As a fan of the Objective DAC (ODAC), I frequently check out the web page of JDS Labs and have been intrigued for some time with their CMOYBB DIY Headphone Amplifier Kit.

Basically a battery powered headphone amp that fits inside of an Altoids tin, or in my case here a Penguin Peppermints tin (same size).

You can buy a full CMOYBB here already assembled but what fun is that? I opted for the kit which took about 2 hours to solder. The kit is pretty slick but I’m a guy with a lot of soldering experience and I had really only one beef. The holes for the resistors are too close together. It was a bear to get a clean install with them. NOTE: I sent the link to this page to the JDS Labs folks and they told me the resistors should be stood up and that they’d clarify that in the manual. Their photo below. Crap. Why didn’t I think of that?


That aside it was fun to build and worked first time.

Making the holes in the case was a lot harder than I thought. They provide a pattern but I actually found the pattern was a hair off. So in other words I ruined about 5 tins before I got it right. That’s a lot of mints! And there were no directions in the package! WTF? Then I downloaded the assembly instructions only to find out it was for a previous printed circuit board or another variant or something. D’oh. This diagram was invaluable. In fact it is almost all you need. That is provided you know polarity of LED’s and Capacitors. (Hint: The longer lead is the positive one). And I’d like to add the actual printed circuit board is well marked indicating the directional band on the diodes and the positive leads for the capacitors, and LED’s. Again, follow that diagram and look at the actual board before soldering and anybody can build one of these.

Anyway get yourself a Hole Punch from Office Max to do the deal. A cheap hole punch will just make ugly, incomplete holes. JDS Labs has a video here to help with making the case. Oh but they make it look so simple.

Anyway, how does is sound? A LOT better than you would imagine. If you love your music this is $60 very well spent. And if you like deep bass, this kit has it. It has a bass boost circuit that thumps pretty good. I’m listening to mine through a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones which could be the best, and cheapest headphones you can buy.

Here’s how I describe it. I have a Bottlehead Crack Tube Headphone Amp with the Speedball upgrade (roughly $400) plus Sennheiser HD650 headphones ($550). It’s my go to system for headphone listening. So I finish my CMOYBB kit and plug it in at home with my Sony headphones I mentioned above and I said “CRAP” out loud. My girl friend probably thought I fried something and asked me if something was wrong. I pointed to my CMOYBB and told her it cost about $70 and then pointed to my $400 amp and said “this sounds as good as that does”.

And it does. Maybe if you get right down to it you might lean towards the Bottlehead kit but we’re talking $950 compared to $70 plus $80 headphones. This kit provides great sound at a bargain. Dare I use the words “Audiophile Quality”? I dare.

Last item of note. On the board you see a switch. It’s a bass boost switch. Listening to heavily compressed loud music and you’ll want it in the off position. Things get just a touch muddy but I say it is the music rather than the amp because softer genre music really sounds amazing with the bass boost on. Not the least bit muddy. Face it. Some of todays top hit music is poorly recorded. It’s designed to sound loud, not crisp and crystal clear. Poorly recorded music on even the best system will always sound like poorly recorded music.

Try this kit, you’ll like it.

A couple of shots pre-installation.