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The PA-10.1D Tube Amp by Trends Audio

The cannery gets a run out

The 10.1D acts as both a primary headphone amp and a pre-amp though we decided to stick to the headphone stage for this review to keep everything in context. Whilst the P-10.1D was fairly powerful for what it is but there were some limitations in the stock configuration and tube and true enough these limitations showed up in some of the cans we tested it with.

The house sound of the P-10.1D with the stock tube could be best described as reasonably rich tonally with a warm to neutral signature and a more than forgiving top end. There is a prominent bass section and excellent transients. It does not possess the most expansive sound stage or the most detailed imaging, sometimes coming across as a little congested on more complex tracks.

For planers the power was not there in stock configuration. Both the HE6 and LCD rev 2 maxed pretty quick with audio distortion coming before we hit 12 noon on the pot. The HE6 needs more juice and coming from the Mjolnir and the EF6 the drop was noticeable and reminded me of the early days hunting for something that did those cans justice. The LCD-2 rev 2 managed around 12 noon on low gain and 10am on high gain. It performed better than the HE6 regarding volume levels especially on high gain setting but noticeable distortion like the HE6 coming in on high gain at around 11-12 noon and low gain just didnt cut it with distortion coming in at acceptable volume levels. I am not sure why people are talking great things about planer performance with the PA-10.1D because volume wise it is possible to get just the right level but distortion quickly sets in and honestly there is not enough power even if there is a ton of gain it just wont allow planers like the LCD-2 and HE6 to shine. Pity I dont have the HE400 around me anymore but its a better bet for this amp being the easiest planer of the Hifiman range to drive.

The Beyer DT770 32ohm LE much a much better experience with a very clean and noise free background, especially on vocal tracks – no sharp attack or high sibilance on the stock tube. It wasn’t overly warm or analog but a good level of clarity. It had no problems with churning out the weighty DT770 LE 32 ohm bass or being able to make the smooth treble sparkle sound suprisingly well controlled, articulate and musical.

The Philips Citiscape Downtown came in at high gain 9am and low gain 12 noon. The Dowbntown’s slightly inefficent driver makes a good match for better control than the DT770 32ohm edition using the stock tube. It had no problems in powering but there was a bit more grain and dry upper mids/lower treble but a good strong bass performance without it being overpowering – excellent sub-bass performance, perhaps best I heard from the Downtown yet without any pronounced mid-bass hump to get in the way.


The ATH – ESW9 came in roughly at 9am on high gain and 10am on low gain. Running Benny Benasi- Everybody Everybody (vs Blackbox) it had a decent mix of vocals and dance beats – mids a bit further back with a more dominant bass reproduction and a smooth treble (which is the ESW9 for me in a nutshell anyhow). The ESW9 was pretty easily driven giving a warm and liquid sonic quality without any sharpness. The tube experience was best represented for me with the warm ESW9 and the stock 6H23n.

The ATH-ESW10 played adequately just above 8am on the high gain and 10am on the low gain was displayed a more open and expressive mid section with slightly less coloration and not quite as warm as the ESW9 but still a very smooth reproduction. The ESW11 LTD showed off the PA-10.1D’s excellent transients without any harshness. The bass is strong but not overly dominant. The dynamics of the ESW11 for me outperform that of the ESW9 – just a touch more sparkle and clarity.

The AKG K501 – for volume about 10am on high gain and 12 noon on low gain. This was less of a good match, more of a death match and I frankly I was not surprised with it lacking in depth and bass texture, loosing a lot of top end extension and producing a much reduced soundstage to what I normally enjoy with the K501. Yes the K501 takes another victim. You really need natural power and not gain to make these babies tick.

Final Audio’s FI-BA-SS was my first and only IEM that I tried. I just could not see anyone going for an IEM setup like this but curiosity got the better of me and I wish it had not. There was channel imbalance at low volumes starting out at around 7am. There was a slightly better control on the low gain setting but this was not a good match with the FI-BA-SS sounding very tight and giving a very harsh lower treble reproduction, shallow bass and thin mids. Stock tubes are miss for me with this setup but honestly I dont see anyone matching these two together – very different spectrums in terms of usage.

Modding afternotes

Some of the grassroots guys here took it apart after this review replacing the stock caps with black gate capacitors, silver foil resistors putting the output stage at 600ohms and threw in a good quality 12au7n tube and renamed it “the little beast”. I have yet to hear it but the owner placed it proudly beside his Woo WA6 so I kind of trust his opinion on this and as I said right at the start there does seem to be plenty of potential in the P-10.1D SE beyond the stock mode if you know what you are doing.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed the Trends Audio P-10.1D once I found the right match. The small form factor, flexible rolling capabilities and high mod potential make it a really versatile tube amp with bags of potential in the right hands. The bi-amping capability is a great feature for those who need it but us headphile nuts really want an array of headphone options and I do wish it had that quarter jack option to give it a more hardcore impression that it is for can jammers. The tube options are pretty great though and most seem to opt for the 12au7n as the preferred tube option opening this little guy right up and giving it a chance to really shine. In stock format with the SE Soviet 6H23N tube my feeling is that it is reasonably ok with a bass bias and excellent transients but at $299 I would opt for the GE edition which sports the 12au7n out of the box and go from there.

Technical Specs
Including Limited Edition Russian 6H23n
Dimensions: (W)76mm x (H)46 mm x (D)114 mm[case only]/150 mm[incl. sockets & knob]
Weight: 300g
Spec. (Power Unit):
AC Input Voltage: Universal AC 100V-240V / 50~60Hz
DC Output Voltage: DC 24V / 0.6A
Dimensions: 65 mm(L) x 60 mm(W) x 105 mm(H)
Weight: 150g

Contact Details

Trends Audio
ITOK Media Limited
Unit E, 13/F, World Tech Centre
95 How Ming Street
Kwun Tong, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2304-0730
Fax: +852 2566-5740

E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.TrendsAudio.com