This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

When I listened to the TA.10.2 for the first time, I picked a minimalist context using a very common Samsung DVD player, JLA monitors without their sub section and the standard power supply. But I quickly decided to connect the woofers, making these speakers harder to control because the load becomes more reactive. From this first test, I expected nothing but a cheap deception from a very basic source, throwaway cabling and a somewhat difficult load for a tiny 10wpc integrated. The result was one of those surprises which are unfortunately very rare. The sound was stunningly clean and defined, vivid and neutral. For one endless hour, I tried to hit upon obvious limitations that would betray this insignificantly priced electronic device but I was beat. The most striking feature of this small box was that it seemed to suffer no particular weakness even with a more difficult load.

Of course the TA-10.2 is no ultimate high-end amplifier. There are limitations but none that I thought substantial. I still vividly remembered the poor results I had in the past with the JLA and NAD C162 & C272 separates which cost 10 times the Trends and also offered 10 times the power. The Trends was amazing by comparison. Compared to my current big Vincent SV-238, the soundstage wasn’t as wide and deep and some silence between the notes went AWOL but the overall sonics remained rather excellent. Transparency was even more evident and the overall presentation was very light and airy compared to the Vincent’s darker take. The Trends was capable of good driver control and while the bass wasn’t as tight as over the Vincent, it wasn’t weak. The midrange was defined, transparent and enjoyable. The treble had no particular harshness or dryness. The bandwidth was wide and not significantly curtailed.

One week later, I decided to mount another assault at cutting back the tiny box to size: how would it handle my McIntosh LS360 speakers compared to the Vincent and baby Halcro MC20? This was another big surprise. The Trends device was not completely wiped out and ran the 88dB speakers and their rigid polypropylene drivers with some authority. Of course the Vincent and Halcro were superior but by a smaller margin than I imagined.

Granted, the big boys had better control, dynamics and transients and were capable of loudness well past the Trends’ max output but my listening room locks up sooner and I never listen that loud. At its max output level, the Trends did distort significantly to become very harsh and dirty. But at more common levels (and I am one who likes to listen to music at quite realistic levels), the Trends remained impeccably clear. Voices were very well served, not 300B territory but not far off. All these considerations came to mind with the standard power supply in a non-tweaked setup.

When I used the little Hong Kong amp in a more ambitious installation a few days later, the results were really impressive. With good power cords, nice speaker cables, the more sophisticated PSU and a touch of granite insulation, there was still room for improvement but importantly, I never felt like fronting a budget system.

(By the way, granite in this particular case is also useful to avoid toppling the TA-10.2 with heavy speaker cables.) I also didn’t feel that I was facing a SOTA system but rather one that was very coherent. And that’s not always the case in homes whose occupants, like me, change their audio components on a regular basis. That was a really great achievement, to get such good results from so little money and with such big speakers.

Listening to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D, Opus 35 with guest star Julia Fischer supported by the talented Russian National Orchestra under Jakov Kreizberg [Pentatone Classics], the Chinese dwarfs served the subtle nuances very honestly. Even the demanding crescendos remained intelligible. I had no frustration with how dynamics were managed nor overall resolution. Perhaps a bit more density wouldn’t have hurt to underscore Fischer’s fabulous style but I had plenty of opportunities to listen to far expensive systems doing a lot worse or sometimes more but not necessarily by way of  enhancements that lead you closer to the recording.

With the new Robin McKelle album [Mess Around – Sony], the TA-10.2 demonstrated outstanding musicality and rhythm. Robin breaks with her former classicism to deliver a new album that spans Rhythm & Blues, Soul and Jazz. The Tripath amp readily handled the groovy climate of this new outing. Listening to Hiromi Uehara’s latest A place to be, the piano could have had more weight but remained quite realistic. It is perhaps with this instrument that you notice small bandwidth limitations on either end particularly with an energetic artist like Hiromi. But the sonic result never got messy to lose its coherent composure. In consideration of the ridiculous price, the TA-10.2 definitely makes great sound.

During my last holiday on the French Riviera in late February, I put the Trends pieces in my suitcase and had opportunity to assess what results you can get inserting them into a more modest system. My audio playmates were an old pair of Focal Spectral 908.1, a tweaked Marantz CD6000 OSE and a Harman Kardon HK3380, Monster speaker cables and Choseal interconnects (quite a good pair at that). The direct comparison with the Harman Kardon was truly painful. The American gear was very basic while the Chinese stomped it with superior detail and a far more sophisticated sound. The overall result was really pleasant. It was not strictly speaking high-end but considering the total price of all components involved, really remarkable performance. Very interesting in this case was how the TA-10.2 could so completely change the nature of a basic hifi. It would not make sense to compare the Vincent with the HK3380 because of their different design and price targets. Yet the affordability of the Trends together with its audiophile ambitions makes possible comparisons with all manner of devices. Even the comparison between the Trends and Halcro wasn’t completely ludicrous. I recently read on a French website a short review of the Trends TA-10.2 driving with honors one of the more famously difficult load ever released – Apogee Divas. Once again the Trends proved quite unflappable within its loudness window.

Using the TA-10.2 with the standard and PW-10 PSU, I had to admit to a small  improvement but it was actually smaller than imagined. The standard in-line supply already delivers very fine results. The particular appeal of the PW-10 to me resides in its versatility and particularly fine match with the UD-10.1. The Achilles heel of Trends’ digital interface was its original power supply especially in the basic USB configuration. The external battery was improving results of the UD-10.1 and UD-10.1 Lite somewhat but its use was not so easy for Mac owners. The new PSU completely clears this weakness and runs easily with PCs and Macs. If you already own two Trends pieces, the new PSU is worth its price.

I must say that this amplifier in my opinion is a universal must-have. It will never bring to your system the perfect illusion that the artists play completely in your living room but then, what kind of expensive stuff really does? More importantly, the Trends TA-10.2 will make you conscious of sane present reality each time you fire it up and for quite a pittance. This small gear embodies true audiophile consciousness that can be put in your suitcase. It reminds you of certain virtuous principles like, pricing is not necessarily proportional with quality; you do not need a huge amount of watts to get satisfying results but rather, quality first watts; and finally, never trust an audio device solely on appearance.

I declared earlier how I wanted to avoid the fairy tale mode. Now I would remind you of the material tangibility of this small device. The TA-10.2 is a perfectly realistic achievement which provides you with an accurate sound reproduction at a silly affordable price. The Trends is not a dream however pleasant. It’s simply a killer bargain. Take it or leave it. I could add that a lot of expensive systems will under-perform the Trends if the setup has not been correctly done. Every audiophile with sufficient background knows well that the progression of one’s hifi is unfortunately not always an ongoing improvement. To buy audiophile consciousness for a few bucks is a great opportunity for the masses. And the Trends combo is also a perfect choice for that second or third system for even serious listeners. It saves money, space, electricity - and perhaps even your sanity.

Quality of packing
: Very good.
Reusability of packing: A few times.
Condition of component received: Excellent.
Human interactions: Good.
Pricing: Stratospheric value.

Trends website