The Low-Cost Edifier e10 Exclaim Desktop Speaker
Edifier e10 Exclaim Desktop Speakers ($99)
Roughly two years ago, Tyll posted some pretty major news, venerable electrostatic headphone company Stax had been purchased by a Chinese company called Edifier. Edifier? Who the heck is Edifier? That's how I felt when I first heard the news, and most readers were probably thinking the same thing. Turns out the company has been around since 1996, has over 3,000 employees, distributors in 70 countries, and is worth something like $700 million. Who knew?
At the time, headphone aficionados worried about the direction Stax might end up going. After all, Stax is a firm legendary for its high-end electrostatic headphone systems being purchased by a company that primarily made consumer grade computer speakers. Would Edifier water down the iconic name? Headphone fans collectively shuddered as we pictured Stax logos being slapped on $99 dynamic headphones. To their credit, Edifier seems to have left Stax alone. No major changes, no real outward sign of new ownership at allexcept of course for the notable lack of bankruptcy. Their only new release post-Edifier is a simple refresh/update of their SR-003 in-ear model, which seems to have gone over well enough. So we can definitely draw some conclusions about Edifier based on what they didn't do to the Stax brand, but to learn more about the company itself I decided to try a few of their products.
The Edifier range of desktop speakers is quite broad, starting at $15 and topping out at $500. I figured the best approach would be to try a reasonably low priced option and then also a higher end model, to get a feel for what Edifier could do in different segments. I'll discuss the higher end model later on down the road. First up is the e10 Exclaim which sells for $99affordable enough for most, but not so cheap that it's guaranteed to be terrible. I made sure to choose a stereo pair rather than a 2.1 setup as I feel those are more geared towards gamers and people who just want as much boom as possible. This logic may not apply to more expensive models, and certainly there are some nice 2.1 systems out there, but with just $99 to play with I'd rather split the cost two ways instead of three.
The first thing you notice about the Edifier Exclaim is the appearanceit looks like a shrunken down version of a high end speaker; sort of a mash-up of the Gallo Reference 3 and a Martin Logan hybrid electrostat. Each matte-black spherical base houses a fairly heavy duty 3-inch driver and matching passive radiator. The tall, angled silver column portion sports dual 40mm drivers with an oblong 1.5" by 3" passive radiator. Add it up and you end up with 6 drivers and 4 passive radiators total. That's a lot to keep track of... how to properly integrate all of it?
The answer ends up being fairly extensive for such an affordable product: biamplification combined with digital signal processing (DSP) and dynamic range compensation (DRC). Each speaker has its own amplification16W for the dual drivers handling mids/highs, and 10W for the larger driver on lows. Doesn't seem like a ton of power, but my reference Serene Audio Talisman speakers only have 15W per channel and those never feel underpowered in nearfield situations. With DSP and DRC working its magic to keep distortion at bay and help keep frequency response peaks/dips in check, Edifier hopes the E10 will be more balanced than the average $99 competitor.
Despite their seeming complexity, the Exclaim speakers are very simple when it comes to features. The left unit gets a trio of buttons handling power and volume adjustment, and that's it for user interaction. Based on their price and intended use I don't really think a remote control is necessary here, so to find it omitted is no disappointment. Another simplificationjust a single 1/8" analog input. A Texas Instruments PCM1808 ADC converts incoming signals to digital, which is necessary for all the processing about to take place. If this was a more expensive product I'd expect a USB input but as it stands I think the analog-only approach is acceptable.
I do have mixed feelings about the choice to use a 1/8" jack rather than RCA connectors... I guess makes sense for connecting smartphones, laptops, even desktop computers straight from the line out jack (which is almost always in the same 1/8" format). That's probably the target market anyway. I just think the speakers are good enough the budget audio enthusiasts might want them in a system driven from a DAC/headphone amp unit, and in those cases RCA would be more convenient. But adapters are cheap...