Geek Pulse


$499.00 Released July, 2014

Product Shot 1 Geek Pulse by Light Harmonic's LHLabs division is a high-definition, desktop-sized, USB Class 2 Audio device (aka a "sound card"), a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC), and a headphone amplifier all-in-one.

It was co-created by Larry Ho (the President of Light Harmonic) and Gavin Fish (the VP of Sales and Marketing). Many design requirements, refinements and significant input on the project direction was provided voluntarily by a community of passionate backers and Geek product line aficionados known collectively as the "Geek Force." Light Harmonic operates a free forum for the Geek Force at lhlabs.com. Membership is free to all.

The Geek Pulse is still under development and is due to be released by Q3 of 2014.

Collaboration

Larry Ho recently told the Geek Force, "I really want to say thank you for your patience. Good products need good details, and good details need a lot of time. During the development process, ESS chief designer, XMOS head programmer and support, TI's top FAE and a lot of top engineers all get partially involved. This is a ground breaking product by its size vs. power, by its high definition, by its never-seen-before test results. Your patience will be worth everything."

Features

The Geek Pulse performs the following functions:

DAC

Geek Out can play music sourced from various standard and high-resolution audio sources and formats. Its format support is identical to the Geek Out, for which Light Harmonic provided this image:

Headphone Amplifier

Geek Pulse has an integrated headphone amplifier.

3D Awesomifier

Geek Pulse has a digitally-controlled analog "3D Awesomifier" circuit that provides for a more natural, loudspeaker-like listening experience. It is based on the well-known concept of "crossfeed" employed by other headphone amplifiers and adds some additional, proprietary psychoacoustic "secret sauce" that Light Harmonic has thus far been quiet about.

Models

The Geek Pulse has a number of options:

Geek Pulse

Geek Pulse is the entry-level offering in the Pulse family. It is a single-ended, stereo DAC and headphone amplifier (with a selectable 100mW, 500mW, or 3000mW output level to support a wide range of headphones). It has a 1/4" headphone jack on the front and stereo RCA line-out jacks on the back and receives input via USB, coaxial S/PDIF, and optical TOSLINK.

Geek Pulse X

Geek Pulse X is a balanced version of Geek Pulse. Externally, the differences between the base Pulse model and the X are additive (the Pulse X has all the Pulse offers and more). Additional connections include one 4-pin balanced headphone output on the front-panel and on the rear, two additional XLR (line-level) outputs and one AES/EBU digital input.

Internally, Pulse X doubles almost all of the internal components, including the DAC IC and the analog signal amplifiers. Geek Pulse X uses a dual mono (aka "mono-mono") design. Additionally, Geek Pulse X employs Nichicon Muse capacitors in the decoupling stage, and the analog stage features a dual mono, high-bias class A module with high-precision, non-inductive Caddock resistors. Further refinements are being considered as Larry Ho continues to test the design.

The Pulse X was not initially an option but came about in response to the Geek Force.

Geek Pulse S

Geek Pulse S benefits from the same differential and dual-mono design as the Geek Pulse X, but it features single-ended outputs. Once the design for Geek Pulse X was accepted and refined, the Geek Pulse S became one of the most requested Geek Force additions.

History

Geek Pulse started as an Indiegogo campaign on October 28, 2013. It ran until December 27, 2013 and raised an astounding $1,174,075 USD against a $38,000 USD goal from 6,340 contributions!

A second Indiegogo campaign was started on January 2, 2014 for taking a second wave of orders and allowing contributors to the first campaign to select additional perks, pay for international shipping, etc. The current campaign ends on February 02, 2014.

Availability

The Geek Pulse is anticipated to be complete in the summer of 2014. The Indiegogo campaign is currently the only way to order one.

Specifications

As with any product, there's more going on underneath the covers than quick overviews will allow for. Here are the current specifications for Geek Pulse family:

Geek Pulse

Core DAC ICESS9018K2M
TopologyFully balanced from single DAC IC then single-ended
Digital Inputs Configuration1x USB 2.0 Type B Female, 1x TOSLINK, 2x S/PDIF RCA
USB ReceiverXMOS planned, Amanero in testing
Internal Clock2x Audio grade, low jitter TCXO, one USB dedicated
Supported PCM Bit DepthUp to 32
Supported PCM Sample Rates (KHz)44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384
Supported DSD Sample Rates (MHz)2.822, 3.072, 5.644, 6.144 (Only for USB 2.0 Input)
Line Out Output Config1x pair Single-ended, gold plated RCA
Line Out (RCA) Output Impedance47 Ohm
Line Out (RCA) Output Voltage4Vrms max variable
Line Out (XLR) Output ImpedanceN/A
Line Out (XLR) Output VoltageN/A
Line Out Voltage GainSelectability being discussed; TBD
Headphone Jack(s)Single-ended, 1/4" TRS
Headphone (1/4") Output Impedance0.47 Ohm
Headphone (1/4") Output Voltage7 Vrms max
Headphone (XLR) Output ImpedanceN/A
Headphone (XLR) Output VoltageN/A
Digital OutS/PDIF via RCA
Headphone Amplifier GainJumper-selectable 100mW, 500mW, or 3000mW
Amplifier TypeClass A analog output stage
THD+Nbetter than 0.005%
SNR110dB (unweighted)
115dB (A-weighted)
Jitter Removal TechnologyPatent Pending 3L Buffer by Light Harmonic
Dual loop re-clock for all digital audio inputs
Volume Control64-bit precision digital
Volume Control InterfaceRotary encoder on faceplate, software driver on PC
3D Sound Technology3D Awesomifier (On/Off switch and LED Indicator)
Power Input12V DC
IR RemoteIR port, but no remote included. Will support Apple Remote and possibly some additional, discrete commands
Included In PackageLightSpeed Jr. 1m USB Cable, Switch-Mode Power Supply, power cord
Warranty2 years

Geek Pulse X

Items in red differ from the base Geek Pulse specification.
Core DAC ICDual ESS9018K2M
TopologyFully-balanced from twin DAC ICs operating in dual-mono mode, balanced outputs
Digital Inputs Configuration1x USB 2.0 Type B Female, 1x TOSLINK, 2x S/PDIF RCA, 1x AES/EBU digital
USB ReceiverXMOS planned, Amanero in testing
Internal Clock2x Audio grade, low jitter TCXO, one USB dedicated
Supported PCM Bit DepthUp to 32
Supported PCM Sample Rates (KHz)44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384
Supported DSD Sample Rates (MHz)2.822, 3.072, 5.644, 6.144 (Only for USB 2.0 Input)
Line Out Output Config1x pair single-ended, gold plated RCA
1x pair balanced XLR
Line Out (RCA) Output Impedance47 Ohm
Line Out (RCA) Output Voltage2 Vrms max variable
Line Out (XLR) Output Impedance90 Ohm (47 Ohm * 2)
Line Out (XLR) Output Voltage4 Vrms max variable
Line Out Voltage GainSelectability being discussed; TBD
Headphone Jack(s)Balanced XLR 4-pin female, Single-ended 1/4" TRS female
Headphone (1/4") Output Impedance0.47 Ohm
Headphone (1/4") Output Voltage3.5 Vrms max
Headphone (XLR) Output Impedance0.8 Ohm
Headphone (XLR) Output Voltage7 Vrms max variable
Digital OutS/PDIF via RCA
Headphone Amplifier GainJumper-selectable 100mW, 500mW, or 3000mW
Amplifier TypeClass A analog output stage
THD+Nbetter than 0.003%
SNR116dB (unweighted)
Jitter Removal TechnologyPatent Pending 3L Buffer by Light Harmonic
Dual loop re-clock for all digital audio inputs
Volume Control64-bit precision digital
Volume Control InterfaceRotary encoder on faceplate, software driver on PC
3D Sound Technology3D Awesomifier (On/Off switch and LED Indicator)
Power Input12V DC
IR RemoteIR port, but no remote included. Will support Apple Remote and possibly some additional, discrete commands
Included In PackageLightSpeed Jr. 1m USB Cable, Switch-Mode Power Supply, power cord
Warranty2 years

Geek Pulse S

Items in red differ from the base Geek Pulse specification.
Core DAC ICDual ESS9018K2M
TopologyFully-balanced from twin DAC ICs operating in dual-mono mode, then single-ended
Digital Inputs Configuration1x USB 2.0 Type B Female, 1x TOSLINK, 2x S/PDIF RCA
USB ReceiverXMOS planned, Amanero in testing
Internal Clock2x Audio grade, low jitter TCXO, one USB dedicated
Supported PCM Bit DepthUp to 32
Supported PCM Sample Rates (KHz)44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384
Supported DSD Sample Rates (MHz)2.822, 3.072, 5.644, 6.144 (Only for USB 2.0 Input)
Line Out Output Config1x pair single-ended, gold plated RCA
Line Out (RCA) Output Impedance47 Ohm
Line Out (RCA) Output Voltage4 Vrms max variable
Line Out (XLR) Output ImpedanceN/A
Line Out (XLR) Output VoltageN/A
Line Out Voltage GainSelectability being discussed; TBD
Headphone Jack(s)Single-ended 1/4" TRS female
Headphone (1/4") Output Impedance0.47 Ohm
Headphone (1/4") Output Voltage7 Vrms max
Headphone (XLR) Output ImpedanceN/A
Headphone (XLR) Output VoltageN/A
Digital OutS/PDIF via RCA
Headphone Amplifier GainJumper-selectable 100mW, 500mW, or 3000mW
Amplifier TypeClass A analog output stage
THD+Nbetter than 0.003%
SNR116dB (unweighted)
Jitter Removal TechnologyPatent Pending 3L Buffer by Light Harmonic
Dual loop re-clock for all digital audio inputs
Volume Control64-bit precision digital
Volume Control InterfaceRotary encoder on faceplate, software driver on PC
3D Sound Technology3D Awesomifier (On/Off switch and LED Indicator)
Power Input12V DC
IR RemoteIR port, but no remote included. Will support Apple Remote and possibly some additional, discrete commands
Included In PackageLightSpeed Jr. 1m USB Cable, Switch-Mode Power Supply, power cord
Warranty2 years

Additional Perks

In addition to the above options, a number of additional options were made available to Indiegogo backers. At this time, it is believed that only Indiegogo backers will have access to these specific upgrades, as they will be too expensive to include in the mass-produced product.

Femto clock

This upgrade changed the internal clocks to Crystek "femto" clocks:

  1. Crystek special customized ultra-low jitter TCXO clocks x 2. (One at 90,316,8000 Hz, and one at 98,304,000 Hz) -- 85 Femto (85 * 10 ^-15) Second Jitter in 100M Hz region.
  2. Sub 1.0uV voltage reference supported dedicated clock power shunt regulator
  3. This mod is 100% internal

A "femto" clock is a super-duper-accurate clock. It's the abbreviated term for femtosecond, which is one quadrillionth of a second. If used properly in a circuit design, it can greatly reduce or virtually eliminate periodic errors in interpreting a digital signal (aka 'jitter').

Low jitter means a cleaner signal path, which results in a more natural listening experience.

Active Components Upgrade

Also known as the "$1 Million Dollars" upgrade, this upgrade improves the op-amps in the most critical current to voltage pathway and first stage of amplification. More detailed information on this upgrade is forthcoming.

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