sounds like the O2 is doing it's job just fine. It's supposed to not change the sound of what's connected to it. Sure maybe some minor improvements. With my O2 and Micro I can expect to connect up a 2Mb Coby Mp3 player and have it sound the same. I want to hear my source/music and not my amp.
With an external DAC the differences would be much greater.
To expect anything from the O2 amp when it's designed to spit out exactly what it has been fed is rather interesting to say the least. the O2 is known to be pretty much neutral, to some: boring, cold and analytical. I'm currently waiting for my output booster kit from AGDR, which from what I've read should nudge the amp into becomming a more musical little box. If you're interested on how it changes the sound for me, feel free to PM me or search for "O2 headamp output booster & modification PCB" on the DIY section.
If you want my honest opinion, an entry level "high end" laptop is around the $1000-$1400 mark, even then it may not guarantee a decent DAC inside, but from what I can see it may as well be a laptop which includes a built in headphone amp. Hard to say since Asus has the tendency to spec laptops for specific uses.
Perhaps we can gain a better understanding if we know which specific model you are using?
You are double amping... of course it will sound the same.
Even if he wasn't double amping, the dac is probably garbage anyway.
OK I edited my review in light of the helpful comments.
This is the specification of my laptop's headphone jack:
"The Class D amplifier is designed to drive speakers with as low as 4Ω impedance. Its maximum output power is 2.3W per channel at 5V power supply."
Do you have the amplifier built for 1x gain? If that's the case, then it won't amplify the signal at all. Try pressing the push button to the right of the volume knob and see if you get more volume.
P.S. I mainly got these because some people misled me into believing (despite what my ears told me) that my HD800s didn't sound as good as they could, because my phone/laptop couldn't drive them. Well apparently both my phone and laptop have decent amplifiers, so I think that's why this isn't doing anything for me.
if you can't return it, might as well invest in a good dac to improve source quality and do it the way its supposed to be.
and laptop jack are powerful these days. my laptop drives my headphones much louder than external usb powered dac/amp I own. but in sound quality there is no comparison. dac/amp is much better.
Yes. Apparently my laptop jack is strong enough to drive speakers.
I just discovered that I have a Realtek ALC269 DAC in the computer. Is that horrible? What's a good upgrade?
One other question, when you guys play your objective 2 amp -- what volume level do you set it at? I'm wondering if I should turn the volume of the computer to the max, and keep the volume of the amp low, or vice versa.
technically, the Realtek ALC269 is not a bad DAC chip, but most laptop manufacturers rarely implement the chip in a way that meets our expectations: even the most efficient power supply units in PC's provide noticeable noise within an audio setup, if your laptop has implemented its own power regulator for its DAC then that's a good thing, but it rarely meets the same specifications found in an external DAC unit.

For other DACs as upgrades, you cannot go wrong with an ODAC. Or if you want a small taster of externally powered USB DACS you could go for the cheap (but performs incredibly well) ELE DAC EL-D01, which unfortunately seems to be available in Ebay from China. I am only suggesting those because I have experience with them, but feel free to look further into the review and discussion threads here.
As for the volume I would suggest that you keep the volume at 100% on the computer, and use the volume controls on the Amp.
How can it sound any different than the headphone jack if it is merely amplifying what comes out of the headphone jack?  Please retry this test after using a dedicated DAC, and then compare the O2 versus other headphone amps.  Otherwise you have no comparison.  Can't understand why anyone hasn't bothered to state this are in no way comparing the headphone output of your laptop to the O2 because the output of the laptop is always on.  In fact, I find it amazing that you find the O2 that good in this setup.
"you are in no way comparing the headphone output of your laptop to the O2 because the output of the laptop is always on."
Wait, what do you mean by this? Do you mean to say that the O2, through some electronic signals, knows that the source is itself a powered headphone jack, and the O2 just steps aside and does nothing but control the volume? In other words, the power is coming from the laptop headphone jack and the O2 is basically acting as a wire?
Thanks that ELE DAC is super cheap so it's worth a try. Out of curiosity, can you please recommend the best DAC that isn't priced in the crazy $500ish territory?
p.s. I would like a 24 bit 192khz dac if possible. I noticed that ODAC is only 96khz
I think you don't understand what is an amplifier. It doesm't do voodo magic. It takes an input signal, and outputs it with bigger amplitude. That's it. In your case, you are feeding with your computer headphone jack. So you are taking this signal, and making it bigger. This won't change sound quality. The thing is, if you invest in a good source, the amplifier will have something good to spit at the other end.

Side note, what gain setting were you using on the O2?