New Gear Review: LH Labs Geek Out DAC

Geek_Out_450_ComputerLIGHT HARMONIC LABS HAS GEEK OUT, a portable digital-to-analog converter (DAC) with headphone amp. Geek Out solves two annoying audio problems with music playback using laptop or home computers: poor quality of the computer’s built-in DAC and wimpy-sounding headphone amp.

Geek Out utilizes a version of the Da Vinci three-layer buffer 32-bit/384kHz and DSD 2 decoding engine and a Class-A (1-watt) high current output stage with two headphone jacks. Geek Out will decode either PCM or any DSD audio streams and also sufficiently drive any set(s) of headphones or in-ear monitors to maximum volume and fidelity and sufficient bass.

USB 2.0 class compliant, Geek Out plugs right into your computer’s USB jack and shows up in the Mac’s Sound Preference window ready to be selected. PC users will need to download a driver.

There are two 3.5mm headphone output jacks: one for driving most small headphones and ear buds and another for larger and lower impedance pro-level headphones. My Audio-Technica ATM-M50X’s sounded fine plugged into either. Suffice to say, having two jacks is an awesome feature in itself—especially when traveling with a friend.

Features I also like are: the LED indicators that show the sample rate, rate multiplier (2X, 4X or 8X) and if the 3D Awesomifier is engaged. The 3D Awesomifier is useful to increase the level of center-panned lead vocals. It sells for $299.

Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Corrs, and more. Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility and loves teaching audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, Hollywood, CA. He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine.