The PA-10 is designed to be used solo as a headphone amp, or as a compact pre-amp to be used in combination with Trend’s TA-10 power amp and the speakers of your choice to make a neat, inexpensive micro system. The design is fairly simple, with a nice solid aluminium case featuring a 3.5mm headphone socket and volume knob at the front, plus two stereo phono inputs, a set of stereo phono outputs and an input selector switch at the back. To keep size and costs down the power supply is an external wall-wart, and there are no gold plated sockets or anything fancy like that.
The tube used in the pre-amp stage is a Chinese-made 6N11, but the amplifier will work with several alternatives, and it’s possible to buy an SE version with a Russian 6H23n for a ‘thicker, warmer bass’. The tube actually protrudes from the top of the case, enabling you to enjoy its lovely, rosy glow when you have the lights off. Note that if you do want to replace the tube with something different, you may have to fiddle with potentiometers inside the box to recalibrate the amplifier. That’s not a problem if you’re a dedicated tinkerer – and many of us at TR are just that – but it might be if you prefer things to just work.
If I’d have any complaints about the general design and build quality, they would be these. First, it’s a little too easy to knock the tube out of place accidentally, which probably isn’t good for its life expectancy. Second, the case gets really, seriously hot in use, which might be good if you want something to warm your coffee cup, but not if you just want to leave the PA-10 sitting on your desk.
Finally, you’ll inevitably need a 3.5mm to dual phono cable or an adaptor to use it with your PC, your MP3 player or an iPod line-out dock. Fitting a 3.5mm input wouldn’t have added much expense, and would have made this unnecessary. Still, at least you get two sets of input to switch between. Some people have also complained about a noisy volume control, but I can’t say it’s been a problem for me.