Exogal Comet loaner program!
Apr 18, 2018 at 1:39 PM Post #16 of 31

Zadok

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Ok so here are my impressions of the Exogal Comet Plus DAC, lent generously to me by Todd from TTVJ.



In general, the Comet is fairly feature heavy. Having a remote, multiple types of inputs/outputs, an integrated hp amp, and bluetooth antenna is a lot in the DAC world, especially because this is not really advertised as a combo unit. I didn't test out the bluetooth feature because I don't have any wireless headphones, but it is really cool to have in case I would get some in the future because my computer does not have built in bluetooth. I found the remote to be difficult to use sometimes, though. I'd think I'd found the right angle to point at the unit (even right next to it), but it wouldn't always respond. I didn't test with other batteries, so maybe the loaner batteries are on their way out? I personally don't need a remote at all, but since there weren't any manual buttons on the unit, it was the main way to control it.



For the review, I had my schiit bifrost and the comet connected simultaneously to my Apex Sangaku amp for quick A/B switching between sources to compare the DAC sections specifically. I also used many of the songs I heard during my time with the Questyle CMA600i. My headphones used were my Audeze LCD3 with a silver dragon premium cable.



Straight to the point, the biggest strengths of the comet over the bifrost and the questyle were definitely soundstage and track separation. One of the albums I often use to test new gear is Fox Territory's Degressive Fusion because it is a good example of music that can get quite busy and some of the instruments are compressed (truncated treble), so setups weaker in separation and soundstage will sound very muddy with this album. With the comet, however, the instruments were spaced more definititively, and while I knew there was a vocal track in the mix, there were parts of the songs that had subtle humming vocals that I had not heard with my normal equipment.



Another thing I liked was that the comet was not pounding you in the face with the notion that it was better. It didn't overaccentuate the details it was retrieving just to prove that it could find them. This was apparent in the Flamingosis albums I heard, which feature many samples from 70's disco and 90's r&b alongside new studio produced instrumentals. Going from A to B, the music was so much more lively and crisp, yet it was hard to put a finger on why besides everything taking on a more “studio quality” character. It was just better. Pardon my lack of reviewer jargon. They sounded recorded in a much more quiet room with better microphones.



Heavily produced, modern EDM style tracks did not benefit from the comet nearly as much as tracks with acoustic instruments or live performances. If it was made on a macbook synthesizer instead of recorded in a studio, there aren't really details to retrieve since every note in that recording was planned and never was “recorded” since it originated from code, but I think that holds true for all DAC comparisons.



I did not test the unit without the upgraded power supply because if I were to purchase this DAC, I would get this power supply since my house traditionally has some issues with ground looping and power conditioning, which were not an issue with the Comet. If I had to give concluding remarks, it would be that the Comet did everything I would want a high end DAC to do. I feel much of the price was on the power supply (worth it) and some extra functionality (I personally don't need most of them). I wouldn't use it with the integrated amp section, but the actual stereo amp addon that wasn't included would be a dynamite combo imo. I can recommend this DAC to someone who wants a feature rich, effortless DAC without any weird peaks or "personality"
 
May 7, 2018 at 2:50 PM Post #17 of 31

Monsterzero

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A sad today as the Comet departed from my system and was sent back to Todd. Here are my thoughts on the ExoGal...

First let me get the bad stuff out of the way.

First and most importantly to me was the head amp section. I found the side placement of the headphone jack to be entirely inconvenient.Perhaps its the internal ergonomics of the design,I dont know,but I absolutely did not like having to create several inches of clearance space to the right of the Comet just to plug and unplug headphones. I would gladly accept a larger case if needed to have the jack in its usual front placement. If this was ExoGal's attempt at being edgy,they failed.

To further expand on the head amp section,I feel as though its more of a convenient offering rather than a viable amp option. It did not have the umph to wow me when driving several of my headphones,notably the ZMF Atticus. At 300 ohms and 100db sensitivity it isnt the hardest headphone in the world to drive,but the sound was just average. On my harder to drive headphones I didnt feel as if the Comet was on par with dedicated amps. On the opposite end of the driving spectrum,The Comet over drove the Campfire Cascade, adding too much bloat to an already bass heavy sound signature.

I think that anyone who can afford to add the Comet to their chain can and should plan on having a dedicated headphone amp in place in addition to the Comet,and using the Comet strictly as a DAC,where the Comet truly shines.

Another issue I had was the remote control was incredibly finicky, as Zadok mentioned in his review as well

I found the remote to be difficult to use sometimes, though. I'd think I'd found the right angle to point at the unit (even right next to it), but it wouldn't always respond.

I never did find the "sweet spot" to get the remote to respond.I did replace the batteries and also connected the BlueTooth antenna,to no avail. The Comet does not have any physical dials,so in order to control the DAC and amp/preamp volume I had to download an app for my LG V20 and use it to control the Comet. While that did work mostly fine,I feel for a product in its price range these types of issues shouldnt have to be dealt with.

Onto the sound.... I used the Comet to feed my La Figaro 339,as well as my beautiful Kenwood Eleven GX vintage receiver which in turn drives a pair of Focal Aria 905s in addition to my K240 sextetts.

Wow! Simply put this is the best DAC I have heard in my system,period. While my time with the Questyle 600i made me appreciate my AGD R2R-11 even more than I did prior,The Comet humbled my R2R-11 in a very convincing manner. Granted were talking about a vast price gap,but I now get an idea of what a 3000.00 DAC brings to the table,and I liked what I heard.

Sheldaze wrote in his review


I would describe it...you know one of those scenes from the movies, where a bunch of people are sitting in a conference? Think FBI thriller, where everyone is focused, looking at a screen from surveillance footage. It's a picture of something, but the details are a little fuzzy. Then the boss says that silly line, "enhance" video.

I totally get what he meant when he wrote that. The Comet has a way of adding air and separation to individual instrument tracks that sounds truly lovely,allowing each track to hang in the air a bit and allows the listener to appreciate a familiar song in a different manner. By doing so there was a nice sense of three dimensionality to songs. I would stop a bit short of calling my experience "holographic",but it was impressive nonetheless.


The bass was another aspect of the Comet that I felt was nice. Big and tight,bass lines never sounded bloated or compromised on any genre of music yet sounded authoritative and impactful.

While I thought that there was incredible detail to be heard in the Comet I rarely heard any glare or harshness. Not as warm as a resistor to resistor DAC design, it was still a very pleasant and non fatiguing sound.

In closing I want to thank Todd for including me in the Comet tour. I would stop short of saying this is the ultimate all-in-one solution amp/DAC combo but being run strictly as a DAC I am duly impressed by what I heard.
I look forward to seeing what ExoGal has in store for the future. I would def suggest they rethink the headphone jack placement as well as placing some sort of physical way to control the unit without having to use an app or a remote that simply refused to comply for me. I think the sound signature however is worthy of its pricetag...It was a true pleasure having the Comet in my home.
 
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May 7, 2018 at 9:48 PM Post #18 of 31

jhaagenstad

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Hi there! Thanks for all the comments. I just thought I'd provide answers to a couple of things I saw. Re: The headphone jack. Wasn't an attempt to be "edgy" or clever or anything like that... Our honest assumption of the "Use Case" for the thing was: "Honey I'm going to bed. Can you finish that album with the headphones?" And he'd plug in, catch the last few songs and call it a night. We have to confess complete surprise at the number of people who actually use it first and foremost as a dedicated headphone DAC. Rest assured that any future products will have a jack right up front and use a much better quality amp. Lesson Learned! Re: The remote. We don't like it either and we never did. We assumed it would be used until you downloaded the app and then tossed it into a drawer. We seriously considered not even including a remote (but then we remembered how much Aurender pissed us off when they did that and reversed course!) We're all app guys (because our phones are always with us) and using the app is much more convenient. And the Apps give you more info than the screen does. And you can read it from your chair... We get that a lot of people don't want to use their phones or just buy a cheap iPod ($180 retail) to use as a remote but the customers we're trying to reach use their phones for everything. I'm not trying to insult you if you don't find smartphones and the apps to your taste - I'm just saying that you weren't our target customer when we made this choice. You can't be all things to all people all the time and choices and compromises had to be made. What is really important to us is the sound quality. Please feel free to ask questions or tear me a new one if you want! - Jeff Haagenstad (CEO of EXOGAL)
 
May 7, 2018 at 10:31 PM Post #19 of 31

Monsterzero

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Hi there! Thanks for all the comments. I just thought I'd provide answers to a couple of things I saw. Re: The headphone jack. Wasn't an attempt to be "edgy" or clever or anything like that... Our honest assumption of the "Use Case" for the thing was: "Honey I'm going to bed. Can you finish that album with the headphones?" And he'd plug in, catch the last few songs and call it a night. We have to confess complete surprise at the number of people who actually use it first and foremost as a dedicated headphone DAC. Rest assured that any future products will have a jack right up front and use a much better quality amp. Lesson Learned! Re: The remote. We don't like it either and we never did. We assumed it would be used until you downloaded the app and then tossed it into a drawer. We seriously considered not even including a remote (but then we remembered how much Aurender pissed us off when they did that and reversed course!) We're all app guys (because our phones are always with us) and using the app is much more convenient. And the Apps give you more info than the screen does. And you can read it from your chair... We get that a lot of people don't want to use their phones or just buy a cheap iPod ($180 retail) to use as a remote but the customers we're trying to reach use their phones for everything. I'm not trying to insult you if you don't find smartphones and the apps to your taste - I'm just saying that you weren't our target customer when we made this choice. You can't be all things to all people all the time and choices and compromises had to be made. What is really important to us is the sound quality. Please feel free to ask questions or tear me a new one if you want! - Jeff Haagenstad (CEO of EXOGAL)

Hey Jeff, thanks for commenting and providing insight into the logic behind choices made with the Comet.

Allow me to suggest at the minimum a physical volume knob on the front of your next product. Many folks including myself have our music players set to 'random' and while a certain track might require a 95 volume to sound good,the following track might be mastered hot,and that 95 is going to blow out ones eardrums. As you might imagine when that occurs theres no time to find a phone,bump up the app and make a volume adjustment.

To be honest between the jack placement and the app required to control volume it dissuaded me from even wanting to use the Comet as an amp. I get that perhaps the standard issue Head-Fier might not have been the target audience,but here we are.
Did I read correctly that the headamp section uses a different DAC section from the main DAC,and if so can you explain the rationale behind that decision?

As I mentioned I really did enjoy the sound signature of the Comet.Your company has my attention and will be keeping an eye and ear open to further products. I hope in the future that the headphone community isnt an afterthought and is included in your target audience.
 
May 7, 2018 at 11:27 PM Post #20 of 31

jhaagenstad

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We're putting a volume knob on the X2 through X4 models of our Vortex Streaming Hub family and it will also adjust the Comets volume. And the X4 also has a higher quality headphone amp and it can be used as a standalone Streamer/DAC/Headphone Amp. That will be out this summer so hopefully you'll check it out.

As I said, we were surprised that people would want to use the Comet as a Standalone Headphone DAC and the reason we used a different chip was that it was more appropriate for a headphone... Just not the better grade that the folks on this forum might choose! We got this part wrong but we learn our lessons!
 
May 8, 2018 at 1:20 AM Post #21 of 31

Zadok

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I appreciate the personal and direct responses. Honestly, because my review time was only a week, I didn't get into a rhythm with the unit, which would probably had led to exactly a scenario like you mentioned, where I used to App instead of the remote. I just was so focused on the sound that I just did a "Does it work?" process on the accessories, then moved on.

It seems users on this forum are starting to gravitate towards all in one solutions these days for the sake of simplicity, so I think a comet with a dynamite amp section would be a 1-2 punch killer.
 
May 10, 2018 at 8:21 AM Post #22 of 31

skullguise

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Chiming in as a long-term Comet (Plus) owner of a couple years....even owned two for a while until I consolidated one of my systems. Agreed with the thoughts here. I'm currently using my Comet to drive my Stax system, balanced outputs to a Mjolnir Carbon amp and SR-007 Mk II phones. Just love it! I've also used a Comet Plus in my speaker-based system, driving different amps at different times (never tried the Ion though; my favorite until that was a Job 225 amp). One additional thing about the Comet I love is the analog input. I still use vinyl, and had my phono pre plugged in there. Even with the extra A/D conversion, still very good sound.

I tried the headphone amp once....it was OK on easy to drive phones, but I knew I'd be using it as a DAC only. Refreshing to hear Jeff acknowledge its limitations.

And lastly, agree on the remotes. The very first one just sucked (size of a car key fob), sorry Jeff. The next one was better, and I didn't have any issues finding the sweet spot due to proximity and direct line of sight to the unit. But another option is the App, I used it when I had my second Comet, both in my speaker system and headphone system.

I know distribution was going round and round, glad to see things settled, and glad TTVJ is one of the retailers.

Looking forward to many more great things from this company!
 
May 10, 2018 at 10:28 AM Post #23 of 31

jhaagenstad

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Hey! No worries! I'm not one of those guys who looks at something we did that sucks and spends time trying to convince you that it doesn't suck! We know it sucks. And like I said, we learned our lessons... But fear not, I'm sure we'll do other things that suck in the future!
 
May 10, 2018 at 12:04 PM Post #24 of 31

Monsterzero

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Hey! No worries! I'm not one of those guys who looks at something we did that sucks and spends time trying to convince you that it doesn't suck! We know it sucks. And like I said, we learned our lessons... But fear not, I'm sure we'll do other things that suck in the future!

Do you guys plan on releasing a self contained headphone amp/DAC combo in the future that wont require the sale of body parts to afford?
I ask because I got the impression that the X2-X4 products you mentioned prior were going to be additional to the Comet,as opposed to in lieu of.
 
May 10, 2018 at 12:31 PM Post #25 of 31

jhaagenstad

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The Vortex X4 will be a standalone Streamer / DAC / Headphone amp (much better than the Comet's!) and it can be used as a standalone headphone system without a Comet. Our target MSRP is about $3,000. Hopefully that's a price point that will keep your body parts all attached to you! (It's pretty hard to stuff all of that into a chassis at a lower price unless we compromise on the sound quality. Other companies make that choice and we think that's not all that smart! Other companies may also do it as a "Loss Leader" and we think that's also a dumb strategy. If we can't be profitable, then we're not here! #RealitySucksSometimes)
 
May 10, 2018 at 1:05 PM Post #27 of 31

jhaagenstad

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Hmmm... my thoughts on an R2R DAC. To get my real thoughts would probably require more Bourbon than you have handy... Seriously, though: We do DSP stuff. Never say never but I can't see a reason why we'd do an R2R DAC. To properly implement one, you have to be extremely precise in component selection, assembly techniques, and everything involved in order for it to be precise and accurate. Keeping the response curve linear is a whole 'nother nightmare. A computational DAC like the Comet makes it light year's easier to get high precision and linearity. I know that some companies are going back to R2R but honestly I think that's just an example of the old adage that "everything old is new again". Every manufacturer (including EXOGAL) is looking for something to differentiate themselves and get attention. Sometimes people find an innovation, sometimes they go retro... Sometimes they copy from someone else, sometimes they give up and go for Snake Oil. It's a tough business!
 
May 10, 2018 at 1:18 PM Post #29 of 31

Todd

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HI All,

In response to me doing a loaner on the new Exogal products, I will do my best to provide that for folks to listen to in their own systems. Once they are released I will be working with Jeff to make that happen!

And, thanks Jeff for joining the conversation. Your input is invaluable.

Thanks to all who participated in this loaner program. I will continue to loan the Comet out to those who are interested in buying it. Contact me - todd@ttvjaudio.com to inquire.

Todd
 
TTVJAudio.com Todd Stay updated on TTVJAudio.com at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
 
http://www.ttvjaudio.com/ todd@ttvjaudio.com

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