Aesthetics and Build Quality:
The original Element was always a great looking DAC/Amp with plenty of people loving it’s look and functionality. A well machined aluminium chassis with a large central volume knob with light illuminating the ring, it’s classy.
On the back you have RCA inputs and outputs so it can be used as a DAC/Pre-amp for speakers, or as an amp only when paired with a different external DAC. You also have the gain button and power button (which also switches between headamp and pre-amp). On the front you have the headphone output socket, that is it. JDS Labs have packed in plenty of functionality into an attractive package, it really does look great when sat on a desk.
The new Element II has a better DAC section which now supports higher resolution bitrates, along with other enhanced specs. The amp section is based on the one in the Atom, which we all know is super clean with low output impedance. Gain is set at 1x and 4.73x, which should fit most peoples needs.
Well the Element II, just like the original, is designed to power your headphones to their maximum potential without colouring the sound. It can be used with sensitive IEM’s, right up to most planar headphones without missing a beat, it is clean and exceptionally well controlled. The Element II is not a bright sounding DAC/Amp, instead it will let you hear the true signature of the headphones you are plugging in to it. Having such low output impedance means even the most sensitive IEM’s won’t have their sound signature altered.
The Element II perfectly demonstrates that neutral is not boring, and it allows you to pick the headphones to suit your needs rather than picking the amp for your headphones. The Element II also looks superb when on a simple desk, it is clean and minimalist and is all the DAC/Amp you really need for most headphones. I for one, appreciate that the Element II is not trying to wow you with colouration, nor is it analytical to the point of sounding cold and artificial.
If you are looking for a clean and neat setup, that also sounds clean and detailed, you cannot go wrong with the Element II. Just don’t expect it to flatter you with a warm and analogue sound, it will reveal the true sound signature of your headphones instead.
Build Quality: 5/5
Sound Quality: 5/5