Review - eXception Integrated Amplifier Review

Nov 20,2013-

Dave Sykes and I auditioned the eXception against a reference system using the Pass Labs XP-30 preamp, XA-100.5 monoblocks, and XP-15 Phonostage, with an Exemplar Audio 93 for CD’s.  Wiring was Zu Audio’s best, and speakers were the Zu Definition Mark IV. 

We listened to the Pass gear first, letting the eXception warm up, then put on the eXception.  The results were quite surprising as we both felt that the Exemplar piece quite held its own against the Pass gear.  On some cuts the bass was actually tighter than the Pass, highs were just as defined most of the time, occasionally there was a slight edge on the high brass and violin notes-but still well defined.  Timbre accuracy and harmonics were generally exceptional-not indicative of an integrated costing 1/6 as much as the reference system.  Both had superb depth and air, with a huge soundstage.

Remember, the eXception we had here was a beta test unit, not the production model which has higher resolution and a faster power supply. As a result, I ordered the eXception and should have it in a couple of weeks.  It is by far a giant slayer-if you want world class sound at a budget price-this is it.  I do recommend using it only on speakers with 90db sensitivity or better.

Nov 16, 2013 -

One problem all designers of high end gear face is that all (with few exceptions) capacitors induce some degree of phase shift in the signal.  This is a major issue when caps are almost always used in the output stages of amplifiers.  This issue has been almost never addressed to my knowledge in the industry (one of its dirty little secrets?).  They have addressed how much latent energy is held by a cap (see C1 capacitor upgrades-Conrad Johnson), but little on phase shift. 

This recently came to my attention through John Tucker of Exemplar because of capacitor phase shift research done in Japan.  The end result was that all poly and teflon caps phase shifted except for one commercial cap made in France. Enter the Exemplar eXception integrated amp.  A new design by John Tucker-it utilizes these caps and other proprietary technology developed here by John and in Japan to give one phase shift free sound. 

I have been listening to it in my system for the last 3 hours-running through its paces-after giving it an all day warm up.  I have never heard an amp that is as neutral, non-existent as this amp.  There is only music-nothing else.  Dynamic, warm, fluid, black background, timbre accurate, doesn’t begin to describe what I hear. 

On Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (Telarc) the cymbals are fluid yet one can clearly hear the shimmer and metal in the instrument, the brass sounds exactly like brass, the kettles’ skin and wood resonate clearly, all with lots of air and depth. 

On Patricia Barber’s What a Shame (Café Blue) she is in the room, the wood in the stand-up bass giving the instrument shape and depth, the guitar’s attack forming in the air in front of me. And on and on. 

Perhaps my heavily modified Cary SLI-80 may give it a run-but there is a speed that the eXception has that I know the Cary can’t quite match.

On to Info on this Amp:   50 W/ch both channels driven at 8 ohms, high current solid state outputs with tube preamp, remote, silver aluminum face with 6 inputs, can be custom modified on inputs, comes with mute, and cinema bypass. 

Retail is $4950.

Marihart Audio