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LH Labs Geek Out 2A

  1. peter123
    The Lady in Red, another great offering from LH Labs!
    Written by peter123
    Published Nov 16, 2016
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality, value for money, balanced output, gain switch, looks amazing
    Cons - Runs pretty hot, no physical volmue control
    This is a review of the LH Labs Geek Out 2A Infinity amp/DAC combination.
    The LH Labs Geek Out 2A Infinity (GO2A) was sent to me for free by LH Labs for the purpose of me writing an unbiased review of it as well as including it in my $250+ DAC/amp comparison thread.  I’d like to send a big THANK YOU to Larry and Diana for letting me check it out.
    The MSRP price for the LH Labs Geek Out 2A is $269 and for the Infinity version it’s $349. It’s my understanding that the product is now available for regular sale on the LH Labs website:
    I’m not in any way affiliated with LH Labs.
    Short introduction to LH Labs.:
    LH Labs is a California based company founded by Larry Ho a couple of years ago.
    This is what they say about themselves on their website:
    “We love great sound and we love to find new ways of making music sound even better. That means we’re a lot like you.
    High-end, high-performance audio gear is what we love. We were the first to show the world that if you want digital audio to sound like analog you have to start at 32 bits and 384 kHz. We were the first to offer 10GB bandwidth USB cables and the first to create digital modes for different uses on all our DACs.
    We’ll never stop pushing the boundaries of sound, so if you love audio and want to be the first to experience the next generation of pure sound, come along with us – it’s going to be an amazing ride.”
    As an owner of their original Geek Out 720 as well as the Geek Out V2+ Infinity I was thrilled to get the opportunity to check out the Geek Out 2A Infinity as well.
    About me:
    I’m a 44 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
    My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
    My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
    I tend to value function over form within reasonable limits.
    I do not use EQ, ever.
    I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
    Built, accessories and functionality:
    The LH Labs Geek Out 2A Infinity is a class A amplifier and DAC combo.  
    The GO2A is available in two versions: the “regular” GO2A and the GO2A Infinity. The differences being that while the GO2A has two gain and digital filter options the Infinity version offers three settings for them each  (more about this later). I’ve got the Infinity version.
    With the gain setting at maximum output power is rated to 125mW@ 32Ohm single ended and 500mW when using the balanced connection. Output impedance is rated at a very low 0.47Ohm.
    The GO2A Infinity has a sturdy aluminum housing that feels durable. Not only does it feel great but the red color does also look pretty amazing in my opinion. The physical controls available on it do also feel reliable. The physical controls sums up to a gain switch and a button to switch between the different digital filters. Just like on the V2+ Infinity the different gain setting are actually different power output and you get to choose between 100mW, 450mW or 1,000mW to be able to give the best performance depending of the power needed for you IEM’s, earphones or headphones. I really like this feature on the V2+ Infinity so I’m happy to see it on the GO2A as well since the lower the output power you choose the lesser amount of hiss you’ll get. As for the digital filters the difference is quite subtle, this is also my experience with pretty much every other device offering this, but still nice for the final fine tune to suit your preference best.  The overall build feels very solid but as usual only long term usage will really show how good it is.
    The GO2A Infinity offers one USB B male connector and there’s a 3.5mm single ended headphones output and the big added value of a 3.5mm (TRRS) balanced headphones output as well.
    The GO2A Infinity does work quite well with Android devices when connected with an OTG cable and using USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) as music player. For this to work an external power source is needed though due to the high power demands for the GO2A. Although Android and sound does not have a great reputation the GO2A Infinity have worked with most Android device’s I’ve tried it with not only with the help of UAPP but it also actually work great with streaming services like Spotify with some devices.
    The GO2A Infinity uses an Xmos USB receiver that is supposed to work with Apple devices using the Camera Connection Kit (CCK) but I haven’t been able to test this myself.
    The GO2A Infinity support all popular file formats for audio up to DSD256 and 32bit/384kHz files.
    My unit is a review unit and came without any retail package and accessories.
    IMG_4464.jpg IMG_4465.jpg
    IMG_4469.jpg IMG_4470.jpg
    IMG_4471.jpg IMG_4472.jpg
    The specs:
    Frequency Response
    2 Hz – 55 kHz (-0.1 dB)
    Maximum Power Output
    User switchable – 1000mW @ 16 Ohms, 100mW @ 16 Ohms
    (GO2A∞: Additional 450mW @ 16 Ohms output option)
    Maximum Output Voltage
    4.0 Vrms (high gain)
    Total Harmonic Distortion (THD+N)
    (GO2A, GO2A∞: -3dB THD+N additional performance boost)
    Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR)
    >105 dB unweighted, > 108 A-weighted
    USB 2.0 (Asynchronous)Outputs
    Dual 1/8”/3.5mm analog stereo (one single-ended TRS, one balanced TRRS)
    Output Impedance
    0.47 Ohms
    Output Stage OpAmp
    Texas Instruments TPA6120A2
    Amplifier Output Bias
    Class A
    Digital-to-Analog Converter IC
    USB Controller
    XMOS XS1-SU01A-FB96
    PCM Sample Rates Supported
    44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz, 352.8 kHz, 384 kHz
    DSD Sample Rates Supported
    2.8224 MHz, 3.072 MHz, 5.6448 MHz, 6.144 MHzBit Depth Supported
    1-bit, 16-bit, 24-bit, 32-bit
    Chassis Construction
    T6061 Aluminum chassis
    Dimensions (GO2A, GO2A∞)
    78mm long, 37.5mm wide, 13mm high, 34 grams
    Additional Digital Filter Mode for GO2A∞)
    SSM filter for streaming services such as Tidal, Pandora, and Spotify
    I’ve used the GO2A Infinity a lot for the last couple of weeks and my unit has played for well over 50 hours.
    Demo list:
    Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
    Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
    Ane Brun – These Days
    Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
    Metallica – Die Die My Darling
    The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
    Eva Cassidy – Songbird
    Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
    Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
    Celldweller – Unshakeable
    Jack Johnson – Better Together
    Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
    Dire Straits- So Far Away
    Björk - Moon
    Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
    Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
    Sound impression:
    The first thing that I noticed when I started to listen to the GO2A Infinity was that reminded me a lot of the sound form LH Labs own Geek Out V2+ Infinity which I recently reviewed with a quite similar analogue sounding presentation .
    Bass extension and quality is really good with no noticeable roll off in the lowest frequencies and a very good quality of the whole bass spectrum. Mid- and upper-bass is equally great and doesn’t add anything that shouldn’t be there. The bass in total has a very good balance between quantity and quality making for a great dynamic presentation without ever feeling exaggerated.
    The natural balanced sound continues in the mid-range giving it a good depth in the presentation. The midrange presentation of the GO2A Infinity feels very transparent and natural. It’s ever so slightly on the brighter side of things without sounding fatiguing in any way but rather making it have even better clarity and detail retrieval. It does also have excellent timbre and a good soundstage width which together makes a great sounding signature that continues in the upper frequencies as well. The treble does feel as natural as the rest of the frequencies and mixes in very good with the midrange. Treble extension is very good and perfectly smooth yet detailed.
    All the impressions above is in single ended mode, switching over to balanced mode there are some clear changes that takes the sound to even a higher level.
    When running the GO2A Infinity in balanced mode it delivers more power than when using it single ended. This, however, is not the only difference. When connecting my Hifiman HE400i’s with balanced cable to the balanced output on the GO2A there’s an improvement in separation as well as a darker background. There are other things that are more subtle like better detail retrieval and a touch better clarity but these are not as obvious to my ears as the changes separation and calmer background. In all I’d say that the balanced output on the GO2A Infinity is a step up from the single ended one but I wouldn’t describe the difference as night and day and the result will also depend on what headphones/IEM’s you’re listening to.
    The overall presentation has good soundstage in all directions and layering is also good as is the amount of air between instruments. Transparency is also very good, especially when using the balanced output.  All together I’d describe the sound of the GO2A Infinity as very clean and realistic with amazing clarity and details.
    Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
    In these comparisons I’ve been listening through my Hifiman HE400i’s and using the balanced output (since I find it to be the best performing) on the GO2A Infinity.
    I’ve been using the USB input when doing these comparisons. Both units has been hooked up to two different laptops both running Windows 7 with the same settings and I use MediaMonkey as my player of choice.
    Burson Audio Conductor V2+ (1,499) vs LH Labs Geek Out 2A Infinity:
    David against Goliath, or the 7 kg Conductor V2+ against the 34 g GO2A. Bass on both are excellent with great depth, layering and details with a slight advantage to the V2+ all across the lower frequencies. To my ears the GO2A has a touch brighter vocal reproduction while the Burson is slightly smoother. The Burson unit gives the impression of a slightly more relaxed overall presentation with more air between instruments and a darker background. Micro details are great on both as is clarity and transparency.
    The Burson of course has a lot of other advantages such as significantly higher power output (4W @32Ohms compared to the 500mW on the GO2A Infinity at the same load when running it balanced), more inputs (both coaxial and optical as well as two analog inputs in addition the USB input) and outputs. The advantage for the GO2A Infinity is the smaller size and the balanced output option.
    Both have a small but audible (with very sensitive IEM’s) background hiss, the Burson unit slightly more so.
    LH Labs Geek Out V2+ Infinity ($649) vs LH Labs Geek Out 2A Infinity:
    So, first battle between the siblings. The V2+ Infinity and GO2A Infinity do remind a lot of each other in the way they sound, especially through the balanced output. Through the single ended output the V2+ offers a bit more air between instruments, darker background, a slightly smoother (but stil equally detailed) presentation making its overall presentation a touch more refined sounding with even tighter bass. Vocals are also a touch fuller and more natural sounding on the V2+. Switching to the balanced output the differences are even less audible and although there’s still a bit darker background and more weight to the vocals on the V2+ it’s really hard to pick out any other significant differences here. Overall the sound from these two units are so similar that it may very well be the one being driven from USB power and the other from battery that causes the differences.
    The GO2A is quite a bit smaller than the V2+.  The V2+ does also offers a separate USB charging port, three different filters and an internal battery.
    The V2+ Infinity run much cooler. .
    Both have very slight amount of background hiss but it’s low enough to only be audible with my most easy to drive IEM’s.
    LH Labs Geek Out 720 ($169, originally $249) vs LH Labs Geek Out 2A Infinity:
    Here comes the second battle between siblings. The Original Geek Out 720 has been in my possession for about two years now and for the first 1.5 years I used it as my main DAC hooked up with my music laptop feeding different headphone amps. My GO720 was connected to the laptop pretty much 24/7 during this period and although it does get quite hot I’ve never had a single issue with it, hopefully the GO2A Infinity will prove to be as reliable in the long run.
    Compared to the GO2A Infinity the GO720 has less controlled and distinct bass and an overall smoother and darker sound. The GO2A Infinity has noticeable more timbre to the notes making it sound overall more natural, fresh and engaging. The GO720, despite being a very good offering, does actually sound a bit congested and dull in comparison. All in all I’d say that the GO2A Infinity is definitely an upgrade to the original Geek Out 720.
    They both offer digital filters but the GO2Adoes also offers the gain switch as well as a balanced 3.5 mm output. The GO720 on the other hand has two 3.5 mm outputs, one with 47Ohm resistance and one with 0.47Ohm.
    Both have a little background hiss but the GO720 has more and it will definitely be audible with easy to drive IEM’s.
    They can both run really hot when driving full size headphones.
    Family photo :wink:
    For even further comparisons feel free to visit this thread for breakdown between more $250+ amp/DAC units (this is a work in progress and several other units will follow in the near future).
    The output impedance of the headphone out on the Geek Out 2A Infinity is rated to a very low 0.47Ohm. This is low enough that it should work well with all kind headphones and even very sensitive IEM’s.
    In this section I’ve tested how some of my favorite headphones but also a couple of IEM’s pairs up with the GO2A Infinity.  
    AKG Q701 ($300):
    This session was made using the single ended output on the GO2A Infinity.  The Q’s pairs up really nice with the GO2A. The GO2A, being ever so slightly on the bright side, doesn’t add any particular warmth to the presentation and I was afraid that it would be too much for the Q’s but that’s not the case, clean, clear and dynamic is the way I’d describe this combination. Although I’ve heard the Q’s better with some warmer source’s and I’ve also heard more bass impact from them but this pairing is still very good to my ears.
    The GO2A has more than enough power to drive the Q’s.
    Philips Fidelio X2 ($300):
    This session was made using the single ended connection on the GO2A Infinity.  The X2’s quite warm and full by itself which makes a very good combination with the clean, clear and slightly bright presentation from the GO2A. Just like with the V2+ Infinity recently I really feel that the GO2A bring out some of the best performance I’ve ever heard from the X2’s, taking advantage of both the great quality bass of the GO2A as well as its overall smooth and detailed sound signature. This is an excellent combination in my opinion.
     The GO2A has more than enough power to drive the X2’s.
    Hifiman HE400i ($449):
    This session was made using the balanced output on the GO2A Infinity. The HE400i’s is also an excellent pairing with the GO2A. Although I may prefer the HE400i’s in a tube set up for a more relaxed listening the GO2A also performs very well with them. Bass is tight, details and separation are great and overall performance is very enjoyable.
    The GO2A has more than enough power to drive the HE400i.
    Aurisonics ASG-1PLUS ($500):
    The ASG-1PLUS is an 11Ohm hybrid IEM (1 DD + 1 BA).
    This session was made using the single ended output on the GO2A Infinity. The 1PLUS has an overall laid back and relaxed mid-centric presentation that pairs perfectly with the GO2A. The analogue and slightly bright characteristic from the GO2A bring a nice energy to the 1PLUS making it very enjoyable and great sounding. The great detail retrieval and separation does also pair great with the 1PLUS and this is one of the best performances that I’ve heard from the 1PLUS for my preference.
    There’s no background hiss whatsoever with the 1 PLUS:
    Super Audio 6 ($250):
    The Super Audio 6 (SA6) is a six BA driver Chines DIY offering. It has a warm, smooth, intimate and mid-centric overall presentation. This session was made using the balanced output of the GO2A. The combination of the GO2A and SA 6 is a great match and the liquid, creamy and intimate character of the SA6 does really come to live with the energy, amount of details and slightly bright sound the GO2A bring to the presentation, This, combined with the lovely analog sound from the GO2A makes this combination extremely good.
    There’s no hiss with the SA6’s when using the lowest gain setting.
    To sum up the matching section the signature of the GO2A Infinity works really well with all the headphones and IEM’s I’ve tried it with. . There’s also a very low background hiss even on the lowest gain setting when paired with my most sensitive IEM’s that might be worth noticing. In total I’d still consider the GO2A Infinity an excellent all-rounder when it comes to pairing.
    LH Labs has worked their magic once again with the Geek Out 2A Infinity. It is a great offering that almost manage to keep up with one of my all-time favorite portable amp/DAC, the V2+ Infinity also from LH Labs when it comes to sound quality and it does this at about half of its asking price.
    These USB memory stick sized amp/DAC’s often doesn’t offer much of excitement when it comes to features but at least the GO2A offer the possibility to switch between both gain settings and digital filters. The only thing that I’m missing is a physical volume control on the unit since I many times prefer this over changing the volume on my laptop or computer. Not to forget it does also offer both single ended AND balanced output. I can’t, from the top of my mind, think of any cheaper amp/DAC combo that gives you this option. Not only is this a cheap way (relatively speaking) to get a source with a balanced output but it also both sound and look amazing.
    For anyone looking for a unit in this price range to use with a laptop or computer the LH Labs GO2A Infinity is a very easy recommendation and probably the best sub $300 solution in this size that I’ve come across so far. It’s also a great option for people looking to try out running their headphones and/or IEM’s balanced. Did I also mentioned that it looks absolutely fantastic in red?
    Audio Quality: 4.5
    Design: 5
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Features: 4.5
    1. View previous replies...
    2. peter123
      @Larry Ho Thank you Larry! This is really a great performing unit, keep up the good work.
      peter123, Dec 5, 2016
    3. LoryWiv
      Thank you for a great review! can you give any additional info. about how to power this if using with an Android phone via USB 2 Go?
      LoryWiv, Dec 8, 2016
    4. DJ The Rocket
      @lorywiv I was wondering the same thing
      DJ The Rocket, Apr 5, 2017