JDS Labs Atom Amp vs. SoundBlaster G6

I recently purchased a JDS Labs Atom Amp to step up my Sound Blaster G6. I have spent all day listening to high quality music files switching between the Atom and G6, and for the life of me I cannot hear much if any difference. Granted, I’m fairly new to the audiophile world and probably don’t have as sensitive listening skills yet as many others. I certainly hear differences between different headphones (listed below), but as for switching between the Atom and G6, it doesn’t seem like a necessary upgrade. If the G6 powers my headphones enough, is the Atom providing any other benefit? Considering just selling it since I don’t plan to upgrade to any harder-to-drive headphones.

Current Headphones:

  • Beyerdynamic DT 880 Limited Edition Chrome (250 ohm)
  • Vokyl Erupt
  • HiFiMan HE-4XX

Are there any guides or tips for critical listening when testing different gear? I’ve done plenty of headphone tests for frequency response, bass extension, dynamic range, etc. It just seems the Atom isn’t really adding anything to my setup.

Most of the $100 regions won’t sound very different. You will get some different characteristics but they will be fairly minor less your like… comparing an atom to the spark of which the spark is definitely warmer and dials in the treble. I would assume they sound similar as the g6 is a fairly clean amp/dac despite being gamer oriented. It’s not bad but if I recall correctly the Atom is much stronger in terms of an amp. If you don’t plan to upgrade and don’t hear a difference I would say do like your thinking and toss the atom in that regard. Despite what some forums say bout combo units they definitely aren’t bad lol. G6, x3, and schiit hel are all very good sounding combo units with quite a bit of power to back them. Though you will probably hear more of a sound difference if you pair the atom to other particular dacs.

Look up lossless or hi-res music files and run an a/b test if you want to see about listening to the differences. Pick some music where you for sure could tell if theres a difference.

This is helpful. Being new to most of this, I wasn’t sure exactly how much of a difference I could expect to hear. The G6 really is a great little device. The Atom is nice, but the very little bit of cleaner audio isn’t really worth the additional amp for me since the G6 is driving my phones just fine. Appreciate the insight. I’m gonna stick to learning the differences between cans for a bit before I worry about min/maxing the amp/dac game.

amps will sound more different than dacs will in most cases from my experience. Dacs don’t tend to sound significantly different less you jump from $200 up to $600+ and inbetween that price margin the differences are fairly negligible. Amps on the other hand tend to differ quite a lot.

I suspect you may hear at least some small differences once you have higher end stuff. I actually own both, though I’ve never tried doing direct comparisons. I got the G6 just for gaming and supposedly better surround sound.

When testing out gear, my recommendation is to just have a playlist of different you know very well. Personally I find that the best songs for testing gear (particularly headphones) are the kind of songs that don’t sound great on everything or has some aspect you can hone in on.
There are also plenty of curated spotify playlists out there that you might find useful. One example:

For critical listening, it also helps to spend at a good number of hours with both items before trying direct comparisons. The nuances of how something sounds are easier to appreciate once you’ve had enough time with it.

Really appreciate the advice. I do think time is an important factor and that it’s not as simple as switching back and forth. Thanks for the playlist link.

So after spending some more time with these devices, my ears definitely tuned a bit and I’ve been able to hear differences, significant but subtle. I prefer the sound from the Atom as it’s cleaner at higher volumes and sounds “bigger.” That said, I just can’t get over the Atom’s plastic case. The top panel flexes a little bit when I have to put pressure on it to change headphones/cables. It’s not a major issue or anything, but it’s not something I care for my in “experience” as it feels cheap. So for now, the G6 is staying as my amp and dac, but I’m keeping an eye out for good secondhand deals on some other options like the Liquid Spark and Schiit Heresy (or I may hold out for the Topping L30).

That is the tradeoff with the Atom. If I may suggest, if you’re holding out for a different $100 amp, hold out a little longer yet for an Asgard 3. That gives a major upgrade in build quality and a substantial upgrade in sound quality.

I have definitely been checking out listings for the Asgard when I see them!

I will definitely second the opinion for the asgard 3.

What would you say are the primary positives for the Asgard 3 over the Magni 3+/Heresy, other than pure power, of course. Considering cost-to-value too.

Spacial recreation, cleaner, more detailed in my opinion. Incredibly well rounded as well so it makes a lot of headphones sound great.

Ditto to @Falenkor’s list. I’ll add the Asgard comes with options to insert a DAC module, if that’s of interest to you.

Awesome. Thanks for the advice!

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Snagged an Asgard 3 with the 4490 DAC module at a pretty great price. Hope it comes in next week. Excited to test it out!


I have never tested the dac. I think some people here have some more knowledge on that one. Do share your thoughts on it overall though. Would be interesting to know what you think.

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