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Cafad

Integrated Amps: An Addicts Guide Part, The Third.

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Maybe my cables are the cause for my harsh treble too. :D

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6 hours ago, audio_file said:

Maybe my cables are the cause for my harsh treble too. :D

Could be worth ordering a pair of Aurealis Dragon ICs.  They certainly worked well for me.

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6 minutes ago, Cafad said:

Could be worth ordering a pair of Aurealis Dragon ICs.  They certainly worked well for me.

And me also.

The Dragon is easily the best IC cable I have used /tried and is better than most at 5 times its price.

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Naim is best with DIN, as the plugs are suspended to reduce microphony.

 

I have improved my high frequencies by miles over the years, and it doesn't sound nearly as harsh as it once did.

 

The changes I remember were:

Witchhat and Achtung interconnects, Naim NAC A5 speaker cable, IsoTek Sirius EVO3 power board, IsoTek Sequel EVO3 power cords, and the Naim FlatCap XS.

 

I have been told some of these can not possibly make a difference, but after reading the comment about this amplifier being as much as 5 times as sensitive to cables as others, makes me wonder if maybe I was right and not senile after all.

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1 hour ago, rantan said:

And me also.

The Dragon is easily the best IC cable I have used /tried and is better than most at 5 times its price.

That's a hell of a lot of Cables if it beats "most at 5 times it's price". Would like to know all the Cables it did beat.

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I've been working on a review of the exposure 3010S2 for a few weeks now but a series of either colds or flu like viruses have slowed me down quite a lot.  I think I've finally given them all the flick as I'm feeling pretty good this morning so I've managed to complete my write up.  (the GTG at Mikes yesterday may also have increased my audio excitement levels just a wee bit)

 

I was contacted by Andrew at Audiofix back in June, he asked me if I would like to review some of the gear that he imports.  I was a little cautious at first as he wasn't a SNA sponsor and I wasn't sure how that might sit with the powers that be.  However now he is an SNA sponsor with his own sponsors forum (which I will paste this review into for the sake of easy future reference) with all the trimmings that come with a sponsor deal with the site that we all love to inhabit.  Andrew has offered to let me take home an amp or two in the future and maybe even a set of speakers as well. (I have to give them back again afterwards, but no deal's perfect)  So here's hoping he doesn't mind this first review, otherwise things could get a little on the awkward side.

 

IMG_0750.thumb.JPG.efd0410522e54816ca7b97123db53175.JPG

 

The Exposure 3010S2D is actually the 5th Exposure component I’ve heard.  I have had in my possession in the past a 2010S2 integrated, a classic 28 power amp, a classic 23 preamp and a 1010 integrated.  They have all had the clean, understated faceplate on them and they all had the company name embossed on the front of them without the use of a capital “E”.  Yep, all lower case, even on the showcase MCX series.  I guess the use of capital letters might get potential customers too excited, probably best to keep them calm as they demo.   Seems like a very “British” thing to do.

So, Exposure will never score high on bling factor alone.  But, like NAD, the company prefers function over form.  The classic components carried a very deep and smooth sound, nicely detailed music played in front of a dark background.  The 2010S2 had a similar sound but it carried with it a very liquid feel to the mids and a very relaxed, laid back presentation.  The 1010 was a nice component at its price point but it really did sound like the baby of the range.  And now, at long last, I’ve managed to get the last of the crop of integrated amps into my lounge room.

Before I start on how it sounds I feel there are a few things I should mention.  One is that the three series of integrated amps, from 1010, through 2010 to 3010 are not really a straight forward climb up a conventional model ladder.  You don’t just get more watts for more cash as you work your way up, the designs are different as are the sonic signatures.  Are they similar, yes but are they the same, no.  Very much not.  The 2010 has a passive pre section while the 3010 does not (I can’t find much info on the 1010, it could be either) and I would not be too surprised if some who like the sound of one are not too fussed on the sound of the other.  I quite like both, but for different reasons.  The 2010 is excellent for slower pieces with slow instruments and soft vocals, the 3010 excels at faster paced music.

Another is the meaning of the “D” suffix.  It does not mean that every component marked with a “D” contains a built in DAC, what it does mean is that every component can be fitted with an optional DAC.  This optional DAC is fitted in the same place as the optional phono stage, so with Exposure integrated amps you get a choice of either DAC or phono card, but not both.

 

As an introduction to the Exposure, sorry, exposure 3010S2 I would say that it is light on personality but big on capability.  This can be a double edged sword in some cases as even though many people claim that they want components that sound as close to neutral as possible it is often the case that amps that don’t impress in the short term can be quickly shown the door by prospective buyers.  The 3010S2 is light enough on personality that it is a piece of cake to tell the difference between sources when using it.  I initially plugged it into my system with my Densen cd player, because that was the one I was using just prior to its arrival and I found that I wasn’t too fussed on it.  The sound was smooth but the bass didn’t go all the way down.  So I swapped out the Densen for my usual YBA Heritage cd100 and presto the deep bass was present and accounted for once again.  I also learnt something about the Densen sound and it isn’t a common thing for an integrated amp to teach its user about how individual sources sound.  I have also noticed that the 3010S2 reacts well to the Burson Conductor being used as a source, it likes that bit of extra punch that the Bursons’ DAC section has over the DAC in my YBA.  Music via the Burson is markedly more dynamic with more impact.  Nicely done 3010S2.

 

I tried two different sets of Aurealis interconnects, my old faithful R1s and my new Dragons and found the Dragons to be slightly preferable to the R1s.  I initially used my Aurealis UP420 speaker cables and really enjoyed their combination with the 3010S2 but I concluded that they were colouring the sound (even though I enjoyed the effect I wanted to listen to the amp rather than the cables if possible) so I swapped them out for my Redgum Audio Pipeline speaker cables, these have become my standard speaker cables over the last few years as they don’t seem to carry much of a sound of their own.  The speakers are my Lenehan S2R stand mounts, but I do have more to say later about the 3010S2 and the little KEF LS-50s.

OK, let’s dive in.

 

Highs: The 3010 feels like it reaches all the way up, no roll off is noticeable, trumpets are nice and raspy, triangles sound appropriately sparkly but with more of a vibrant feel than usual.  The treble can feel a little bright at times but never enough to be annoying or distract from the music.  Softly played piano is sweet and sultry while hard played piano actually sounds hard.  I feel this is important as while listeners often expect piano to sound soft and sweet all the time pianos can sound rather hard and harsh if they are played so and if they are played that hard then they really should sound that hard.  8.25 for like-ability, 8.75 for respectable accuracy.

 

Mids:  The mids on the 3010 do not stand out from the top or bottom end, they are not focussed upon or massaged in order to take centre stage.  It is difficult to rate this but it is easy to respect it, many amps make the mids stand out and some even cut off the treble and/or the bass to do so but not the 3010.  There may be a little additional warmth to the lower mids, I suspect it comes up from the bass.

 

Bass:  Strong and deep and surprisingly subtle when needed.  Drums have plenty of energy and the smaller ones a nice sense of air to the initial strike of stick on skin, through the bass in the middle of the note and the die off after.  It is also capable of projecting a strong feel of basal undercurrent (in other words it can growl both subtly and deeply, sometimes at the same time).  There is also a very light sense of warmth to the bass region.  This is brilliant bass performance from an amp with a 400VA transformer and “only” 20,000uF of filtering capacitance per side.  This is a performance that is not shamed even when compared to some of the beasts of the integrated species like the Xindak A600, Plinius 9200 and the Accuphase E460.  Nothing short of excellent for an amp that retails at $3.5K.  9.0

Vocals:  I cannot pick any softening or sweetening of vocals, no hardening or any negative effects either which would not have been good for the review but at least it would have given me something to talk about.  As near as I can tell the vocal performance I hear through the 3010S2 is the one that my YBA source is giving me, I really can’t pick out any specific traits that the exposure is affecting.

 

Soundstage:  Stereo effects are easily recognizable but are not emphasized.  3D effects are similar, with my eyes closed I can pick out instrument placement within the sound stage but it takes a little practice. 

 

Overall Performance Integration:

The exposure 3010S2 is one of those amps that does not grab your attention right away but if you put some time into it then you will realize that it does nothing even close to wrong.  I can’t fault it in any way and the more I listen to it the more I realize how capable it is.  Unfortunately this doesn’t make for much to talk about in the body of a review, there really is only the slight treble brightness and the impressive bass performance to note, but you can’t have everything. 

 

Ability to Emote:  Initially a 6.0 but the “no emphasis or favourite” character really grows on you, after a fortnight of listening to everything I’m raising the rating to a 7.5.

 

Electric Guitar Test:  8.25.  I didn’t quite get chills down my spine (just a bit of pre-tingling) but I did like it a lot.  Certainly enough that I turned the volume up until the chills managed to set in.

 

80’s Rock Test:  8.75  This is how my collection of older rock is meant to sound, airy, a little thin and bright in some cases and hard and harsh in others but not smoothed or boosted in any way. 

 

I am rather impressed by the 3010S2 from Exposure, both by the uncoloured nature of the amp and by the design engineers who produced an amp that doesn’t try to smooth the mids out as so very many do.  Having said that I do realize that the review above is a bit on the light side and does not necessarily read as positive as I feel my overall experience with the 3010S2 was.  If that is your feeling too, read on, because this is not the end.  There’s more.

 

IMG_0755.thumb.JPG.55ccf2516a08412b6324987e25d68809.JPG

 

It’s been a while since I tried out an amp on my KEF LS-50s, once those wireless models came out there didn’t seem to be as much interest in the passive models and I had run out of amps to run past them so it seemed time for the thread that I started on matching amps to them to die a natural death.  But, when presented with an integrated amp from an English manufacturer it did seem like a shame not to match it up with these little monitors that took the bookshelf world by storm just a few years ago.  And am I glad I did.

 

That tendency towards a slightly bright top end is fairly similar to the sound of the Burson PI-160 (and there are several other personality traits that both the Burson PI-160 and the Exposure 3010S2 share, they don’t really sound the same but they are certainly a lot closer than most amps) and the Burson sounds nothing short of fantastic on the little KEFs.  And so does the 3010S2. 

 

Were I to repeat my listening tests on the LS-50s there would be a few scores that would rise significantly.  The imaging, both stereo and 3D placement are now spot on.  Vocals are a little more gender friendly, more breath for the girls and more guttural for the guys.  The top end is no longer a bit bright it just feels nicely energetic.  The bass volume does suffer some, moving to a smaller bass driver will do that, but it is still very much present and accounted for.  So with those results to back me up I think it is fair to say that the 3010S2 was meant to be paired with speakers that have more traditional English design features than Mike Lenehans Australian designs.

 

I’d love to hear some of the KEF Reference models powered by the 3010S2.  Unfortunately for me Audiofix doesn't carry KEF so I'm going to have to get a bit creative if I want to make that happen.  Maybe one day.

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Thanks for another thoughtful review. (I had an exposure power amp - blameless and benign). Hey, I couldn't find your thread on matching amps to the Kef ls-50s. Would love to have a read. Can you point me there? Ta

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Sure can, one link coming up.

 

 

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Thanks Jeff for taking the time to listen to and write an incisive and in my opinion accurate review of the very listenable Exposure 3010S2D integrated amplifier.

 

A couple of minor house keeping points - The 'D' suffix on Exposure products is mildly confusing as in the case of the 2010S2D integrated it means it offers 'Direct' AV input (AV bypass - ie the signal bypasses the volume control as per a few other designs around including the 3010S2D). In the case of the amp under review above Jeff has correctly described it as meaning it offers optional DAC PCB plug in capability.

 

The 1010 amp also mentioned is no longer available making the 2010S2D the entry level amplifier product from Exposure. The 1010 was the only product not assembled in the UK so it's now safe to say all Exposure products are UK built.

 

Thanks again Jeff for your excellent work, Kind Regards, Andrew.

 

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Thanks Andrew.  So I still didn't get the "D" bit completely right?  Oh well, at least, I wasn't alone.

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Hey Cafad,

Whats the premier integrated with a usb input?

Love your writing, ask sna for a pay rise.

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, warweary said:

Hey Cafad,

Whats the premier integrated with a usb input?

Love your writing, ask sna for a pay rise.

Not sure if I'm the right one to ask about them.  I mean sure, I've heard about them on amps, even seen a few, but I haven't used one yet.  I still spin silver discs.  My computer revolution has yet to occur.

 

The Classe Sigma 2200i has one, so I'd have to default to it I think.  I really loved that amp.

 

I don't know about a pay rise but I have asked Marc for a T shirt, a few times now, actually.  Even supplied my size at one point.  Nope, still shirtless.  I blame the state of the economy.  (And the shoddy leadership of the Liberal Party, but that goes without saying ATM.)

Edited by Cafad

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Not sure if I'm the right one to ask about them.  I mean sure, I've heard about them on amps, even seen a few, but I haven't used one yet.  I still spin silver discs.  My computer revolution has yet to occur.
 
The Classe Sigma 2200i has one, so I'd have to default to it I think.  I really loved that amp.
 
I don't know about a pay rise but I have asked Marc for a T shirt, a few times now, actually.  Even supplied my size at one point.  Nope, still shirtless.  I blame the state of the economy.  (And the shoddy leadership of the Liberal Party, but that goes without saying ATM.)

Not even a T shirt!?! you get paid just as bad as a photographer!
Do you get a promise of exposure that could get you more work in the possible future?

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3 minutes ago, misternavi said:

Do you get a promise of exposure that could get you more work in the possible future?

Not sure that Cafad wants to be exposed...:):)

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2 hours ago, Rob181 said:

Not sure that Cafad wants to be exposed...:):)

Yes, it makes lurking that much more difficult once you're exposed.  And I like lurking, it's one of my favourite sub-hobbies.

 

2 hours ago, misternavi said:


Not even a T shirt!?! you get paid just as bad as a photographer!
Do you get a promise of exposure that could get you more work in the possible future?

Not a promise as such (but then I work for a company that is an official, non-official government department so I don't hold much faith in promises), more a few vague assurances of other items to follow (vague assurances I'm comfortable with, I deal with those on a daily basis).

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Nice write up Jeff @Cafad. I really do love the Plinius and Sansui, but still have a 'thing' for Exposure gear. It just seems to have something that no amp I've heard has. I'm very keen to see if the 5000 series come out with an integrated, that would be interesting. 

 

Great to see Andrew @Audiofix bringing the Exposure range back into Australia, well done. A few stores have held the brand but either not for long or not the full range. They really are a nice piece of gear and if you haven't heard one, do yourself a favor ;)

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Have had email contact with Tony Brady UK Exposure, and spoke to Andrew at Audiofix in Australia, my experience in dealing with these two people lead me to believe that the Exposure products may become a more household hi-fi name

(i have no affiliation and no they did not pay me) just very happy with my old Exposure 2010 after changing many amps

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Thanks Blake.  Exposure do make some pretty good stuff.  Andrew made mention to me a week or so ago that it was a pity I had an "integrated's only" reviewing rule as he was going to be getting in some 5000 series gear and he'd like someone to give it a listen.  I replied that my integrated's only rule was really more of a guideline and I had been known to branch out every now and then, so maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to see what this new 5000 series is about at some point in the future.

 

I don't think there is any intention of putting out a 5000 series integrated, I think it's really a "preamp and mono-blocks only" series.  Not sure if they are even planning on a 2 channel power amp.  It is their statement level gear so it makes sense for them to stick to a pre and mono plan.  But... if that changes you can bet I'll be beating down Andrews door to get that particular component.

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3 hours ago, Cafad said:

Thanks Blake.  Exposure do make some pretty good stuff.  Andrew made mention to me a week or so ago that it was a pity I had an "integrated's only" reviewing rule as he was going to be getting in some 5000 series gear and he'd like someone to give it a listen.  I replied that my integrated's only rule was really more of a guideline and I had been known to branch out every now and then, so maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to see what this new 5000 series is about at some point in the future.

 

I don't think there is any intention of putting out a 5000 series integrated, I think it's really a "preamp and mono-blocks only" series.  Not sure if they are even planning on a 2 channel power amp.  It is their statement level gear so it makes sense for them to stick to a pre and mono plan.  But... if that changes you can bet I'll be beating down Andrews door to get that particular component.

OMG if you get hold of that 5000 series you better get the plastic off that matress cause I'll be booking a flight haha ;)

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31 minutes ago, blakey72 said:

OMG if you get hold of that 5000 series you better get the plastic off that matress cause I'll be booking a flight haha ;)

I'll keep you apprised of the situation.

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2 minutes ago, Cafad said:

I'll keep you apprised of the situation.

😎

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I retrieved this from Andy's care yesterday.

IMG_0843.thumb.JPG.66cc07ccee836c8ea5a5095af69128d2.JPG

Obtained via a gear swap with @Gremrock a few months ago.  It had some transistor issues on one channel and a slight balance problem but it is now all fixed and ready to rock.  One Rotel RA-1412.  Love the dual mono power supplies and the massive filtering caps.  Rotel really went all out on this one.

 

My fondness for toggle switches has me cracking a big, broad smile with this integrated.:)  Nothing says vintage gear like half a dozen toggle switches on the front of a component.

I'm not really a fan of the side mounting of all the inputs and the speaker connectors (and the speaker connectors will only take bare wire, no fancy, smancy cables back in the mid 70's) but I can't argue with the 110wpc.  It's sounding pretty "sweetly vintage" right now.

 

Edit:  And here's an info link for the curious of mind.

http://www.thevintageknob.org/rotel-RA-1412.html

Edited by Cafad
more info.

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