All those white earbuds apparently aren’t telling the whole story of how much people appreciate high-quality audio content. Just a few months ago Neil Young’s high-resolution audio device Pono raised a shocking $6 million to build a—wait for it—triangle-shaped portable player that claimed to sound better than normal music players. Now, a second audio company is raising a hefty amount of money to do the same.
Geek Wave is a new portable audio player that, among other things, confirms the ability to listen to quality audio on the go is something people want. As the project hits its final hours, it has safely cleared a million dollars in crowdfunding with an initial goal of $38,000.
The Geek Wave chose a less controversial—rectangle—design than Pono did, something that should fit in a pocket easier. The more interesting aspects, however, are inside the device. It’s able to play standard MP3s, but also claims to be the world’s only 32-bit/384 kHz PCM capable and native DSD player. Meaning it can literally play the best audio content available anywhere.
The Geek Wave device supports all lossless and lossy formats and is powered by 10 processing cores: a dual-core MIPS32 MPU from Microchip Technology and an eight-core 500MIPS CPU from XMOS. There’s a 3,100 mAh user-replaceable battery to support the power being consumed by playback.
If the portable Geek Wave is starting to sound like an audiophile’s dream rather than an iPod replacement, you’d be right. Nothing about the device is really targeted at the average consumer. Everything from its $399 retail price tag for the 64 GB version to its complicated ease of use.
iTunes can’t really handle the higher-end audio formats well, if at all, and so Geek Wave buyers will get (for an additional $20) GeekPerfect software. The Mac software is a partnership with BitPerfect, which will work in concert with iTunes and allow it to be the main playback software. It will accommodate DSD playback as well as "squeezing the best possible audio quality from your Macintosh computer."
Unlike Pono, Geek Wave isn't getting into the content business. Pono is trying to appeal the mainstream by giving users a store to buy high-quality music, but Geek Wave buyers will need to continue to acquire music from their previous locations.
Interestingly the high-end audio device will also be able to support Wi-Fi streaming. The Zero Transmission Jitter Wi-Fi add-on will stream music over home networks while keeping an eye on not compromising the signal quality over the air.
There’s a more complicated answer, but, in short, the solution for Wi-Fi streaming is for the files to get buffered using local flash memory. This should make them as good as locally stored music on the Geek Wave. Wi-Fi streaming will support most 2.4GHz frequencies including B, G, and N.
A lot of people are still waiting to see how these high-quality audio devices like Pono and Geek Wave do outside of crowdfunding and in the hands of real people. Will they be relegated to the niche audiophile community or pick up a real audience?