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Exogal Pulsar IR Unit Review

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Exogal was formed by several principals of the former Wadia who felt that the company’s PowerDAC idea still had potential. These seasoned audio and business veterans proceeded to make what has been a well-received DAC featuring its own algorithm that converts all incoming signals. I reviewed the Comet DAC in 2015, followed by another product from Exogal, the IonPowerDAC, in 2019. The PowerDAC is a second unit to be used solely with the Comet, and it provides two more banks of processing for the DAC as well as a super-clean integrated amp at 100wpc with a voltage-regulated volume control. I have found the Exogal products to provide consistently good sound with a variety of ancillary equipment and have been happy to use them in systems for reviewing since they arrived.

The Comet features a small display with a small IR remote control for basic functions such as ON/OFF and VOLUME +/-. The company expected customers would download the ExoRemote app onto their smartphone or tablet for a full experience. When the behemoth smartphone companies decided to change the purpose of certain Bluetooth features upon which the ExoRemote relied to supply Bluetooth connectivity, the app was rendered incompatible. Consequently, the Comet’s smallish window has become the only indicator available to owners to verify basic functions.

Exogal had two options, only one viable for the company: (1) recall all units and rebuild them, which, because there are thousands of units in the field, would likely result in the company being bankrupted; or (2) develop an independently designed remote control to allow access via the small window. Neither of these are ideal, and only one is practical for the company. An owner might say the company is required to re-establish all the conditions upon which the unit was sold. Were that to cause mortal financial damage to a company, I would agree that it is not a viable option.

Remedying the situation, Exogal introduced the Pulsar, a small USB-powered IR to Bluetooth receiver that will restore remote functionality to all Comet units, and complete with new features, enhanced capabilities, such as the capacity to operate multiple units and allowing for use with a learning remote, as well as more concealed placement than traditional IR receivers. The handheld remote for the Pulsar is physically identical to the old remote, although the lens of the transmitter on the front is clear.

According to the Owner’s Manual, the new Pulsar was equipped with “laser etched micro-lenses” which capture the IR signal from diffused IR signals. I tested this by placing the Pulsar off to the side of the Comet and behind a blocking object that completely hid the Pulsar, and yet it captured all signals without fail. Various red and green lights indicate status in setup, and the remaining blue, pulsing light, which shows once a link is established, can be turned off.

The particulars of setup are covered in the Manual. My unit arrived prior to the hard copy of the Manual’s dissemination, so at one point in my attempts to pair the unit with the Comet, the Puslar lost power even though connected via the Comet’s USB Charger port. Jeff Haagenstad, Exogal’s CEO, explained to me that this was not a malfunction, but instead a characteristic of contemporary very low-powered devices that when given inappropriate commands to sometimes need to sit unconnected for a few minutes to reset themselves. After about a three-minute wait for the unit to reset, plugging the Pulsar back into the USB Charger port brought it back up. Do not panic if you mess up commands in setup and the unit goes dark. It will recover and allow for the pairing process to be completed. This should not be an issue for anyone with access to the instructions.

Pulsar IR Unit in Exogal CEO Jeff Haagenstad’s office system

Operationally, the Pulsar has been perfect. Volume control through the Pulsar is uninterrupted and is faster than the previous Bluetooth remote.

I realize it is a frustration for a person to pay for a fix for a component that has lost functionality, but Exogal was blindsided by an industry-wide hardware change away from supporting their Bluetooth software remote.

My conclusion in regard to the Pulsar is that it does as advertised, and is a well thought out solution to an intractable problem.

I hope that Exogal navigates this choppy period with continued support from the users community to a future in which it can release more products. The company has shown creativity in product development, which is more impressive than companies that mindlessly clone and drone on with well-worn designs. I have not been apprised of future developments, but I would not be surprised if the company continues to be forward looking in term of its PowerDAC technology, while reducing the chance of being blindsided by something as seemingly innocuous as a Bluetooth connection.

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

 

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