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.

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