As for a distinctive sonic signature, neutrality prevailed for the most part, though at times the 3010S2D’s character conveyed warmer, darker shadings, reminiscent of a walnut wood grain. Female and male vocals had realistic body in a distinct sense of place—with both feet on the ground, so to speak. On his Mule Variations Tom Waits’ voice had the requisite chest resonances and throatiness I’ve come to expect; Leonard Cohen’s vocals from Old Ideas, closely miked and darkened with age, seemed to emerge from a subterranean underworld. During violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, her violin’s top end was nicely extended, but not overly detailed or etched.
Could the sound have used a bit more top-end air? I think so, but importantly, there was a sweetness to the 3010S2D that was especially pleasing on full-bodied, resonant, acoustic instruments such as cello and bass viol. Bass response was equally musical and balanced with hints of tube-like warmth but all the while maintaining the tautness, pitch stability, and control that are the essence of a modern solid-state performer.
In my review of the B&W 805 D3 compact (in this issue) I point out the chameleon-like character of its brilliant diamond tweeter, a transducer so finely polished in its resolution that it doesn’t let any texture, distortion, or harmonic slip by. It also doesn’t suffer poor amplification lightly and will reveal grit and grain or any hint of treble artifacts. It was love at first sight for the B&W and the Exposure, and as I listened to Respighi’s Brazilian Impressions [BiS] the 3010S2 handled the delicate percussion cues with sensitivity and finely honed resolution.
While the Exposure is suitable to power most compacts and smaller floorstanders I always re-commend auditioning an amp while listening at typical volume levels to the loudspeakers you’ll pair with it. (Considering your room size is also important.) For example, my own ATC SCM20 compacts and their very naughty 83dB sensitivity elicited a bit of compression, and caused this 110Wpc amp’s bass grip to loosen slightly; an acoustic bass or a kick-drum lost a bit of the sheer, ball-fisted dynamic energy that a larger amp imparts with that power-hungry speaker.
In sonic colorations, the Exposure kept its nose clean. It didn’t hype treble frequencies, etch transients, or evince any pernicious tonal peaks or bumps. Its minor sins were subtractive at best. It could drive a speaker like the Vandersteen Treo CT beautifully across most of the frequency spectrum, and only when really pushed hard did the Exposure’s sound tend to relax and soften in the lower midbass; the potency of deep percussion dynamics was slightly reduced, and sustains were less discernable. Substituting the likes of a Pass Labs or an MBL Corona C51 restored a soundstage dimensionality and harmonic authority which the Exposure had backed off slightly. On the other hand, substituting either of these well-regarded amps could also send a carefully crafted audio budget swirling down the drain.
Don’t let the simple façade of the Exposure 3010S2D integrated amp fool you. It may not have outer glitz and glamour but it’s a real standout when it comes to inner beauty. The Exposure 3010S2D is an honest and classy piece of work that honors the finest traditions of the high end.
Specs & Pricing
Power output: 110Wpc at 1kHz into 8 ohms
Frequency response: 20Hz–20kHz ± 0.5dB
Dimensions: 17" x 4" x 11.8"
Weight: 25 lbs.
Price: $2795 (Options: mm or mc phonostage, $495; DAC, $595)
EXPOSURE ELECTRONICS USA, INC.
2993 Sandy Plains Road, Suite 125
Marietta, GA 30066