||Exclame, Integrated hybrid valve/solid state
|Power Output 8 ohms
||2 x 150 Watts
|Power Output 4 ohms
||2 x 180 Watts
|Power Output 2 ohms
||20 Hz to 50 kHz (+/- 0.5dB)
|Signal to Noise Ratio
||0.15% (1 kHz, 1 W)
||1 x Phono MM RCA coaxial, 4 x line level RCA
||1 x pre out (sub/power amp)
||115 x 438 x 330 mm (HxWxD)
SUPPLIED BY Valve Audio
Dear and valued reader,
I have a confession to make. This entire AVNews concept is actually Schalk’s fault.
It came about because I was browsing on Facebook for the first time in literally months. And the very first image that popped up was an all new all aluminium Black Widow with new heat sinks and and and.
It looks stunning. So I mailed Schalk and jokingly offered him a review on it – and he said, “sure, where?”.
Today you get the answer and it is “Here”.
But it is not the Black Widow I am sorry to report. Instead, my obligations to give Schalk an honorary freebie of a glowing review are not in full force and effect and I can instead be ruthlessly honest about this smaller Exclame offering from him. It arrived without a remote and when I collected it was also missing its lid. Schalk put that back on after a listen in his system which exposed me to music I haven’t heard in ages and some of which I used in this review. Janis Ian by way of example – it must be 20 years since I listened to her critically and ‘This House’ is still every inch a cracker. Some U2, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson to fill in the morning and then it was back home with the amp in tow with the time spent seemingly all too brief.
The Exclame was installed without too much drama. RCA connectors got it hooked up to the Node as source, speakers cabled into the usual places on the amp. As expected all connections were solid and ooze quality – there is nothing like a good attaching of cables to give one a sense of solidity underpinnings to the forthcoming musical revelations!
The volume pot moves with reassurance and given that I had the amp sance remote I spent some time with this particular knob. It’s been a while since I had to get up to adjust listening levels and one forgets how much of a pain in the ass it actually is. That is of course tempered with the gratifyingly easy excuse of not having to engage with the outer world since after all, you can’t be expected to get up and lower the volume for said engagement. It’s unreasonable!
On paper the amplifier specs look good without being exceptional. Its just as well then that I did this review long before obtaining the specs because it just goes to show how specs on paper can be indicative without being definitive.
I mostly listened to the amp seriously when it was warmed up – it takes a minute or so to physically switch itself into operational mode from the time you turn it on but I found that it sounded at its best after an hour or so when running at mildly warm steady state temperatures. But from the time the thing turned on its hard to have to wait – and so more often than not what was supposed to be an hour turned into several. And when up and running this is an amp that takes control.
The Exclame is not shy. This is not an amp that sits in the background and watches things unfold. It is an amp that makes things happen and it does so on its own terms. I got the sense that the Exclame, whilst not forward in its approach by any stretch of the imagination, was nonetheless not going to allow matters musical to unfold without its express say so.
There are pros and cons to this approach. The primary con is that issues being brought in with the music are going to be exposed and as much as I enjoy amps that seem to roll sibilance or digital brightness off a bit, the Exclame is not the tool to hack this out. If you bring a compressed lifeless recording to the party the Exclame is not going to revive it – it is going to give you a shovel and point to the pile of dirt and watch whilst you start digging.
The other con is more subtle. On really good recordings at reasonable SPLs the Exclame appears to almost back off a bit it in its enthusiasm to be seen to be the centre of attraction. It is almost as if the circuitry was built for good music played well (loud) and this is where it is happiest in performing. Certainly there is no wanting for a lack of power. Surprisingly though the Exclame can be as subtle as you like and you’ll hear this particularly in good space recordings – by this I mean those recordings taking place in larger spaces where you get a cymbal clash fading into silence. It is challenging for circuitry to deal with and a good amplifier will be able to give you silence instantly whilst leaving enough reverb hanging to keep the illusion alive. Feed it a good recording and you’ll quickly see what I mean.
The pros on the other hand are many and they are excellent. The power rating on paper seems conservative and whilst adapting for power based on impedance doesn’t appear to the the Exclame’s forte on paper the listening experience didn’t reveal any shortcomings in my ears. Bass slam is on point and mid range slap and tickle is under complete control. The speaker drivers simply don’t have the option but to comply and are brought into the musical picture as the amplifiers partner. There is also no measure of hardness allowed to creep in with the airy tops sibilance free with a delicate poise and with the correct weighting.
Schalk has pulled off a great integrated amp in the Exclame. It is not cheap, but it is value for the money and it will take its place amongst far more expensive competitors quite comfortably. If you’re considering an integrated amp in this league you’d be a fool not to give this one a close and serious audition.
And your thanks/blame to him for inspiring AV News!