Review: JDS Labs' The Element headphone amp dials in audio

Twist this giant knob to make your music sound better


Twist the night away with this headphone amp's gigantic dial.
Twist the night away with this headphone amp's gigantic dial.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Best List: The Element headphone amplifier by JDS Labs

“Take the conn, Jimmy.”

“Aye aye, Captain.”

Every single time I lay my hands on The Element’s giant, super-precise dial of sonic control, that Star Trek scene rolls through my head. Which is a little weird for me, since Captain Kirk and I have the same name, but I overlook this small snag as I dial in the perfect volume on my JDS Labs headphone amplifier.

The first thing you have to do with The Element is look at it. I mean, seriously, look at this thing.

That knob. That big, glorious, totally tactile knob is surely worthy of a Star Trek episode. Unlike other small devices, this is all about the knob. And it’s not just functional — it’s fun.

Aside from the knob, The Element delivers the audio goods. This headphone amp puts out 1.5 watts of power, has low output impedance, and JD Labs has eliminated all the pops with built-in relays.

It is designed to drive any headphone you can plug into it. The latest version of the Element also includes output for your powered speakers, so you can choose between your enclosed musical landscape or sharing with those around you.

I have run a number of great headphones through this amplifier (including a beautiful pair of ZMF X Vibro MK II cans I am currently reviewing). In almost every instance, the Element has enhanced the experience with better clarity and less fatigue. It has to be heard and felt to be believed.

In the infamous words of the Vulcan, not checking out The Element would be “highly illogical.”

Price: $349

Buy from: JDS Labs

Cult of Mac’s Best List is a roundup of products for those who want to boldly go where few have gone before. Read more Best List mini reviews.


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