Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Trends Audio TA10.1 – Switched mode vs. linear power supply


The cute little Trends TA10.1 is a cheerful and useful little amp. Based on a Tripath chipset, it delivers 5 watts per channel and is perfect for a small bedroom, kitchen or office setup.

Used within its power limitations, it will not be embarrassed by amps many times its price. The Trends in particular is very modification friendly and my set has an upgraded potentiometer from Panasonic and Auricap coupling capacitors.

The stock power supply provided by the local distributor here in Singapore, Audio Trio, is a Chinese made switching power supply rated at 12V, 3A. Its hardly generates any heat, is light and compact.

Other users have reported varying degrees of success at using alternative power supplies, particularly units with higher maximum current rating, or linear power supplies.

Here is a comparison with a JVC linear power supply (bought from Koba Electronics at Peoples Park, Chinatown) rated at 12V, 2A. Heavy as a brick, it runs fairly warm and for some diabolical reason has the shortest DC jack cable I’ve ever seen.

Stock supply

There is nothing particularly wrong with the stock supply and performance seems relatively well rounded, with an attractively high amount of detail level. Instruments in jazz tracks like the saxophone, drumset etc, are well separated and precisely located in the soundstage. High frequencies are particularly airy with a shimmering feel.

If there is one criticism, the overall balance is relatively lightweight and bright, as the high frequency sparkle is not matched with a solid bass. Interestingly though, the bass is very tight and well controlled, but lacking in extension.

JVC linear power supply

The anti-thesis of the stock supply, the JVC linear power supply imparts a much darker presentation. Instruments do not pop out like the stock supply and image size tends to be larger but somewhat imprecise. Where the JVC stands out is the much heftier bass which has more impact and tilts the balance towards the warm side. The overall detail level seems lower and the sense of air around instruments is hard to discern.


Both power supplies have their place. Much like day and night, it is really up to individual taste whether you like a cool shimmering balance, or a dark and rich presentation. I was somewhat surprised by the differences as the reports I have read from other audiophiles suggested that the linear power supply was the way to go. Not quite a clear choice to me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Coming up next - low powered digital amps

Watch this space for an upcoming shoot-out between three low powered digital amps, the Sonic Impact T-Amp (the first generation model that started it all), the Trends TA-10.1 and the Nuforce Icon.

A tale of 3 power cords

Do power cords make any difference ? Certainly. Do they improve the sound ? Questionable.

First, let's not get into the old and tired debate about why power cords make any difference. Miles of ordinary cable from the substation to our house and socket, and changing the last 5-6 feet of cable makes a difference ? Well, try for yourself and let your ears decide.

While on a powercord binge, I purchased some loose lengths of the following cables,

1. Acrolink 6N-P4030.
2. Oyaide Tunami GPX
3. Oyaide PA-23

Alll 3 cables could take on lead roles in a system depending on the effect you want to achieve. A short summary of their characteristics is listed below to give you an idea of how they sound. All cables were of course nicely burned in before any serious evaluation was done. I used plugs which I viewed as being commensurate to the cable's price range. Top end Oyaide plugs were used for the Acrolink and Tunami. The PA-23 was used with Wattgate plugs.

1. Acrolink 6N-P4030
This is a fairly thick cable and the most expensive of the lot, at S$ 160 per meter. It is not particular difficult to cut or terminate. Due to its thickness, it cannot be terminated reliably into a UK 3 pin plugs except for the ultra expensive Furutech UK 3 pin plug.

This cable sounds very refined and delicate. It has very good balance with its high frequencies being particularly expressive and detailed. It has a very special quality in the way reverb and decay are produced. The air around instruments is really fantastic and natural. For the price, I think it is a bargain.

Sonics : 9.5/10
Value : 9/10

2. Oyaide Tunami GPX

Another thick cable, and moderately priced at $100 per meter. It somehow seems to me slightly more difficult to work with compared to the Acrolink with its thickness being particularly problematic. Forget about UK 3 pin plugs and get the biggest and baddest plug you can find.

This is not a subtle cable. Deep thundering bass is its striking signature. Significantly darker than the Acrolink or the Oyaide PA-23, the Tunami GPX draws a bit too much attention to the bass. Nothing is particularly wrong with the rest of the frequencies, although its high frequencies definitely do not have that same magic touch as the Acrolink. Definitely what the doctor ordered for bass anemic systems, but others will need to match with care.

Sonics : 7/10
Value : 7/10

3. Oyaide PA-23
The skinny one of the lot, the PA 23 is flexible, easy to terminate and will fit into any UK 3 pin plug without complaint. At S$ 50 per meter, its cheap to boot too.

It has a lot more in common with the Acrolink than the Tunami GPX. It has a special delicate touch in the high frequencies with similar sense of air, and decay. What seperates this from the Acrolink is a relatively bass light response and the the lack of ultimate high frequency refinement which the Acrolink pulls off so convincingly. With the PA-23, you can sense the degree of extension in the highs (which is a touch hi-fi like). For the Acrolink, it just seems so natural, you forget about the cable.

For want of a better description, I think of this as a poor man's Acrolink.

Sonics : 8/10
Value : 10/10

Component matching is just like cooking. A bit of this and a bit of that, to balance all the flavours in the food. Throwing too many of any of the above cables into a system could be too much of a good thing. I use the Acrolink for my source, with the Tunami GPX for my amp. The PA-23is used for the source in my secondary systems.

US vs. UK mains plugs

Singapore mains sockets use the 3 pin UK mains plug type. However, many local audiophiles choose to change their sockets to US mains sockets. What are the pros and cons between both ?

US sockets and plugs


1. No fuse (sonics wise)
2. No switch
3. US plugs accomodate thick and stiff power cables better
4. Large variety of aftermarket accessories


1. No fuse (safety wise)
2. Plugs use thin / folded blades
3. Against local electricity regulations

UK sockets and plugs


1. Fused (safety wise)
2. Plug terminals are sturdy solid brass type
3. Adheres to local electricity regulations


1. Fuse and switch degrade contact and sound
2. UK plugs do not accomodate thick wire well (except for the super expensive Furutech plug)
3. Hardly any variety of aftermarket plugs, sockets and cables

Interested to find out the difference between both options, I terminated two identical cables, except one with a US plugs and the other with a UK plug. The US plug was a budget Wattgate while the UK plugs was a hospital grade MK (the one with the red housing). The cable was the excellent and value for money Oyaide PA-23.

Both cables sounded different, but neither were obviously better. You could nitpick on the differences, but I don't think either could be reliably identified in a blind test.

I don't think you really should lose any sleep over deciding which to use.

Acoustic Reality ear 1001-Ref monoblocs

I recently had the opportunity to experience the Acoustic Reality ear 1001-Ref monobloc which I had in my setup for about a month. Note this write up is for the 2007 model and not the current model which I understand has some circuit revisions.

Capable of delivering 500 watts per channel into 8 Ohms and 1000 watts per channel, it has more power than you could ever need.

Finished in shiny mirror cases with a shoebox footprint, it will look the part in a sleek and sexy setup. Apart from the annoying ability to show up dusts and fingerprints, you can use it comb your hair.

The ear 1001 Ref monobloc is based on the B&O ICEpower ASP1000 module, which is also used in the Bel Canto Ref 1000 monobloc.

They were given a work out powering a variety of speakers, both easy and hard to drive loads.

Many have complained that ICEpower sounds cold, dry and lacking in emotion. On the other hand, the number of hifi companies, including very respected names, suggests that the technology must have some merits.

Soundwise, the first thing that strikes you is the extremely tight grip on the bass. In the midrange to high frequencies, the extension and detail is incredible. Detail freaks will love these amplifiers.

Balance wise, it did not strike me as being cold or clinical (and these are comments coming from a tube lover). in fact the midrange seemed slightly laidback and full. However, there is a slight lack of fluidity and not much sense of air, so you will need to match with care.

Downsides ? The units appear to be very sensitive to grounding arrangement. Plugged into different wall sockets, the resultant hum was loud enough to take out a speaker drive unit which had me dive for the power switch. Plugging all equipment into the same power strip solved this, but this wasn't a problem I had with any of my other equipment before. Even with careful grounding arrangement, there was a very low volume hum audible about a foot from the driver units.

The gain seems to be fairly high too, and my excellent sounding Promitheus TVC preamp was way too loud even at the lowest setting. It seemed to like my homemade passive preamp (based on an Alps Black Beauty pot), but liked my Diva M7 preamp even better (which has a selectable gain switch anyway). The M7 combination mitigated many of the shortcomings I described above. So maybe, a tube pre could be a good way to go.

How would I rate this ?

Looks and build : 8.5/10 (nice shiny finish, WBT bindings posts)
Sound : 9/10
Value : 10/10

You can find out more about this amp at
BTW, there is no local dealer, so you have to direct order from the manufacturer.


Welcome to my hi-fi blog.

Details of my hi-fi adventures (not always good) and newsworthy information on the local hi-fi scene will be posted from time to time.

Do enjoy yourself and remember, hifi is a hobby at the end of the day. Have fun, enjoy yourself and don't take things too seriously.