First Impressions of the Exposure 1010 Combo

034The Exposure 1010 Amp and CD Player in Black were the first Exposure products I set up, I had a brief listen yesterday and left them on so they could have a bit of time on the clock to bed in. I listened to them again just now…

I really love the simplistic minimalist clean looks, i.e. no bass and treble controls, no balance control, nothing extra that you don’t need. Of course you need a volume control and input selector, but that’s all you need if your amp is up to the task!

The front brushed aluminium face plate finish and the solid aluminium volume control knob make this amp seem much more than an entry level offering. Kudos to Exposure for not skimping on the build quality to get this low price point. I also like the matt rough finish on the rest of the steel casing, it looks very classy. The casing is not aluminium like in the case of the models higher up the range, but that is to save us money on these amazing value for money models. On this note of saving money, it’s not like with most other brand’s entry level products – where “the baby is nearly thrown out with the bath water” – the 1010 is a true blood Exposure product sharing many internal components of its larger siblings. OK it’s not hand built in England like the other Exposure products but to save you money it is hand built in the Malaysian factory and then shipped to England where every unit is rechecked for QC before they’re shipped. The same handmade toroidal transformers are used, the front plate is still brushed aluminium but not as thick as the other models. The rest of the casing is steel instead of the expensive aluminium casing of the other models. The same relay input switching is used and the same high quality ALPS volume control; a nice touch because this gives it a quality feel.  The power and selector buttons also feel nice and solid.

In Use

037The amp powers on immediately with a soft pop on the speakers – this is due to the fact that all Exposure amps are DC coupled on the output stages and not via capacitors like most other designs. I think that is part of the reason why their bass is so much more controlled and fuller sounding than other amps.  It takes about 6 seconds to go through its protection circuit before it clicks on and then the LED on the volume control light up as well as an input LED. Ok I must admit, I wasn’t sure when looking at the photos but in the flesh and in use I like the speaker terminals that can only take banana plugs, not bare wire or spades. This eliminates stray wires with bare wires, thus once connected there’s no chances for a short circuit!

The red LED’s on the black units (blue on the silver finish) look classy as well.  I like the LED on the volume control knob a lot. For the older guys like me I can actually see what the volume is set to avoiding the ghastly piece of blue-tack on the volume control which is usually resort to just to see the position of the volume knob. The volume control turns up and down silky smooth with solid feel just like the more expensive models, not a wobbly flimsy loose feel of so many others in this price bracket.  The selector buttons click in softly with a soft click of the relays that I only heard on some high end gear, definitely never on other brand’s entry level products like this. It’s these small details that shows me the same level of detail went in designing and building this entry level amp as in their upmarket amps. This soft clicking can also be heard when you use the remote to mute or switch inputs, I love it! For me, it’s like the sound a car door makes when it closes, a Mercedes gives you confidence it is built to last, and the same applies here.

The Sound

002Well it’s a true Exposure sound:  clear tops and rich midrange never forward but the bass is where it differs the most compared to other amps. It’s definitely deeper with more control and more tightness. It makes all speakers just sound a bit fuller and under more control when driven by the Exposure, giving you the confidence to turn it up without fatigue. The listed “50w RMS into 8 ohms” gives me the impression of more power than its specs. And given the measured results of the 2010S2 and 3010S2 are far greater than listed, it doesn’t surprise me that it’s ear-popping loud at 12 o’clock, unlike competing offerings that only start to get alive past 12 O’clock.

The same attention to detail applies to the CD player in looks and build quality. The CD tray open fast with dedication and confidence, reading is quick and the display is clear, easily read from 4m away.  A quick comparison with another CD player (at a higher price level) and I got the feeling the Exposure again has more control on the bass and a present softer general smoother top end. It’s much more musical sounding and tailors the general sharp edge of most CD’s (not rolled off, just softened) so you can enjoy your music at much louder volumes for longer without any listening fatigue. So the Amp and CD player pairs brilliantly! I like the small remote as well it has a nice modern look and feels very comfortable and balanced in your hand.

Summing Up

Overall a great set that are worthy entry levels models for Exposure and really set the scene what to expect from their more powerful ranges above it. A direct comparison between this 1010 combo and the 2010S2 Integrated Amp and 2010S2 CD player, shows greater smoothness and better drive and control over the low end in the 2010S2, but boy oh boy is the 1010 good for the money.

So yes, my first impression is a big thumbs up. It definitely beats my other similar products, even some of the more expensive ones.  The noticeable house sound characteristic of excellent PRAT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing) applies here but with an added flavour of full controlled deep bass, a transparent clear open midrange and a gentle roll off on the top end.

Right, now it’s time to unbox the 3010S2 Integrated, this is going to be special!

tl;dr: My first impressions = Brilliant!!

View more information on the Exposure 1010 Integrated Amp and CD Player