help_outline Skip to main content

AAC New Banner

Shopping Cart

Need Help!

Geek Pulse Xfi versus Oppo HA-1
Author Last Post
I use v2.23 on one system (Intel NUC; Windows 10/64) and v3.26 on another (BioStar Motherboard; Windows 7/64), and v3.26 on a Dell notebook (Windows 10/64).

I have 2 Pulse fi. The the first one I funded in the initial campaign, but needed it RMA'd due to overheating and subsequent shut offs. Since they didn't have any spare main boards at the time, I received a brand new replacement in July '15. The replacement has worked flawlessly to this day, And I've attached it to all of the above PCs, using all driver versions. Most of the time it's attached to the Intel NUC in my main listening system.

The second one I'd recently bought on eBay at a very attractive price from another campaign funder; it looked new, and the box was still sealed with genuine LHlabs tape. Might have been a RMA replacement for that guy, since it has a serial number in the same range as my very first one from March 2015, but a fairly new MCU version 2.3.

The latter one died less than 30 hours into the experience. It happened after I'd unplugged the power strip when heavy thunderstorms were approaching fast, about two weeks ago. I had not used the power switch to shut it down, but the LPS-4 it was feeding from was on that power strip. The LPS-4, luckily, remains fine.

After powering up, that Pulse fi worked fine for a few minutes. Then it stopped playing in mid-song. The display, still working, is stuck at the last used sampling rate. Firmware showing Main 0.0 and MCU 2.3. That tells me the main board is gone because it's not passing its firmware version to the display board. (0.0 is not a valid option, I believe.) Also, that Pulse is not recognized as a USB device no matter what computer I connect it to. (Mac, Windows, Linux). I've tried all tricks, including many cycles of switching it on and off and trying on pretty much every USB port around.

I have yet to file a ticket with LHlabs - been too busy lately.

Hoping LHlabs stays afloat, honors the original backers' two year warranty, and my Geek Wave will eventually be built and delivered ;-)
I should advise forum members that the second case was answered by LH Labs a couple of days after I opened it.  They asked for more info about driver, Pulse firmware, etc. which I gave them.  I also described the power issues we have had with these units.  Here is their answer.  My Windows driver is version 2.23.
Reading your response, it looks like your unit is up to date with firmware however, your Windows driver is outdated. Please install LH 3.26 driver located in the email below. I have yet run into a problem with the Pulse being sensitive to power. I have personally rapid cycled these units and put them in many setups and have tried to make the components fail under extreme conditions and the Pulse always appears to power up and play accordingly. Can you specify the MCU version located under "Firmware Version" of the Pulse?  Can you also verify that the IR Sensor is turned OFF within the Pulse settings? The MUTE may be initialized by a user within range pushing the "Play/Pause" button from their Apple Remote.
Note that they suggest I upgrade the LH Labs Windows driver from 2.23 to 3.26, which is my question.  What is the Windows driver you are currently using?  The upgrade makes me "nervous" since I have to uninstall and reinstall the driver.
The agent also said: I will talk to Larry about your particular case and try to have this resolved as soon as possible.
Glad Sam was finally able to reach you. I discussed the problem with him and when I described it, he told me he was having the same problem. I have never experienced this problem with my unit, but I am very careful to discharge my static build-up on the Target equipment rack and not any of the equipment. Static Electricity is an extremely high voltage with very little current flow. It can't kill... anything but electronic equipment! Especially units that have solid state devices in them... such as PCs, preamps, DACs, etc.. It does this because the discharge is through tiny fragile circuit paths and the discharge follows the path of least resistance, wreaking destruction on the circuits it happens to pass through.
There are sprays that are effective when used on carpets and cloth seats that can really cut down on this type of static electricity. You can also get in the habit of discharging yourself before touching the equipment.
In the instance of power surges caused by loss of power and subsequent return of power, provision is usually made within the device to protect the circuits. Power switches usually have provision for some suppression of surges when they are operated (On/Off) and most equipment has some form of surge protection built in.
Plugging in or unplugging a power cord with the switch in the ON position may well bypass the switch/power supply protection and cause other protection to engage, as it did in Tom's case. In this case, muting the output, keeps the surge from blowing downstream equipment, especially speakers! I suspect that the equipment has to be re-booted a couple of times for it to revert to its normal operating condition. Better an over-sensitive muting circuit than one that's just a "little too slow".
It is always worthwhile to have the more robust surge protection of a device (power strip) specifically designed to offer more protection than usually built in to equipment!
Well, it turns out that the unit was not broken, but was "muting".  Sam P. told me that his unit occasionally mutes when he has a power issue (static shock, etc.) and suggested I turn it on and off several times to fix the muting.  It worked only after a couple of power cycles. On one cycle the volume "stuck" at the previous level, then the next cycle that was fixed (Sam experiences that also).  I have hooked it all up (SPDIF from SACD/CD player, USB from laptop, and balanced output to new preamp) and it is working.  The computer recognized the unit, so did not have to reinstall driver.  With the new preamp, I can now switch between the Maggies and the Stealth 8's almost instantly.  Can even play both at the same time .  I will not need the loaner unit for the picnic.
The bad (VERY disappointing) news is that LH Labs has YET to contact me in any way about my service ticket.  I even opened a second ticket NOT asking for a repair (RMA) but just advice.  No response from that case either.  I opened these cases 4 and 2 days ago and their website says response within 24 hours.
If I do not hear from them by Friday PM, I will post a negative review on "Yelp" (if they have LH Labs listed), and on the LH Labs site if they allow that.  This company is almost as flakey as my Pulse (extra ordinary sensitivity to power).
BTW, John gave me a ring later this morning (my time) to clue me in on some of what went on between Vincent Luke at iFi and our dear friend, Darren Censullo. While I'm still getting up to speed and intend to speak with both Darren and folks at iFi, what I've heard so far is deplorable at best, which puts me in kind-of an awkward position. I am a HUGE fan of their products, but I'm deeply disappointed with how they handled this (seemingly unnecessary) US distributorship transfer.

So, my recommendation of the iDAC2 and associated gear comes with the caveat that management at iFi has been making decisions recently that have negatively impacted our friends, iFi's customers, and distribution of their products in the US. I'll be a little more cautious about recommending their (otherwise amazing) products until I better understand what they are doing from a business perspective.
FYI, I also had very frustrating issues with my Geek Pulse Xfi. I spent a month trying to troubleshoot it myself before reaching my wit's end and contacting Light Harmonic. Tech support was very responsive in the beginning but once it was determined I needed an RMA they would not communicate with me for 2+ months. Finally, as a last ditch effort I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I received a response within 24 hours from Light Harmonic that they were proceeding with my RMA. I've since received a new unit and it's been working flawlessly. I completely understand your frustration, but don't give up on the Xfi and use the BBB if you must. They were very eager to solve my issues once the BBB was involved.
Hi Thomas,

Quoted Text
I just about had it with the Geek Pulse Xfi I got for a great price from the funding campaign.  Once again I am having to return it because the audio no longer works.  Unplugging it without turning it off (seems like a benign thing to do) did it in, it appears.

Now that I vented, I am wondering if the Oppo HA-1 which has the same features I need would be a good substitute.  At least it will not flake out at the slightest "mistake" - it would be a more robust unit for sure!

At the picnic I should have a loaner Geek Pulse (basic unit) to use, but am I thinking of getting the Oppo quickly sent to me to have before Sunday. 

Reviews of the Oppo are excellent.  Thoughts?

I have not had a chance to hear the HA-1 in my system; however, I'm currently using iFi's latest DAC, the micro iDAC2 which has been completely stable on Windows 10 with JRiver and Fidelizer. I found that it actually sounds better than the more expensive micro iDSD, which I think the club liked a lot during one of the earlier DAC shootouts which included the HA-1. Here are some papers/links that describe why the iDAC2 sounds the way it does:


The TL;DR is that it has a pure Class A output buffer and shorter signal path than it's big brother.

One potential problem is that the iDAC2 has no S/PDIF input...only USB. But if that will work for you though, my recommendation is that you order one from MusicDirect (in stock and ships today) since they have a generous 60-day return policy. Although they have an iPurifier bundle for the iDAC2, I strongly recommend that you pair the iDAC2 with iFi's nano iUSB3.0 power supply and Gemini USB cable:

In my system, this combo is definitely comparable to heavy hitters like the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil and better than anything else I've heard in my room so far. The big Yaggy may have a slightly larger soundstage, but both DACs are incredibly good at micro and macro dynamics and presence. I have lived with both of them without feeling like I was missing anything; however the iDAC2 + iUSB3.0 + Gemini combo is $740 vs. $2.3k for Yaggy!

Here's a current photo of the room with the iDAC2 and iUSB3.0 on the top shelf:

It's worth experimenting with USB cables between your PC transport and the iUSB3.0. I was using iFi's Mercury cable but found that I like the XLO UltraPlus UP4U USB cable better. Results are likely system dependent though, so again, it's worth experimenting if you can borrow a few difference cables from other club members, etc.

Sorry to complicate your search by possibly throwing another piece of gear into the mix, but I don't think you'll regret checking out the iDAC2 (assuming USB-only works for you). Also, virtually any DAC that you add to your system now or later will benefit from the iUSB3.0 supply and Gemini cable. Cheers and happy listening!

-- David
I agree with Horton. I believe that the HA-1 was perceived to be the most well received of the DACs we listened to that day. Unfortunately, the Geek Pulse was not among those DACs and I can't recall whether or not we have since heard the two at the same time. Both DACs can function as "pre-amps" when used with digital sources as long as discrete input formats are used. I know that the Pulse has two S/PDIF inputs, USB, and AES-EBU, and Toslink. I assume the HA-1 is similar.
I am also a little disappointed in the maintenance history of the Pulses. While most of them have operated flawlessly and provided excellent musical results, a few of them have had problems and been sent back to the manufacturer. I certainly understand Tom's concern! I assume that Light Harmonics will repair the unit and return it to him. At least he will have the opportunity to either sell it or retain it for use in another system. I know of a buyer if he chooses to sell!
Not sure what more I can add over the on-line reviews. I have used my Oppo HA-1 daily every since I got it some 2 years ago. I brought to the club for a demo last year and I think just about everybody agreed that it's pretty great. I don't use it that much as a headphone amp, but mostly use it as a pre-amp paired to my Hegel 160 amp. Either way it's excellent and highly recommended.
I just about had it with the Geek Pulse Xfi I got for a great price from the funding campaign.  Once again I am having to return it because the audio no longer works.  Unplugging it without turning it off (seems like a benign thing to do) did it in, it appears.
Now that I vented, I am wondering if the Oppo HA-1 which has the same features I need would be a good substitute.  At least it will not flake out at the slightest "mistake" - it would be a more robust unit for sure!
At the picnic I should have a loaner Geek Pulse (basic unit) to use, but am I thinking of getting the Oppo quickly sent to me to have before Sunday. 
Reviews of the Oppo are excellent.  Thoughts?
Return to Forum