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Very Brief Review: LH Labs Geek Pulse Xfi DAC + LPS


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After an unbelievably long wait, I finally received my Pulse Xfi. LH Labs has been curb stopped and bludgeoned endlessly on various fora for project delays, too many products, etc. so no need to rehash any of that.

 

I am using it with my LH Labs LPS. I kept my expectations in check and figured if it sounds just OK, I'll use it at the office (that was the original plan anyway).

 

Well, I gotta say, Larry Ho knocked it out of the ballpark on this one. This is an absolutely killer sounding combo. It is bumping my much loved Bel Canto out of the main system. Tone, balance, detail, soundstaging, imaging, highs, mids, lows.... sonically, it has it all. I have no complaints whatsoever (other than the dull and boring chassis which I really don't like, but that's what you get when you crowd design) and I am now glad I jumped on the early pricing at Indiegogo. I wasn't so sure about my investment earlier.

 

That's it for my review as I will be trading in the Pulse for the Vi DAC Balanced Tube model once it is shipped (later this year, or perhaps next year, who knows), but until then, damn, this is one fine unit and in terms of sound quality and feature set, I believe it will absolutely be competitive with other DAC's at the proposed retail price.

 

Audi 5000

Speakers: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen/URendu | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus/Lampizator Golden Gate | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | Revel B112 subs  

Headphones: Lampizator Golden Atlantic/Holo Spring 3 KTE | Blue Circle Audio SBT pre|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman HE-1000SE/Arya Stealth/Audeze LCD-4z

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After an unbelievably long wait, I finally received my Pulse Xfi. LH Labs has been curb stopped and bludgeoned endlessly on various fora for project delays, too many products, etc. so no need to rehash any of that.

 

I am using it with my LH Labs LPS. I kept my expectations in check and figured if it sounds just OK, I'll use it at the office (that was the original plan anyway).

 

Well, I gotta say, Larry Ho knocked it out of the ballpark on this one. This is an absolutely killer sounding combo. It is bumping my much loved Bel Canto out of the main system. Tone, balance, detail, soundstaging, imaging, highs, mids, lows.... sonically, it has it all. I have no complaints whatsoever (other than the dull and boring chassis which I really don't like, but that's what you get when you crowd design) and I am now glad I jumped on the early pricing at Indiegogo. I wasn't so sure about my investment earlier.

 

That's it for my review as I will be trading in the Pulse for the Vi DAC Balanced Tube model once it is shipped (later this year, or perhaps next year, who knows), but until then, damn, this is one fine unit and in terms of sound quality and feature set, I believe it will absolutely be competitive with other DAC's at the proposed retail price.

 

Audi 5000

 

I'm an uncertain Geek Wave contributor, so it's nice to know the product sounds good.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Thanks for the review. I'm still waiting for my Xfi, partly because I opted for the THD upgrade and naked resistors. I already received my LPS 4 power supply. I contributed to the campaign that ended 12/27/14. I wrote LH Labs but they do not know when the Pulse will be shipped. When it eventually arrives, I'll have to compare it to my W4S DAC2 DSDse first, as like you, I was just going to use it as an office system.

 

Colin

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*edit: I intended to write "curb stomped" not "curb stopped". I'm not sure what 'curb stopped' would mean in my review context. :(

 

Colin, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.... just a guess.

Speakers: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen/URendu | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus/Lampizator Golden Gate | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | Revel B112 subs  

Headphones: Lampizator Golden Atlantic/Holo Spring 3 KTE | Blue Circle Audio SBT pre|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman HE-1000SE/Arya Stealth/Audeze LCD-4z

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Nice review. Thank you. My Geek Pulse Xfi arrived two days ago, 18 months after I joined the campaign and 12 months after I received the power supply. (Maybe that is just the way crowd funding works!) I wont be able to set it up until next week, but you have given me something to look forward to. Originally, I bought it for my desktop system, but if your review is on target, perhaps it could compete with the Bryston BDA2 for a place in my main rig.

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I forgot to mention... you are going to want to let this baby play for at least 4 or 5 days non-stop before you pass any judgment.

Speakers: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen/URendu | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus/Lampizator Golden Gate | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | Revel B112 subs  

Headphones: Lampizator Golden Atlantic/Holo Spring 3 KTE | Blue Circle Audio SBT pre|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman HE-1000SE/Arya Stealth/Audeze LCD-4z

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I'm an uncertain Geek Wave contributor...

 

Thought I heard they canceled that project and used the funds for virgin wool berber carpet for the warehouse. ;)

 

I do have a base model Geek Pulse from the very earliest batch. It does sound quite nice with HQ Player (and a decent LPS), but it only works 50% of the time and the volume control does not work at all. I need to send it back, but it has been handy to have as my main DAC's USB input is deep inside the chassis and not convenient for REGEN testing, etc.

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Though I don't have any other high-dollar DACs to compare it against, my "Infinity" (i.e., all available upgrades) model certainly sounds wonderful - I've demoted my iFi Micro iDSD to my travel kit.

 

Unlike Superdad's, mine works 100% of the time and volume control is just fine. Very pleased with my purchase, especially for the price (~$1,000 for both the DAC and LPS).

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > Topping D90 > Topping A90 > Dan Clark Aeon 2 Closed / Focal Elegia

Home Theater - Mac Mini running Roon Server / AppleTV > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Denon X3700h > Anthem Amp for front channels > Revel F208-based 5.2.4 Atmos speaker system

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After an unbelievably long wait, I finally received my Pulse Xfi. LH Labs has been curb stopped and bludgeoned endlessly on various fora for project delays, too many products, etc. so no need to rehash any of that.

 

I get you saying you're going to forego rehashing the "curb stomping," but I am sorry: I have got to say how displeased I am with LH Labs.

 

This will be the second time today I've posted (both times about LH Labs) and I hardly ever post unless it is something related to the minutiae of the mathematics behind digital audio. Anyway, LH Labs has lost my respect through the way they've treated their customers; I don't care what anyone says but I think contributors are customers and how they are treated ultimately reflects the philosophy and culture of a company. I mainly hold Gavin responsible for LH Labs blatant greed and quasi-"social engineering"-like marketing (don't know how to describe it). I watched with dismay over the last two years while these guys promised one thing and then tried to milk their contributors out of just a little bit more and still a little more just to get them to upgrade to what many thought they were getting in the first place. Incredibly, lots were biting too!

 

I contributed for an Xfi over 18 months ago and I'm glad I read that Gavin guy right right from the start and didn't send LH Labs one dime more. Real dirtbag type no matter how one justifies the business of making money.

Rob C

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Oh...and no, I still haven't received it.

 

It would have to be significantly better (and I mean significantly) than any other offerings from their competitors before I would ever consider buying anything from them again.

Rob C

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I get you saying you're going to forego rehashing the "curb stomping," but I am sorry: I have got to say how displeased I am with LH Labs. ...... I contributed for an Xfi over 18 months ago and I'm glad I read that Gavin guy right right from the start and didn't send LH Labs one dime more. Real dirtbag type no matter how one justifies the business of making money.

 

 

Hi Rob,

 

I got your story now. Sorry to hear what upsets you. I'd be angry too. Somehow Geek reminds me of how Apple keeps their customers upgrading their gears. :( -- except Apple products are tangible most of the time -- I am not familiar with the "contributors" thing. Since I am so old, I'd be worried that I drop d--d when it finally arrives. I normally avoid buying anything that doesn't come in a week. Life is too precious....my anxiety will shoot up if something that good doesn't show up for 18 months... :(

Cadela swims/moves/hears like an Olive Ridley turtle. She can't complain much, but can still audit audiophile equipments in her turtle speed.

 

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/olive-ridley-turtle

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I was thinking about an Apple comparison too...almost even included the comparison in my first post. But after thinking about it I concluded that Apple's business model is different in that, while yes, they rely on convincing people to upgrade, there is usually an incremental release of performance and more importantly features that are planned and executed on devices that are very complex in what they do. And in a controlled ecosystem.

 

LH Labs, on the other hand, is in the business of audio equipment--not full featured operating systems and devices with complicated interoperability (arguably...no not arguably), even if LH Labs would like their consumers to buy into thinking so. The last thing high end audio needs is someone trying to create an ecosystem. For the most part, any DAC should work regardless of what amp you use. In fact, any departure from plain interoperability would be ridiculous and ultimately I believe the audio marketplace would take care of such a model.

 

And trust me LH Labs is not Apple. What LH Labs did is convince a group of investors to lay money down on a promise. And they could have delivered on that promise if they chose to but instead got greedy and started conceiving ways to socially engineer techniques to get their investors to give more...for the exact same promise! It was ridiculous! And trust me LH Labs doesn't see it that way while a very large number of very pissed off investors do!

 

Back to delivering on their promise: more evidence that they took the route of greed. After receiving millions from investors for one and only one product, the Pulse, they saw dollar signs and reminded everyone that there are no refunds. Since the money was already captured they proceeded to try to repeat the success of the Pulse campaign and released new concept product after new concept product to capture more money. And without actually delivering any product! What do you think happened to the first project, Pulse? That's right...back burner. After all, that money was already captured and no refunds because refunds were "out of their hands." They came up with excuse after excuse about board delays, bad batches of this and that...and even if you believe them or even if all thousand delays were actually true it has been nothing less than a PR disaster for them. It's as if they refused to see how what they were doing looked to all their customers. I, personally, don't get how they couldn't see it and how they couldn't anticipate that some of us would become vocal about it. That means to me it was a conscious decision on their part.

 

I love computer audio and I really enjoy this community. Therefore, I feel compelled to share with fellow forum members this possible cautionary tale. LH Labs is not the real deal. Many out there feel they broke a promise and it stands to reason that if they've done it once (twice...about a dozen times really), then regardless of whether or not they have a problem breaking promises at all, they will do it.

 

What other shortcuts are these guys doing? I wouldn't believe half the stuff that comes out of Gavin's mouth or even half of the measurements they "claim."

Rob C

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I have experienced all the frustrations that many are complaining about with Geek Pulse - 18 month wait, "upgrade opportunities" that turned a $300 DAC into a $900 Dac, customer service confusion etc. However, I attribute these problems more to incompetence and inexperience than to greed and dishonesty. I can't get as worked up as some.

 

As for the Geek Pulse Xfi, I had a chance to listen to it a bit, mostly on a pair of Sennheiser Hd 650s, and a briefly on Audioengine A5+ with Sub. I have to say it really does sound very good. I listened to five or six well-recorded albums, mostly classic rock, and I enjoyed them immensely. A full and coherent sound, great detail, really fun to,listen to. I ended up the evening getting totally lost in Blue Oyster Cult "Tyranny and Mutation" of all things! You don't think of heavy metal as satisfying headphone music exactly, but it sounded wonderful. The Pulse certainly represents an upgrade for my desktop rig, and I am tempted to try it the main system. I think the OP has it right: for the just-under-$1000 that I paid for Dac and LPS4, the fit and finish are nothing special but the sound is fantastic. I should think the headphone/headfi people would really like this unit.

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would u pay full msrp?

 

Superdad has an interesting post here: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f6-dac-digital-analog-conversion/official-light-harmonic-geek-pulse-and-linear-power-supply-prices-100%25-200%25-higher-msrps-listed-during-campaigns-21894/

 

oh my!! $2K++ for a DAC..

It's like investment, commodity investment in gold, silver, platinum or crude oil, except this little DAC outweigh those commodities, in my opinion.

 

I envy, admire, and cheer for those who paid msrp... economy indexes need a boost! (no kidding.) I just wish I'd have a chance to really audition them even if dealer knows I have 0 chance to purchase them.

 

Guitar center is already scary to me... Musicians who are making ends meet are poor in general.

Cadela swims/moves/hears like an Olive Ridley turtle. She can't complain much, but can still audit audiophile equipments in her turtle speed.

 

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/olive-ridley-turtle

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would u pay full msrp?

Definitely not.

 

But I'm still questioning myself if any Pulse - regardless if it's a standard, X, Xfi or maybe the Infinity in its new chassis - will ever be available via a reseller.

 

So far none of the Pulses were available besides LHL own maket store.

Why is this? Because they are not competitive "on the market" due to the cheap looking chassis?

 

So far it looks to me that they announce them during the campaign with very high MSRP's to attract the "backers" but in the end they reduce the prices at their own store (see the current prices of the Pulses/LPS compared to the "announced" once during the IGG campaigns).

 

Why is this?

 

Because LHL recognizes that those devices won't be bought at those original prices?

 

Lot's of questions and maybe I'm exaggerating .

 

Probably I'm mistaken and we see them at the retailer shelves. Looking forward to those prices.

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I'm not sure. It's not a ridiculous idea on the face of it: the Pulse is a great sounding DAC.

 

Retail for Pulse Xfi with the LPS is about $3000. I have a Bryston BDA2 which cost me $2400. Perhaps I will try a comparison, although it is a lot of work switching a couple of DACs in and out! I will say that the Geek Pulse will never look as nice as the Bryston, but the choice is about the sound quality in the end.

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