Following on from last month’s Headphone Special you were warned that we had even more to come…GEEK1

The world of audio is going crazy currently over a few things, the vinyl revival is one, computer based audio is another and portable headphone amplifiers is right up there with the latest must haves of consumers wanting the best discrete sound for their high quality music downloads.

Take a bow the Geek Out 1000 which combines a portable headphone amplifier and a HD High Resolution DAC in one dinky little device.

The Geek Out 1000 arrived this week in a nicely designed box with good artwork and inside was another box which resembles a necklace case with soft foam inserts cut out perfectly for the Geek itself, the umbilical cord (a USB A female to USB A male) and a small nylon drawstring pouch.

The Geek 1000 is the most powerful of the three offerings from LH Labs boasting 1 whole watt of Pure Class A Amplification which in headphone terms that’s a lot of welly! It’s recommended that if your headphones are over 100ohm to choose this model for the best performance.

Each of the models are constructed with an aluminium body and comes in a range of stylish colours, the review sample is in anodised red and looked pretty cool.

The unit has only two buttons on it, used for volume and 3D mode. For 3D mode simply press both together. Both buttons are GEEK2different to the touch with the down volume having a recessed dip to its centre and the up volume a raised bit – a very thoughtful touch making it easy to determine which button is which. It’s unsurprising that such a simple little thought has been included as LH Labs strictest policy is listening to their customers and producing products which they really want, suggest and give input towards. Common sense you say? Of course! But you will be surprised at how many companies offer consumers what they think they want.

Plugging the Geek into a computer can be achieved via its in built USB A male Asyncronous 20 socket or with the aid of the including trailing 6 inch cable attachment for an easier placement.

The Geek has two rows of lights on its front, the first to show sample rates and the second for indication of 3D Sound being on …around the rear of the Geek there’s a corresponding key as to what each light is indicative of.

There are two 3.5mm headphone output sockets on the Geek Out 1000, one labelled 0.47ohm for In Ear Monitors and a 47ohm socket for those big bad boys of rock!

So Geek is ready to go wherever you go…

When I say portable, more to the point I mean the Geek only requires USB power to function from a laptop, thus making it portable.

However if you wish to connect Geek to an IOS or Android device I’m afraid this is not possible -I did try and unfortunately there is currently no driver support for these devices. This is in fact a good thing as the Geek gets tremendously warm! Anyone with experience of Class A amplifiers will know how hot they get but how good they sound. I wouldn’t fancy having it in a breast pocket or in a pair of shorts connected to a phone. Some sort of belt clip would be an obvious choice if LH ever decide to widen compatibility.

High Resolution File PlaybackGEEK3

Chances are if you’re buying a Geek you’re not listening to crappy MP3’s ruining all the musical enjoyment  and hopefully you have ripped your cd collection and are downloading high quality music files online.

Geek will support:
Bit rates from 1bit to 32bit
Sample rates from 44.1khz to 384khz and DSD 64 and 128 protocols.
Not bad for a device the size of a lens out of a geeks spectacles!.

So, what does the Geek Out 1000 sound like?

Ummm, pretty damned awesome! I’m really surprised at how good this device sounds. At the start of this review, whilst writing the introductory part I have been listening to a playlist of many genres of music which I created on the Mac using Amarra Symphony 3.0.

I don’t think at any point during writing the previous paragraphs my head and body has stopped moving. Geek Out 1000 is extremely musical and is reminiscent of quality Class A amplification – a warm midrange, concise highs and a deep informative bass line.

I’m listening through a pair of AKG K702 headphones with a custom Tellurium Q headphone cable, which produces a fantastically clean and articulate sound.

Adding the Geek 1000 over say the Resonessence Labs Herus, or the recently reviewed Epiphany Acoustics EHP-02Di headphone amp/DAC, the Geek 1000 really seems to suit these headphones tremendously well, adding texture and warmth to the midrange, body to the bottom end and a thicker yet still incredibly detailed top ends which just seemed to have gained more confidence and rapport with one another.

The detail is very realistic and whilst listening to Alt-J’s new album, for the first time I quickly pulled the headphones off and GEEK4slapped the side of my head… During the track Nara there is a bumble bee which flies from ear to ear and hovers about a bit to the right and with this being out of the blue and so realistic I honest believed I was being attacked as it’s late at night now here and I have a large flourescent tube light on above my desk and a large window open next to me… and I’m generally attacked by all sorts of flying monsters!

The Geek Out 1000 has this uncanny ability to do switching between left and right of the soundstage, the entire image is very stable, but a few times on a few tracks I’ve had this sweeping effect from left to right and a silence left each side as if one ear has dropped out. Obviously it’s a trick of the song played but the silences here on quiet passages and gaps between tracks is really very black.

Vocals on Geek are very nice indeed, they have great tone and texture and that little sprinkling of clarity that I personally prefer. I’ve got to have a little projection and vibrancy in a vocal, hence my headphone choice, but having this requires great care to the midrange undertones to express tonality correctly otherwise it’s popped ear drums time, or at least that last female artist you played high pitched vocal ringing your ears late into the night whilst your trying to sleep.

Geek Out 1000 ticks this box with a magic marker.

3D AWESOMIFICATION!!!

What a name hey? Sounds like someone in the factory got ever so excited when they named this feature haha. Oh well, let’s allow them to have their moment of fame…

The idea behind this feature is to take the sound out from being trapped inside your head and have it sounding like the performance is in front of you.

Does it, well, yeah, kinda. For me there’s a definite improvement on having a mini band trapped I between your ears which is the main reason I do not listen to headphones on a regular basis.

There’s no doubt that it’s not like listening to speakers, but the improvements are worthwhile and add a clear positive to the headphone experience for me. The sound has gone from 9 and 3 O’clock to between 10-11 and 1-2 O’clock. Outer and rear cues and nuances are more apparent now as the main focus of the sound has shifted forward. 3D AWESOMIFICATION, ok, I’ll let you have that one!

Using Geek as a standalone DAC

During my listening tests with the Geek I had a chat with Alan Rosen of AVS (UK Distributer) regarding some functionality of the unit.
Alan asked if I had tried it as a standalone DAC yet, I answered “no”.

Alan went on to describe that at a dealer evening he had recently he had the Geek playing in the system as folk arrived. It was simply hanging down the back of the rack connected to his laptop whilst the main DAC was perceived to be on in the rack. The usual chat moved on towards the sound of the system in the room and many commented on the excellent sound and were left gobsmacked when he revealed the Geek to be the DAC in use.

In light of this I connected the Geek 1000 to my amp via an Epiphany Acoustics Atratus 3.5mm to twin RCA cable. I continued to listen to my previous playlist sat on the sofa.

I too was very impressed by its performance. I was presented with a soundstage which imaged extremely well. Detail retrieval was a stand-out point for me, renditioning decays on delicate notes in extremely big boy fashion. Bass notes were full and secure, leaving small amounts of bloom to warm through the presentation and allowing for a smooth lower midrange that gave body to the vocal.

I didn’t have any intention on trying the Geek 1000 singled out as a DAC but I was pleasantly surprised and equally fascinated at how LH manage it.

Conclusion

To conclude my time with the Geek Out 1000, I can truly say how impressed and taken in by its quality of sound. It’s like getting a pair of tiny bookshelf speakers, plugging them in and saying out aloud holy shit, where the hell does that sound come from.

For a tiny portable device the size of the Geek to have a pure Class A amp and a DAC inbuilt had to be a somewhat tricky feat, especially what with having on-board controls, lighting indicators and twin output sockets. Most manufacturers leave the extra features to software.

Plug and play on Mac and Linux and a driver for Windows, well that’s Windows for you and I’m sure you guys are used to it so not the end of the world.

Bottom line is Geek Out 1000 is easy to set up, compatible with virtually any ear sound devices and sounds fantastic.

Dan Worth

Build Quality –  8/10
Sound Quality – 8.6/10
Value For Money – 8.8/10
Overall – 8.46

Recommended for – great size, great sound and great price, oh and it comes in snazzy colours too!

$299

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