While BOGOF has an undeniable ring to it, BOGTF is just so much better – even if it is unpronounceable. That might have stood in the way of the wider advertising industry, but it hasn’t discouraged Exposure: when it comes to upping the versatility and value stakes, its new XM CD player really is three rather fine products in one. Of course, delivering rather more than meets the eye tends to be something of a digital speciality, with apparently plain fascias concealing a rear panel packed with every socket imaginable – and often a few that defy any useful application. But that’s not the nature of Exposure’s pint-sized CD player, which is all business and no frills. At £1,200 it might just be the right box, in the right place, at the right time.
Housed in a half-width ‘shoe-box’ chassis, the XM ticks more boxes than just having a sensibly small footprint. In this day and age, when the industry and audiophiles alike seem intent on a lemming-like repetition of recent history, prematurely condemning CD to the dustbin of disused formats with an unseemly, uncritical, and irrational haste, any disc-spinner that takes up minimal shelf space gets to pose as an occasional source – a bit like all those record players that were disinterred a few years ago. And just like those record players, the XM CD player is quite capable of demonstrating just why we should all still be taking CD seriously. By doing the simple things well, Exposure has created a product that is as effective as it affordable and versatile. Principle amongst those design choices is the adoption of a top-loading transport – something the XM shares with all of the very best sounding (and most expensive) CD players. But just as important is the minimalist interface, consisting of just stop, play, and skip buttons on the front-panel; everything else is on the comprehensive remote (allowing the XM to drive a matching amp too), while the back panel is just as on point. Alongside the single-ended analogue socketry you’ll find two digital outputs, a ubiquitous TosLink optical and a genuine 75 Ohm BNC for S/PDIF, a choice that allows the XM to play the all-important transport card without being cut off at the knees by a sub-standard connection.
To play a disc you slide the top cover back, drop the CD onto the spindle, secure it with the small, magnetic puck, slide the lid shut and you are ready to go. It’s far from the slickest top-loader I’ve come across, but it’s no less effective for that. Fire up the Exposure and it delivers a solid, engaging, uncomplicated sound, long on musical substance, and the sort of solid rhythmic purpose that serves as an instant reminder of just what CD has to offer. Play Ryan Adams or Rag And Bone Man and the musical energy and presence are as impressive as they are enjoyable. There’s nothing halting, effete, or disjointed here. This may not be the most incisive player you’ve heard and ultra transparency or resolution aren’t its strongest suits, but when things are this straight forward and enjoyable, why worry?