Watch this space! Before long, the Exogal name will be springing up time and again, in the systems of music lovers and audiophiles who know their way around good sound. The Comet DAC is the first shot from this bold ‘new’ brand, combining digital converter with an output stage of the sort of quality and drive to make it a viable digital hub/preamplifier in its own right. There’s a matching power amp to follow. This could be the start of something truly special.
What’s with the ‘air bunnies’ around the word ‘new’ in the last paragraph? Exogal may be a new player in the game, but it has some very wise heads on those young shoulders. One of those heads is Jim Kinne, and his audio hits include Wadia’s highly respected 27 Decoding Computer. The Comet is in essence the distillation of a career (or three) designing ultra-high performance audio devices.
Exogal – like Wadia before it and Chord Electronics today – eschews standard DAC technology, instead using an FGPA (field gate programmable array) for the conversion process. Six of them in fact, each acting as stereo DAC chips for the balanced, single-ended, and headphone circuits as standard.
This array of FGPAs is inherently ‘open ended’. It’s less of a DAC design set in stone, more of a digital platform capable of significant upgrades through firmware. While nothing is ever entirely ‘future-proofed’, this inherently upgradable design means your Comet DAC is less likely than most to fall obsolete. Any prospective change is just lines of code: even if tomorrow we end up listening to multichannel music, with those six fully programmable DACs in tow, the task is not beyond the Exogal’s reach. We shouldn’t play down the amount of work required to write that putative code, but for the end user, it offers some guarantee against your Comet being Last Year’s Big Thing.
The other great advantage to a fully programmable array is this allows for custom filter options, and the Comet offers one linear, two minimum phase, and one spline filter. These options are best accessed using the smartphone or tablet app, rather than the teeny tiny remote supplied with the Comet.
Where the Exogal really moves into ‘tomorrow’ technology is it has a pair of line-level phono inputs, which pass through a custom 24/96 A/D conversion, which is upsampled to 24/384 for internal use. This turns the Exogal into a digital hub.
I was never lucky enough to spend enough time with the Wadia 27, but what little time I spent with it left its mark. It was one of the most natural, unforced, exciting, and detailed converters money could buy, and even today its performance would be hard to replicate. Except the Exogal Comet does just that. It doesn’t serve up a clone of the Wadia 27 sound, but it has that same sense of music unconstrained by the electronics being played, especially in soundstage terms. You get a sense of why that ‘holographic soundstaging’ cliché exists when you hear something like ‘Church’ from Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth [MCA]; those handclaps and voices from the choir really do appear in a three-dimensional space in front of the listener, whatever the system.