Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

Crowdfunding – not just for Geeks?

Crowdfunding – not just for Geeks?

The world of traditional audio is sometimes not exactly at the cutting edge of modern life. It’s kind of understandable – a lot of it is entirely Boomer on Boomer action and, while we might not care to admit it publicly, our orthodoxies harden as fast as our arteries in our golden years. If we look beyond out little bubble, the world has changed, in ways we didn’t expect. Yes, of course that means significant changes in technology, but those changes have drastically shaped the way commerce happens today, and it’s only now that the effects of those changes are beginning to be felt in the audio field. And perhaps surprisingly, the outcome is a positive one.

Baby Boomers are no strangers to kickstarters; they were on those classic chopped Harleys and ‘ton up’ Triumphs that some of us rode while many more of us dreamed of owning. But to anyone under about 40, Kickstarter is the crowdfunding website that sprung up in the wake of the financial crisis. After 2007, entrepreneurs seeking seed-capital for start-up projects found investment was hard to come by. Starting in 2009, Kickstarter provided a platform for projects to be developed through public investment. Initially US only, Kickstarter has grown to accept projects from Canada, the UK and recently Australia. It divides projects into 13 categories, and although more than half the money raised on Kickstarter has been for Film & Video, Music and Games, there have been some notably successful projects funded through Kickstarter, including the Pebble smartwatch. Other crowdfunding sites – such as indiegogo – have followed suit.

Crowdfunding isn’t venture capitalism, and people invest in projects they want for themselves, rather than in something that might give them a return on their investment. That creates a distinct price ceiling to Kickstarter projects; if a project is not designed to appeal to the crowd, it won’t get crowdfunded. This is not meant as criticism in either direction, but it means if your project is a low-cost, high-performance device that is of interest to the general public, there will likely be enough potential buyers from within that crowd to succeed. Something of specialist interest that delivers outstanding performance at a high price is likely to fail, no matter how legitimate and justifiable the interest, performance or price may be.

But regardless, crowdfunded audio projects are relatively thin on the ground. Yes, there are plenty of innovative – but mostly pointless – audio-related projects, but things that are genuinely useful for the audio enthusiast are rare. It’s not as if the interest is lacking – U-Turn Audio hoped for $60,000 for its low-cost Orbit turntable, and got pledges of $233,940, from more than 1,100 backers, who are now beginning to receive their $150 turn-key turntables. It’s just that somehow, traditional audio appears immune to the crowdfunding revolution. But this is changing.


Crowdfunding is something the people at Light Harmonic understand perfectly. The company’s DaVinci range of DACs and Lightspeed USB cable are considered among the best examples of their respective kinds, but are ‘friskily’ priced. Light Harmonic qua Light Harmonic is a maker of hyper-expensive, super high quality digital products that have pushed the high-end computer audio revolution. However, Light Harmonic as ‘LH Labs’ is a high-tech company leveraging the skill set developed to create that high-end computer audio revolution, and putting it into £199 portable computer headphone ‘awesomifiers’ called the Geek Out and a matching desktop device (with line or balanced outputs) called the Geek Pulse.

The products are not marketed in anything even close to the traditional way we work in audio. Technobabble is banned. Deep product specs are irrelevant compared to the quality of the idea. Purple prose… forget it!  These are the kind of products people buy because they like the idea of them and that the performance moves things up a notch or three for the listeners (which, given the background of the LH Labs team, is pretty much guaranteed). The expectation is that the devices simply do what they are supposed to do, and do it well. The geeky bit of knowing what brand of chip goes inside… that’s for obsessives.

When the Orbit turntable was first crowdfunded, the audiophile retort was one of dismissal, missing the point in the process. A quick look at the stats on Geek Out shows such a dismissal to be ill-founded; it achieved its $28,000 funding goal in just ten and a half hours and went on to raise more than $300,000. Geek Pulse is proving just as popular; with a little over a month down and 22 days to go in its funding campaign, LH Labs has already reached its goal of raising $38,000 for the project… plus (at the time of writing) an additional $338,420. Or, almost 10x the original goal raised in 32 days.

The Geek Pulse project has also made this a little more like a computer game, in that there are additional goals that get ‘unlocked’ as the funding increased. The first of these ‘stretch goals’ – the Lightspeed Jr. USB cable has been achieved, and the funding required for an extended warranty should be added soon, leaving just the additional digital output option waiting for funding to hit $500,000. Right now, that sounds like a distinct possibility.

Crowdfunded projects are an exciting new aspect of our little world. Not only is it a way to help fund a project, allowing start-ups with genuinely exciting products to find a faster way to market at the outset, it also acts as an indicator of potential interest and – perhaps more importantly – potential success of a project. Which invites the obvious question – why aren’t there more audio companies raising their profiles and funding new projects this way?

For the moment, forget prices – the success of audio components like Geek Out on crowdfunding sites exposes the plot holes in the “good audio dies with the Baby Boomers” myth. It also shows that we are getting a lot of things dead wrong, by overcomplicating things that need to be easy (and fun) to use. Reinserting price back in the equation, this also shows that the overcomplicated audio system is intrinsically – and for many, unnecessarily – expensive. Yes, it’s great to have deluxe products in a proletarian world, but products like the Geek Out and Geek Pulse (among others) show not only is there interest in high-quality, low-cost products that aren’t pungent with the rich aroma of audiophile snobbery, but if you build it, they will come.

Read Next From News

See all
YG Acoustics Cairn Series

YG Acoustics Peaks series loudspeakers

YG Acoustics new Peaks series brings the company's famed engineering to a new lower price point.

LA Audio Society

Enjoy the Sponsors AudioCon LA 2022 Exhibitor / Press Party sponsors LA AudioCon 2022 - find out more here.

AURALiC & Amazon

AURALiC Launches Amazon Music Unlimited on All Products

AURALiC teams up with Amazon Music Unlimited.

Lindemann Musicbook Power II

Lindemann Musicbook Source II and Power II

Two new pieces in the expanding Lindemann Musicbook line-up

Sign Up To Our Newsletter