Category Archives: Reviews

On the ODAC, and Recent Reviews

Okay, this post is in reply to our full email inbox this morning. Regarding NwAvGuy’s upcoming ODAC:

  • JDS Labs is an official distributor of the ODAC
  • An ODAC preorder page is live
  • ODAC production began late last week in the USA, and will take about 4 weeks (release = May 2012)
  • NwAvGuy has not released specific information yet; we have little more information than what’s already revealed in his blog [Edit 4/18/2012: Now Released]
  • ODAC absolutely requires a headphone amplifier for proper operation

I know many of you are looking forward to installing ODAC in your O2’s, or having it retrofitted at our factory. (For those new to this project, three wires from ODAC must be soldered to input jack terminals P1 on the Objective2, a couple traces must be cut, and the 2x9V batteries must be removed.) A retrofit is a nightmare of a design choice for us. Sorry, NwAvGUy! Soldering one DAC is no big deal for a do-it-yourself’er, but we’re faced with soldering hundreds. And that means hundreds of our past O2 customers might want to send their amps in for the upgrade. Cost for the O2+ODAC retrofit will be announced after ODAC is released. But we’ve devised a far more elegant solution.

Option 1: Standalone ODAC in Enclosure

NwAvGuy equipped ODAC with an optional 3.5mm line-output jack, for use with other headphone amps. It just so happens that ODAC fits into the same custom aluminum enclosure we built for c421. Nick sketched new end-plates, and voila:

This is only a preview! We’ve printed prototypes and tested fit. Design files are now under review by our machine shop, so things could change based on manufacturability.

Placing ODAC in a standalone enclosure means:

  • Objective2 owners can add an ODAC without modifying their perfectly good amp
  • All features of the O2 are retained (no need to remove 9V batteries)
  • Standalone ODACs can be paired with any headphone amp!
  • Same performance as coupled to the O2

This standalone ODAC edition will be added to the preorder page as soon production begins–any day now. Available approximately upon release of ODAC.

Option 2: O2+ODAC Combo

As NwAvGuy plans, we’ll offer ODAC preinstalled in new O2’s, which will look something like this:

These will also appear on our preorder page after production begins. Available approximately upon release of ODAC.

Option 3: O2+ODAC Retrofit/Upgrade

Identical to option 2, but for those who already own an Objective2. Available in late May.

Option 4: Assembled ODAC PCB

Consists only of an assembled ODAC circuit board–no amplifier or enclosure. This is the only offering on our preorder page for now. Ships mid May.

ODAC SUMMARY

As you can see from the above images, the ODAC product lineup is well underway. All prices and preorder options will be available by the end of May.

A Note on Reviews

The first time I browsed to Headfonia.com, I couldn’t imagine seeing our products on Mike’s awesome review site. It was all high-end gear, way beyond anything we’d built at the time. So I was surprised when Mike e-mailed me for a cMoyBB sample in early 2011. The review went well.

Note: We are not a Headfonia sponsor. In fact, we don’t sponsor or endorse any audio publications. I’d rather see our great products spread through the audio community by word of mouth, and use cash-flow instead to increase product development and distribution.

Headfonia Review - Flyin’ High: JDSLabs C421

Anyway, Mike posted a well received review of our c421 last month, with the OPA2227. But he was quite opposed to the AD8620, totally contradicting my opinion.

Then came the controversial Objective2 review, which led to a follow-up article from NwAvGuy.

I’m not taking sides. I fully endorse NwAvGuy’s work and his rebuttal, and I’ve always been a fan of Headfonia.

I personally prefer to listen to c421 with bass boost on, with DT-880’s. I have nothing bad to say about the Objective2. It’s a technically brilliant amp. But I’m a bass boost guy. Hence, cMoyBB.

The fact is, audio is subjective. NwAvGuy can post measurements and discuss psychological theory all day long, but we’re humans. Our brains operate subjectively (“expectation bias”, as NwAvGuy wrote).

Case in point, Nick says O2 and c421 sound the same. But Nick isn’t an audiophile and doesn’t spend his free time reading audio forums and reviews. He just knows that JDS Labs sells nice headphone amps.

I don’t intend to discredit Mike or Headfonia. There’s a lot of truth to what NwAvGuy writes, especially in regards to expectation bias. Mike e-mailed us after the O2 review went live; I replied explaining that I wasn’t disappointed. He expresses his honest opinion in his reviews. NwAvGuy blogs about objective audio engineering. JDS Labs has to tie everything together. We build amps that we believe in, both in terms of design, and in terms of taste/expectation bias. We receive dozens of emails each week asking for comparison of one amp to another. While I could steer a customer one way or another, I sincerely avoid replying in depth to any of these messages.

Read reviews and blogs. Read specifications. Look at pictures. Borrow a friend’s amp, or go to an audio meet. In the end, pick an amp that meets your needs and expectations.

O2 Boards, c421 Reviewed

It’s time for a few short updates. First, we’re helping out with NwAvGuy’s do-it-yourself O2 project. Bare O2 circuit boards are in stock:

O2 Objective2 PCB, Front

The O2 has created a stir in Head-Fi.org’s do-it-yourself community. After posting one too many “objective” (or possibly stubborn) comments, NwAvGuy found himself banned from the forums. He proceeded to design O2 for maximum benchmark performance to prove his points. It’s large and heavy, so hardly worth consideration as a portable amp, however, O2 so far lives up to its name.

c421: Quality Inspection 2

We hoped quality control of c421 enclosures wouldn’t turn into a saga, but here I am posting a progress update. The second batch of enclosures arrived in much finer condition than the original run. Although better, we also rejected batch #2 due to minor manufacturing scuffs. Dozens of phone calls, e-mails, and meetings later, we’re approximately two weeks away from receiving enclosure batch #3…

Assembled c421's in enclosure batch #2 (sitting atop our office subwoofers).

Therefore, the November 14th ship date may slip. We’d rather ship great products late, than ship ‘okay’ products early. All c421 preorders will be held until the final batch of cases are available. Onto the good news:

  • Anyone who has preordered may request immediate shipment in a batch #2 case; final enclosures will be made available in a few weeks (free + shipping).
  • Samples were sent to professional reviewers last week, and initial feedback of c421 is strong! Customer Tony .G writes:

    “Got the headphone amp and wanted to say that I’m quite happy with my purchase!  Can’t wait to put in some good listening time.  I’ve just given it a limited run and it is quite stellar.”

  • Hexibase of PWK Designs posted a great unboxing:

Welcome, Nick!

JDS Labs is quickly expanding. Nick has joined our team to help with soldering, programming, and new product development.