Contradictions. It’s funny how I’m totally fine with the heat that emanates from Class A stereo amplifier sitting on the floor or in a hifi rack but I’m less than down with a similarly hot-running Class A portable headphone amplifier – in this case, the LH Labs GeekOut 1000 (US$299). Perhaps it’s because the GeekOut’s volume control and ‘3D Awesomifier’ buttons demand that it be, y’know, touched? Perhaps it’s a primeval fear of heat foretelling of danger to come? Or perhaps it’s because I live in one of the hotter locations on earth? The day before yesterday saw temperatures nudge 40C/104F in Sydney.
Whatever the reason, the LH Labs GeekOut 1000 USB DAC/head-amp is almost too hot to touch whilst in full flight. LH Labs marketing dude Gavin Fish informed me at CES 2015 that this was (excuse the pun) deliberately baked into the GeekOut’s design. For me, it’s an operational quirk that remains a dealbreaker.
My loss = your gain.
This little USB dongle DAC is one very capable performer, packing enough bark and bite for many of the more challenging headphone loads knocking around. And even if you’re using portable-friendly ‘phones, the GeekOut 1000’s sound is light years ahead of your laptop or smartphone’s headphone output; this USB DAC can be paired with either. You’ll need the Camera Connection Kit for iOS or an OTG cable for compatible Android units.
Advantages over the market segment defining AudioQuest Dragonfly v1.2 don’t stop there. The GeekOut 1000 packs more raw power (500mW into 32 Ohms compared to the AudioQuest’s 125mW into the same) and broader file compatibility. The GeekOut takes decoding beyond the Dragonfly’s humble PCM 24bit/192kHz limit to encompass 32bit/284kHz and DSD64/128.
If you’re a hi-res audio fiend, the LH Labs device is more likely to be your guy. Sticklers for measurements will appreciate its 0.47 Ohm low output impedance as well as the secondary 3.5mm output jack that measures ten times that.
That said, the AudioQuest dongle’s ‘silk-rubber’ finish (my words) feels more accomplished than the LH Labs’ metal shell. I also prefer the Dragonfly’s slightly less brilliant emphasis on detail illumination that beats at the heart of the GeekOut 1000. The latter’s highly caffeinated and rambunctious presentation makes for a superb match with Dan Clark’s Alpha Dog/Prime headphones and – especially – Master&Dynamic’s warmer, thicker MH40 over ears.
If you’re an IEM user, the lower powered GeekOut 100 is probably more your speed.
I mention all of this as prelude to serving up the GeekOut 1000 as DAR’s second prize giveaway. You should consider all of the above before throwing your hat into the ring. The unit in question is silver and ships with the 6″ Geek Slacker extension cable and padded carry pouch.
The GeekOut 1000 being offered here is for thirstier cans. If this – and the above – sounds like a good fit for you, you can enter the draw by dropping your email address into the box below and hitting subscribe. Easy.
Already a subscriber? You’re already in the running.
A winning email address will be randomly pulled from the virtual hat on Friday 20th February. Good luck! Congratulations to Michael P. from Perth. I hope this DAC brings you hours of listening pleasure.
Once again, due to postage cost constraints, this competition is open only to residents of Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and the UK (with apologies to the rest of the world).
Sincere thanks to go the LH Labs team for sanctioning this prize giveaway.