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Joël Chevassus
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Audio Analogue Grand Maestro CD, Trends UD-10.1, iMac/iTunes
Preamp/Integrated: Vincent SV-238, Trends TA-10.2
Speakers: JLA Acoustique Perspective 2 Signature & Stand 80, McIntosh LS360
Cables: Naturelle Audio XLR cables Live 8 and Live 4, Audioart SC-5 SE speaker cables
Power Cords: AudioArt Power1 SE
Stands: Quest for Sound Isol pads for CD player, Ikea stand for Vincent SV-238
Room Size: 56 square meters
Review Component Retail: $189 TA-10.2, $199 PW-10

First a confession. Until recently I still believed that Trends Audio devices were confined to be interesting only as desktop accessories. That’s no longer the case. Like others on this team, I am finding obvious pleasure in writing stories about sound and music. In the present case, I have in front of me one of the most suitable characters about which to write a quite perfect audio fairy tale. Naturally, I’m aware of the difference between fairy tales and reviews. All things considered, a review here is the better choice. This takes into account the hardly romantic nature of this latest ‘class T’ Chinese match box. Furthermore, the Trends TA-10.2 is definitely a tangible device. It's not just a fictional character.

Like previous Trends products, the TA-10.2 is capable of stellar performance. It is without contest a true bargain. The essential question is, to what extent is it a bargain? The only correct answer probably is that it depends. There are no absolutes. The real difficulty here is comparing things with comparable things; to avoid superlatives which don’t help to place this device on a rigorous performance scale; and to precisely identify the optimum buyer. In the end, I confess to simply experiencing one more time the magical once-upon-a-time syndrome.

Building on the success of the Trends TA-10 series, the Trends TA-10.2 is supposed to reach new levels of performances and become a fiercer audiophile nightmare for far more expensive competitors. To reach this ambitious goal, the TA-10.2 improves its circuit design, parts matching and even the rear-panel socketry layout to make for more convenient interconnect and speaker cable connections.

Back to the beginning, once upon a time. David Ho from Trends Audio contacted me to review a new desktop amplifier. I immediately replied that it would be difficult for me to properly assess this kind of portable gear because I had no suitable desktop speakers to mate to it. David assured me that his small amp would drive big speakers. Despite skepticism, I finally accepted the assignment together with a brand new power supply. The demure dimensions of the TA integrated amplifier felt like a new toy for my daughters. But this device is sold as a desktop amp to represent a solid foundation upon which to build a first audio system for folks outside the audiophile sphere.

My daughters already had an old Kenwood integrated which could be replaced by this Trends to conserve space in their leisure room. Let’s take a closer look then. The standard power supply looks like that of a laptop computer. The four binding posts are rather quality but there’s only one RCA input to connect a single source. In addition to the standard PSU, Trends dispatched a new one that can feed three Trends units at once: TA (amp), PA (preamp) and UD (DAC). Its size and weight are approximately twice that of the amplifier.

The latest installment of Trends’ integrated presents some minor changes. From what I could tell, certain parts have been updated while others remain the same. Externally, the inputs on the rear are now centered to make for easier cable routing. Just as in the previous TA-10.1, power derives from a Tripath TA-2024 chip for 90% efficiency and a respectable 15wpc 4-ohm output (10 into 8) stuck into a box weighing about 300g. At the same power-to-weight ratio, my Vincent SV-238 would have to provide almost 1.300 watts into 8 ohms. There’s definitely an abyss between class A and T in terms of efficiency.

The standard power supply claims to minimize power line interference. Trends Audio lists the following improvements for the point two: specially designed audiophile-grade Trends MKP capacitors as input decoupling units; low and high ripple current LSR Rubycon MCZ series tank capacitors for power filtering as the best match for the PWM switching of class T amplifiers; ans a smaller and better 9mm sealed Alps pot for better sonics.

There's also DC bias offset nulling by adjusting the factory preset potentiometers to suppress power on/off transients and improve sonic purity; and a pure power amp option by resetting jumpers to bypass the volume control circuit.

The newly designed PW-10 PSU is a transformer-based linear affair that can drive the TA-10 amplifier, the PA-10 tube headphone/preamplifier and the UD-10 USB audio converter (or future DAC DA-10) with stable output voltages, low noise and low ripple.

Inside the heavy case, there’s a quality transformer with dedicated secondaries for the discrete voltages the three components require. "The circuitry and various parts were strictly designed and selected to optimize the various power usage characteristics for high-frequency, high current, digital and analogue circuits of each Trends component."

Trends Audio specifies ultra-fast ON Semiconductor MUR420 and MUR120 rectifiers for the fastest response in power rectification; Rubycon top MCZ series and Sanyo Os-Con capacitors for high-frequency digital; and Nippon Chemical high-end capacitors for analogue. There are also high-end National Semiconductor LM-317A (supposedly more precise than the standard LM317) and LM1084 linear power regulators plus a quality EMI filter to reduce power line noise.