Element II Amps and DACs

Element II – Amps + DACs

The Element II comes from the brilliant designers at JDS Labs. This company designs and manufactures some of the best audiophile amps and DACs you can find anywhere in the world.

Their goal is relatively simple. Every product is meant to deliver a genuine and authentic sound while offering affordability and convenience.

Instead of paying thousands of dollars to create something lifelike, the entire Element II setup with amps and DACs is available for under $1,000.

If you’ve always wanted a desktop solution that delivers a benchmark performance through a hi-fi setup, this option is one of the best you can find today.

Element II – Amps + DACs

The Element II amps and DAC received a complete redesign to maximize a user’s desktop audio enjoyment. It packs the performance you’d expect to receive from a JDS Labs product while delivering a clean, streamlined look. This design provides seamless transitions between powered headphones and speakers.

The features of the Element II – Amps + DACs are what helps it stand out from the competition for those who need a desktop audio solution.

■ List of the Best Features for the Element II Amps and DACs

Preamp Outputs:• The Element II offers preamp RCA outputs to use, ensuring that everyone can control volume levels to the powered speakers.
Output Selection:• With the incorporated Mode button, users can toggle between the powered speakers and the headphones relatively easily.
• There’s no need to disconnect cables with this process.
Ultra-High Power:• Designers included +/- 15VDC rails with a continuous max power rating of 1.3W with the Element II.
• That allows it to drive every headphone model to its best, even if you’re using an entry-level product.
Relay Muting:• It’s clear to see that the Element II amps + DACs are explicitly designed for desktop listening.
• It uses full relay muting to remove thumps and pops through the preamp outlets and the headphones during the startup process.
Dual Gain:• The low 1.0x gain is quite suitable for driving efficient IEMs with the Element II.
• Users also get the high gain power for a full-size set whenever it is needed.
Star-Grounded Layout:• Users get the most advanced amp + DAC combination available from JDS Labs to date with the Element II due to the four-layer design.
MEMS Oscillator:• With a USB DAC clocked at +/- 10ppm frequency stability by a SiTime MEMS oscillator, you get the perfect levels of jitter for your audio.
AC Transformer:• The Element II amplifier + DACs get 100% of their power from the external AC transformer.
• The design includes a dozen regulators to ensure a super-low ripple and more consistency with the rail voltage.
USB Audio Class 2:• This setup supports up to 32/384 kHz PCM over a custom setup based on the UAC2 engine.
• The sampling rates are excellent, especially with the ASIO support for enhanced listening enjoyment.

Specs for the Element II Amps and DAC

The overall performance quality makes the Element II – Amps + DACs stand out from competitive products. You can get a better hi-fi sound with this setup than items that cost three times more.

What’s even more impressive is that some standard stereo equipment retails for more than what you’ll pay for the Element II – Amps + DACs.

It’s an incredible value-based offering that feels like you’ve spent a fortune on the setup.

When you take a look at the specs for the amp and DAC performance, you’ll see that JDS Labs delivers an iconic product at an unreal price.

■ Specs for Amp Performance

Frequency Response:10 Hz to 20 kHz; +/- 0.02 dB
THD + N 1 kHz:150 ohms; 0.0008%
THD + N:20 Hz to 20 kHz; < 0.001%
IMD CCIF:19 / 20 kHz – 6.03 dBFS; 0.0001%
IMD SMPTE:-6.03 dBFS; 0.0005%
A-Weighted Noise:-115 dBu
Crosstalk:-10 dBFS; 100K RCA; -88 dB
Output Impedance:< 0.7 ohms
Channel Balance:+/- 0.56 dB
Maximum Continuous Power:At 32 ohms – 1.3 W (6.53 VRMS); At 150 ohms – 656 mW (9.9 VRMS); At 600 ohms – 165 mW (9.9 VRMS)

■ Specs for DAC Performance

Frequency Response:10 Hz to 20 kHz; +/- 0.13 dB
THD + N20 Hz to 20 kHz; < 0.001%
IMD CCIF19 / 20 kHz – 6.03 dBFS; 0.00041%
IMD SMPTE-6.03 dBFS; 0.00029%
A-Weighted Noise-109 dBu
A-Weighted Dynamic Range118 dB
Linearity Error-90 dBFS; 0.0dB
Crosstalk:-10 dBFS; 100K RCA; -107 dB
USB Jitter Components:12 kHz; -127 dB

My Review of the Element II – Amps + DACs

When you see the Element II – Amps + DACs from the outside, it looks a lot like the EL AMP II. Some people might criticize that design, but it’s something that I like. JDS Labs kept the marquee volume control while delivering its product combination for users on the backside of the product.

The Element II – Amps + DACs loses the coax and S/PDIF digital inputs.

When using the gain button on this product, it does what you’d expect any audiophile equipment to provide.

The power button offers a double function where users can change from the RCA in the back to the headphones in the front.

It is easier than you might think to turn off the equipment when trying to make that change. Since the RCA is in the back, you lose a little usability that previous products have offered.

I’d also like to see a digital display of some sort that indicates what is playing. That’s more of a personal preference than anything.

When the equipment gets hooked up to audio analyzing equipment, it’s a little noisier than the specs state.

That could be from my setup. It still offers an expected response, and the outcome is by no means unfavorable.

The low gain is a bit limited by the DAC performance, but you can switch to a different load to emphasize the amp to perform better at max power.

If you only judge the Element II – Amps + DACs by the performance of the DAC, you might walk away feeling like it was a waste of money.

When you listen to the audio, it becomes clear that the headphone amp is the superior listening option.

Although the DAC is above-average at best, the amp is one of the best things you’ll find in the audiophile world today.

There is no doubt about its quality and value. It’s everything you’d want in a desktop design to serve as a driver.

That’s why I highly recommend investing in this product.                          

The Best Audiophile Headphones to Use with the Element II

The truth about the Element II is that you’ll likely spend more on the headphones for your setup than the desktop equipment.

Although some people might balk at that concept, I’ve found that one set outperforms the others with this combo.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference Headphone System
  • Frequency Response: 4 Hz to 51,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 300 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 103 decibels at 1 kHz; 1V
  • Cable: 9.8 feet (3 meters); Detachable
  • THD: < 0.02%
  • Weight: 11.6 ounces (330g) – without cable
  • Included Accessories: Cable /w 6.3mm stereo plug, 4.4mm Pentaconn plug
  • USB Manual With Frequency Response Plot
  • Deluxe Storage Container
Get it on Amazon

I love the SENNHEISER HD 800 S reference headphone system for hi-fi listening with the Element II – Amps + DACs. It offers an around-ear design with an open back that stays remarkably comfortable.

The standout feature is the 56mm ring radiator transducers that the manufacturer includes, making it the largest driver ever used for a dynamic headphones set.

The absorber technology delivers an innovative way to reduce unwanted frequency peaks when listening to audio through this headphone system.

You’ll get all the nuance you can handle in the music because the authentic performance becomes audible.

The unique ear cup design directs the sound waves right to the ear, but at a slight angle, which adds to the spatial nature of the listening experience.

It comes with two cables to connect a single-ended 6.3mm and 4.4mm outputs to work with most interfaces, while the soft earpads deliver long-term comfort for all-day listening.

The quality matches the price with the SENNHEISER HD 800 S reference headphone system. You’ll get the full potential from your music with this investment, especially when pairing it with the Element II – Amps + DACs.


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