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Exteris Audio EA300SW
By Dale Rasco

Exteris Audio, LLC is a technology company dedicated to the design, manufacture, and sale of innovative high quality outdoor speaker/audio products. The company founder is an engineer by degree with over twenty-five years experience in the electronics industry holding several engineering, manufacturing, and management positions. Recognizing a void in the market place for outdoor speaker/audio systems which rival indoor systems in sound quality and styling, he set out to develop robust outdoor speaker/audio products that look and sound good enough to be used indoors as well.

To be honest, like probably most of you here at Home Theater Shack, until the sponsorship and giveaway was announced I had never heard of Exteris Audio. So immediately I was concerned as there was nothing to really go on. There were some snippets here and there but nothing that I considered concrete information on how these speakers could perform. I had a brief call with Jerry, the owner of the company for some quick information and suggestions prior to the shipping of the products and by mid December they were on site, setup and ready to go.

Ok Dale this is March, what took so long? Well first off there was a lot of rain in Houston from Christmas until about the third week in January, which seriously hampered my progress. Before I knew it I had already lost about 45 days due to weather and an insane work schedule. In the end it all turned out for the best because after one of the mildest winter seasons in recent history, I was able to spend a lot of time throughout February cooking out and enjoying the EA300SW's in proper fashion; loud and with plenty of friends around to hear them.

EA300SW Specs

Drivers per Speaker:
Tweeter 1 - 1" Titanium dome / ferrofluid cooled
Woofer 1 - 6.5" Polypropylene cone with rubber surround
Subwoofer 1 - 6.5" Polypropylene cone with rubber surround

Frequency Response Overall 35Hz - 20kHz / lower -3db limit 45Hz
Crossover-tweeter/woofer 12db/oct at 3500Hz / air core inductors and polypropylene capacitors
Crossover-subwoofer 12db/oct at 120Hz
Nominal Impedance* 4 Ohms
Power Handling* 75 watts rms / 100 watts peak
SPL* 86db 1W/1m
Inputs Gold-plated / accepts banana connectors or wire (8ga. max)

Cabinet Size (as installed) 35-7/8" H x 8-7/8" W x 9-1/4" D
Footprint Size 12" W x 9-14" D
Cabinet Weight Upper ~35lbs. ea. / Lower (w/stereo) ~43lbs. / Lower (wo/stereo) ~35lbs.
AM/FM/CD Stereo Specific vendor/model will vary due to availability. In general, this will be a 4 ch marine grade unit with I/R Remote rated at approximately 20w rms power/channel (per CEA-2006 Compliant Std), and supporting MP3 player/USB inputs. Contact us for specific vendor/model information.

Delivery and Packaging
The first thing that I noticed was to the care and attention to detail that was given to how these speakers came shipped. The cabinets are each broken into two separate boxes and packed in form fitted hard foam that is even engraved with the Exteris Audio logo. It was pretty neat as I unpacked to see that the same hand packed experience was done for each of the units. Obviously being outfitted with a travertine veneer, these units are a bit heavier than your typical tower speaker. But the finish is absolutely beautiful once you get them put together and in the proper light.

Build Quality and Durability
The build quality is quite exceptional as you can see in the pictures below. They are sealed tight to keep the elements out and the backs of the unit are made using cement backer board rather than a simple coated piece of MDF that could warp and fail after a season or two. These cabinets are built to last! Unfortunately, due to the construction design necessary for the weatherproofing of these speakers I was unable to capture any pictures of the internals of these speakers.

For some reason I thought the units would be a little taller, but as it turned out they are actually the perfect height for their intended purpose. Assembly and initial setup took about an hour before I was able to actually listen to anything and initially I was fairly unimpressed with what I heard. Now let me explain something with that last statement. First of all I had done nothing with the unit's equalizer to really get a good mix and I specifically disobeyed one of Jerry's initial recommendations and listened to them inside the house rather than outside where they were designed to be listened to. The only reason for that was that it happened to start raining that day and I was a bit impatient after setting them up.

After several hours I was able to move the speakers on to the patio and spend some time getting them dialed in and this is where they really came alive. I spent some time trying to figure this out and have come to the conclusion that due to the denseness of the travertine, these speakers are not the best candidate for a locations that may be heavily carpeted or other wise have some sort of acoustic denseness to them already. I confirmed this theory when I later placed them in our open bathroom area, which has travertine floors, is about 80% tiled walls and is very spacious with plenty of reflective surfaces and the sound came alive there as well.

The denseness that I referred to in the paragraph above was an attempt to explain that the sound was not carried by a vibrating cabinet which is why it seemed to open up with more reflective surfaces available and appeared more subdued in a heavily carpeted and furnished room. This lack of cabinet effect, in my opinion, enables the EA300SW to reproduce audio in their truest form.

The EA300SW has very good response and the all in one design really gives you some diverse options. Having a CD player, AM/FM radio, a 1/16th stereo plug and a USB port for playing WAV, MP3 and other file formats directly from a USB flash disc and sporting an IR receiver for remote control makes this a very simple and elegant all in one design. This was a very thoughtful, planned, and well-executed design and I could not think of single thing that this design leaves out as the stereo system even includes a detachable face.

Once I got all of the pieces together and began testing all of the functionality of the speakers I ran into problem. For some reason the CD player would not accept a disc. I tried a couple of times to verify and sure enough it simply would not accept a disc. I sent an email to Jerry to get some help and he pointed to in a very pleasant way that maybe I missed figure 5 on page six of the setup manual and did not remove the two screws from the cabinet that are in place during shipping. I remembered the page he referenced and I even remembered to install the weatherproof caps into the holes, which is the next step in the process, but figure 5? I went right by it. Jerry was kind enough not crack any jokes at my expense and even asked if I had any thoughts on an edit that might help others avoid the same pitfall. Unfortunately the documentation pretty much spells it out and the only thing that would have helped would have been for me to slow down.

Now that I had everything ‘properly’ setup, I was able to test out all of the functions. The FM radio worked fine and was a lot clearer than I was expecting. The USB worked without an issue, the CD player (now properly setup) worked flawlessly and the 1/16th inch input worked without a hitch.

Subjective Listening
Well, here is where the rubber meets the road. How do these units sound? For reference material I used a combination of CD, FLAC (via PC) Spotify (via iPad) and some MP3 material directly from a USB drive.
Melody Gardot – Your Heart is as Black as Night (CD)
A friend of mine turned me on to this song as a reference source when he attended the Houston GTG back in November and it has easily gone to number one on my list when I am listening for how well a speaker images. This song can undoubtedly thrust you straight into a scene in your mind of a smoke filled jazz bar with Melody Gardot front and center and dead silence from the audience captivated by her velvet silky voice. To say I was surprised by the response of these speakers is a gross understatement. The imaging was flawless and the reproduction was full and very rich sounding. I could not detect any deficiencies at all. The piano came through with a very smooth, articulate and precise presentation and the lackadaisical nature of the lazy brushes on the snare were clear and added great ambiance to the entire song. Of course it would not be complete without the sultry vocal styling of Melody Gardot were perfect.

Five Finger Death Punch – Far From Home (Spotify)
Not the type of band that would normally follow someone such Melody Gardot but Far From Home by Five Finger Death Punch has also become one of my favorite reference pieces for subjective speaker listening tests. The raspy yet authoritative voice of Ivan Moody fills this song with tons of emotion and is the perfect balance to the sharp staccato picking of the acoustic guitars as well as to the punchy electric guitars and impactful bass drums during the chorus bridge of the song. The EA300SW really shined on this tune by delivering another perfect representation of this emotion filled song.

Kiyoshi Yoshida – Rising Sun (CD)
I really like this particular song because of the use of so many instruments. The wind instruments, the strings and the percussion all form a great pallet for this type of subjective listening test. From the plucky intro to the grand crescendo it really offers a very dynamic listening experience. Once again the EA300SW deliver on their promise with authority. Yes, we did have complaints by the neighbors but mostly because they would have preferred that I used Van Halen or Foreigner for my subjective listening tests.

The Black Crowes – She Talks to Angels (MP3)
It seemed like the perfect weather for a song like this. After all, it was 78 degrees outside in January and I was cooking on the grill so it seemed to fit in nicely. The acoustic guitars were very full and crisp sounding, especially on the bottom end. Acoustic guitar is a great test for me when it comes to speakers. I love a sharp yet full bodied sound of an acoustic, especially with a nice staccato picking pattern and while this particular song does not possess the picking patterns, it has the rest of it an the EA300SWs delivered perfectly.
Rasco's Wrap
So what are my overall impressions? Well, for each song that I listened to on the Exteris EA300SWs I played the same song on my Axiom Outdoor M3s and the advantage easily went to the EA300SW. The dynamics, the low end, thanks to the subs in the bottom cabinets and the overall sound reproduction of the EA300SW simply takes outdoor audio to a different level when compared to contemporary outdoor speakers.

Now there is another factor to also keep in mind here and that is the SAF/WAF of the EA300SW. These are absolutely gorgeous speakers when they are setup and in place and are a far cry better then the plastic coated MDF mounted bookshelf speakers that are usually option chosen by most consumers when shopping for an outdoor speaker setup.

"Ok Dale, but what are some of the downsides to these speakers?" Well I think my only real concern would be finding a way to properly anchor them to the ground. This would serve a couple of purposes. First and foremost it would prevent anyone from walking off with them when you are not home. Granted they are close to 80 pounds fully assembled, but it would not be anything for someone my size to pick them up and walk off with them. Second it would prevent the speakers from getting knocked over during one of the many cookouts that I host with friends and family with young ones running around. I am sure there is a way to do it and I did not speak to Jerry about it, as I am sure he would have a few ideas. That is about the only thing I could come up with that would need to be thought through for these speakers.

Now with all of that, keep in mind that these particular speakers MSRP at $1799 but what you get is an aesthetically beautiful speaker that has great fidelity and an easy to use all in one design that requires very little maintenance, if any. Just wipe them down every once in a while and apply some sort of sealer, as you would with any type of porous stone product that would be outdoors and you will be good to go.

I think it is important to point out that these speakers are ‘weatherproof’ and not necessarily ‘waterproof’. What I mean by that is when you install them you would do well to keep in mind not to put them directly under a roof corner that acts as a waterfall when it rains. The cabinets are designed to keep water out when it drops on top of the cabinet, but use common sense when placing them and all will be well.

After nearly three months and many, many hours, I have really grown quite fond of having such a great audio presentation outside where I like to spend time reading, cooking, surfing and just relaxing by the fire-pit. In fact, I have become quite attached to these remarkable speakers. Beautiful craftsmanship, perfect imaging and exquisite fidelity made the Exteris EA300SWs an absolute pleasure to review and nearly impossible to let go.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended!

Please use the Exteris EA300SW Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments!
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