Product: PW-10 power supply
Manufacturer: Trends Audio
Cost: 199$. (220v or 110v) (YMMV)
Reviewer: Nick Whetstone - TNT UK
Reviewed: June, 2010
Trends has become quite well known for their quality mini-hi-fi that sells at budget prices. I've now reviewed their USB DAC, pre amp, and power amp, while Lucio reviewed their integrated amp. You can see from all those reviews that we quite liked the Trends components, and why not, they produce a very good sound from a separates system that can all fit on a single hi-fi shelf. So what could Trends turn their attention to next? Well, the heart of any decent hi-fi is the power supply, and that appears to be what Trends thought too. The items that we have reviewed on TNT have all been supplied with a fairly basic switched mode power supply (SMPS). These are compact, cheap to produce, and offer good performance for the money. A few months back I tried a few different power supplies with the Virtue Audio amps and came out of that audition slightly preferring a linear supply to the SMPS supplied by Virtue. So I wasn't too surprised when I opened up the Trends PW-10 and found a linear supply inside.
Trends use one toroidal transformer but with three secondary windings to produce the different voltages required for their units. The DAC requires 5 volts, the pre amp 24 volts, and the power amp 12 volts. The three supplies are then connected to output sockets on the rear of the PW-10, and colour-coded umbilical leads are supplied to take the power to the Trends DAC, pre amp, and power amp. Although the umbilical leads are colour-coded, they all have the same connectors and the user must therefore take care to connect the right unit to its appropriate power supply! Each supply has a corresponding on/off switch on the rear of the PW-10 so there is the option to switch each unit on from there, or using the on/off switch on the PW-10. If it appears that this is simply adding switches for the sake of it, I should say that found in practice that using the switches on the rear of the PW-10 (and leaving the DAC/pre/power switched on) was easier to use than fiddling around on the back of each unit. This was probably due to the power supply being much heavier, and therefore more stable, and less prone to move when I operated the switches.
Ironically, there isn't much of an advantage as regards saving space with the PW-10. Linear supplies are much larger than SMPS and even using just one toroidal transformer instead of three, the PW-10 is no more compact than the three SMPS supplied with the Trends DAC/pre/power units. So the question that I needed to answer was: does the PW-10 make an improvement to the sound quality?
For the review I set up the UD-10, PA-10, and TA-10.2P on a large slab of granite, together with the PW-10. I added my DD tripods and some extra granite pieces on top of each case to stabilize them. Source was a modified Logitech SB3, and speakers were my IPL A2's. Before I listened to that set-up, I listened to the system using the SMPS supplied with the DAC/pre/power. I then connected up the PW-10 and listened to the same playlist. The results were similar to my audition of a basic linear supply with the Virtue Audio amps, ie it sounded slightly different but not significantly so. Switching between the power supplies, ie SMPS and PW-10 during several listening sessions on different days, I concluded that I just preferred the PW-10 powered system but there wasn't much in it.
So is the PW-10 worth the asking price? That's a very hard one to answer. For a similar outlay you could make up a battery supply that would (or should) give you a similar (or possibly better) sonic performance. On the other hand, as a finished, built-and-tested power supply, the PW-10 is finished well, safe, convenient, and ready to use. I will reiterate my opinion that I slightly prefer linear supplies with the class-T amps so if I wasn't in a position to build my own, I would be tempted to buy the PW-10. I can't say though that this is a 'must-have' upgrade simply because the Trends gear works so well with the SMPS supplied. As ever, it's that old hi-fi thing about the law of diminishing returns, and the customer will have to decide. What the PW-10 does do, is complete a system for those that like everything matching, and make it slightly more convenient to operate.
© Copyright 2010 Nick Whetstone - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com