xDuoo TA-10 High Fidelity Tube Headphone USB DAC&Amplifier

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
Pros: + Thick Sound
+ Lots of driving power
+ Compact Build
+ Tube Rolling is Available
+ XLR Output
+ Good DAC
+ Price / Performance Ratio
Cons: - Intimate Stage
- Sound is almost always warm, even with brighter tubes
Monster Power, Midrange Price - xDuoo TA10 USB DAC & Headphone Amplifier



What happens when a company designs a really decent, or otherwise even awesome DAC and Tube Headphone Amplifier for just 290 USD, is xDuoo TA10. Given its price point, Burson PlayMate, Pre Box S2 Digital, and iFi xDSD are the main competitors for Today's Review on an amazing little unit from a growing company from China. Pairings with Rosson RAD-0, Sennheiser HD660S and Verum One will also be included in Today's review of the TA10 from xDuoo and Xtenik.



Introduction

xDuoo is an interesting growing company from China, but they aren't the star in Today's introduction, as they are more of a shadow company that I can't advice you to purchase directly from, instead I suggest you to get your products from resellers of xDuoo products, like Xtenik, who are known to provide one of the best service, quick answers to their customers, along with excellent support. When you order from Xtenik, you are welcomed by a professional team that's there to help you and to guide you to the best product for your needs. Generally, they also have some of the best prices around, with excellent sales going on, and with some rare products easily accessible from any corner of the world.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Xtenik or xDuoo. I'd like to thank Xtenik for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with xDuoo TA10. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in xDuoo TA10 find their next music companion.



Product Link

https://www.xtenik.com/product/xduoo-ta-10-usb-tube-headphone-amplifier/



About me

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging


There's not quite that much included in the package of xDuoo TA10, but you have all the essentials waiting for you, including a power cord, a high-quality USB cable, a little guard for the Tube, to protect it while it is installed. There is also a mini CD with the Drivers for using TA10 as a USB DAC, and there is also a Warranty card, and a 3.5mm to a 6.3mm adapter, as the main output from TA10 is a single ended Headphone Output in a 6.3mm. There is also an XLR Headphone output, but I do not consider that to be the main output of TA10 as it doesn't have a proper balanced amplifying stage.



What to look in when purchasing a midrange DAC / Amplifier

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



Technical Specifications


Classic tube 12AU7
Top level XMOS 8-core chip (XSA-U8A-64)
AKM flagship DAC AK4490
USB/coaxial digital interface
A class Transistor expansion
USB OTG
Dual clock system
Combination of tube and transistor
Japanese ELNA SILMC capacitors
Shell made from aluminum
Magnetic tube guardrail
Power supply: AC 100–240V
Supported OS: Windows (requires drivers), Mac
Sample rate: SB input
PCM: 16–32 bit/44.1–384 kHz
DSD: DSD64–DSD256 (1bit/2.8M–11.2M)
DXD: 24–32 bit/352.8–384 kHz
Output power: Phone: 2,000 mW (at 32 ohms); XLR: 2,000 mW (at 32 ohms)
Frequency response: 10 Hz–100 kHz(+/- 1 dB)
Gain: +18 dB
Distortion: ≤ 0.01% (1 kHz, 32-ohm load)
Suitable headphone impedance: 8–600 ohms
Size: 9.1 x 4.7 x 4.1 in (23 x 12 x 10.5 cm)
Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)
USB input
Two sets of AUX inputs
SPDIF output
AUX output


Build Quality/Aesthetics/Functionality

Starting with the build quality, we're looking at a DAC/AMP that is solid, maybe a touch too solid. The Tube is guarded by a little magnetic guard, and you can take that off, but the tube itself is extremely hard to remove from the device, and replacing the tube, which is a replaceable part, is much harder than on any other Tube Amplifier. There is a Volume & Input selector wheel at the front of the device, along with a mini display, that shows the current volume. The display is bright and easily visible from any angle, but it doesn't do much more other than showing the current volume.



There is a series of LCD lights at the bottom of the device that shows the current input, along with a DSD light that tells you whether you're running a DSD signal to TA10.

The feet of the device are made of rubber, and although it is a really small and light unit, chances are it will never slide off your table. Most of the weight of the device is at the back of the device.

Speaking of a really useful tiny device, TA10 has a SPDIF Output, a USB Input, two Auxiliary inputs, which are in RCA format. Those are there if you want to use TA10 only as a headphone amplifier, or as a PREAMP, rather than using it as a DAC. This being said, it would be a pity to do so, since the DAC inside is of a very good quality, and it is an AK 4490, which by all means, is a very decent DAC, especially for this price point. I personally am more of an ESS DACs fan, but AK will do just fine if the implementation is right. TA10 offers up to 32 BIT decoding, and DSD up to 256.



When looking at it, you wouldn't imagine that it has a lot of power, but it has almost 2 WATS of power running through it. You will be able to drive Audeze's Planars with TA10, and even other hard to drive headphones, it has no issues. Even with 600 OHM Headphones, like Beyerdynamic T1, are driven perfectly by TA10. HD800 is also no issue for this tiny AMP, and I am closing in to believing that if a company wanted, they would be able to design a really affordable unit that would be pretty future proofed, and well, TA10 is just that, with a wide format coverage, but also with an excellent overall driving power and nice build quality.

When looking at Hagerman Tuba Amplifier, or Aune S6 PRO, both of which are priced at almost double the price of TA10, but deliver much less driving power, I am reminded that power alone isn't everything when it comes to a headphone DAC/AMP.

With PREAMP functions as well, as it has a Line Out, you surely can do a lot with this Tube AMP based on the 12AU7 Tubes. There are a lot of tubes around to do rolling with, if you wanted to, but I would suggest sticking to the original tube and replacing when it runs out, as it is inexpensive, at about 10 USD a piece, and lasts for a long time.

Overall, the unit does get hot, like any tube Amplifier, and it is pretty much future-proof in every aspect, the remaining important part being how it sounds and how well it keeps its cool when it comes to its actual performance, rather than the features it packs.



Video Review Link




Sound Quality


The tonality of TA10 could be described as quite thick, way more dense and punchy in the sub-bass than it feels in the midrange and the treble. There is a pretty large difference between the thick, raw, punchy and impactful sub-bass, and the looser, softer, smoother treble. This is actually quite rare for an amplifier, and the tuning is quite specific. With specific headphones, the pairing is just heaven, while with others, it can sound a bit loose and tryhard. This being said, most pairings have sounded quite amazing, and there were more that sounded great than those that sounded bad with TA10.



The bass of TA-10 is really thick and firm, thick and impactful. The stock tube isn't exactly known for bass, but it looks like TA10 decided to not care and to have an amazing bottom end anyways. The DAC had a word to say about this, and so had the rest of the design, but overall, the end sound is simply outstandingly strong in the sub-bass. If you prefer a warmer, more musical sound, with more in the mid bass, you can always look for Tube upgrades. Headphones that would naturally express a strong low-end, like Audeze LCD-2C, or Audze LCD-MX4, are going to take advantage of TA10's for sure. The speed of the bass isn't exactly the strong point of TA-10, as much as the size, density and impact is. This is important to keep in mind, because music like EDM sounds really impressive, while technical death metal, or rock in general may have a bit too much bass that is a bit too slow. For the 290 USD price point, the resolution and detail of the bass is amazing as well, with a lot more to offer for those looking to listen than for those looking for critical listening.

The midrange is really forward, and with headphones like HE6SE, which are known to be bright, but have a good vocal presence, you can hear a lot of the textures and voices being brought quite forward. This leads to a really engaging experience, with a wall-of-sound like of presentation, that works well for metal, rock, and jazz, also for EDM. If you like your Classical to be quite dynamic, TA-10 will also work well for classical and orchestral. Upgrading the tube will change the sound, and you could always get a warmer tube that would make TA-10 more musical, and a bit less forward, if you didn't come at peace with the original tube.



Where I had only praise for the midrange and the bass, for their forward, engaging presentations, the tob end is pretty rolled off, and despite offering excellent detail, clarity, and just overall having good refinement, it lacks impact and textures. Since the stock tube is generally known to sound more clinical and bright, I would have guessed that TA-10 would be less warm, or at least have a similarly strong top end, like the bass and the midrange, but instead, you get a really soft and smooth experience up top. If you're a bit of a treble head, you can bump the amount of treble a bit via EQ, and TA-10 will take it well, but there's a limit to how much you can do so before things get out of phase.

The soundstage could be considered to be on the smaller side, making everything intimate, as if you'd be sitting in the same room as the artist when they composed the music. This works quite well for Jazz and room music, especially as the depth is good on TA-10, but if you're searching for the widest, most spacious sound, sadly TA-10 isn't specialized and won't provide that. Rather, you should be interested in TA-10 if you're looking for a closer, deeper sound. The dynamics are quite excellent though, and you don't hear the music compressed out of TA-10.



Desktop Usage

You can't use TA-10 portably even if you wanted to, as it requires a constant connection to a power outlet. This being said, there are headphones, and even tube products that can be used portably out there, like the OVC Tube Headphones, and the AMP 9 from iBasso, for their DX220, DX200 and DX150. All of those are portable products that can be used outside, but which have some tube magic.



I also reviewed some Tube-Based products before, like Feliks Euforia, Feliks Echo, and ifi iTube 2. It looks like tube-based products are still made for desktop mostly, and TA-10 makes no exception. If you're looking to power some large, heavy-duty headphones, like HIFIMAN HE6SE, HIFIMAN Arya, or even something like Sennheiser HD660S, which makes an excellent pairing with TA-10, then having a full sized desktop amplifier is going to be a good thing, as you're unlikely to want to take it out of your home.

The device itself is not quite that heavy, and has a small footprint on your desk, so you don't have to worry about your listening setup being cluttered. Furthermore, having both an amplifier and a DAC inside, you won't require to have a separate DAC. At this price point, you probably wouldn't be investing in a DAC that would work separately from TA-10 anyways, so a one-device solution is pretty excellent in my honest opinion, if you were looking to power your headphones, have some Tube Magic, and also have it all at 290 USD.

The device is practical, it takes little space, provides a good amount of driving power, and doesn't need anything else besides a source to work. Furthermore, it takes in both SPDIF and USB signals, along with AUX, so you have the freedom to connect it to any source you want, making it a really good choice if you want to use it as a tiny desktop device, regardless whether you'll be connecting it to a DAP, a tiny laptop, or a large desktop workstation, it will still look nice and provide excellent service.



Comparisons

The main competitors in this price range, for TA-10 are Burson PlayMate, iFi xDSD, and Pro-Ject Pre-Box S2 Digital. All of those are priced at a similar price point and are similar devices in design and purpose.



xDuoo TA-10 vs Burson PlayMate - Starting with a pretty pertinent comparison, the main difference between TA-10 and PlayMate is that PlayMate is a full Class A Amplifier, and has a Solid State design, where TA-10 relies on a Tube for its amplification stage. Both offer a strong power, good overall ergonomics, and good build quality. Both also offer possibilities to play with their sound, TA-10 by removing and replacing its Tube, while with Burson PlayMate, you can replace the OP-AMPs to change its signature. In terms of sonics, which is pretty much the only part that is different, Burson is considerably wider, brighter and more digital-sounding than TA-10, which is intimate, thick, and bassy / warm. There is a good sense of dynamic in both DAC/AMPs, but Burson may sound a bit more compressed compared to TA-10 which has a really good dynamic range. On the other hand, Burson PlayMate may have more driving power, especially for power-hungry cans.

xDuoo TA-10 vs iFi xDSD - iFi xDSD is a portable DAC/AMP, but it also boasts about its driving power, along with its price, being just 110 USD more expensive than TA-10. This means that if you could afford TA-10, you could probably afford xDSD as well, so I think that the comparison makes a lot of sense. Furthermore, despite the lower number of inputs and outputs, and the no XLR output of xDSD, it can be used as a desktop device anyways. In terms of driving power, TA-10 has more, but in terms of sound, especially since you have the tweaks to your disposal, xDSD sounds wider, more punchy, and generally more dynamic. It doesn't have enough driving power for Audeze LCD-MX4, for example, but where it has enough driving power, like especially for IEMs, I recommend it more, I prefer the more balanced sound. TA-10, by comparison sounds much more intimate, closer to the listener, more forward, and also thicker, warmer. In general, I think that I prefer the sound of TA-10 for music that is supposed to sound thick, and for rock and metal, the sound of xDSD.

xDuoo TA-10 vs Pro-Ject Pre-Box S2 Digital - Pro-Ject Pre-Box S2 Digital costs about 400 USD, and it is a very expensive DAC, with headphone outputs, but when compared with TA-10, only the DAC is better, because the headphone output is heavily underpowered, and TA-10 sounds much more dynamic, more punchy, more lively, also has more detail and clarity. In general, for very sensitive IEMs, S2 Digital can do okay, so with something like Atlas, you may get a better experience with S2 Digital, and so you would with something like Dunu DK-4001, but with headphones, even with relatively easy to drive headphones, like Ultrasone Signature DXP, you get better overall sound with TA-10, since it just sounds more detailed, clear, and more punchy.



Pairing

The main pairings I have chosen for this review, are a few magical ones, and a few really hard to drive ones, because well, the power of TA-10 is one of its best highlights. I generally recommend it more with headphones than IEMs, as it does a better overall job. Rosson RAD-0, Sennheiser HD660S, and Verum One are a few of the headphones that worked really well with TA-10 in my experience.



xDuoo TA-10 + Verum One - This is a relatively easy to drive headphone, and despite that, if you're going for thick and smooth, you could go all-in, so Verum one makes a natural pairing with TA-10, as Verum one is also a relatively thick and warm headphone, so complementing it with another thick and smooth source makes the entire sound really warm, intimate and close to the listener. This is, of course, if you were already going for this signature, otherwise, you could compliment Verum One with a brighter sounding DAC/AMP, like Burson Play.

xDuoo TA-10 + Rosson RAD-0 - Rosson RAD-0 is another headphone that is relatively thick and warm, but it is not necessarily a too warm one. Rather, it can provide one of the best bass in the world, with a liquid bass that really amazes me every time I hear it. Now, in terms of pairing, if you wanted to make RAD-0 as thick and warm as possible, and also make it more intimate, then pairing RAD-0 with TA-10 should work really well, but otherwise, there's a plethora of amplifiers and DACs I recommend RAD-0 with, including Mytek Brooklyn DAC+. The thing is, even with a more entry-level option like TA-10, it still has enough power and dynamics, punch and control to make RAD-0 sing, so you don't necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy it greatly, once again TA-10 proving that it is a really good budget choice.

xDuoo TA-10 + Sennheiser HD660S - Sennheiser HD660S is a pretty warm and thick headphone to begin with. It also doesn't have the largest soundstage, being rather intimate, and it also is prone to eating a lot of power. In this sense, if you loved HD660S's signature, and always wanted to get more out of it, without losing its base signature, then this is a really good chance to experience it to the fullest, and since the question about what 300 USD DAC/AMP I could recommend for HD660S did come up a lot of times, I think that TA-10 is the answer for many out there, making it a really awesome DAC/AMP to consider if you have HD660S.



Value and Conclusion

The value of xDuoo TA-10 is undeniably good, as you have a full sized, complete music device for 290 USD. Furthermore, you have a device that has both a DAC, a Tube AMP, and enough driving power to be considered a full sized desktop unit for that price, and if you purchase it from XTENIK, you can also take advantage of the excellent service they provide, making this entire deal one that's really hard to beat.



The package doesn't have a lot of fluff, but it has all of the essentials, and what's best, TA-10 comes with all of the main cables necessary to enjoy it. More RCA cables, and SPDIF cables can be found easily, but the USB cable included is of good quality, and you also get a power cable, althogh those are also pretty common.

In terms of build quality, TA-10 is a mixed bag, because while i like the device, its small footprint on my desk, and the tiny yet bright display, the tube is really hard to take in and out, which is not ideal, since you will have to replace that tube at some point. This also makes tube rolling a bit hard. On a more happy note, there is a large number of inputs, and you can use TA-10 even as a Pre if you want, although this may not be desirable by everyone.

The sound is thicc, warm, musical, and intimate. You get a very sweet reproduction of your music, and you also feel like you're in the same room as the musician, when they recorded your favorite piece. This alone makes for an interesting experience, but you can also tube roll, or test the amplifier with other tubes, if you want to experiment and try to mix things a bit with TA-10.



At the end of this review, if you're looking for an amplifier that has the power to drive basically any headphone out there, for the price of 290 USD, a DAC/AMP that sounds thick, sweet, smooth, and which has an intimate soundstage, then TA-10 should be on your list for sure, offering a great overall package for its price tag.



Product Link

https://www.xtenik.com/product/xduoo-ta-10-usb-tube-headphone-amplifier/



Full Playlist used for this review


While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.

Youtube Playlist


Tidal Playlist

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

Song List

Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet
I hope my review is helpful to you!

---

Contact me!













---
Last edited:

NymPHONOmaniac

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Clean sound, powerful, versatile, 2xAUX in, good usb dac, great amplifier sound, smooth and airy, AUX output, excellent construction, Good value
Cons: Not a lot of accessories.
XDUOO TA-10 REVIEW :

P1011455.JPG
SOUND: 8.5/10
CONSTRUCTION: 9.5/10
DESIGN: 9.5/10
FEATURES: 9/10
VALUE: 8.5/10


INTRO :

I’m a Xduoo dedicated fan since more than 5 years now, buying and trying near all the products they lauch, especially their digital music player, from X1 to X20. I’m less accustomed with their numerous deskop amps tough, because it make 3 years I use daily the excellent XD-05 DAC-AMP and didn’t feel the need to buy another one as I have multiple super powerfull high end vintage Solid State amps too.

But when I get approach by the fascinating audio store call XTENIK for a review loan of Xduoo TA-10 balanced tube headphones DAC-AMP, it sure ring my curiosity alarm. I never own any tube amp and always wanna try one, so I happily accept to review this quite unknown device.

The TA-10 is a budget priced high quality DAC-AMP with a stock 12AU7, wich is widely used in hifi vacuum amp as a class A pre-amplifier, its a medium gain dual triode vaccum tube especially used as low-noise line amplifier. The 12AU7 is know for its great level of clarity and natural, non clinical approach to sound.

At 290$, the TA-10 is competetively priced for all the features it offer. It can be used as usb DAC-AMP with a very respecatble AK4490 digital audio converter (DAC) working with irreprochable Xmos 8cores chip for digital to analog conversion. As well, you have an XLR balanced output for your headphones that need it and a single-ended one for all the other.

P1011453.JPG

The TA-10 is a very versatile all-in-one power machine, because appart from the USB dac, it have 2 input to use as an amp and one output to use as pre-amp and add this tube flavor to your favorite soundsystem. All features are easy to use and trouble free, and make the TA-10 a really trustable companion to have in your audio life.

Now, let’s explore the fascinating TA-10 univers togheter in this review and see if it can really be consider as an high end solution at an entry level price.

The TA-10 can be a little hard to find, and perhaps risky to buy on Ebay, so I suggest you to buy it from the very store that loan me this device, as I know its a trustable serious seller that care about its consumers. Take a look HERE.


SPECS :

Classic tube 12AU7

  • Top level XMOS 8-core chip (XSA-U8A-64)

  • AKM flagship DAC AK4490

  • USB/coaxial digital interface

  • A class Transistor expansion

  • USB OTG

  • Dual clock system

  • Combination of tube and transistor

  • Japanese ELNA SILMC capacitors

  • Shell made from aluminum

  • Magnetic tube guardrail

  • Power supply: AC 100–240V

  • Supported OS: Windows (requires drivers), Mac

  • Sample rate: SB input

  • PCM: 16–32 bit/44.1–384 kHz

  • DSD: DSD64–DSD256 (1bit/2.8M–11.2M)

  • DXD: 24–32 bit/352.8–384 kHz

  • Output power: Phone: 2,000 mW (at 32 ohms); XLR: 2,000 mW (at 32 ohms)

  • Frequency response: 10 Hz–100 kHz(+/- 1 dB)

  • Gain: +18 dB

  • Distortion: ≤ 0.01% (1 kHz, 32-ohm load)

  • Suitable headphone impedance: 8–600 ohms

  • Size: 9.1 x 4.7 x 4.1 in (23 x 12 x 10.5 cm)

  • Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)

  • USB input

  • Two sets of AUX inputs

  • SPDIF output

  • AUX output
ACCESSORIES, CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN :

P1011189.JPG P1011190.JPG

I receive the TA-10 in a big box, no official Xduoo box, just a very big box with lot of protective foam that can prevent any damage to the device inside. I was more impress by how well protected TA-10 was than the accessories include with it, wich is very minimalist and consist of nothing else than the 120V wall plug, nice quality usb cable, 3.5 to 1/4 stereo jack, TA10 manual and Usb driver cd. We cannot really complaint here, but perhaps an extra 3.5 to 2 male rca cable would have been nice. An extra tube of different model as well….but all of this is just plain capricious to ask at this price, So, we have everything that we need.

P1011344.JPG P1011342.JPG

Construction is built like a rock, or most precisely like a BLOCK, and if you like industrial sturdy style of built, you will find the TA-10 strangely beautifull like me. I guess only male audiophile geek can enjoy as much this type of minimalist yet elegant design, but one part of ackward sexyness of TA-10 have to do with the quality feel it give.

All in black, with zero plastic part, TA-10 have a somewhat severe beauty to it, as well this heavy duty built inspire trust in long durability. The metal volume knob is thick and heavy and turn smoothly and precisely, when you push it, the controled pressure work smoothly and silently.

Looking at its back, all connection are precisely built and offer tigh holding.

P1011341.JPG P1011347.JPG


In term of size, for a deskop amp, its quite small if I compare to my enormous vintage solid state amp and quite big if I compare to XD-05, but it isn’t meant to be portable and at 23cm long and 12cm large, it’s as big as a brick and will fit any computer desk. Unlike my vintage amp, the TA-10 have a small footprint that will benifit audiophile wanting to save space without sacrifiing power output of the amplifier they use for their hard to drive headphones.

P1011460.JPG



INTERFACE:

DESIGN is all about simplicity, no multiple buttons or switch here as whole control is made with the volume control that work as a butons too. You press it to select aux1, aux2 or USB mode. Even if you let the usb cable connected to your laptop, it will unconnect from it without any interference if you choose to use Aux mode.


As any serious amp, it have a protect mode too, so no damage can happen with your device.

For USB dac, you need to install driver for window, it take me a whole minute and everything was care free plug and play after this.

Volume control is very precise mecanically as we feel every step when we turn it. Still, output power steps are somewhat bigger after level 60, wich mean from 0 to 60 the step are small in volume change, 60 to 80 it became bigger db step and after 80 it became crazy loud step. This make me think in the begining that TA-10 isn’t very powerfull, but as I cannot pass 80 without making my head explode or 85 without making my headphones explode, I conclude that it sure can drive easily 300ohm headphones, for 600ohm, i’m still unsure if it will make them sound at full potential, it will depend of sensitivity here, less than 95db will perhaps not open completely the sound. Anyway, for this review I have nothing under 150ohm headphones, earbuds or earphones, but still some hard to drive ones, including capricious earbuds like the HE150 or earphones like the Final Audio E4000. Sometime, your gear need more power than necessary, just to sound right, even my 32ohm-96db Takstar PRO82 can act strangely when a DAP or DAC-AMP compensate its lack of power output with gain that tend to have higher distortion and in they end make the bass act badly or overall sound unbalanced. With the TA-10 clear output power, I never encounter this kind of distorted behavior with any headphones try, even at high volume level.



COMPARAISONS :

VS Xduoo XD-05:


P1011345.JPG

USB DAC comparaisons between Xduoo XD-05 (stock OPamp) and Xduoo TA-10 (stock tube).

For this test I use both DAC-AMP pluged in same laptop and playing same track, and I compare use same headphones and earphones wich are Hifiman HE-300, vintage (but excellent) Pioneer SL-120, TY HE150 earbud and Final Audio E4000 iem.

So let’s begin by saying that even if both this DAC-AMP use the AK4490 dac it do not sound the same at ALL. The XD-05 is more energic, fowards and punchy sounding than the more airy, clear, soft and vast sounding TA-10.

SOUNDSTAGE is drastically wider, deeper and more around your head with the TA-10, this is really the first thing that hit me, XD-05 sound like a thick tapestry of sound compared to it.

BASS is more coloured with the XD-05 and have a beefier more punchy presentation, but it is less textured and controled than the TA-10 that have a more linear and neutral approach. SUB is especially pushed fowards and rumbly with the XD-05, wich can create distortion with already bassy headphones or earphones, the TA-10 is more about rich natural timbre, it have more details and grip in the low and separation between sub and mid bass is better and faster.

MID RANGE of TA-10 is cleaner, richer and more fowards, its as well better separated from bass wich give a less warmed presentation than XD-05. TA-10 with is vast soundstage offer mroe air between instrument, and the imaging in mid range is more realist and less ‘’in-your-face’’ than XD-05. Overall sound presentation is again more refined and mature with the TA-10.

TREBLE of both these DAC-AMP equiped with the rather smooth sounding AK4490 dac chip, wich is described as ‘’velvet sounding’’ by its Asahi Kasei microdevice constructor, so the treble tend toward a lushness and naturality instead of brigth or analytical approach. Both DAC-AMP have about same level of details in upper region, but not the same quality in timbre and attack-decay.

TA-10 have slightly richer timbre thus we can heard more details due to better layering of soundstage. Treble is better controled and more neutral than the XD-05, wich can struggle to deal with over crownded music that need fast attack and good treble grip.

Secondly, the power output of XD-05 is rated at 500mw for 32ohm while TA-10 is rater 2000mw for 32ohm. To be honnest, i can’t say it sound 4 times louder, perhaps 2 times wich is already enormous. What I can say tough its that it do not struggle to push headphones at high volume compared to XD-05 where the gain tend to create distortion and a shouty out of control presentation. The TA-10 do not struggle at all to drive properly the 150ohm TY HE150 earbuds, and soundstage expend and have a mid centric approach compared to more foward presentation of XD-05 that have more mid bass presence and energy but less good imaging and brighter more saturated vocal, where the TA-10 sound more open and natural with perhaps less treble extension. Here, the HE-150 sound perfectly loud as I love at 78 volume rate, I need to use high gain with the XD-05 and turn volume at 3 quarter turn, as well, if i push volume extra loud just to test distortion rate, XD-05 will create unbearable level of distortion to the HE-150 while it look i can go up to 90 with the TA-10 without any distortion, wich proove 2 things : the HE150 can handle high level of clean power without exploding in pieces and the TA-10 deliver very clean amping.

VS IBASSO BOA DT2:


P1011450.JPG

Now, if I compare to the Ibasso BOA D2+ that have a nice Wolfson WM8702 dac in it, again, this is 2 really different soundsignature, but one thing sure the duo BOA dac +TA-10amp is ultimately enjoyable. So, this comparaison is not in stand alone usb dac mode of DT2+ , fastly compare, the DAC-AMP of BOA is less powerfull, sound is brighter with smaller soundstage and less controled dynamic, using directly the nice Wolfson dac trough TA-10 amp really push to next level sound rendering refinement and dynamic.

In stock USB dac mode, TA-10 have a rather neutral and flat soundsignature, amped BOA have a way richer and more dynamic sound with tigh presentation and as big soundstage.

BASS is tigher and weightier with BOA, timbre is thicker as well and definition clearer due to more texture presence, TA-10 sound more airy and laidback, and bass is dryer than juicier BOA.

MID RANGE is more fowards with Wolfson dac, its richer, fuller, livelier, and really stand appart compared to more flat TA-10 that have a good clarity but less presence and body than BOA.

TREBLE of both this dac are on the warm side if we can say, delivering rich details in lower and mid treble but not craving for microdetails, highs have thicker approach with the Wolfson while the I hear more brilliance with the TA-10.

TA-10 feel more liquid while the BOA more grainy wich give more transparence and delicate sounding TA-10. Persolly a prefer the more thick, lush and mid centric rendering of Wolfson dac over the more organic sounding AK4490.



USB-DAC SOUND IMPRESSION :

PAIRED with earbuds (HE150, Monk+, Faael 64ohm, NiceHCK EBX, MrZ Tomahawk, DIY DP100)

What hit me first when I plug earbuds in the TA-10 is how clean and accurately improved the imaging became, as well, how it expand the soundstage with any earbuds I try, this can even became near too much with already airy earbuds like the Mrz Tomahawk or NiceHCK EBX.

About extra accuracy and clarity, its due to effortless power output, wich will even solve distortion bass issue of some earbuds like the DP100. This is with example like this you understand how important proper amping is, as it can litteraly give new life to earbuds you were thinking defective!

So BASS became more controled, tigher and faster, it do not really gain weight as the TA-10 DAC is quite neutral and flat.

MID RANGE sound clearer and less grainy, wich mean timbre is softened a little. Instrument separation have more air and space for more definite imaging.

TREBLE sound more lively and sharp without harshness, its liquid and brilliant, its fast and well extended with extra transparence to it. Decay of percussions sound more realist and there less shrilling with some earbuds prompt to it.

P1011360.JPG

PAIRED with HEADPHONES (Hifiman HE-300, Pioneer SE-L20, Takstar PRO82, Koss Portapro, Master & Dynamic MW60, Meze 99 Neo)

Sure, all headphones will react differently with the TA-10, but we can find similarity in how dac and amp influence the sound. Again, the sounstage, imaging and clarity is where it improve the most.

BASS gain in control, warm bass of Koss Pro became cleaner and tigher wich help to give better imaging, Punchy bass of HE-300 gain in clarity and timbre and I can hear more easily the bass line wich became better separated. For the Takstar Pro82, I encouter the same perfect pairing that solve distortion of bass due to unstable current charge, it take to next level of control bass response and really improve overall dynamic. Meze 99 Neo being quite bassy headphones, TA-10 help to make them less messy and boomy in lower end and improve separation of low and mid bass, wich is exactly what need this headphones. So I confirm the TA-10 DAC-AMP do not boost the bass unaturaly, it just help to give it the best quality it can have.

MID RANGE is quite flat again with this AK4490 dac, here it will not gain more body but more transparency and smooth timbre. Extra clarity will benifit mid centric headphones that lack instrument separation agility like the Pioneer SE-L20 or Koss Portapro, it help to open mid range and articulate it better. Transient response feel faster and more accurate in attack. Paired with the Meze Neo its less convaincing for vocal centered music, but became more capable with complex classical or electronic music. Hifiman HE-300 sound less fowards in a good way, and permit to have livelier mid range, even if there still work to do to make it sound more thick and juicy (its impossible to completely change that i’m afraid). All in all, it give mid range a cleaner more agile presentation, with better attack-decay and a somewhat nice hint of dryness.

TREBLE is perhaps the nicest aspect of this DAC-AMP combo, the extension is wide and natural. Again, quite flat, but with extra sharpness in upper highs that permit a smoothly resolving and organic presentation, not exactly analytical but not far from it. With the Meze Neo I now enjoy classical guitar as never before, the background noise is so black and clean that it give lot of space for beautifull brilliance and decay of guitar plucking. In some sens, the TA-10 is like a musical master with a serious approach to sound, it clean sound space and give more accurate placement to instrument, treat them all the same, as if they were all mastered perfectly in a studio. Perhaps for some, it will lack colouring in mid range or bass, but for critical listener that like the music as much realist as possible, the TA-10 is sure a winner.

PAIRED WITH EARPHONES (Alpha&Delta KS3, Tinaudio T3, CCA C10, NiceHCK M6):

I use less often earphones with that type of powerfull amplifier, because the improvment are really more marginal and in fact.
Anyway, what impress me is the fact none of them really encounter overpower driving problem and keep a very clean black background.
Soundstage slightly open more, especially for KS3 and T3, it became more liquid and airy.
BASS too gain some body, but did not get more mid bass, just extend more in lower end.
MID RANGE improve in separation due to extra soundstage space, with the exception of M6 that feel more warmed and mellow.
TREBLE is smoothed out a little but decay can extend on KS3 for example.


With fewer words : Smooth, delicate, tigh bass, flat mid range with deep imaging and transparent timbre.



P1011348.JPG


AMP PAIRING :


With Wolfson WM8740 dac :

We have the bigger soundstage, the tigh bass, but as well a fowards and thick mid range and more upper treble emphasis than with Ibasso BOA DT2. Here the TA-10 amp help to give extra clarity and open up the sound, making this combo extremely addictive due to a very coloured dac sound that became more balanced, spacious and accurate with TA-10 help.


With ES9018 dac :

This dac will prefer a warmer thicker sounding amp, as its quite already flat and analytical not to say cold. I’m a big fan of this dac chip but here the combo is too serious and gain only in soundstage but the mid range feel thin and treble too emphased.

P1011354.JPG

With Cirrus CS4498 :

Thick lush bright stock sound of this dac gain in soundstage and much needed transparence, giving it a way more appealing musicality than without amp. With bigegr spatiality, imaging became very impressive, proving again how capable is this dac. Timbre is very detailed too and do not loose definition. Bass is more controled and even gain in body this time, especially the mid bass, wich give an overall more energic and lively presentation.

So, what the amp do to sound source in fewer words is : Better bass control and attack, tame the rumble or distortion of bass, give extra clarity to mid range and more brillianc sparkle to treble. Expand drastically the soundstage. Improve seriously imaging.



CONCLUSION-FINAL IMPRESSIONS :

After having passing two weeks listening non stop to TA-10 in every possible way, should it be using its USB-DAC, connecting all dac I have or using more than 20 pairs of headphones, earbuds and earphones, i’m still unsure if I try everything I could with it. In fact, no, I do not even talk about output connectivity as USB-DAC pre-amp! And it’s a BIG deal, because it make my Magnepan MG-2A come to life by giving it the clean, smooth and natural sound of USB-DAC trough my Sansui AU-D5 olid state amp. As well, I do not test the XLR balanced output, but as its not real balanced and offer exact same amping power I don’t think I miss nothing.

Hum, yeah, the Xduoo TA-10 is just THAT much of audiophile fun. The fact that it can be enjoy as a DAC-AMP and a stand alone Amp or pre-amp make it extremely versatile and useful. I just can’t find anything bad about it, if I crave my mind, I would say volume control isn’t ultra precise in term of DB gain but I do not encounter problem using it, just feel more guilty about listening LOUD.

With stated 2000watt for 32ohm headphones, the TA-10 can make think people its ultimately powerful to the point of making explode 600ohm headphones, this is not the case, its way more powerful than portable amp or little desktop one, but this isn’t crazy powerful like a Sansui AU-D5 solid state amp that weight 10kg. I just need to underline this so people get realist about expectation, I would most likely suggest this amp for 300ohm headphones or less, for 600ohm, they will need to have high sensitivity to obtain the very best sound possible. The sentence ‘’too much is like not enough’’ do not apply for amplifier, and i prefer having too much power for 300ohm headphones than not enough or just enough for 600ohm with low sensitivity. At max volume, my 22ohm Meze Neo do not explode.

Still, the Xduoo TA-10 is extremely powerful for its small desktop size, as well, it delivers a surprisingly clear sound that we rarely find with tube amp at entry level price, which tend to warm it and smooth the treble. Even if sounding slightly organic, natural and far from bright, grainy or hissy, this amplifier impress by how realist, spacious and lively it deliver its sound trough its DAC-AMP duo or as a standalone desktop amp. I find myself enjoying even more the TA-10 as an amplifier using my different sound source to make them shine like never before.

If you search to enter audiophile world at affordable price, I think the Xduoo TA-10 is a wise choice and will cover all your futur need in term of USB DAC source and amplifier versatility.


For more audio reviews, please give a look at my BLOG
Onik
Onik
The only thing it’s missing is balance inputs.
pablomen68
pablomen68
Hi, the preamp output or line out of the xDuoo TA-10 is fixed or variable? Can I switch between both? Also, if it is fixed, do you know the output voltage of this? Maybe 2V., Thanks.
S
steven.lambert1026
If you are looking for the balance inputs, Xduoo has another model, TA-20, maybe you can try this.
Top