- Vacuum Tube: 6DJ8/6922 series or 12AU7 series (exchangeable) Output Stage: MOSFET x 2
- Amplification Gain: x3 (for Audio CD/DAC IN) x20 (for Audio PC/iPod IN) Signal-to-Noise Ratio: (SNR) 92dB
- Power Output: 3.0 Watts per channel on 33 Ohm Headphone
- Frequency response: 15 Hz -100 kHz -1db
- Input Impedance: 100k Ohms
- THD+Noise: 0.05% @ 10k ohm0.15% @ 33 ohm
- Input: CD/DAC IN RCA (Left/Right) x 1 [3Vpp max.] PC/iPod IN RCA (Left/Right) x 1 [0.55Vpp max.]
- Output Audio OUT RCA (Left/Right) x 1
- Headphone OUT (3.5mm) x 1
- Power Socket: (5.5mm/2.1mm) x 1
- Power Supply: DC 24V-26.5V (max.) Dimensions: (W) 3” x (H) 1.70” x (D) 4.50” Weight: 13.4 oz
- Price: $225
Having had a positive experience with the Trends Audio TA 10.1 amplifier, I was anxious to review the Trends Audio PA-10 Tube headphone amplifier when the opportunity presented itself. With a limited budget, building a respectable headphone system is the most economical way to enter the world of true high fidelity. Just add a Zune, an iPod, or a CD player, some quality headphones and you can assemble a nice sounding affordable audio system for just a few hundred dollars.
Trends Audio PA-10 review
The Trends Audio PA-10 is a compact headphone amplifier/preamplifier selling via the internet for $225.00. It is a hybrid design utilizing a single 6N11, 6922 or a 12AU7 input vacuum tube and four MOSFETS as the output drivers. The front faceplate has a 1/8 inch mini-headphone jack and a volume knob. The rear apron contains the power on/off switch, wall wart power connection jack, two pairs of RCA input jacks, and a single pair of RCA line output jacks so that the unit may be utilized as a preamplifier. The inputs are user selectable for low output sources such as an I Pod or a PC sound card and a higher output device such as a CD player. Additionally the PA-10 has internal adjustment for tube selection via jumpers on the PC board and two adjustable potentiometers for tube bias adjustment. The unit comes with the bias set at the factory and only needs periodic adjustment for maintenance or when changing tube types. The nice thing about all Trends products is that they are compact, well constructed and ergonomically friendly.
I did all of my listening using either my Denon DCD 350 CD Player or my Zune 8Gig MP3 player as source components. For the cable connections I utilized either Discovery Plus Four Interconnects or a Radio Shack Mini jack to RCA connection cable. Additionally I evaluated the amplifiers via either my Audio Technica ATH-AD700 or Grado SR325i headphones.
During my initial listening sessions I played various types of music, classical, rock and jazz to allow the unit to breakin. The PA-10 always sounded musical even when it was fresh out of the box, it was quiet, detailed and coherent. The sound was as expected more tube like than the average headphone output provided with most audio components. For Instance my Denon DCD 350 has a built in headphone amplifier which was strident and grainy by comparison. If you have budget component with a built in headphone amplifier the Trends Audio PA-10 will provide a much better listening experience overall.
Once I had about 20 hours of break-in time on the PA-10, I started to do some critical listening. For a direct comparison I used my Musical Fidelity X-Can V3 tube headphone amplifier as a reference. The X-Can V3 which when new retailed for $500.00 is a powerful, detailed and neutral sounding headphone amplifier. It is an all tube unit utilizing one 6922 vacuum tube per channel, high quality audio grade parts and is built with a high degree of fit and finish. The drawback to the X-Can is that it is much larger than the Trends Audio so it is not easily transported. The PA-10 makes a much better travel companion because it can be carried safely in its 6”x 7”x 2-1/2” shipping box on a business trip or vacation to be used with an MP3 player.
The PA-10 had no trouble driving either the Grado or Audio Technica headphones; it would play quite loudly with either but not to the ear splitting levels of the X-Can V3.
Listening Trends Audio PA-10
One of my new favorites is the Melody Gardot CD Worrisome Heart, I played the title track and listened through both amplifiers using my Grado SR325i headphones. The subtle breathy voice of Gardot sounded smooth and refined through both. The texture of her voice and the accompanying instruments were conveyed intimately as one would expect. I was most impressed with the way the Trends Audio acquitted itself in comparison to the Musical Fidelity. Although the PA-10 lacked the ultimate resolution and refinement of the X-Can, the huge price differential between both units should certainly have to be taken into account when evaluating its overall performance. Additional differences that were apparent after the A-B comparisons were that the X-Can was more dynamic with substantially more headroom and richer bass response. The back grounds were substantially blacker allowing the finer details of the guitar work to become articulated. The Trends Audio glossed over some of this information and sounded a little thread bare. It was like comparing rich Swiss Chocolate to that of a Hershey Bar, both taste good but you have to pay extra to get the best.
Next I played, “Blueport” off of the Gerry Mulligan CD “Gerry Mulligan and The Concert Jazz Band at the Village Vanguard”. This fine live performance recorded in 1961 has a big band sound in an intimate setting. The multiple trombones, trumpets and saxophones will blow you away with their bold brass sound. Although both amplifiers did a fine job of rendering the performance, again the nod went to the Musical Fidelity for the fine reproduction of the musical transient attacks. There was an overall ease conveyed by the X-Can V3 that the PA-10 couldn’t match. It lacked the sparkle and air up top and the more substantial bottom end of the X-Can. Overall and especially with the Grados SR325i headphones the performance was always more immediate and involving.
I switched headphones and used my Zune for the next listening session; all tracks were in MP3 format. I utilized my Audio Technica ATH AD700 headphones which have a more laid back presentation than the Grados, it is if you are seated five rows further back from a live performance than with the SR325i headphones. The ATH AD700s are however detailed, airy and very smooth. In comparison the Grados are more forward, have better bass response and better central image stability. I found the Audio Technicas were a better match for the PA-10 since they weren’t as dynamic as the Grados, the lack of bass heft for example was less evident.
The first track I played was “Tears in Heaven” from the Eric Clapton CD Clapton Chronicles the Best of Eric Clapton. Clapton’s emotional vocals and delicate performance on the acoustic guitar and Dobro were conveyed beautifully. Additionally the steel guitar work by Jaydee Maness was rendered in a similar manner. During my evaluation the Trends Audio PA-10 was a good match for use with the Zune, boosting the output enough so that a quality set of headphones could be utilized instead of the ubiquitous low quality earbuds that come standard with most MP3 players.
I decided next to set the wayback machine to 1975 and played “Stranglehold” off of the CD The Best of Ted Nugent, Great Gonzos. Let’s face it Ted Nugent was never considered a subtle kind of guy. This track is a classic display of 1970’s era stadium rock. All the classic elements are there, loud grinding guitar, thunderous bass, pounding drums, inane lyrics and gratuitous guitar solos! Got you in a strangle hold baby, you best get out of my way! The Trends Audio PA-10 allows you to elevate the listening experience to a level where you can appreciate Ted Nugent in a more intimate manner. The feedback and thumping bass played through the PA-10 will move in a way that the Zune in and of itself could never do! Ok, I know this is supposed to be an audiophile e-magazine, but you gotta have a little fun! Sometimes you need to crank up the tunes without waking the whole household.
There are several headphone amplifiers on the market in the $225.00 range, but not many vacuum tube/solid state hybrid designs that I am aware of. The ability of the listener to tailor the sound of the PA-10 via tube rolling is also a nice option for those so inclined. Additionally you can use it as a stand alone line level preamplifier if you wish. I enjoyed using the Trends Audio PA-10 especially when listening to it in conjunction with my Zune MP3 player. Since I was able to take the PA-10 with me on several short trips I was able to improve my listening experience markedly. As with any audio product there are trade-offs but the cost to value ratio offered by Trends Audio in this case is quite good. No the PA-10 doesn’t offer the fit and finish, dynamic response, or overall sound quality of the Musical Fidelity X-Can V3; but the Trends Audio PA-10 is a nice sounding audiophile product for those who want to build a quality headphone system on a budget.
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from aﬀordableaudio, By Todd Arthur