JDS Atom Measurements And Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifier Measurements' started by purr1n, Dec 17, 2019.

  1. RedFuneral

    RedFuneral Facebook Friend

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    That hits a little too close to home. I've been buying/selling gear for just over 10 years now and have had enough WTF experiences these past couple years where I'm still content calling myself a novice. For example I owned the OL/Atom earlier this year and with it heard the most detailed clear sound I've heard in this hobby; the difference is that I stumbled across an 'audiophile approved' song on YouTube. It was an eye opening experience that even after YouTube compression the recording out-detailed & out-staged any of the stuff I like in lossless WAV/FLAC heard on various systems far more costly over the decade.

    The moral of the story is that my music 'bottlenecks' even the simplest system so I'm an idiot for every time I ever upgraded a component to chase transparency & clarity over enjoyment. When I do this I like it for awhile and then fatigue and over-correct back into vintage/cheap gear with noise/functionality issues. Only to repeat the mistake again later from fear of 'missing out' on resolve. It's a bad habit which emanates from certain types of reviews("I'm hearing never before heard details") and certain communities nostalgic for the receiver wars of the 70s were in just the right place to offer the solution to the problem of not hearing the mysterious detail perpetually buried .00001% further down.

    I feel like when reviewing I should use a big disclaimer 'my music is shit, I'm not a real audio nerd' but that's just doubt & bullshit. Bad recordings reveal everything short of detail & absolute realism plus they're relevant to what most people actually like and listen to.

    Yeah, it's a hard mental block to clear: the need for every new purchase to have better technicalities than the last. It's also why you see newbies flying up the price-ladder & getting cynical. The 'new community' has over simplified the concept of genre-matching(which was oversimple to begin with) and tossed out personal taste/use case. Its easier to hand out mass quantities of advice googling 'best headphone $500' than it is to match system-to-individual, and if it gets you noticed as the guy who handed out 2000 recommendations(as if grinding in an MMO) and lets you become a 'headphone guru'(why are these reviewers borderline celebrities now) all the better.
     
  2. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    I don’t know much about amplifiers, but I used to be pretty knowledgeable about control theory as applied to objects in motion. One thing I learned was that a controller can be optimized to perform well for a specific set of conditions and perform poorly outside those conditions. An amp is nothing more than a headphone controller and headphones vary in impedance, mass, resonance, etc not just between models, but also over different frequencies and loudness levels. Controlling the movement of the driver is a lot more challenging in real life than feeding a fixed frequency signal to a dummy load so I’m not convinced that amplifier measurements are particularly meaningful beyond the very tightly defined conditions of the test. Not to say testing is worthless, but at the end of the day it won’t tell you what happens when an amp doesn’t manage perfect control. I would rather have an amp that fails gracefully instead of screaming defiance at the universe.
     
  3. Forza AudioWorks

    Forza AudioWorks MOT: Forza AudioWorks

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    True. May I also add that gear that literally does it all on top level can get ridiculously expensive, but in the end we listen to a combination of products more than anything else.
     
  4. Soliloqueen

    Soliloqueen Friend

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    the boringness of these kinds of amps comes from the fact that honestly, the human brain just kind of likes distortion. no idea why, but it tracks with people's audio tastes. i tear up a bit when i hear intentional distortion in some mixes. it's an automatic thing. i know a lot of people who have similar reactions, though not nearly as strong. reproducing the sound well isn't necessarily better, and newbies struggle with that concept.

    it might be possible to fully capture the fun distortion of a more interesting app in dsp some day but i doubt that will be soon and until then, amps like the atom and heresy will never be good for listening. an argument could be made for studio use though.

    Fun distortion doesn't need to come from the amp though. I find amps like the heresy and atom perfectly fine with something like the HD650, but there's no reason to use them outside of work.
     
  5. magicscreen

    magicscreen Rando

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    So people are going to a live classical music concert because of the distortion?
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    So people are going to buy a JDS Atom so they can experience a live concert?

    --

    The fact is any recording is a facsimile of the real thing. There's an artistic process involved in audio engineering, setting up microphones, mixing, EQ, compression, monitoring, etc.

    I've argued that perhaps a little bit of distortion, on par with the gear used in post production, would be appropriate because it approximates what the audio engineers heard.

    --

    Note that the Harmon power amps approved by Amir were 80db SINAD which has 1000-10000x more distortion than the best DAC he has measured.

    Speakers used in the home will also have distortion will have 100-1000x more distortion than amps.

    If you do the math, it doesn't quite go garbage in = garbage out. It's actually the worst component in the chain that will be responsible for vast majority of the distortion. I did this math and explained this elsewhere along with a measurement experiment with headphones and two amps: one a discrete design, and the other a 0.0000 opamp 100% feedback design.

    --

    Another explanation is that the more open loop gain we can get, the better the sound. These low distortion amps use chips with a ton of inherent gain, up to 100db, with their lowest distortion mode (and deadest most closed sound) when in unity gain - that with with 100% closed loop feedback. Many experienced amp designers know this, going back ages. Hate to mention this name, but Nelson Pass as one of the more famous ones. Could these guys who have worked in audio all their lives, Pass, Craig (at EC), Mike Moffat, Jason, the GAS guy, all have been wrong? But Amir actually right?

    --

    Yet another: distortion a la steady state sine waves, one or many, is quite limited and very specific to frequency and level. And it's steady state.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2020
  7. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    So you listen to people perform in a vacuum completely free of acoustic effery that's innately part of even the best-designed concert halls? There's a video out there somewhere of a guy performing music in an anechoic chamber, and while I'm sure the items he used to record that video influenced things, it still sounded like butts.
     
  8. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Friend

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    I constantly see people saying they want the lowest distortion best measuring gear possible because they insist upon hearing exactly what the artist intended in the recording but that is a fallacy.

    Its well known that all the Rolling Stones albums were mixed on Benchmark HPA4s and how dare you suggest otherwise! If I want to hear music as the artist intended I got to do it on a dac/amp that bottom out the distortion charts on my APX555 as every sound engineer has one!

    I completely understand people wanting to get the most neutral experience possible but the only way your going to hear exactly what the sound engineers working on an album intended is to listen to it on their exact setup. I used to fall into that trap and constantly obsess over getting the most "correct/neutral" thing. I have to come to realize you should just listen to what sounds good to you and am much happier for it.

    I am sure there are people out there who will like the super low distortion stuff the best, which is perfectly fine, more power to em, but I dont think they are getting any closer to what the mastering engineer intended.
     
  9. magicscreen

    magicscreen Rando

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    Thank you for this tip/observation. The Atom sounds better on high gain indeed.
     
  10. Stereo Skunk

    Stereo Skunk Rando

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    Always bothers me when I try to plug or unplug and the amp is sliding around like the THX AAA 789. I had to use one hand to hold it down every time. I did try the Atom and it was pleasantly planted to the surface.
     
  11. Ox Cart

    Ox Cart Facebook Friend

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    I've gotta show some Atom love...

    My first desktop headphone amp was an OG Magni 3. The Atom replaced it, and I haven't looked back.

    Build Quality:

    Yes, the Magni is metal and the Atom is plastic, and yes the plastic knob on the Atom sucks. But... My first Magni died within 15 minutes with a loud pop through my headphones. Thankfully my ears and headphones escaped undamaged, and Schiit promptly replaced the unit. The new unit had a scratchy volpot with pretty severe channel imbalance that annoyed me to no end, but at least it didn't die on me.

    The Atom meanwhile has performed well. It went back for warranty service recently, but it appears that I had a cable issue on my end and the amp is fine. I did replace the knob with a machined aluminum part and it's been great.

    Sound:

    My main headphone at the time I switched amps was the LCD2C. It's not hard to get loud, but getting the best macrodynamics out of it requires some juice. On low gain, the Magni lacked the balls to do them justice, and on high gain it sounded way more dynamic but a little rough/etched.

    The Atom loses a little bit of slam, but it still has the balls to do well and sounds smoother in the process.

    Does the Atom do some magical stuff to rival expensive amps? I have no idea, as the only more expensive amp I've tried was an Ember II, which has its own issues. What I can say is that at it's price point, the Atom outperforms the one competitor I tried in sound and in meaningful build quality.
     
  12. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Might be worth comparing to a Magni 3+.
     
  13. Ox Cart

    Ox Cart Facebook Friend

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    As a neutral utility amp, I'm happy with the Atom. If I get another amp, it'll likely be something with tubes or at least a pure class A design to try something substantively different. I'm kinda curious about the RebelAmp right now.
     
  14. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

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  15. Ox Cart

    Ox Cart Facebook Friend

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  16. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

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    Yep! It's one of the things that irked me about ASR measurements. Quite frankly no one is running headphones at 4v or whatever the amp's max is, so it's a bit pointless.

    It's much more useful to see performance at levels such as 700mv (which is roughly what many headphones might run at) and 50mv (for iems). Hence I normally do the bench mode screenshot of each, and also my AP test sequence is configured to run all tests at each level.

    Also to note: For this I keep the normal 2v input (or 4v balanced) and adjust volume using the pot. Cause again, no one is adjusting their headamp volume by lowering dac input and leaving pot maxed.
    There are some amps which perform differently depending on if you lower input voltage or use the pot. So it's IMO much better to do what real users would do and adjust using the pot.
    This comes with the tradeoff that you'll never get to EXACTLY 700mv cause adjusting a pot that precisely is basically impossible. But still, gives a more realistic result.
     
  17. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

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    I am really liking the method of adjusting the pot. Much more realistic! A few mV here or there won't change the results much. I see the benefits as much greater than the downside.
     
  18. Ox Cart

    Ox Cart Facebook Friend

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  19. bboris77

    bboris77 Friend

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    It appears that the Atom Amp+ loses a few dB at 50mV compared to the Atom Classic. Not a big deal at all, but interesting nevertheless. By the way, I am loving all the in-depth measurements performed here by @atomicbob, @purr1n and @GoldenOne. It is so refreshing when people use these tools to actually try and figure out why things may sound different. Without a sense of exploration and discovery, this hobby may as well just not exist.
     
  20. magicscreen

    magicscreen Rando

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    Jds Labs Atom a bad sounding amp. But I can improve its sound quality using a Fx-Audio Tube-03 preamp. So it is not hopeless.
     
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