Amp/DAC Featured Tech

JDS Labs EL DAC Review

JDS Labs EL DAC Review

“Objectivity”; it was THE hype of the 2010s. In all places you seemed in headphone audio was merchandise and producers stepping as much as meet that problem. Bountiful tries have been made at attaining this from the hills of San Francisco to the streets of Hong Kong. The problems all the time got here again to discovering the right combination between goal efficiency, worth, and availability. From these standards, the Goal 2 Amplifier and Goal DAC have been born. NWAVGUY modified headphone audio with these merchandise and thus created a gap for a producer to return in and mass produce them underneath the open license. That maker was JDS Labs.

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At this level, everyone seems to be acquainted with the story and identify of JDS Labs. The very first thing everybody factors to was their profitable Goal 2 and ODAC launches. They have been the simplest and sometimes occasions most reasonably priced approach to purchase a nicely made product. Their provide strains reached throughout the globe and allowed everybody that couldn’t DIY one themselves an opportunity at proudly owning an Goal unit. That was the 2010s.

At the moment, virtually 10 years since that preliminary craze for goal merchandise, JDS Labs has a brand new line to supply; they name it the Aspect line. The Aspect Line is comprised of the EL DAC, EL Amp and a combinational unit referred to as The Component. We’ll be looking at their EL DAC and see what JDS Labs has to convey to the desk.


The JDS EL DAC is simplistic in nature however look nearer and it might shock. It ought to come as no shock that the EL DAC is formed like a sq. puck with standoffs. It’s meant to be stacked with the EL Amp or another amplifier of your selecting. What’s shocking is its intuitive buttons or ought to I say ‘button’. JDS has ingeniously electrically designed the EL DAC to be multi-faceted in nature with only one user-interfaceable choice on the complete gadget. I’m speaking concerning the signature circle adorned on the face of the unit.

The circle is a touch-sensitive ‘button’ that performs many features. It turns the system on and off by holding it and modifications modes with a easy press. A hoop of sunshine surrounding it alerts you to the mode you’re in. Blue for USB, Purple for Optical Toslink, and Amber for Digital COAXIAL; the later two each leverage the S/PDIF commonplace. It’s intuitive to make use of and above all, units the tone for the remainder of the EL DAC’s design; it’s glossy, easy, and has the necessities.

And that’s the time period that exactly defines the this unit; the Necessities. When was it that electronics began turning into so complicated with their interface knobs, switchboard amount of I/O, and pc GUI choices. The EL DAC drop kicks all that out the door and brings in one thing extra smart. You get that circle and that’s it capiche? You plug within the RCA output to your amplifier of selection and hook up a USB cable or optical enter and also you’re carried out. That’s it. Plug it into your pc and also you’re off to the races. For the few customers which have driver points, JDS Labs has you coated on their web site, however the majority can simply chill and benefit from the music.


So it’s minimal, however how truly use-able is that this factor? It seems, very! It took a attempt or two to get used to the contact performance however inside a minute you’ll be a professional at determining the sensitivity. My first touches of the ‘button’ had it scrolling by way of inputs too quick and getting wacky. The trick is to be very direct and brute with the button. Don’t be mild or wishy-washy together with your finger contact. Decide to the press and do a full push and launch. Mild contact debounces you don’t discover will trigger you to fluctuate by way of the states so don’t hover that finger. Carry by means of the complete movement with dedication such as you would leaping right into a pool for the primary time that day.

Whereas a professional for many, one level that begged my chagrin was the preliminary muting which turned out to be a Home windows bug. The unit on preliminary startup or USB connection to the pc will default to 100% quantity and muted (with Home windows 10 or under with out the JDS offered drivers). I can see the rationale for this from an audiophile perspective and security however most units I’ve used prior to now don’t do that. Even now, a month later, I’m nonetheless not used to the unit being muted on startup. It’s one thing that escapes me till I begin to watch that video an hour into my pc being on and freaking out for a couple of seconds as I’m wondering why sound isn’t coming by way of. For people who like this ‘function’, merely use the gadget as is. In any other case, head on over to JDS Labs web site and obtain the Savitech drivers and reboot your pc.

The EL DAC works flawlessly. It’s so easy it’s silly to even say something extra. Plug within the cable and switch it on with its singular contact button. The perfect merchandise are those that a consumer can work out based mostly on instinct and context in a brief time period; that is considered one of them.


The sound of the EL DAC is superb for the worth and brings an ordinary to the market. The overall sound signature could be characterised by a large soundstage with pure sounding octaves, principally transient and a penchant for delivering highly effective excessive frequency notes.

Listening to “Parce Mihi Domine” by Jan Garbarek and Cristobal de Morales offered perception in the direction of these properties. This monitor is a classical piece intertwined with jazz and mastered with the sensation of a large expanse. The opening moments have been sufficient to point out the strengths of the EL DAC. The background was extra clear and devices wider aside; you are feeling as if the DAC fades away and is not a part of the equation. Think about a grainy movie with a four:three facet ratio. This DAC was akin to eradicating the grain and watching the scene improve in facet to 16:10 because the motion rolled on. Sharpness in mid-range element was additionally improved albeit with a discount of heat and weight which some discover useful or preferable. The saxophone’s piercing notes have been skinnier and colder with a tinge of higher finish sparkle in comparison with the AK4396 DAC (very heat comparatively) I used to be utilizing beforehand which was fats fingered by comparability.

Subsequent up was a check of creativeness as I listened to reference monitor “Bubbles” by Yosi Horikawa. This ‘track’ is legendary within the audiophile world for being an ideal check of audio positioning, macro and micro element, together with imaging and 3D impact copy. The JDS Labs handed the problem by delivering a vigorous efficiency of marble granules being scattered round and balls bounced throughout. Micro element was separated sufficient to listen to every individually and the entire sum was by no means too mushy. As increasingly more parts have been launched, the EL DAC was capable of maintain its personal however excelling above the pack was proving troublesome. Right here, the efficiency may be thought-about ‘good’ for the worth vary. I discovered that with the monitor’s excessive degree of complexity and imaging necessities that the EL DAC is just simply ‘good’ right here. It’s greater than acceptable and offers an inexpensive degree of believability to the listener on the occasions.

Final is “The Storm” from the album Violet Evergarden:Automemories by Evan Name. It’s one other instrumental monitor however this time it opens up robust earlier than delving right into a spiraling battle of devices preventing for supremacy. This music exemplifies a number of the greatest traits of the EL DAC that are its means to remain each easy and clear amidst adversity. There’s simply a lot happening on this track with the low-end bass kicking arduous whereas one after the other, sections of the orchestra begin becoming a member of collectively right into a miasma of symphonic destruction. The EL DAC maintains readability within the string devices whereas permitting the brass to supply a throaty kick. As soon as the curtain falls and numerous teams take part, the EL DAC holds its personal towards that onslaught. Every phase can nonetheless be distinctively picked out from one another amongst the mess.

Sonically, the EL may be thought-about a baseline. It maintains that distinct degree of readability and easy element in the whole lot it does irregardless of the complexity thrown at it.  It leans on the marginally hotter aspect of issues (comparatively) and pairs properly with most amps and headphones I’ve used. For higher or worse, identical to its outer shell, the EL DAC is usually freed from any robust sonic traits save its penchant for a wider and extra open sound stage.This could depart listeners say wanting extra bass kick, or a thicker mid vary, or a extra intimate efficiency. The EL is smack dab within the center and it likes it there.

Conclusion: I appreciated the JDS Labs EL DAC for the sheer proven fact that it was straight with me. It didn’t pull any aspect punches with what it claims to be or can do for my gear. It wasn’t going to sprinkle any mud right here or there or magically change the whole lot. From the identical firm that introduced widespread entry to the O2, we now have an extremely humble self-designed DAC. The unit is seamless and common to most purposes it finds itself in. The brilliant highs and wider soundstage have been the important thing sonic traits I discovered myself keen on probably the most. General, the JDS Labs EL DAC is a robust competitor on this worth vary and has good cause to be as in style as it’s. I extremely advocate you give this unit a attempt when you have it in consideration.

Worth: $249 USD



  • Frequency Response 10Hz-20kHz (192okay)+/- Zero.15dB
  • THD+N 20Hz-20kHz higher than Zero.0011%
  • IMD CCIF 19/20 kHz -6.03 dBFS0.00017%
  • IMD SMPTE -6.03 dBFS0.00061%
  • Noise (A-Weighted)-110 dBu
  • Dynamic Vary (A-Weighted)117 dB
  • Linearity Error -90 dBFS-Zero.01 dB
  • Crosstalk -10 dBFS 100Okay RCA-108 dB
  • USB Jitter Elements 11025Hz-116 dB
  • PCB Stackup4 Layers
  • Most DAC Line-Output, 100K2.00 VRMS


  • Audio Codecs (S/PDIF)16/44.1kHz through 24/192kHz*
  • Audio Codecs (USB)16/44.1kHz through 32/384kHz**
  • USB InterfaceUSB Audio Class 2
  • USB Driver OS SupportWindows XP/7/eight/10, OS X, Linux, Android


  • Digital InputsUSB, TOSLINK, and Coaxial S/PDIF
  • DAC Line-OutputRCA
  • *Many sources are unable to reliably transmit at 192kHz.
    **Home windows 7 helps 24/192kHz most.


  • Case Dimensions 5.eight x 5.eight x Zero.9 in
  • Weight 18 oz