O2+ODAC Combo By JDSLabs and Beyerdynamic DT-990 Headphones

As I mentioned in my just posted headphone article I ordered an O2+ODAC Combo from JDSLabs. I’ve now had the amp/DAC combo with my DT-990s for about a week. I’ve been wanting to write a full article about both the amp/DAC and headphones but wanted to give them some time to make an impression.

O2+ODAC Combo

O2+ODAC Distrib. by JDSLabs

O2+ODAC Distrib. by JDSLabs

The O2+ODAC combo from JDS Labs is an awesome little amp and DAC. It’s  very powerful for a little guy. I didn’t opt for the higher impedance headphones so I can’t be 100% accurate in saying that it shouldn’t have trouble driving anything you throw at it, but it drives all my phones without problem. I didn’t even need to use the higher gain setting and I haven’t needed to go past 50% on the dial.

The sound coming out of the amp has been impressive as well. The sound is crisp and clean. The bass is tight and not muddied. Treble is very crisp, especially if you’ve been missing out on cymbals and sparkling high-hat. Overall I didn’t feel that the amp colored the music.

This goes with exactly how NwAvGuy described the build. He set out to make an amp that produced the sound as the audio engineer intended. This is exactly what I wanted and exactly what was delivered. I might not have the breadth in listening experience with different amps and headphones, but if I had to describe this amp it would be just as NvAwGuy had described it.

The ODAC portion of the combo works just as advertised.

Beyerdynamic DT-990

DT-990

DT-990

These are the headliners. These are the new awesome. The Beyerdynamic DT-990s are a nice set of cans. When putting them on for the first time you’ll immediately notice how light they feel. The whole set of phones fit the head really well. As NwAvGuy says, the headphones are where color is added. These headphones are bassy. When going between the 880s and the 990s I thought the sound was much more neutral with the 880s, but I liked the punch and richness of the 990s.

Another reason I like the 990s is how well the treble is reproduced. I listen to a lot of classical music. Depending if I’m listening to chamber music, piano, or symphony the range and sound can change drastically. One area that I’ve not had great reproduction in the past was with the treble. These headphones do a fantastic job of providing clear and not too jarring treble. I think many people coming from a lesser quality set of headphones may get the impression that these are “tinny” or have too much on the higher end. My response to that is the fact you’ve probably been missing out on a good portion of your source material. Everything from 128KBps internet streams to FLAC audio has a new definition in the upper register.

I ended up not getting the high impedance version of these headphones. After some discussion and talking with Beyerdynamic they said it really comes down to the amp if you need higher impedance cans or not. I’ve heard this before so I pressed for some explanation.  It turns out that most older amps use higher impedance headphone out. Again, I’ve read about this fact.

What I didn’t consider is that many of those older and studio style amps don’t have is adjustable gain. The Objective2 amp does have adjustable gain so that it can support headphones from in-ear all the way to 600 ohm studio headphones. For Beyerdyanmic and other high quality headphone manufacturers to support a good swath of customers they make different gain headphones so that anyone can use them. They did admit that there can be an improvement in sound at higher impedances, but did say that it was slight.

It was this discussion that made me decide to get the 32 ohm set. The 32 ohm cans can be driven by most mobile devices so I thought it was prudent to get them in case I found myself wanting to listen to my music from my phone while in the car or some other not-at-my-desk location.

Overall

I was honored at work for all the effort that I put in over the 4th quarter. As a way of saying thank you my company gave me a $500 American Express gift card. I thought long and hard on what I wanted to spend my reward on. Many things passed my mind. I originally planned on doing some enhancements to the intake on my MINI. I then got to thinking about improving my space that I use everyday. My broken DT-660s were looking up at me from my desk. It was then I decided that I since I wear headphones for 5 to 8 hours a day I should invest in a quality amp, DAC, and cans.

I ordered my O2+ODAC straight from JDSLabs for a little over $300. This included the amp/DAC combo, a power supply (wall wart), and shipping. My local HiFi shop, Sound Ideas, set me up with a great trade in and upgrade to the DT-990 headphones. After it was all said and done I ended up paying a little over $160 after the gift card ran out. I consider that a great deal on a complete audiophile setup.

I want to give a huge bit of thanks to Sound Ideas. All the employees I have worked with over the years have always made the purchasing experience awesome. These guys, on multiple occasions, let me sit down in a listening room with all my gear and go back and forth between different headphones. I can only imagine that I’m the butt of a few jokes after walking in with my multiple DACs, laptops, and CDs!

I would like to specifically mention Paul Brachhold. He has made each of my Beyerdynamic purchases completely hassle free. There was absolutely no pressure or upsell. I had a good idea of what I wanted and Paul was able to answer my questions and even went out of the way to contact Beyerdynamic when I asked one that he didn’t know the answer. I highly suggest you check these guys out for honest opinions, information, and any of your high quality audio and video needs.

Really, Should You Get This Setup?

As I mentioned I wear my headphones all day at work. If you appreciate good sounding equipment and want to truly enjoy the music you listen to then I highly recommend it. I know there are probably a few readers thinking that this whole setup is expensive or asking why someone would waste a gift card of that amount on an amp and headphones for work! If price is a factor I still suggest you get some good headphones, an upgraded sound card, and external amp. You can definitely go cheaper. However, if you looking to hit the high end I think I was able to spend my money in a manner that I found to not be too outlandish.

About Mike

I'm a software engineer. Look into the about page for more information about me.
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2 Responses to O2+ODAC Combo By JDSLabs and Beyerdynamic DT-990 Headphones

  1. Whiskey Jack says:

    I wanted to know if you felt like the o2/odac was a good match for the DT 990s? because I have been told because of the transparency of the odac/o2 does nothing to less the bright highs of the DT990s(which I own) and I was told either the ODAC and atube amp and or Modi/Vali or asgard was a better match. You think this is true?

    • Mike says:

      Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been having a busy, busy June.

      The ODAC/O2/DT990 setup is my first true good listening environment. I had some cheaper Byerdynamics that I had plugged directly into my computer at work for a while. Talk about a huge upgrade!

      You’re correct in fact that there is a level of transparency of the ODAC and O2. I believe that was a semi-goal of the project. The idea is to allow the headphones to shine through.

      I was seriously considering the asgard but I really didn’t want to push past $300 for a setup that I use exclusively at my work.

      Do I regret this? No. Would I mind trying something different. Yes. I wouldn’t mind combining the ODAC with a tube amp to get a little extra warmth to the sound.

      I love the sound that the ODAC and O2 produce and the DT990s sound amazing. Listening to my FLAC collection on my current setup is pure pleasure. If I had to do it over with the same cost constraints I doubt I would change anything.

      Regardless of your purchase, please, please let me know what you get and how you like it. I’m thinking of setting up a listening environment at my house and am willing to go a little further than my current setup.

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