Pros: Everything. Best DAC/Amp combo I've heard under $500
Cons: Some heat. Unable to use with USB OTG + External Power on Android.
The LH Labs Geek Out had a lot to live up to. A good 7+ months ago, the Geek Out started as a concept. This concept was to bring a high quality audio experience into a small and affordable device. Light Harmonic already created and sold the Da Vinci DAC, an award winning $20,000+ DAC, but they wanted to take a chance and bring a more affordable device to the masses.
Kickstarter crowdfunding was used to successfully fund into the project. As an "investor" into the Geek Out, I felt connected with the project. I and the other backers wanted it to succeed. We offered advice that changed the device into a better one over time. We told LH Labs what we wanted, and they listened. I got in as an early backer, and got an incredible deal on an incredible device. I kick myself for not getting in earlier and getting an even bigger discount. Even at retail, the Geek Out is still a steal.
I have the Silver Geek Out 1000, and this sucker is powerful. It is easily as powerful as my 1000mW Aune T1. The GO is being powered from USB alone, where the T1 has a giant power supply that needs to be plugged in. The Geek Out also happens to support 96khz+ and DSD, which the T1 can't do. The GO also sounds much better, and does it for the same price.
The device itself is smaller than a deck of cards, is lightweight, and has a beautiful aluminum shell. A LED alignment shows you physically on the device what bitrate your music is being played in. The two outputs offer different resistance modes 0.47ohm and 47ohm, which can be used simultaneously, or to better match your equipment. The GO is so powerful, that I normally run it on the 47ohm line out most of the time. Although I no longer have it, I'm sure the GO 1000 could easily support the HE-500 and most other demanding headphones as well.
Sound quality is stunning. "I'm hearing things I never heard before" is so cliche in an audio review, but it is 100% true here. Soundstage, imaging, bass tightness, clarity, power, a black background, impact... it's all there in spades. I find it more enjoyable than my old Audio-GD 11.32 unit, which was no slouch in sound, and was $350+.
The GO also has this unique ability to "change" the sound signature of some headphones, yet it doesn't color the sound and remains neutral. Let me try to explain this, because it might not make sense at first. Some headphones that I have previously found "a little hollow" or not as enjoyable as I liked, now seem to have come alive and gotten better. Maybe it is from the increased detail this DAC gives, but it can really throw you off guard and question your opinions of your headphone and speaker gear through older DACs and amps. I think that's awesome, and its an intangible quality that wasn't expected.
Setup on Windows 8.1 was quick and easy. The LH Control Panel is simple and shows you basic info and volume control. Foobar2000 and the LH ASIO driver played with no issues.
I was unable to get the GO working on my Cyanogenmod 11 Nexus 5 Android Phone with USB Audio Player Pro however, which was disappointing. I connected the GO via a USB OTG Y cable, and provided it external battery power with 2.1A. It powered the device, but neither CM11 nor UAPP was able to initialize it. Hopefully this can be fixed or added in the future. My Aune T1 worked flawlessly with CM11 and UAPP. The GO would be the ultimate DAC/Amp for me if it could work off my Nexus too.
I'm blown away by the GO. It draws me in, and makes me want to listen to my music more. Mission accomplished LH. Well done, and thank you. Keep bringing this quality and pricing around, and I will continue to purchase them.
Just buy one already. I'm really excited at what the Geek Pulse and Geek Wave will bring when they arrive now.