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JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 – All-Metal Headphone Amplifier With Octo-Buffers

JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 – All-Metal Headphone Amplifier With Octo-Buffers

JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 is a $129 USD Headphone Amplifier which is an update to the ultra-popular JDS Labs Atom AMP+ and Atom AMP Hevi, this time coming with just 30 USD of increase in the price, but with a 4.4mm headphone output (intorduced at the request of the fans), full metallic built, and an improved inner circuit. Today we will dig in the sound, build and review the JDS Labs Atom AMP 2, but also compare it to other popular entry-level headphone amplifiers, including FiiO K11 (129 USD), JDS Labs Atom AMP+ Hevi (114 USD), and SMSL HO100 (149 USD). 



JDS Labs is one of the most popular DAC / AMP producers from the USA, and although very few companies still make products in the western states, when someone does, they build them with a passion. The JDS Labs Atom AMP2 we are reviewing today is also the result of such passion, as the new amplifier comes with an improved build, the casing being made of metal this time around (versus plastic on the original JDS Labs Atom AMP), and the company even included a 4.4mm headphone output. With a price tag that’s so low, the new Atom AMP 2 is sure to be an interesting choice, but please keep in mind that it needs a DAC to feed signal to it, the best choice for a DAC being the JDS Labs DAC 2, which stacks perfect with the Atom AMP 2. As an Amazon Influencer, I earn from qualifying purchases, and using the purchase links in my reviews helps me maintain this website and YouTube channel.

I’d like to thank JDS Labs for providing the sample for this review, in exchange for my honest opinion. This review is a description of my personal experience.


Product Link

You can grab one from the official website here – https://jdslabs.com/product/atom-amp-2/

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here – https://amzn.to/3SWkqMa

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here – https://amzn.to/4bAnsgm

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here – https://amzn.to/49gwKwi


Build Quality/Aesthetics

Many of the complaints of the original Atom series came about the build quality, as an all-plastic design is nowhere near as popular as a fully metallic build, and JDS labs had an open ear for us, making the new Atom series with full metallic chassis. This means that the top, sizes, bottom and even the volume wheel are all made of metal, with a super solid feel to the device. It is both the new JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 that was improved, but also the DAC, as the AMP got a new 4.4mm connector, and the DAC got a Type-C USB input, both coming fresh in 2024 with the latest connectors. 

The volume knob is smaller, protrudes more in the front, and the new Atom AMP 2 has an LED ring around the volume wheel, which looks snazzy and cool on my desk, well matched with the LED ring on the face of the Atom DAC 2. There is a gain selector, which switches between low and high gain, and the best sound is on low gain, as long as you’re getting a sound that is loud enough. Low gain at maximum pushes HIFIMAN HE1000SE to higher than 110 dB, which is more than enough even for more than casual listening. There is a failsafe DC protection and octo-buffers pumping more than twice the power of the Atom AMP+. This is basically equal to 2.6W per Channel, which is considerably higher than what FiiO K11 can output for example, as it is a direct competitor (FiiO K11 has 1400mW of power, or 1.4W per channel for the balanced output). 

For those who have both headphones and IEMs, there is a high gain / low gain switch, and the high gain is super strong, with the low gain having a slightly higher noise floor, and recommended, as long as the volume is enough for you. The sound gets a bit brighter, more forward and more punchy if you use the high gain mode. The noise floor is in fact so low that there is no noise floor to speak about with most headphones and IEMs, as Atom AMP 2 has 4-layer star grounded layout and the mighty octo-buffers. As there is no mention of a balanced headphone output, just the 4.4mm size, there is no deceptive marketing, JDS Labs did include the more modern connector, but is not trying to mislead fans and buyers in any way. 

The unit has a preamplifier output, which is variable, and controllable using the same volume wheel, if you unplug the headphones. The two headphone outputs are absolutely equal, and having the 4.4mm headphone output is a matter of convenience, with the sound being exactly the same on both outputs, both outputs being connected to exactly the same circuit. This means that the 4.4mm headphone output is here for convenience, if you have a balanced cable and if you want to use it with the AMP with no extra adapters. The channel balance is within 0.6 dB, and the Crosstalk is within -101dB. We have a SNR of 124 dB, and an input impedance of 10kOHM, plus an output impedance of 0.7 OHMs. This is actually pretty good, and there is very little to no hissing with very sensitive IEMs, even with the likes of Campfire Ara, or Ambient Acoustics MAD 24. This makes me smile, the overall usage of the unit is what I can call ideal here. 

The full driving power is a whopping 2.65 Watts for an impedance of 32 OHMs, 570 mW for an impedance of 150 OHMs, 286 mW for an impedance of 300 OHMs, and 143 mW for an impedance of 600 OHMs, but this is the power per channel, so you double it for the full power output. In the package we get the mighty 16 VAC power adapter, which is quite hefty and large. 

Subjectively, Atom AMP 2 is fun to use, it is simple to connect, you can switch between the gain levels and the inputs, as there is a 3.5mm line in and an RCA input, and it has no noise, no popping noise when it starts, there are protection relays to save you from any dangerous high inrush currents. With a rather hefty weight of 454 grams, but a very small size, the unit feels well made, has rubber feet and does not slide on my desk, and it has a solid build. The amplifier can get warm quite easily, and I would place it above the DAC since the DAC does not generate a lot of heat. 

For this review I’ve been pairing the JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 with a selection of IEMs and Headphones including HIFIMAN HE1000SE, Yanyin Canon II, Dekoni x HIFIMAN Cobalt, HarmonicDyne Devil, HIDIZS MP145, Soundz Avant, Sennheiser HD 660S2, Sivga SV023, and Letshuoer Cadenza 12. The volume is spread rather evenly, and at the beginning of the volume you can enjoy IEMS on low gain, but you can drive HE1000SE and hard to drive headphones like HD 660s2 from the same headphone output, still on low gain, but with the volume wheel reaching 3 o’clock. I can’t imagine any headphone Atom AMP 2 can’t drive on high gain, it can easily handle Audeze LCD-5 and HIFIMAN He6SE, as it can push more than two and a half watts of power. With IEMs, the sound is slightly brighter than with headphones, but it has a tight, controlled, deep bass, and there’s no hissing with any of the IEMS I tested the new Atom AMP 2 with. 


Sound Quality

The sound of the JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 is clean, detailed, natural in the transients, with a tight and hard hitting bass, no background noise, and with good instrument separation. It can offer exceptional stereo imaging, all contained within a soundstage which is natural, having a natural width, depth and height, expanding as a homogeneous sphere around the listener. Instrument separation is super good, and it offers a pleasing tuning for all headphones and IEMs I paired it with, from super dark and lush to super bright. Although it has bit of extra warmth added to the sound in the midrange, it is not quite enough to make it warm or thick sounding, and it will be better paired with warmer, thicker and heavier sounding IEMs and headphones, as the treble has a really purist approach, with a bright, airy and well-extended treble. Atom AMP 2 has a strong drive factor, so it sounds best from the lowest of volumes, while at very high volumes, it gets super powerful, forward and punchy, in the metalhead “wall of sound” way. The trick here is that I have it paired with the JDS Labs Atom DAC 2 for most of the review, and that is a dac with no volume control, but you can reduce the digital volume to half, and increase the volume on the Atom AMP 2 for more power and tighter control of transients and less drive factor, or use a DAC with variable volume. 

Starting with the sub lows, Atom AMP 2 is the one amplifier that will provide you all the weight, depth and impact of a song. Regardless of the headphones that are drinking its juicy power, IEMs or full-sized, planars or dynamics, the bass is always natural in speed, on the tighter and punchier end rather than sloppy and slow. Atom AMP 2 has a harder hitting bass at higher volumes, which goes well with trancecore, trance, and rock / metal, but can feel hard and give an aggressive edge to Jazz, rap and slower pop. While most sources will not emphasize the bass in songs from Rammstein too much, especially from their Waidmanns Heil, Atom AMP 2 gives it a heavy, fast edge throughout the song, revealing its harder hitting bass. 

The midrange is natural in tonality, offering a similar level of emphasis to both male and female voices, although the lower midrange has a tinge of extra warmth, offering slightly more presence and power to male voices and lower-pitched sounding guitars than high-pitched sounding ones. As a source, it makes the voice of Rob Zombie rather fun and enjoyable, giving it a natural texture, making his entire music punchy and vivid, as it can help place you right in the action in songs like Scum Of The Earth, where the guitars are pushing forward both above and beneath you , having a neat spatial placement of the drums and effects too. Female voices which have a higher pitched presentation are sweet and delightful in timbre, for example with YFU Baby – XSTA-Z, her voice is superb, while the fat, wide bass plays throughout the entire sonic landscape, and the effects are bright, sharp and well defined. 

JDS Labs is known for ultimate resolution and clarity, so the new JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 follows the trend, with a sharp, sparkly, airy treble that extends well until 20 kHz, with no soft or hard rolloff, but a crisp, clean presentation. This means that songs which are bright and sharp will sound bright and sharp, and most music has a special clarity pop effect to them. Sound is vivid, clean and has good resolution, although the transient response in the treble is faster than in the bass and midrange, as things get tighter here. This means that if you’re using bright or harsher sounding headphones, Atom AMP 2 will not smooth those, but allow them to be at their brightest and crispest presentation. With IEMs that are sibilant and have a strong emphasis on the “S” sound, it will show those, but will also make most music engaging and vivid sounding, having a forward presentation for solo guitars in Metallica songs. 



JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 vs FiiO K11 (129 USD vs 129 USD) – Starting with the hardest comparison to make, FiiO K11 comes with both the DAC and the AMP parts for the price of 129 USD, while you have to double that money to get the DAC from JDS Labs. This being said, just the amplifier from JDS has double the power of K11, none of the noise, and a tighter, punchier bass, more control, and better treble refinement / extension, being easier to listen to and enjoy. K11 has a higher value for sure, especially since it can drive most headphones, but you can get a warmer, more pleasing sound from Atom AMP 2 if you are ready to spend separate money on the DAC. Even better still, you can grab FiiO k11 to use as the DAC, as it has a line out, and use the two together, as we will explore in the review for the Atom DAC 2, it has its own sound, and you may like the parking between K11 and atom amp 2 for its own sound. 

JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 vs JDS Labs Atom AMP+ Hevi (129 USD vs 114 USD) – Here we have a more fair comparison, and Atom APM+ Hevi is pretty much the trial / first version of the AMP 2, as it did come with a metallic case (it was a limited edition run, so we can speak about it past tense), but sonically, Atom AMP+ Hevi is exactly the same as Atom AMP+ the original. There is difference in the sound, with the Atom AMP 2 having better clarity, a punchier sound, much harder impact, and a lower noise floor with both IEMs and headphones, basically, Atom APM 2 brings an improvement in every way possible, without having any downgrades, except for the slightly increased price. You can even consider the difference in the price going to the metallic case and improved build quality for the peace of mind and soul. 

JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 vs SMSL HO100 (129 USD vs 149 USD) – The build of HO100 is great, it is metallic too, but it has a 4.4mm balanced headphone output which people have called out as being actually just the connector and not a balanced design. Other than this, the power output of the Atom AMP 2 is much higher, it has a slightly looser build, with HO100 feeling tighter in the build quality, but sonically, it is exactly the other way around, and HO100 has a softer sound, while Atom AMP 2 sounds harder, tighter, more detailed, has much better resolution, better timbre and a more natural tonality, it is better in the bass reach, bass impact, treble extension and clarity. Everything about the sound of Atom AMP 2 is mature and refined, including the comically high driving power it has, while HO100 provides a soft, relaxed listen with a soft roll off at both ends. Generally, I would grab the Atom AMP 2 for the best sonic experience possible. 


Value and Conclusion

Coming in at a pocket-friendly entry-level price, JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 is the most affordable option if you need a lot of power, no background noise, no problems, but a clean, transparent and detailed sound, so it has the best value possible for an entry-level amplifier, it is basically a golden find, and now with a metallic build, and a 4.4mm headphone output, has everything it may need, even a preamplifier function, and together with the JDS Labs Atom DAC 2 it can prove to be a setup to drive even the mighty Audeze LCD-5 really well. 

At the end of the day, if you need a fully metallic amplifier, with over two and a half watts of power per channel, super detailed sound, exceptional construction quality, but a pocket-friendly, entry-level price, JDS Labs Atom AMP 2 is one of the best choices you can make, and altgh it needs a separate DAC, it looks beautiful together with the JDS Labs Atom DAC 2, and has a perfect output for both headphones, IEMS, and can drive basically everything under the sun, minus electrostatics. 


Product Link

You can grab one from the official website here – https://jdslabs.com/product/atom-amp-2/

You can grab one from www.amazon.com here – https://amzn.to/3SWkqMa

If you’re in the UK, you can grab one from www.amazon.co.uk here – https://amzn.to/4bAnsgm

And if you’re from Europe, you can grab one from www.amazon.de here – https://amzn.to/49gwKwi

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Full Playlist used for this review

We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature.  I recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music! The playlists are different for Spotify, Tidal and Youtube, and based on the songs I enjoy and are available on each!




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  1. Yamato

    Do you think that this actually punches above the price range of the Atom DAC 2? Which is the bottleneck, if there is any? Also, how would you compare both of these units to the respective DAC and Amp sections of the Aune S9c?

    1. Gheorghe Dobrescu

      Atom AMP 2 has no DAC inside, it needs the Atom DAC 2 to work, they are a well matched stack. Aune S9c PRO is considerably pricier, it sounds more detailed, cleaner, and has better overall resolution, plus a warmer, smoother, more musical sound, but if you have the money for S9c pro, you likely would consider JDS Labs Element III Mk2 Boosted as an alternative.

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