JDS Labs OL DAC

When JDS sent me the EL Stack, they also sent their OL DAC. I've had it for the past two weeks, have alternated between listening to it and their EL DAC

Fit and Form

The DAC is held in an aluminum housing, with ridges machined along the sides and top. The features a power button, green LED power indicator, and a switch that swaps between optical and USB inputs. Speaking of inputs, the back features a 15VAC power input, USB and S/PDIF inputs, and RCA outputs. I like the black design, and it would fit well in a stack with any products in their Objective line.

I encountered no machining errors or faults, and was satisfied with how solid this build felt. The rubber feet on each of the corners kept it in place, even though it is fairly light, and it was attached to substantial cabling.

Sound

This section will be regrettably brief, but I was very satisfied with the performance of this DAC. It was audibly transparent, and introduced no distortion, hum, or other faults of any kind. It was mainly run through USB. Compared to my motherboard's lackluster DAC, it was cleaner, more detailed, and generally missed less, if that makes sense.

Again, as I've stated in prior reviews, I avoid the discussion of frequency response changes from a DAC, as that is never rooted in reality, given that a DAC simply cannot do more than provide the least distorted signal possible.

Minutia and Miscellaneous

Installing and using the DAC was pretty easy, as it is plug-and-play, for most. I had an issue initially where its drivers would not self-install, but a quick email to support fixed that issue without much work. I encountered no further issues during use.

Wrap-Up

I think this DAC is a great value. For $139, you get a well-built, well-design, high performance DAC. It is audibly transparent, and if NwAVGuy were still around, I'm sure he'd praise it as objective, just like his original product designs. I'm not sure if staying faithful to that goal was in the mind of JDS' designers when they put this together, but I'd also like to praise them for that. It is simple and fulfills exactly the goals that I'd look for in any desktop DAC. If you're looking for more inputs, you'll have to look elsewhere, but this checked every box I could imagine.

In search of a DAC to use specifically when testing other components, I look for transparency, price, build quality, and input options. Recently, to test an arguably overpriced cable, I had a necessity for something that fulfilled this. I searched high and low, everywhere that I could think to, and this DAC is the only one that fulfilled what I needed. If anyone reading this is looking for a reference DAC at a reasonable price point with a full-size USB-B input, this is pretty much the only place you'll find it at $139.

Disclaimers

This DAC was provided to me for review by JDS Labs. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.

I have had this setup for about two weeks, and I have put about 85 hours of analytical listening time through them during that period. I will continue to listen to this setup intermittently for the rest of the review period, and will update any opinions that change over that time.

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