Exposure 3510 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

Of late, I have been rediscovering SACD, staggered by the way it narrows the gap between CD and LP, but baffled by its cult status. What Exposure's 3510 delivered with the kind of impact I would expect of a £25k high-end import weighing 50kg was Nilsson's Schmilsson [Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2219], in its tougher moments. Of course, the aching ballad 'Without You' demanded finesse, which the 3510 exhibits by the bushel, but it was the bass run that opens 'Jump Into The Fire' that made me realise this wasn't 'just another integrated'.

For this track, the bass guitar is the lead instrument with Herbie Flowers in virtuoso mode, dominating the number while the rest of the album is piano-biased. The 3510 reaches down deep, but it pulls off a deft trick: instead of the bass overshadowing all else, the guitars at the extreme ends of the soundstage hover around it, while Nilsson's slightly nasal vocals nestle on top of the big, fat, bottom end.

All the while, there's a coherence and openness that reminded me more of the vinyl offering than CD, while the drum solo towards the track's finish had the kind of atmosphere I expect of a pristine Kodo recording. Then the bass comes in again, and even my diminutive LS3/5As seemed more comfortable with the surfeit of lower octave material than one might imagine. Why is simple, for the 3510 exhibits speaker control like a Sgt Major.

1221exp.remAs I wasn't in the mood to wallow solely in wooferland, I cued back to 'Without You', a song so excruciatingly poignant that even Maria Carey's histrionic delivery couldn't butcher it. Nilsson treats it with a tenderness that recalls the great romantics such as Johnny Mathis, the stage set with the most delicate piano trills, along with utterly gorgeous strings and horns.

What the 3510 did to surprise me was to present them with a silkiness I associate more with tubes like EL34s or even 300Bs. The 3510 was emerging as a solid-state amp for those who want but cannot cope with valves. Better still was the sense of majesty that this love song warrants, because it is one of the all-time heartbreakers, up there with the likes of 'In My Life' and 'Waterloo Sunset'.

Into Africa
I was starting to think that, at least in digital terms, using SACD was a cheat because it is so inherently superior to any other pre-recorded digital format I have experienced. Turning next to conventional CDs, I slipped in a disc from a package I detest, 80 vile tracks from Now Yearbook 1983 [Sony/EMI 94398 73352]. It made me thank the heavens that I wasn't a teenager when the charts were dominated by the likes of Spandau Ballet, Wham, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, or the tedious Spandau Ballet. Desperate to find even one track that wouldn't render me suicidal, I settled on Toto's 'Africa'.

Why, you might ask, would I even bother with this set if I hate 75% of the content? Simple: if a system is magical, you will listen to anything, as I found myself sitting through open-reel tapes from Mantovani, Percy Faith, and even the soundtrack to Zorba The Greek. If the 3510 could render any of those tracks tolerable, from a period when everything was synthesiser-driven, reeking of artifice and so bright and edgy that one's teeth ached, then it was a champion indeed.

Thumbs Up
Back to Toto, which I actually admire because they are peerless musicians and 'Africa' is a gorgeous, elegiac work. (It was that, or Public Image Ltd, or New Order…) Bang! Straight off I was hearing snap and transient attack, supported by rich bass. I have no idea what instruments are on this track because it is, like the dreck that shares disc space with it, a mix of the real and the electronic.

Regardless, the sound drew me in, a scaled-down facsimile of what was possible from an SACD via £100,000's worth of high-end kit. And it was enough to sell me on the 3510's sheer listenability, its competence having already been demonstrated with the Nilsson SACD. One other track on Now Yearbook 1983, though, couldn't be skipped as it's been a while since I revelled in genuine a cappella.

Five voices in perfect harmony: The Flying Pickets' magnificent 'Only You' was a fave demo track back 40 years ago and it still sends chills up and down my spine. Here the challenge was to see how Exposure's 3510 separated the voices, though I have no idea if this was multi-tracked, tweaked in the studio or otherwise manipulated electronically. Whatever its origins, the performance was opened up sufficiently for me to home in on each voice with remarkable facility, and yet it was always cohesive.


Evolved from the 3010 series, the 3510 features two pairs of Toshiba power transistors per side [on internal heatsink, centre] and fed from a beefy linear PSU [near left]. Phono module is missing here [fitted top right]

It was the new 45rpm issue of Jeff Beck's immortal Truth [Mobile Fidelity MFSL 2-502] that stamped a solid thumbs-up on this integrated amp. Take my word for it, if you love this album as I do, this is as good as it gets. The 3510 handled every element with skill, from the textures of a then-young Rod Stewart's vocals to the roiling bass courtesy of Ronnie Wood, all the while respecting the thunderous percussion of Micky Waller.

But the star here is Beck, and his specialty is wrenching myriad textures and sounds from his guitars: wah-wah, fuzz, even a lush interpretation of 'Greensleeves'. So a tip for Exposure dealers: demo the 3510 amp with this album, and you'll sell one every time.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
In addition to providing a muchneeded and refreshing wander down Memory Lane, Exposure's 3510 integrated reminded me how much fun an uncomplicated system of source/amp/speakers can be. It worked faultlessly, drove hungry speakers with ease (inc. Wilson's Sasha DAW) and established a case for simplicity – not something every part of the audio biz wants to hear. You want painless hi-fi? You got it.

Exposure Electronics Ltd
Lancing, UK
Supplied by: Exposure Electronics Ltd
01273 423877