The Atom combo provides power for most headphones on the market, with a neutral and reference sound signature.
Design and Functionality
The Atom Amp is simple, with both RCA and 3.5mm inputs on the back, RCA outputs for use as a pre-amp and a volume knob, headphone jack and gain/input selectors on the front. The Atom DAC on the other hand has USB input and RCA output on the back, with a white ring on the front that illuminates when it is on. They look clean and simple, yet inside they have been engineered to provide a clean and clear sound.
The Atom amp has 2 gain settings (1x and 4.5x), if you are pairing it with the Atom DAC you likely won't need more than 1x for most headphones. The volume know turns the amp on, and there is a white ring around it to indicate the power is on. The Atom DAC on the other hand does not have a power switch, instead JDS Labs have shipped an inline switch you attach to the power supply cable, simple yet efficient. Turn them on, set up the input and hit play, it couldn't be much simpler. If you want a neat and clean desktop setup the JDS Labs Stack RCA cables really help keep the units together. The Atom DAC supports up to 32/384kHz PCM
Well JDS Labs are one of those companies who strive to provide products that don't flavour the sound, they want you to have a neutral and transparent source so you can use the headphones as the standard tuning point. This rings true of the new Atom DAC, take a look at the specs and measurements, have a listen with your own ears, and all it does is masterfully convert your digital audio into an analogue signal for the amp to amplify. It doesn't try to add anything, nor does it try to take anything away. Distortion levels are astonishingly low, the Atom DAC is effortlessly clean and clear sounding, allowing you to hear all the finer details with ease. JDS Labs are purists if you like, and the Atom DAC is a no-frills, pure DAC that gets out of the way of what is important - the music.
I reviewed the Atom Amp on it's own a while back, and adding a high quality DAC to it obviously helps get the most out of it. It purely amplifies what you feed it, and the Atom DAC provides a really good base sound for the amp to amplify. As I have said earlier on in this review, this setup aims to provide a clean and neutral sound, allowing you to pick the headphones that suit your needs rather than finding an amp/DAC to compliment your headphones. The pre-amp outputs are really handy if you have an active speaker system too. The great thing about this combo is that is ultimately gives you a very good base system for a desktop headphone setup, and is one that will work with a great range of headphones, from IEM's to full size planars.
The Atom DAC has come along and completes the Atom stack, a small, neat system that will power most headphones on the market. It offers plenty of detail and a reference sound signature many will enjoy. It is not designed to alter the sound of your headphones, or add a flavour of it's own, instead it provides a clean and crisp sound that gets out of the way of the music. All for a very modest price too.
- Value: 10/10
- Build Quality: 6/10
- Sound: 9/10
- Overall: 8.5/10