The Exemplar Audio XP-2 is one of those preamps that does not have the brand clout of Audio Research or McIntosh but rivals them in terms of sound quality. The XP-2 has an amazing sonic balance. Very clean highs, nice lucid mid-range and a well defined bass. It uses two JAN 5670W tubes in each channel and high quality Auricaps. The design is rather simplistic with emphasis on sound quality and beefed up with quality materials. Power supply (dual mono) is housed in a separate chassis to reduce the effect of electrical interference. All this brought about a very transparent sound with nice depth. If we have to assign some kind of ranking between it and Audio Research and McIntosh, this would slot in comfortably ahead of McIntosh’s C2300 and sit between Audio Research’s Reference 3 and Reference 5 preamp. Built quality is good but not as impressive as the other two brands (expected since Exemplar is more like a boutique brand) but if sonic quality is the key here, the XP-2 is a very impressive sounding preamp. A used McIntosh C2300 and Audio Research Reference 3 preamp will sell between $4200 and $6,000 and with the XP-2 under $5,000 now, it is a real bargain for what it can deliver in the midst of both these more established models. Cosmetically, the unit looks good. There is a very small scrape on the corner of the power supply unit and some scratches on the rear edge of the main unit. Both of which are barely noticeable unless you look for it. Chunky metal remote has a nice quality feel to it and will be packed securely with the preamp.