Let me just say that I love this DAC.
What struck me, in direct comparison to AURALiC Vega DAC for example, was how relaxed everything sounded. The VEGA DAC, which has been a reference for a couple of years now, has an almost unforgiving nature — it can easily sound bright or a little bleached. Not the Vega’s fault, however — when fed a diet of quality audio bits, the sound is insightful, deeply detailed, and thoroughly illuminated. By contrast, the Comet from Exogal is almost sleepy. But the detail is still there! What isn’t, however, is any sense of edge. Even fed pretty so-so bits, the Comet still presents them as glorious music.
In the high-end, we talk about the merits of a solid-state system versus a tube-based system. Detail, deep bass, and ease-of-use are weighed against tone, timbre, engagement, and emotion. Which kind of audiophile you are is defined by choices that line up to those values, that is, to what you value. As a reviewer, I tend to split the camps — I have systems that do one thing and systems that do the other.
Getting back to a closer comparison, I can imagine that the Vega will have very broad appeal — because it’s tendency toward speed will enable many systems to sound far better than they actually are, or have any right to sound. Many headphone-based systems, especially ones that rely on tubes (based around a Woo Audio amp, for example), could get a much-needed jolt of energy from adding the Vega — and that change could revolutionize the listening experience (not as much as better tubes, but I digress). Many headphone-based systems that are already revealing (based around a Cavalli Audio amp, for example) may find that the Comet, by contrast, lets them hear music instead of just “great sound”.
A side note: we don’t really talk about the tech inside the Comet for a reason. That reason? It’s proprietary. Check out the review at Audiostream for some more details around it.
Another side note: the Comet does have an analog input and a headphone output, making it a full-function machine. Unfortunately, I found this approach to not be worth pursuing. I suspect the issue has most to do with the required use of the on-board volume control. Let’s just say that I’m not a fan, as the resulting sound quality is only “functional” instead of “great”. My advice — pretend those aren’t there and just use it as a DAC.
As a side note, if you do try out the Comet, give it some time. On first listen, I will admit that its sonic virtues didn’t scream themselves out at me. It was only after some time, realizing that I’d invested a lot of time listening to music through it, that it struck me how beguiling the Comet really is. Sleepy? Maybe. But in a Rip Van Winkle kind of way — watch out, or you’ll find you’ve grown a full-on Santa Claus beard during that last listening session.
The Exogal Comet picks up an easy Editors Choice award from the team here at Part-Time Audiophile, and as you probably already know, it picked up a Best of 2015 award to boot. Highly recommended.
By the way, the DAC has been thoroughly reviewed. Here’s a partial list:
- Audiostream, where it won an award.
- Headphone Guru, where our own John Grandberg reviewed it, and it won an award.
- The Absolute Sound, where it was greatly admired.
- HiFi+, where it was greatly admired.
- Soundstage, whom I’m pretty sure liked it.
- Ultra High-End Review did like it.
March 10, 2016
We’ve just learned that the Exogal Comet is now being sold direct in the USA by Underwood HiFi. Inquiries about pricing: 770-667-5633.