TrendsAudio PA-10 SE: A Hybrid Amp Design

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A while back TrendsAudio posted their TrendsAudio PA-10 SE headphone amp on our wall. Curious as I was I asked for a sample in return which we got very shortly after.

Personally I had never heard of TrendsAudio but after this first contact I found out that TrendsAudio has actually been penetrating the market more and more and there are dozens of reviews to be found online already. For those interested in the company, I suggest you go read up on their website.

Each PA-10 has jumpers inside so you can choose between two tube types: 6DJ8/6922 and the 12AU7 type tubes. It’s fairly easy to switch between tube type and to adjust the bias but just to be sure TrendsAudio gives detailed instructions in their manual and on their website. I received The PA-10 SE version with the 6H23n Russian tube that had been biased by the factory before shipping. This hybrid amp is small, only measuring 114mm x 76mm x 46mm (DxHxW) with the tube sticking out just a tiny bit on top. So the tube isn’t really visible which is a shame for the tube lovers out there. On top of that there is a blue LED beneath the tube… Well, you like that or you don’t, I’m not sure if it is part of the circuit as often is the case but personally I’m not a fan of LEDS under tubes. Component wise we don’t know a lot of this PA-10 SE besides from the 2 Mosfets on the output stage and the Evox white cap.

On the back of this standard +24V adapter powered device you have 2 sets of switchable inputs. Besides the normal CD/DAC input with standard gain (x3) there also is a PC/iPod input with high gain (x6). The PA-10 SE not only is a hybrid headphone amp but you can also use it as a pre-amp. That’s a lot for such a tiny box!

Sound wise, Trends keeps on focusing on a few things in their communication: a pure Class-A circuit, 2 MOSFETs as output driver and an innovative circuit design providing an audiophile quality sound. But how does it really sound?

First of all this tiny amp plays loud! There’s a lot of gain even when using the normal (x3) input, with all the headphones I tried it with I never had to go past 10 o’clock with the volume control (LCD-2). Talking about the volume control, it is a bit noisy but very smooth to turn. Apparently the noisy pot is something “everyone” on the web is already aware of so I’m sure trends is too and I’m hoping they will upgrade it with a next revision. Sorry for digressing. Trends themselves claim this little hybrid produces 3.0Watts per channel @ 33Ohm. Come again? 3 Watts?! I don’t have any tools to measure this but in their defense it does drive the LCD-2s and HE-500 fairly well. In fact, the 300Ohm Sennheiser HD650 were way too loud and a “no go” with this amp, I really didn’t like how it sounded.
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Lieven is living in Europe and is a full time Headfonia writer and the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650. Taking pictures is a real challenge but seeing happy readers in the end is what it's all about for him.

  • http://twitter.com/ontheedgeaustin Austin Morrow

    Awesome review, Lieven. I have seen this amp mentioned several times on multiple audio websites, yet have never seen or heard a formal review of it. It looks like quite a nice little boxy amp and I’ll have to say the hybrid design looks quote nice. Add a MSII and your good to go with a pretty good setup!

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

       Thanks Austin! This amp is very particular, soundwise and design wise. You’ll love it or you won’t.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/S6MVRX2UNA2QHBP4KGKSHMCJ7E Zzz

    I think it’s just look like a Sijosae design.

  • http://www.facebook.com/destroysall Chris Allen

    Great review, Lieven!  The design of this amp reminds me of the Hifiman EF2A.  Wonder how the two would compare?..

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Doesn’t look like I’ll be getting an EF2 soon, sorry

  • http://www.facebook.com/negakinu Erik Wijnands

    Judging purely on this review it seems too expensive compared to current competitors. Doesn’t stand out in sound, functionality, design or build quality. I think it’s design actually works against the amp. The single, LED-lit tube reminds me of those cheap, Chinese Bravo/Indeed amps from Ebay. And one of those exploded on me. ;) During my sister’s birthday party! Poor amp… uhh I mean: Poor sister. 

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      If I remember correctly you had been messing with that Bravo amp right before, didn’t you? ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/negakinu Erik Wijnands

        The first time it exploded I had been messing with it. Replaced the caps. They sound like poop coming from the manufacturer. The second time the power brick caught fire. That wasn’t my doing. I think. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rūdolfs-Putniņš/100001284307683 Rūdolfs Putniņš

    3W of class A? I think not, most likely it goes to Class B at some point. In any case this might be a cheap way to power the HE-6 or even super efficient desktop speakers.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

       I’m pretty sure the 3W statement is a “typo” ;)

  • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

    Looks like my cheap eBay tube amp (40 €). Perhaps it has some better parts, but not woth the 265 €.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

       It does sound better as that I’m sure ;)

      • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

        What makes you sure about it? :) I’ve already switched the MOSFETs, the LM317s and the output decoupling caps (all about 10 €) to better quality ones. The tube was changed to some Philips USA part (12 €).
        Of course I cannot see what exactly is in this TrendsAudio amp, but on the picture it seems to be quite similiar design with a better PCB layout. Nothing special so far.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

           Well, the stock $40 amp ofcourse :p

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

           I think we’ll skip on both mini amps you suggested ;)