JDS Labs Element

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by imackler, May 28, 2015.
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  1. jseaber
    Nice pics! All Element enclosures are machined in-house from Al 6061, then finished and anodized locally in St. Louis.
    This machine produces every Element, EL DAC, and EL Amp:
    dallasmarlow and Oscar-HiFi like this.
  2. strangecargo
    Ah, thanks for clarifying. Explains why the stack seems better at conducting heat than I would expect if the cases were made of plastic:)
    I didn't notice the JDS blog post about the DIP switch option for the DAC until after my order had shipped (and I don't remember an option for it at checkout). Are those pads free to populate if I order the DIP switch myself, next time I make an order from Mouser? Is there any documentation as to which switch settings correspond to which filter settings? I'm actually quite curious as to how those options would change the way the DAC sounds.
  3. jseaber
    Yes, the pads are free on EL DAC to use Omron A6SN-3104. You'll find the following silkscreen legend on the PCB:
    1 -> SLOW (off = Low)
    2 -> SD (off = High)
    3 -> SSLOW (off = Low)
  4. strangecargo
    @jseaber, I'm having some issues with the USB drivers for the EL DAC. Using the WASAPI drivers in both event-driven and non event-driven mode, I get occasional popping/clicking sounds that sound similar to dust on a turntable. With the ASIO drivers, I don't get the popping sounds (scratch that, just got the popping sound using ASIO), but something happens every time I I switch sample rates that causes Roon to report that is has "lost control of the device", which interrupts playback. If I manually restart playback, it works fine until the the sample rate changes again. Since I have non-44.1kHz content mixed into my library, it means I can't use ASIO reliably to listen to music. Also, the ASIO device is listed as "BRAVO-HD", which makes it a little confusing to find the EL DAC when presented with a list of devices.
  5. jseaber
    @strangecargo - Any cell phones nearby? Random noise is more likely wireless interference than a driver issue. Please see www.jdslabs.com/troubleshooting for tips, or PM if you need more help!
    dallasmarlow likes this.
  6. strangecargo
    I moved my phone to the other side of the apartment and the popping sound didn't go away. Initially, I thought it was a driver issue because I thought it was only happening with the WASAPI driver, but then I heard it via ASIO. To get more information, I moved the EL stack around my apartment a bit and this is what I discovered:
    Windows 10 PC #1 via USB: popping noise
    Windows 10 PC #2 (in a different room) via USB: popping noise
    Raspberry Pi 3 running DietPi via USB and toslink: no noise
    Macbook Pro via USB: popping noise
    Macbook Pro via toslink: no noise
    So... all instances of the popping noise happen via USB connections, but not all USB connections cause the popping noise... Any ideas?
  7. dallasmarlow

    The element seems very sensitive to interference, I can't find a spot on my desk where it's not effected. This is my only complaint so far although sometimes I feel like it sounds a little bright. That might be in my head though, I don't feel that way listening to other dacs with the same chip.
  8. jseaber
    @strangecargo - Sorry, no idea. I'm unable to replicate, and have not heard of this before. Since TOSLINK and RPI via USB is okay, it's especially confusing. Please PM your order # if there's more I can do to help.


    @dallasmarlow - Element is definitely neutral; you're likely describing a brightness of your headphones. Yes, any amplifier with LME49720s will behave similarly. Over the past two years, about 1% of Element owners have reported similar difficulty. There's an easy fix. PM or email and we can swap the LME49720s for an alternative TI or NJR part to greatly reduce RFI susceptibility. Element has been updated three times since its 2015 launch (v1.00, v1.51, v1.53) and I decided to stick with LME49720 for pre-amplification in all versions, as it performs so well for 99% of customers. Again, please reach out if you need help!
  9. Medaud
    I will sometimes, maybe once or twice a day, get intermittent noise with my Element. It consists of two short ticks, followed by maybe 5-10 second pause and then again two short ticks and a pause etc. This will go on for a few minutes and then disappear again. I've tried moving my mobile all the way to the other side of the room without any change. I'm thinking it's RF noise but am unsure how to determine the source. Anyone got any tips? :)

    UPDATE For anyone having similar problems, here's an update:

    1. I think the "ticks" I heard was in fact the PC losing connection to the Element for a short amount of time and then quickly reestablishing connection. The reason I think this is because I tried disabling the USB port in device manager, and heard the exact same "two short ticks" when I did. Another problem I faced was that the Element was sometimes suddenly not recognized in Windows. I had to reconnect it to another USB port for it to work again. Also, although I'm not entirely sure this is related, I was once listening to music in Foobar, and when I started up a youtube video simultaneously the Element immediately stopped working and showed up as not recognized.
    2. JDS Labs has a troubleshooting page with solutions for this kind of problem: https://www.jdslabs.com/troubleshooting/
    3. I had bought a 3m AmazonBasics USB cable in order to place the Element further away from my PC than the included 1m monoprice USB cable would allow. I tried connecting the Element using the ORIGINAL included monoprice cable and did not hear any noise or ticks whatsoever.
    4. I then bought another Lindy Cromo 3m USB cable and also heard the same noise with this cable. Thus it seems the problem is the length of the cables. JDS Labs recommends using a 3 foot or shorter cable.
    5. For good measure, I have now tried to set 'USB selective suspend setting' to Disabled in the power settings. This did not make any difference.
    6. I then tried using a 1,8m AmazonBasics USB cable, I've been using this for a week now and haven't heard any noise.
    7. Thus, my final conclusion is that the problem was that the USB cable was too long. In order to prevent loss of connection to the DAC and resulting noise, you have to use a 1,8m (6 foot) or shorter USB cable if connecting directly to your PC.
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
    Peter Hyatt likes this.
  10. strangecargo
    I'm still working through the popping issue on my EL DAC with JDS, but in the process of debugging, I did notice a certain harshness or hardness to percussive transients that could be interpreted as brightness. I managed to make it go away by attaching an iFi iPurifier to the DAC. Even though the DAC is not powered by USB, it still seems to be sensitive to noise coming in through the USB port.
  11. Mshenay Contributor
    Grab your self the dpclat software, you could have latency errors due to bad drivers. I had a problem with all my dac's popping, and upon running that. I found that there was in fact some fault drivers on my PC causing the problem

    Here's my review of The Element, as I'm still unsure how to add reviews back onto head fi.

    My blog has all of the pictures uploaded to it as well, http://hifilowlight.blogspot.com/2017/05/jds-labs-element.html

    From the humble cMoy Bass Boost, to the polished Element. JDS Labs has really grown over the years! When I got my Beyerdynamic DT 880 in the summer of 2013 my humble little Fiio E6 was not enough, digging through the threads I came across the cMoy Amp. Built into an Altoid Can and sold for right around $60, I immediately snatched it up just because of how cool it looked. Well fortunately for me, I grabbed the JDS Labs cMoy with Bass Boost, it was my first real hi quality portable amp. So I have some blood with the guys at JDS Labs, as I spent a lot of time emailing them after getting that amp, and every time they were happy to answer my questions, and even offered me a sweet upgrade that fit my needs. Fast forward to today, and I'm happy to say that same level of quality and visual cool factor are present in their flagship amp/dac The Element.

    The Element feels solid in the hands, the power and gain buttons have a nice click to them. The USB input doesn't wiggle either, it sits nicely. Best of all, the volume knob is HUGE and very smooth. I had no issue's making fine adjustments to my volume as the knob has a nice heft to it. My only gripe is the 6.5mm headphone jack, with some of my smaller 6.5mm plugs there's a little wiggle at first. My Audio Technica W1000X 6.5mm is my heaviest and most luxurious. Gold plated and seated in American Cherry, it was the only 6.5mm jack to have a very solid and sturdy feel when plugging in and out of The Element.

    · Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz+/- 0.1dB

    · THD+N 1kHz, 150 Ω0.0009%

    · IMD CCIF 19/20kHz 150 Ω0.0004%

    · IMD SMPTE 150 Ω0.0005%

    · Noise, A-Weighted-108 dBu

    · Crosstalk @ 150 Ω-67 dB

    · Output Impedance0.1 Ω

    · Channel Balance+/- 0.56 dB

    · Max Continuous Output, 600Ω140 mW (9.4VRMS)

    · Max Continuous Output, 150Ω505 mW

    · Max Continuous Output, 32Ω1.1 W

    · Peak Output Power, 32Ω1.5W


    · Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz+/- 0.15dB

    · THD+N 100 Hz -0.15 dBFS0.0023%

    · THD+N 20 Hz -0.15 dBFS0.0016%

    · THD+N 10 kHz -0.15 dBFS0.0019%

    · IMD CCIF 19/20 kHz -6.03 dBFS0.0011%

    · IMD SMPTE -6.03 dBFS0.0012%

    · Noise A-Weighted dBu 24/96-102 dBu

    · Dynamic Range (A-Weighted)>112 dB

    · Linearity Error -90 dBFS 24/96-0.02 dB

    · Crosstalk -10 dBFS 100K RCA-100 dB

    · USB Jitter Components 11025Hz-113 dB

    · PCB Stackup4 Layers

    · Maximum DAC Line-Output, 100K2.10 VRMS

    The Element has a basic set of input and output features, nothing special. I'm not a huge fan of having the gain button on the back out of sight right next to the power button. Thankfully I never shut my off accidentally. It's layout is simple though, spaced nicely and easy to take advantage of.

    Overall, I find my self very satisfied how The Element is assembled, and I love the design! The volume knob looks great and feels good, the placement of the 6.5mm works well with the visual design, and the glowing ring during play back is the icing on the cake for me.

    I had an excellent week with The Element, and during this time I paired it primarily with a Magnum V7 Driver, mounted in Black Limba housings, sleeved in Maple. Sadly, this beautiful headphone isn't mine, but I found it to be amazingly transparent and very easy to drive. Hence forth, I did my usual listening with this headphone, as opposed to my HE 4.

    Power wise, The Element boasts a peak of 1.5w per channel, with a sustained output of 1w per channel. While ample enough power for the newer breed of efficient Planar Magnetic Headphones, like the Oppo PM3, The Element did not drive my HE 4 very well. It got me to a loud listening level, but really lacked any low end authority. Compared to my iBasso PB2 and my Audio GD NFB 10ES2, The Element sounded very weak with the HE 4. Which is to be expected, the earlier Planar Magnetic headphones, tended to lack sensitivity and be very power hungry. That said, I really loved listening to it with the Dynamic Magnum V7 Headphone.

    Thankfully, many modern Planar Magnetic Headphones, such as those sold by Oppo, Hifiman's and Audeze are easily driven by The Element.

    I found myself most impressed with the Dac Portion of this unit, as the overall sound was warm, smooth and detailed with a very good natural tone through most of the spectrum. It pulled out all of the details I'm accustom to hearing in my Audio GD NFB10ES2, the only draw back was the overall sound stage was a little diffuse. Good width, but height and depth weren't as discernible. Still, while it fell short compared to my HM 901 and Audio GD NFB 10ES2 in this regard, it was a clear step above my Behringer UCA 202 and my Hifiman HM 601's internal amp and line out to my iBasso PB2. It performed exceptionally well within it's price bracket.

    The Element has a nice sense of dynamics, moving from louder to quieter passages quickly and naturally, It has a very wet sound overall, with a nice emphasis in the bass and a good fullness in the low and central mid range. I really loved the sound of the double bass in Miles Davis So What, as well as the beautiful tone in Igor Levot's Goldberg Variations even though the upper mids were a bit shouty at times.

    What The Element does really well, is bring a natural warmth to a lot of the amazingly detailed but often dry and cold headphones, such as the Superlux HD 668B, Beyerdynamic DT 990 and Audio Technica AD 900X. It offer's an amazingly well designed small foot print, with beautifully simple visuals. It's easy to use, easy to own and easy on the eyes, a lot like my first JDS Labs amp! Bringing with it good detail with a warm natural sound The Element is a very elegant convenient solution for any one looking for an all in one.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  12. Mshenay Contributor
    Here's my Song by Song Break Down

    The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc (Dr. Chesky) #16 Four Surround Voices

    For this track, I found my NFB10ES2 to perform the best, presenting each voice exactly as it states it self. The left rear voice is a bit close, and on each of the other units it sounded... to the left but not quite behind my ear, only the NFB10ES2 presented that voice behind me. So really, the JDS Labs was on par with my Hifiman HM 901 with this track.

    Kind of Blue (2015 Mobile Sound Fidelity Labs Re-release) [Miles Davis] #01 So What

    Frankly, this was one of my favorite tracks to listen to with The Element, I'm used to a very hard presentation and powerful presentation with my NFB10ES2 and my Hm 901, the Element was able to present the same level of detail as those two, without sounding as hard. It had a much more relxaed sound. While the HM 601 had more consistantly pleasent tone and a more powerful low end, it did not carry as much detail as The Element did. Even running the HM 601 into my iBasso PB2, I still found my self going back to The Element.

    How ever, while a touch hard, I did find that only the HM 901 and NFB10ES2 presented me with the most realsitc sense of sustain. Both the sax and trumpet, wail a little as they hold some of the longer notes, this beautiful detail was not easily grasaple with The Element or my Hm 601. Though to be fair, both the NFB10ES2 and HM 901 were in much higher price categories.

    Igor Levit: Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski #01 Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - Aria with 30 Variations

    Frankly, while it kept up with the detail of the NFB10ES2 and the HM 901, The Element did not present proper timbre for me in this track. The low notes on the paino were too soft, the higher registers were too hard, almost shouty and everything in the middle was really wet. Detail, was again very good, but I preffered even my HM 601 to The Element for this track in particular.

    The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc (Dr. Chesky) #20 Drum and Bell: Walk Around Mic

    The Element was really fun here, just like the NFB10ES2 and HM901 I got to listen to both instruments walk slowly around the mic. Best of all, I found the tone of the drum to be best on The Element. Both the Hm901 and NFB10ES2 presented it sounding... almost too hollow, where as The Element had a nice soft warmth in addition to a disintclly hollow sound. My only gripe is with the bell, it was... just too metallaic at times on The Element. Though that slight tinge of over emphasis, did help the finer details of the bell pop out again'st the warmth of the drum.

    The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc (Dr. Chesky) #24 Height Center Shaker

    The Element, easily presented me with changes in height up top, but not depth or anything moving beneath your preceieved center. The shaker comes up from the bottom, and I didn't get that.... sense of up from below and up above with The Element. While the shaker was below the mic, The Element presented it as if it were... in front of you not so much as underneath. It did better than the HM 601 and UCA 202, but it wasn't quite on par with the HM 901 or NFB10ES2.

    The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc (Dr. Chesky) #26 Height Left Channel Shaker

    The Element, did really well here with changes in height up top, but not depth or anything moving beneath your preceieved center. The shaker comes up from the bottom, and I didn't get that.... sense of up from below and up above with The Element. While the shaker was below the mic, The Element presented it as if it were... in front of you not so much as under neath. Both the HM901 and NFB10ES2 had a very real sense of below, the shaker really sounds like it's COMING for you with those, as it creeps up from below accompanied by gentle foot steps. While listening on the Hm 901 and NFB10ES2, If you closed your eye's it was kinda scary, as you could hear and feel the shaker next to your ear. The sounds was much softer on The Element. The Hm 601 and Behnring UCA 202, also had this odd out in front as opposed to below sound, and each of those were also quite bad moving above you, as well as from beneath.

    The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc (Dr. Chesky) #28 Height Right Channel Shaker

    The right shaker track, is different from the left. What's cool is there is this obnixous echo throughout the entire track, you can hear it on both left and right channels. Neither The Element nor the UCA 202 presented clear changes to the sutatined sound of the echo. Rather, starting with the HM 601 that sustained echo got little quiter and a little louder as the shaker... shook. There were also, audilbe foot steps, the sound of some one walking up something, these foot steps were most apparent on The Element, the NFB 10ES2 and HM 901 presented them a little further back from you. As opposed to the more in your face presentation on The Element, interestingly enough you couldn't quite perceive the foot steps on the HM 601 or UCA 202.

    Finally, what I really liked about The Element's softer more forward bass, is things like... a humm are very audible. There was in fact, this really odd 50/60hrz hum in this track, only The Element presented that detail natrually the Magnum V7 Black Lime/Maple Sleeved Dynamic. After I noticed it, I could in fact hear it through the HM 901 and NFB10ES2 but I had to look for it! Only jumping up to my HE 4 on my NFB10ES2 gave me that same... natural presentation of such a subtle detail.

    As a side note, this was not any kind of equipment introduced hum. My Spectograph did read a very low output, starting at 45 and upwards of 60 hrz, it almost sounded like an Air Conditioner running in the back ground.

    The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc (Dr. Chesky) #53 Heart Beat Tracks

    The best way I can describe how each Amp/Dac sounded with these Heart Beat tracks is onomatopoeia...

    • The NFB 10ES2 goes Ka thUD ka thUD ka thUDD ka thUDD, not quite as much attack as hm901, but more texture. Offers no help with the roll off, but maintains it's texture even with a poor sub bass response.

    • The Element...It’s diffuse, doesn’t have the POWER and clarity of the HM 901 or NFB10ES2, the transition from 40-50 is not as apparent, but diffuse low end does help with the gentle sub bass roll off on the Magnum V7 Dynamic.

    • The HM 601 has a nice heavy low end, it's got the power but not the texture... and a poor transition from 40-50, keeps good power down into 20 Hrz and also helps with the Gentle Sub Bass Roll off on the Magun V7 Dynamic.

    • The HM 901 goes Ka ThuD ka THUD Ka THUDD Ka THUDDD Ka THUDD, more power in sub bass, but not as much texture. Offers no help with the roll off, but maintains it's power even with a poor sub bass response.
    All in all, I hope you guys find my musing helpful. I do wish I had another mid range Dac/Amp to compare with. Still out of my UCA 202 and my HM 601, The Element did an outstanding job!
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  13. DivineCurrent
    Hey, so I want to comment on my last month's purchase of the EL DAC and AMP.

    To make it short, this is endgame for me. It's enough to make the HD650s get very, very loud, even with classical. But, just loud enough to not damage the headphones.
    Basically, the reason for me getting this combo was to have a direct upgrade from the ODAC+O2 combo, and I'd say that's exactly what it is. Like the JDS Labs company itself, I take much stock in objective measurements, and the EL DAC and AMP are about the best objective performance you can get for the money, around $500.
    Aesthetics are a nice touch. The outside is sturdy aluminum.

    Microsoft recently released the Creators update for Windows 10, allowing native UAC2 compatibility with no drivers required, just like Mac. I updated Windows and just plugged the EL DAC with no drivers installed, and it works like it should.

    Overall, very impressed with these products. Can't wait to see what else JDS Labs has in store!
  14. Tummarellox
    I recently bought the Element, it's on its way in shipment, upgrading from a cheap Creative X-fi HD USB (I hated it 'cause it lacks 44.1 khz support). Can't wait to try it! Gonna pair it with Sennheiser HD650 headphones (also on its way), right now I've got 598SE. I will also use it as a DAC with passive monitor speakers, but I'm not so sure it'll actually give me a huge benefit about that compared as now. Cheers from Italy, I'll post my 2 cents after trying it.
  15. Alpha Mike
    I just recently received my Element. I've paired it with the HiFiman 400i's. At first I was a little disappointed...UNTIL I read the damn manual. Boy does this impress a novice! I had a Micca Origen+ it was nice, but I couldn't get over the driver issues in Windows 10. The power this amp/dac puts out is insane. I can't get anywhere near full volume with the Element. TIL: MOST definitely don't keep the volume a the same level when switching to a cheap dynamic headphone after using planar headphone... It hurts.
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