Light Harmonic Geek Out 450 DAC and Headphone Amplifier

Huge Performance in a Tiny Package

Equipment report
Digital-to-analog converters,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs,
Light Harmonic Geek Out 450
Light Harmonic Geek Out 450 DAC and Headphone Amplifier

“Spanish Harlem” sounded clean, but just a little mechanical—more like a hi-fi playing than a person singing. The upright bass was deeper, more resonant. The piano sound put relatively more emphasis on sustain and decay, rather than on leading-edge transients.

On “Miserere,” the soundstage was not as well defined, nor the singers placed so precisely within the soundstage. The distant solo group had a sense of separation, but didn’t sound as far back in the room as it did through the Geek Out. The tenor soloist in the main group didn’t sound as realistic as he did through the Geek Out. These differences were small, but noticeable.

Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8 sounded less harmonically rich, but still had lots of dynamic punch. The nano iDSD’s lower power output wasn’t obvious; its dynamics were just as exciting as the Geek Out’s.

Alex de Grassi’s guitar sound emphasized the strings more than the body. Again, a small but perceptible difference.

My experience with the nano iDSD dongle-DAC had shown me that its headphone amplifier is not quite up to the performance of its DAC section. When I used the RCA output jacks to feed the signal from the DAC section into iFi’s upscale separate micro iCAN headphone amplifier, the overall sound improved noticeably. The $259 micro iCAN headphone amp is a Class A unit, which sounds more detailed and refined than the amplifier in the nano iDSD dongle-DAC—at a price.

I enjoyed revisiting the iFi nano iDSD dongle-DAC, but was happy to switch back to the Geek Out when the review was completed. The Geek Out’s refined portrayal of harmonics and its nearly-loudspeaker-like soundstaging were hard to do without.

Bottom Line
A fantastic combination of features, sound, and price, the Geek Out 450 is one of those rare components that screams value! LH Labs’ ability to get this kind of performance out of a device this small for this little money attests to some incredible engineering chops. While I’ve noted some minor operational glitches that make using the Geek Out more of a hassle than it should be, the problems I’ve mentioned are not serious, and once I figured out workarounds, using the Geek Out was a blast. The sound was never less than engrossing.

The Geek Out 450 is out of this world!


Input: One asynchronous USB 2.0 Type A
Outputs: Two stereo jacks
Output impedance: .47 ohms and 47 ohms
Output power: 450mW
Bit depths: 16, 24, and 32 bits
Sample rates: PCM: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8 Hz, and 384kHz; DSD: DSD64 and DSD128
Price: $199

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