CD-player Exposure 1010 CD

Many modern audiophiles I will have first become acquainted with Exposure HIP in the eighties, when the company established itself as the purveyor of high-quality transistor amplification. It was distinctive for not being as bright and bracing as the popular Naim sound, and yet a good deal more musical than many Japanese or American amps. Since then, Exposure has gained a broader outreach, making some very capable affordable separates while retaining its purist philosophy. The 1010CD personifies this; it's inexpensive in Exposure terms yet real attention has been paid to the design.

Construction is the usual steel box with anodized aluminium fascia plate. It's neat and purposeful, and has an easy-to-read blue vacuum fluorescent display - complete with eighties-style 'music calendar' - which can be turned off for better sound. Inside, a chunky 30VA custom toroidal transformer provides clean power to the circuitry, and feeds the double-sided PCB that sports decent signal path capacitors and a BurrBrown PCM1716 DAC chip. Round the back, there's the usual digital output - although this time only in Toslink optical form. A remote control is bundled. The Exposure is nice enough to use, but doesn't feel as expensively finished as rival machines; its fascia panel has ever so slightly sharp edges for example, so you can tell it has been built down to a price.

Tonally the smoothest of this group, the Exposure sounds warm, rich and full, which will suit many budget systems very well - but there is a sense that it lacks a little bite and incision. In some ways it's a sort of synthesis between the silky but slightly opaque-sounding Teac and the richer, more incisive and engaging Cambridge Audio. It loses a little of the latter's detail and insight, although it adds a touch of warmth and polish. Interestingly, as well as a subtly different tonal balance, there's a presentational difference too, as the Exposure seats the listener a little further away - and higher up in the gods, as it were. The result is that instead of feeling right in the action, you get a better sense of perspective. Compared with the similarly priced Cambridge, it's a little less punk rock and a bit more stadium rock.

Take the New Order track for example. The opening drum sequence instantly marks out the Exposure as a little less forceful player; you don't get those electronic kick drums etched in-between your eyes! Instead, there's a slightly more standoffish sound, less immediate and less initially appealing. But within a second or so you start to notice the interplay between the snare and hi-hat, and it's done in a way that none of the cheaper players here quite manage. Even the excellent Azur, with all its cleverness, doesn't quite manage to catch these tiny micro dynamic inflections. Then the verse kicks in and it's initially a little less striking, but then again you begin to find the overall flow of the song highly enjoyable. There's a better sense of depth perspective than many other players here and the Exposure seems confident to hang backing instruments just where they should be - at the back.

The Visioneers track highlights the pleasing warmth of this player, and reminds us of the widescreen presentation. But inside the recorded acoustic, things aren't quite as tightly focused as with the Cambridge. It's certainly an enjoyable, pleasing player, but it's not perfect.

Exposure 1010 CD CD-player photo