LH Labs Geek Out V2 USB headphone DAC/amplifier

Headphone amps and amp/DACs
LH Labs Geek Out v2
LH Labs Geek Out V2 USB headphone DAC/amplifier

Many people think that the first big audio crowd-funding success story was Neil Young’s PONO launch, but that’s not the case. LH Labs Geek Out USB DAC brought in $303,000 and its Geek Pulse and Geek Wave brought in respectively an unprecedented $2.9million and $1.665million in their respective Kickstarter campaigns. Since then LH Labs has rolled out numerous Geek Out products for both portable and home use. Their latest product, the $299 Geek Out V2, was the company’s first pre-order campaign on Indiegogo, with $345,000 in advance orders. As opposed to crowd-funding, pre-order campaigns allow faster delivery times, at least in theory. Let’s look at LH’s Geek Out V2 to see if this new DAC delivers the same level of performance as previous award-winning Geek Out components.

Packaging for the Geek Out V2 is simple – the cellophane-wrapped outer sleeve box holds a piece of felt-covered foam with a cutout where you’ll find the V2 along with a 9cm by 15cm triple-fold owner’s manual. No additional cables, connectors, or carrying case are included, but the optional LightSpeed Extender USB cables are available.

The Geek Out V2 is 78mm long, 37.5mm wide and 13mm thick, or approximately the same size as a Zippo lighter. Its case is made of 3D-printed high-temperature resin that features a curvy graphic and a lot of open space for air circulation. Ventilation slots for heat dissipation populate almost the entire backside of the V2. The V2’s top has a standard USB 2.0 connector while the bottom has single-ended and balanced mini-plug output connectors. One side of the V2 has two buttons. The top button switches between two gain settings (100 and 1000mW) while the bottom switches between three user-selectable digital modes. These three modes are Time Coherence mode which uses a minimum phase filter to remove pre-ringing from the signal; Frequency Response mode which uses a slow roll-off digital filter; and Stable Streaming mode which is optimized for streaming sources. Power for the Geek Out V2 comes from your computer as the V2 itself has no batteries or internal power source. If you plan to use the V2 attached to a USB dock, make sure it is a powered one.

The Geek Out V2 supports all PCM formats up to 384/32 and DSD up to 128x. It has both balanced and single-ended outputs and the digital circuitry is based around the ESS SABRE9018AQM DAC chip. The analogue section of the V2 utilizes a pure class-A design, which like all Class-A designs, generates substantial amounts of heat. The board-mounted heat sinks and extensive ventilation on the V2’s chassis were created to help alleviate any heat build-up problems.

Setting up the V2 is simple. For a Mac OS, you merely have to plug it in and the Mac will recognise it immediately. The next step is selecting the V2 as your audio output via Apple’s Midi Control Panel and you are all ready to play music. With Windows PC you will need to download a driver from LH Labs’ website, install it, and then select the Geek Out V2 as your audio device.

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