Disclaimer: the unit in this article was provided directly by JDS Labs.
There's really no point in publishing 16-bit performance anymore, which JDS Labs's The Element proves like 2+2=4. If you'd like my subjective opinion on it, mosey over to Headfonia: Review: JDS Labs Element – Bravado.
I like The Element. It's easy to use. It sounds good. It performs like a champ. It works from an iPhone & CCK. It's 350$. 350$. It isn't the final word on build quality, but then again, neither is 350$ the final word on DAC prices.
As its performance is so good, a balanced version just might seal up the performance-minded economical market. That said, there is a BIG gap between its performance thru an iMac's USB port vis-à-vis an iPhone 6 & CCK. For reference, I've posted the results for both plus a multi-DAP headphone-out-RCA-input showdown.
The following Rightmark Audio Analyzer tests were conducted through this equipment.
Source: JDS Labs The Element
ADC: Lynx Studio HILO LT-TB
Computer: 2012 27" iMac
Cables: 1,5m Hosa Pro 3,5mm stereo to dual 3-pin XLR (around 8$); bespoke y-split 2,5 TRRS to dual 3-pin XLR made by Musashi Sound Technology.
NL - no load
SM2 - Earsonics SM2
ES7 - Audio Technica ES7
DT880 - Beyerdynamic DT880/600
24-bit TARGETS and loads - iMac low gain
24-bit TARGET - iMac low gain summary:
24-bit TARGETS and loads - iPhone 6 low gain
24-bit TARGET - iPhone low/high gain summary:
24-bit TARGETS and loads - iMac high gain
24-bit TARGET - iMac high gain summary:
The differences between low and high gains via the iPhone were minimal enough almost to be outlier. For that reason, I am not including them.
But check out how well-implemented The Element's RCA input is:
24-bit TARGETS - RCA input low gain