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Compact Disc Player
Exposure 2010S2

Price: 3590 zł

Distribution: Decibel

ul. Bacha 34, 02-743 Warszawa
tel.: (022) 847-04-61
fax: (022) 847-20-60


WWW: Exposure

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Exposure is a hardcore company from Great Britain. It is a fairy small brand, housed in the country behind the Channel, which designs and manufactures its devices there, in Portslade, East Sussex County. The key phrase under the logo only confirms, where the company aspires to, as it states “high fidelity engineering since 1974”. It was then, when John Farlowe, the founder of Exposure, decided to transfer his experience from the recording studios, where he cooperated with David Bowie and Pink Floyd, among others, to the hi-fi world. The tested player is a member of the least pricey series offered by this manufacturer, and is meant as a replacement for a device with the same name, but ending with an “S”, which in turn replaced the version with the number only. This means, that the changes are probably not so big, and it is rather about “fine tuning”. But other companies tend to follow the same path, for example Marantz (which exchanged its gear to S2 versions) or Cambridge Audio (the new V2 series). Unfortunately in the materials received from the Polish Exposure distributor, the Warsaw based company Decibel (all the Exposure novelties can be found HERE) there is no information about changes made in the new series. We only know, that the new S2 version has no special markings on the front panel, and that it looks identically like the S. At the time the test was being prepared, there was no mention about the new series on the Exposure web page. But fortunately, together with the new player I did also get a new catalog, where some information could be found. As usual for this company, the gear is available in two coloristic versions – black and silver. In the black one, the power led and the display are red, and in the silver version those elements are blue. The player is based on converter chips from Burr-Brown, the PCM1716, paired with a “high precision” clock – which has a dedicated power supply. The whole unit is mounted inside an aluminum enclosure. The display can be switched off if needed. However, this is done in an “intelligent” way – the display stays off during operation, but lights when a button is pressed or the player is stopped. This is a nice touch.

Discs used for testing:
Diorama, The Art Of Creating Confusing Spirits, Accession Records, EFA 23450-2, CD.
Frank Sinatra, My Way, Reprise/Universal Music Japan/Sinatra Society of Japan, UICY-94368, SHM-CD; review HERE.
Hank Mobley, Soul Station, Blue Note/Audio Wave, AWMXR-0001, XRCD24.
Kenny Dorham, Quiet Kenny, New Jazz/JVC, JVCXR-0049-2, XRCD.
Kings of Leon, Only by the Night, RCA/BMJ Japan, BVCP-40058, CD.
Madaleine Peyroux, Bare Bones, Rounder/Universal Music Japan, UCCU-1188, CD.


The Exposure is a very even and very tasty prepared CD player. Listening to it, it is quite easy, to determine some base, which seems to be common with other British companies, like Naim and Cyrus, and – what is actually quite surprising – with the Japanese CEC. There are of course differences, but I think we can talk about a certain group of products, where their creators had similar visions, of how a device should sound, for the given money that is. In this case, I say, it is most important, that the 2010S2 plays each kind of music equally well, with equal engagement, one could say. And although I started the test with the disc from the group Diorama (electronics, post-gothic, a German group issued by Adrian Hates, the vocalist of Diary of Dreams), I switched smoothly to the Hank Mobley saxophone, from the newest re-edition of the disc Soul Station, through Frank Sinatra on SHM-CD, and finished with Madeleine Peyroux from the new album Bare Bones, I am listening to now. The device differentiates the recordings nicely, does not show all of them the same way, although it gives them an individual touch. But even then, the player tries to reproduce the emotional aspects of the music, to create a coherent image, placing the accents on the most important elements. Because Exposure sounds with a quite strong and full sound. It is easy to confuse such way of presentation with warming. The voice of Madeleine Peyroux was saturated and full, as was the trumpet of Kenny Dorham from the disc Quiet Kenny. But this is only an attempt to signal a leader, to define things, that are most important in a recording. But we cannot talk about warming here. Sinatra’s voice, in the SHM-CD version really big, some claim even TOO big (but this is not my opinion, just to make it clear), was smaller here than with the reference players. If there would be any “bloating”, as it sometimes happens in tube output players, then a male voice of that kind would be boosted for sure. And here was no such effect.

And yet we can say about this player (actually about its sound, but we thank God for abbreviations and simplifications!) that it is “full”. I already mentioned Peyroux, but I had similar impressions while listening to Mobley. His sax is slightly “smaller” in this edition than in the Japanese editions. But it sounded quite saturated, and the volume of the instrument was quite significant. Like I mentioned, Exposure plays each kind of music well, so I had the same remarks, when listening to electronic music, like the mentioned Diorama. This is a splendid quality recording, for this kind of music. The British CD showed that, drawing a wide sound stage, presenting everything in a balanced way, with very good dynamics – for the price. This allowed the bass drum from Velocity, the album opening title, to sound in a strong and slightly dry way (it is just how the recording is made). It sounded really nice! This is because Exposure, similar to other companies mentioned earlier, shapes the sound in such way, that it is soaked with emotions and seems more resolved, more dynamic, more “colorful” than possible for the money. I am talking about “suggesting”, about some tricks, that are meant to strengthen that impression, and not about real advantages in those areas, still this is really SOMETHING. We can of course strive for neutrality at all costs, and that is also a possible solution. But I think, that what we get from the CD 2010S2 is more, than a simple sum of all elements, something “added”, something, that makes music flow without any restraints, that we do not have the impression of any throttling of dynamics or timbre. And yet it is a fairly cheap player, and it has its problems, about which I will write in a moment.

Before we get to them, I would like to stop for a moment at the tonal balance. Like mentioned before, it is very good. The timbre is shaped in a way, that we do not have the feeling we would miss anything. Even more – there is no need to protect ourselves against any surplus. We just play a disc we want to play at a given moment, and there is good probability, that it will play in a very satisfying way. Now I will repeat myself, but I need to do that: this is the result of a saturated, but not exaggerated sound and splendidly set tonal balance. Dynamics is also important, especially in the micro range – but not only in that range – and good bass.

I did not mention that before, but I did not want to throw everything around me in chaos, but everybody who likes good bass in the sound, who miss something like that in a system, or those, that just want to sit down and enjoy music, will be satisfied. This is not an “audiophile” kind of bass, in the sense, that it does not try to be hard, massaging and well controlled. And although there are no problems with its reverbs, there is nothing trailing, but the sound is not strictly to the point. When we deal with a contrabass, where the edges are blurred, then they will be that way. If, like with the Diorama, the edges are sharper, then they will be like that. Of course I am talking about that using a certain simplification, because there are of course modifications, but those are not big, and are not going in the direction of “improving” the sound.

I say, this is still some kind of “creation”. The sound – and in that aspect it reminds me much of the DAC DA53N from CEC, which is tested in the same issue of “High Fidelity” – is slightly boosted. It is more “to the front”. In expensive players similar effects are achieved by very precise drawing of the shapes, better shading of dynamics and finally by better resolution. Here none of those elements is especially brilliant, they are good, but nothing more than that, and yet the sound seems better, than with the competition. This is because there is some kind of internal energy, some kind of spring, that moves subsequent sounds, that gives rhythm – very well preserved here. And yet we can pinpoint places, where Exposure differs from the reference system (so I assume – but this is my assumption – that it also differs from reality). The top part of the spectrum is slightly withdrawn and rounded. This is the reason, that electronics sounded so pleasing, and there were no brightening, so typical for compressed recordings. Yet with jazz the cymbals were withdrawn slightly, and did not have the same energy, as for example, from the mentioned CEC DAC. Dynamics seems to be one of the stronger sides of this device, and this is the case. But it is an inexpensive player, and some things cannot be overcome. Although in the “micro” range, within short time intervals, the sound is live and open, dynamics in longer time periods, where the “personality” is created, was simplified and unified. This was nicely shown by the piece Didn’t We from Sinatra. It starts softly, quietly, and then, in small steps, dynamics and volume increase. Exposure, similar to other players from that price range, made those differences smaller, underlining the quieter sounds and diminishing the stronger ones. Yes, everything was audible well, but it had nothing to do with that, what expensive sources can show. The mentioned “boost” can be responsible for that, at least partially, because while having a positive influence on the sound as a whole, it has also a darker side. The resolution is good, but not exceptional. This is actually true for all the mentioned gear, and for example Marantz players, can immerse deeper in the sound. There is no way a vivid shape of the instrument can be created, we deal with composure of the process here. But this is not a “magma”, a glued together whole, but we know, that it is a cheap digital source. But please remember about that, what I told earlier: putting all those characteristics together works definitely in favor of this player, which was a pleasure to listen to. The way the sound was composed is very close to that, what is done by turntables we can get for comparable amounts of money – the transmission is vivid, dynamic, full, without ambitions in the areas of resolution and frequency response. A very universal device.


The Exposure 2010S2 player has classic proportions and a traditional fascia. In the front, made from a slab of aluminum large holes for the tray and display were cut. Below the latter (which is blue) we have six buttons operating the drive functions. To the left there is a seventh button, the power switch – a mechanical one, without standby. This old-fashioned solution is now increasingly ecological… On the back we have a pair of RCA sockets with the analog signal – but those are bit too close together – an IEC power socket and digital ones – BNC and TOSLINK. The BNC socket is of very high quality. Exposure approaches the digital output with due attention. First of all, only the BNC guarantees to keep the 75Ω impedance, as required by the digital link, and secondly it can be switched off when not needed. To do that, we need to open the top cover (what can void the warranty!) and reposition a small, gold plated jumper. But please remember safety precautions doing that! The remote controller HS101 is ugly and not very handy, and it looks like taken directly from the 80-ties. Its only advantage is, that it also controls the Exposure amplifier.

The tray operates loud and slow. But seems to be a classic CD mechanism – this I take from the laser: it is a Sony KSS213. In the basic version the whole transport was supplied by Sony, here we have a drive that was manufactured in China especially for Exposure. The whole circuitry, including power supply, is placed on one PCB next to the drive. Behind the mechanism there is a medium sized toroidal transformer, with resin filled center and separate secondary windings for the drive/display section, digital and analog audio sections. It is partnered by very nice and numerous Elna filter capacitors – different for digital and analog parts. The Burr-Brown converters, PCM1716 from the SoundPlus series are soldered on the bottom of the PCB. This is an relatively old 24/96 chip, but with very nice parameters. There is also a clock I wrote about already. The sound path is really short, because in the player there are only two more ICs, NE5532, one per channel, working in I/V conversion and amplification. The resistors are metalized, precise and the smaller caps are polypropylene. Just solid work without any outstanding items.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
∙ Output signal: 2V RMS
∙ Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz (+/- 0.03dB)
∙ THD: <0.008% (20Hz-20kHz/0dBFs)
∙ S/N: 100dB (weighted, type A)
∙ Power consumption: <25W
∙ Dimensions: 90 x 440 x 300mm (HxWxD)
∙ Weight: 5kg

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  • headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
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  • speaker cable: Velum LS-G (tested HERE)
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  • power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • audio stand Base
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