Exposure 2010S integrated amplifier Jim Austin, February 2006
The UPS man delivered the $1250 Exposure 2010S integrated amplifier to my house about a week before Art Dudley's full review appeared in the November 2005 Stereophile. I stuck it straight into my system and was immediately struck by how much it changed the system's sound. Reviewing amplifiers, I thought, isn't supposed to be this easy.
Along with digital front-ends, amplifiers are among the hardest components to characterize, and the Exposure was replacing a similarly priced, similarly powered, similarly British integrated amp, the very good but discontinued Arcam A75 Plus. Yet the difference in sound of the two components was starkly obvious from the outset.
So I was gratified, when the November Stereophile arrived, to read that AD, too, had found the Exposure a very different-sounding component. "Was this thing broken," he asked, "or was it actually righter than everything else?" He went on to call the Exposure "a positively magnificent little amp."
What set the Exposure 2010S apart was a richness of tone from the lower treble down that isn't often found in ca-$1000 British solid-state integrated amps, which tend to sound rather alike. Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sounded even better than usual through the 2010S singing Bach cantatas, and violins—especially in middle and lower parts of their range—sounded very good. The Exposure was rich and full on the low end; things sounded a bit more ordinary in the upper octaves, but I heard nothing to complain about.
I did notice one characteristic that AD didn't mention—or I thought I did. To my ear, the 2010S caused a slight de-emphasis—my listening notes say "rounding off"—of transients in, say, the attacks of piano notes. I noticed this first on Sir Roland Hanna's Swing Me No Waltzes (Storyville 8309). On this CD's first nine tracks, Hanna plays a Bösendorfer grand piano, a sound you seldom hear in jazz: full and rich in the lower and mid octaves, with a metallic quality, the notes having an increasingly percussive, almost harpsichord-like transient character as Hanna ascends the keyboard. I can hear that same transition on any good piano, if I listen for it, but when Hanna plays the Bösendorfer, it's hard to miss.
The subjective character of Hanna's recording had shifted through the Exposure 2010S. There was noticeably more ambience than I was used to hearing and, in relative terms, less emphasis on the percussive attack. Where I usually noticed transients first and richness of tone second, it was now the tonal richness that stood out. The transient information was there if I listened for it, but it was no longer the defining quality of Hanna's piano sound, as I've found it to be through other amps.
Complaints? About the sound, none at all, but I've got some logistical quibbles. The supplied remote is mediocre, with about a million buttons of exactly the same size, laid out in a regular grid; forget about hitting the right button without looking. Then there are the speaker connectors: there are two sets so you can biwire, but the Deltron connectors mean that, though banana plugs work just fine, those with spades on the amplifier end will need to reterminate to use the 2010S.
The Exposure 2010S made the music I'm used to hearing sound richer and fuller, especially in the midrange and lower treble, with perhaps a slight de-emphasis of transients. I don't know whether the Exposure is more true or less true to recordings than the other amplifiers I'm used to hearing, and I'm not sure it matters. I do know that it's rare to find a $1250 solid-state integrated amplifier with a sound so distinctive and so easy on the ear.—Jim Austin