JDS Labs EL Amp impressions
Aug 30, 2018 at 7:05 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 38

BrotherKathos

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I thought I would start this thread because I could not find one that dealt specifically with the amp only version of JDS Labs' Element. My impressions of this amp are as follows.

The amp is very neutral and balanced. It is also extremely quiet as well, since you can crank the volume all the way up with no music and get zero of that low level hiss that exists in many systems. This also seems to bleed into its musical reproduction because as you raise the volume on the El Amp, it just gets louder and the sound signature does not change. I'm not sure what the measured specs are on this amp or how much you can crank it before it distorts, but it must be pretty high. The sound-stage is open and bass, mids, and highs are all well represented.

In comparison to a Schiit Magni 3 that I have, the El Amp is able to retain its smoothness at higher volumes much better. This most likely is due to the Magni 3, while having a power rating of around double to that of the El Amp, distorts much sooner before it actually reaches its clipping point and noise starts to rise. This noise causes the Magni 3 to become bright and borderline shrill at higher volumes especially on less efficient planar magnetic headphones like the Hifiman 400i. A headphone amp that I find very similar to the El Amp in overall sound signature is the Audioengine D1.

I've only used the El Amp with two separate dacs. The SMSL SU-8 and the Topping D50. Both of these dacs sound the same to me, at least in initial impressions without very serious listening sessions. Both are very natural and smooth with the El Amp. The Audioengine D1 is also very smooth and is very close to the El amp, but the El amp is able to drive less efficient headphones to a fuller sound since its able to put out more wattage.

These are my impressions of the JDS Labs El Amp.
 
Sep 2, 2018 at 1:23 AM Post #3 of 38

BrotherKathos

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Ehmmm... what other headphones were you using? What were the impedances?
So far I've used the Hifiman HE-400i, Sennheiser hd 558 and 598 cs, and KEF M500 with the EL AMP. The 598cs is 23ohm or so, the 558 is 50 ohm. THe 400i is around 30 but is low sensitivity so a bit harder to drive than a 300 ohm hd 650. I've also tried the EL Amp with some beyerdynamic dt 770 pro 250 ohm. All these phones seemed to keep their basic characteristics as defined by other users. The Senns were mellow, The Beyers were V shaped, and the KEF are all mids. The EL amp is very neutral, so the phones will put out what the dac sends, and the phones will sound like the manufacturer intended.
 
Sep 2, 2018 at 1:47 AM Post #4 of 38

katulu

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So far I've used the Hifiman HE-400i, Sennheiser hd 558 and 598 cs, and KEF M500 with the EL AMP. The 598cs is 23ohm or so, the 558 is 50 ohm. THe 400i is around 30 but is low sensitivity so a bit harder to drive than a 300 ohm hd 650. I've also tried the EL Amp with some beyerdynamic dt 770 pro 250 ohm. All these phones seemed to keep their basic characteristics as defined by other users. The Senns were mellow, The Beyers were V shaped, and the KEF are all mids. The EL amp is very neutral, so the phones will put out what the dac sends, and the phones will sound like the manufacturer intended.

Cool. I have the full Element DAC/AMP (using mostly a Hugo as DAC and the Element as Amp) and minus a very slight deep subbass roll-off, I agree it's quite neutral.
 
Sep 2, 2018 at 1:56 AM Post #5 of 38

BrotherKathos

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Cool. I have the full Element DAC/AMP (using mostly a Hugo as DAC and the Element as Amp) and minus a very slight deep subbass roll-off, I agree it's quite neutral.

I've been very pleased with it. I very much prefer it to my magni 3 since the magni adds too much schiit to the mix. I'm waiting on the THX AAA one from massdrop to get a bit more powa and hopefully still retain absolute neutrality, plus the balanced option is cool too.
 
Sep 2, 2018 at 10:22 PM Post #6 of 38

2gumby2

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I have a JDS Labs Element amp which I think is the same amp as the EL minus the DAC section. It is my favorite amp. There is a refinement to the JDS Labs amps that are a step above most other amps I have experience with. I also have the Schiit Magni 3 and the JDS is definitely the better amp IMO.
 
Sep 2, 2018 at 10:33 PM Post #7 of 38

BrotherKathos

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I have a JDS Labs Element amp which I think is the same amp as the EL minus the DAC section. It is my favorite amp. There is a refinement to the JDS Labs amps that are a step above most other amps I have experience with. I also have the Schiit Magni 3 and the JDS is definitely the better amp IMO.

I totally agree with you there. I'm not much of a brand loyal person as I'll pretty much always drop one company for the next if they make a better product for the money. That said I was really looking forward to the magni 3 since it seems to have so many glowing reviews from people. I've had it on constantly for over a week playing on some phones and I've been hoping the sound quality would improve. It has gotten a little better, and I can listen to it at low volumes with my hd 598 Cs, but that's about as far as it goes. The magni 3 to me is worth its $99 price tag, sure. Its a very cheap head amp and sounds like a very cheap head amp as well. No where near the quality of sound I was expecting when I bought it. Its way to distorted and shrill as you raise the volume. I'd bet money that while it can most likely deliver 2 or 3 watts rms, that power is well above the quoted THD in their spec sheet.
 
Sep 2, 2018 at 10:37 PM Post #8 of 38

BrotherKathos

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I'm waiting on an O2 amp, and am now pretty much expecting the same trend with it as the magni 3. Hopefully that one will actually sound like an audiophile piece as so many have stated. The EL amp remains the best one I have, followed by the Audioengine D1. That little amp is a true value for money in the head amp market. Has a dac, hp out, and rca outs and functions as a preamp as well.
 
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Sep 2, 2018 at 11:10 PM Post #9 of 38

2gumby2

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I have two JDS Labs O2 amps as well and they are VERY good. I purchased an O2 amp from a different manufacturer which should have sounded the same as the JDS, but the sound was too bright. JDS Labs is a top notch company that produces excellent products. Their customer service is really outstanding.
 
Sep 2, 2018 at 11:13 PM Post #10 of 38

BrotherKathos

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I have two JDS Labs O2 amps as well and they are VERY good. I purchased an O2 amp from a different manufacturer which should have sounded the same as the JDS, but the sound was too bright. JDS Labs is a top notch company that produces excellent products. Their customer service is really outstanding.

That makes me a little more hopeful at least. I'm actually waiting for the massdrop desktop O2 bc with the same configuration the JDS Labs version was $77 more. Hopefully this one will at least be more neutral than the magni 3. Was the one you thought to be too bright brighter than your magni 3?
 
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Sep 3, 2018 at 3:00 AM Post #12 of 38

2gumby2

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That makes me a little more hopeful at least. I'm actually waiting for the massdrop desktop O2 bc with the same configuration the JDS Labs version was $77 more. Hopefully this one will at least be more neutral than the magni 3. Was the one you thought to be too bright brighter than your magni 3?
Yes, the other O2 was brighter than the Magni 3. I'm currently using the Denon AH-D600 headphones with the Magni 3 and I think it's a pretty good match.
 
Sep 4, 2018 at 3:50 PM Post #14 of 38

BrotherKathos

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Well I got the O2 amp today and even straight out of the box it blows the magni 3 away. Its far more musical and much less fatiguing on my ears. The vocals are the biggest improvement besides the much cleaner treble reproduction. I honestly don't see how so many people can think the magi 3 even competes. I guess maybe the placebo hype train? Or maybe my ears are just way different than the average person? Who knows. All I know is the O2 amp sounds like a true audiophile piece even cold and not "burned in" while the magni 3 sounds way too high strung and shrill. Maybe that amp needs to be paired with the schiit multibits or something to sound decent? I'm gonna take the magni 3 to my other place and hook it to another dac just to see if its the sabre dacs that the magni 3 does not like. That will be the final test I guess before I sell it.
 
Sep 9, 2018 at 3:03 PM Post #15 of 38

BrotherKathos

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I got my Audeze LCD-2C phones the other day and have been listening to them on a couple of amps I have. I've tried them on the O2 amp, Magni 3 and the EL amp. Out of all the combos i've tried, I by far prefer them with the EL Amp along with the Topping D50 dac. This pairing has a smoothness to it while still being extremely detailed. That allows me to hear everything in the recording, while not becoming fatigued at all after long sessions. This holds true even as I raise the volume to higher than normal levels, where amps like the Magni 3 become much more fatiguing. Even the O2 amp is a bit harsh as you raise the volume compared to the EL Amp. Its the definition of clean sound as far as my senses are concerned. I absolutely recommend the pairing of the LCD-2C, Topping D50 and EL Amp.
 

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