• Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB Audio Converter Review

    The Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB audio converter is a really good product that allows audiophiles to get into the music server game for next to nothing. This USB audio converter can take a USB input signal from a PC or Mac and output bit perfect coax, optical, or AES digital audio. Whether you have an existing external DAC or an AV receiver with an open digital input, the Trends Audio UD-10.1 can bridge the gap between your computer and the rest of your system. At less than $170 you can't go wrong with one of these converters.

     

     


    The Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB audio converter is simply a very cool product. The UD-10.1 is not a standard Digital to Analog Converter * (DAC). Rather the UD-10.1 is a digital I/O interface that takes a computer's USB output and passes the signal through unchanged to the DAC of your choice via the interface of your choice. What make this product so cool is its versatility. Everyone has a USB port on their computer. Not everyone has a USB DAC. Many components have an optical input, but not many computer have an optical output. The UD-10.1 solves the issue with its plethora of digital outputs. If you have a dedicated external DAC the chances are almost 100% that the UD-10.1 has the right type of output for the unit. The same goes for those of you with AV receivers. During the review period I connected my Mac Pro to my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC with optical, coax, and AES cables from the UD-10.1. The connections looked like this crude diagram:

     

    Mac Pro >> USB output >> UD-10.1 >> Toslink & Coax & AES >> Alpha DAC

     

    Trends Audio built the UD-10.1 with good quality components and audiophile applications in mind. Many of us are aware how critical a component's power source is to achieving good sound quality. Trends Audio understands this and created a rechargeable battery power supply for the UD-10.1. This option is available for an extra $13. If convenience is more important to the listener, the UD-10.1 can also run completely from power supplied over the USB cable from the computer. Trends Audio also used proprietary dual power regulation circuits instead of the standard 5V USB bus power. Whether the power comes from battery or the USB bus it is regulated before hitting the ICs, but Trends Audio recommends using the battery option and I won't disagree with that recommendation. The UD-10.1 is equipped with a Burr Brown PCM2704 IC for USB audio conversion to the many output options. Following the audio path further downstream Trends Audio implemented proprietary impedance matching circuits for the AES/EBU (110 ohm) and Coaxial (75 ohm) digital outputs. For the readers not interested in the fine details all you need to know is the UD-10.1 requires no software installation on your computer. Plug this thing in, select it as your default audio output device and start rocking.

     

    At $169 and a fairly modest build quality the UD-10.1 is more about sound quality than aesthetics and heft. The UD-10.1 is limited to 16 bit / 44.1 kHz like most USB audio devices available. Fortunately the vast majority of content available at the moment is still 16/44.1. Dropping $169 in the interim between redbook content and high availability of greater resolution is really a no-brainer. In my system the UD-10.1 performed pretty well. The sound was actually much better than I thought it would be considering the cost and flexibility of this component. Granted low cost does not equate to low performance, but very low cost can certainly be one indicator. The only two negative aspects of this USB converter are a somewhat compressed and thinner sound. This was evident when comparing the UD-10.1 directly with the Lynx AES16e ($700) digital I/O card. It is very possible that someone without the ability to A/B the UD-10.1 with a card like the Lynx AES16e would never notice this slight compression and thinness. It is also quite possible that giving these two negatives so much press is exaggerating the actual sonic impact a bit. The difference between each of the outputs on the UD-10.1 was negligible. Since the UD-10.1 sends audio to all outputs all the time it was very easy during the review to compare the outputs by switching inputs on my Alpha DAC. Scrolling through the inputs of my DAC revealed no sonic differences that I could consistently identify in a blind A/B/X test. The most important thing I looked for with the Trends Audio UD-10.1 was its ability to pass the data in a bit perfect stream. Every output on this device passed the HDCD test with flying colors. If a component can't pass an untouched audio signal it is impossible to improve imperfection further downstream. Fortunately the UD-10.1 is perfect in this regard.

     

    With the UD-10.1's release there are no longer any excuses to put off setting up a music server. Everyone has a computer and everyone has a stereo. The UD-10.1 is the magic component to bring the two together while avoiding the dreadful internal digital to analog converters. I've never heard a computer with an acceptable built-in D to A converter and I don't see the quality of these DACs changing any time soon.The Trends Audio UD10.1 is not in the same class as the Lynx Studio cards, but it's performance is worth quite a bit more than its very inexpensive price.The UD-10.1 provides the capability for many people to finally connect their computer to their stereo without major sonic degradation. In my opinion that is worth the price of admission and then some. Give the UD-10.1 a shot and I'm willing to bet your physical media addiction will come to an end and you'll be downloading albums in a matter of hours. Computer Audiophile conclusion = Add To Cart.

     

     

     

     



    Image curtesy of Trends Audio


     

     



    Image curtesy of Trends Audio


     

     



    Image curtesy of Trends Audio


     

     


    Image curtesy of Trends Audio



     

     

     

     


    Detailed Specs:

    Audio Outputs: Digital and analog outputs RCA, BNC and XLR connectors
    Headphone volume control is provided by the PC or Mac
    Analog Outputs: Burr Brown PCM2704 digital to analog converter (DAC)
    Linear-regulated power for all analog paths
    Signal-to-noise, Dynamic Range: 98dB
    THD+N: 0.006% (RL > 10 k, Self-Powered)
    SNR: 98 dB
    PO: 12 mW (RL = 32)
    Digital Outputs and Inputs: Optical, Coax, BNC, and XLR digital connectors
    Linear-regulated power for digital paths
    Linear-regulated power for all clock paths
    4 pin high accuracy crystal clock (±10ppm)
    Standard IEC-958 (S/PDIF) or AES/EBU encoding
    RCA connector: 75 ohms
    BNC connector: 75 ohms
    Optical connector: TOSLINK
    XLR connector: 110 ohms
    Sample rates: 32, 44.1, 48 kHz
    Audio format: linear PCM, 16 bits per sample
    Audio Formats : Lossless Formats: FLAC, WMA Lossless, Apple Lossless or other
    Uncompressed formats: WAV, AIFF, PCM or other
    Compressed formats: MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, MP2, MusePack, WMA or other
    System Requirements: All systems: 256MB RAM with 30MB hard disk space
    Windows OS: Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista or later
    Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.3 or later
    Linux, PC LinuxOS 2007, Fedora core 7, Ubuntu 7.04 or other
    Power Supply : USB Bus Power or
    External power: DC 4.35V – 5.25V(max): (e.g. AA size rechargeable battery 1.2V x4=5V, don't use normal batteries with 1.2V x4=6V, it would be too high for safety and good sound performance)
    Dimensions: (W)76mm x (H)46mm x (D)114mm [case only]
    (W)76mm x (H)46mm x (D)128mm [incl. sockets & knob]
    Case: Stylish iron-gray aluminium
    Weight: 300g
    Accessories: 1.5m type A to type B cable x 1
    Mini Jack to 2 Phono Sockets Adapter x 1
    Warranty Card x 1
    Optional Accessories : Trends UD-10.1 Charger Kit : AC Input: Universal AC 100V-240V / 50~60Hz
    DC Output: DC 5V /0.5A
    The package includes charger, battery box and 4 AA size rechargeable battery (1.2V x4=5V),
    LED Indications:
    Power on, but no battery connected : Black color
    Charging: Red color
    Charged/Float Charging: Green color
    Dimensions: (L)110mm x (W)80mm x (H)60mm
    Weight: 300g
    Warranty: One year parts and labor.
    Regulatory Compliance: CE FCC

    Price - $169 UD-10.1 and $13 for the battery pack and charger.

    More information about the UD-10.1 and Trends Audio is available at http://www.trendsaudio.com

    Associated Equipment: Mac Pro, Lynx AES16e card, Kimber USB cable, Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC, Benchmark DAC1 PRE, Kimber Select cable, Avalon Acoustics speakers, Focal Electra Be series speakers, McIntosh tube amplification, Virtual Dynamics power cables, Richard Gray's Power Company cables.

     

     

    * See comments 2 and 3 below explaining why I don't consider this component a standard DAC.

     

     
    Comments 19 Comments
    1. Roseval's Avatar
      Roseval -
      Spec's say: Analog Outputs: Burr Brown PCM2704 digital to analog converter (DAC)<br />
      So your statement <cite>The UD-10.1 is not a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC).</cite> is not completely true. Infact it has a headphone out.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi roseval - Nice catch! I should have been more precise with my statement. I personally don't think of this device as a DAC and I didn't want to confuse anyone into thinking this was a DAC they could connect to their system the same way as a traditional DAC. I don't consider using a mini 3.5mm to RCA cable an ideal solution. Plus using headphones is one topic I left out of the review. So, thanks for bringing this up, I should probably edit the review to reflect this fact.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again Roseval!
    1. crion's Avatar
      crion -
      I've a somewhat split opinion on the UD10.1. Using USB audio with microsoft native driver is a bit of a hassle. It does have lag and enabling WASAPI in Foobar2000 for example is not Plug and Play, what you get is stuttering buffering then. It also can't pass AC3/DTS which you would then need an additional card outputting S/PDIF.<br />
      <br />
      At the moment it's collecting dust and I thought it was more mellow sounding than my PCI ESI Maya 44 card when running Foobar2000 with WASAPI vs Trends UD10.1 with ASIO4ALL. You could rephrase it as smoother sounding, but I know better(?) having had the Weiss Minerva in the system as well.<br />
      <br />
      I think the hassle of another box plus not better SQ than a similarly priced internal soundcard puts it at disadvantage. Besides the AC3/DTS issue with microsoft native USB.<br />
      <br />
      I would also advice against using a powered USB cable for UD10.1. It performs much better with a linear regulated power supply @5Volts. Battery power is just too much hassle to worry about IMHO..<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      What I'm considering at the moment is:<br />
      1. PCI card with stellar S/PDIF output (RME/Lynx perhaps) into:<br />
      a) Meridian 808i.2 CD Player as a 3 stage FIFO dejitterer and upsampler with apodizing filters (combats ringing in redbook 16/44.1kHz material and improves impulse response) .<br />
      b) G68 frontend processor/preamp with 3 stage FIFO dejitterer and upsampler.<br />
      <br />
      2. Firewire Weiss Minerva S/PDIF or DAC into:<br />
      G68 frontend processor/preamp with 3 stage FIFO dejitterer and upsampler.
    1. Celloman's Avatar
      Celloman -
      Hello,<br />
      <br />
      First post for me.<br />
      I have made in the past an experiment with the Trends Audio UD10 that changes its performance for the better. I have used a USB hub (with 3 USB port, from Belkin) plugged in my MacBook, into which I have plugged the USB cable connected to the Trends Audio UD10. The USB hub helps in isolating the Trends Audio from the computer. Result: less noise, more resolution, more alive, and a larger and more profound soundstage.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi celloman - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. Interesting observation, thanks for the post. I would have guess your results would have been the opposite.
    1. Celloman's Avatar
      Celloman -
      Hello Chris,<br />
      <br />
      A friend and me have made the same observation with the PS Audio DAC Link III - e.g. computer --> USB hub --> USB cable --> USB input of the PS Audio DAC. The USB input in that configuration changes the sound a lot.<br />
      <br />
      And sorry - It is not a Belkin USB hub, but a Dr.Bott Model No T3Hub:<br />
      <br />
      http://www.drbott.com/images/lg/3115-THSS.jpg<br />
      <br />
      I have the original T3Hub 1.0, not the T3Hub 2.0.
    1. Pascal's Avatar
      Pascal -
      Has anyone tried the following:<br />
      <br />
      Mac Mini (or a Mac laptop) -> optical out -> DAC<br />
      <br />
      compared to<br />
      <br />
      Mac Mini (or Mac laptop) -> usb out -> Trends UD-10.1 (or PopPulse PC Link II or similar) -> optical out -> DAC<br />
      <br />
      if so, what where your findings?<br />
      <br />
      I'm about to set up a Mac Mini mediacenter system, which will also be used for streaming music, and I am having a hard time finding a decent optical cable with a miniplug that will fit in the Mac Mini. I would like a Van den hul Optocoupler MKII, but I need at least 2 meters, and it seems they do not make them with a miniplug in this length. Therefore I'm considering running usb out to a Trends UD-10.1/PopPulse PC Link II and then getting a regular toslink - toslink Optocoupler MKII.
    1. Thunktank's Avatar
      Thunktank -
      I have owned a Trends UD10.1 for a while now, first used as a USB DAC on my PC, then as a media converter from my MacBook (USB) to my Musical Fidelity Tri Vista DAC (Coax). I was not happy with the effect the Trends had on the sound and eventually settled on connecting the MacBook to the DAC using quality optical. While not ideal this is the best sound I can get from my current equipment (DAC replacement is on the horizon). At this point in time I can not quite recall the impact of the Trends, but an impression of lack of weight comes to mind. Don't get me wrong at this price point the Trends is an excellent bit of kit, I am just not sure I would put it in the audiophile class. The Trends now resides in my study back in use as a USB DAC, which is vastly superior to the analogue out from my sound card.<br />
    1. mtan002's Avatar
      mtan002 -
      Chris<br />
      <br />
      I am dieing to see your coming article on the inexpensive music server. <br />
      I have been thinking of building one myself for hi-res music. So this USB device won't be in the list of components I am thinking off. A good sound card capable of 24/192 is needed.<br />
      <br />
      The other alternative to a sound card is the SB3-type alternative. But the SB3 nor the Transporter can do 24/192. Is there any other device (PC) that can do 24/192?<br />
      <br />
      Cheers<br />
      Michael
    1. Celloman's Avatar
      Celloman -
      I have listen to a Mac Mini connected by optical to a PAs Audio DAC Link III and it was a lot "thinner" than with the USB hub-TrendsAudio-coax-PS Audio DAC.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      There are devices available that will handle 24/192, but none that are wireless. Stay tuned for the upcoming article. I promise to have it posted by Sunday evening CST.
    1. crion's Avatar
      crion -
      ESI Audio Maya 44 PCI card handles 24/192 bit perfect in Vista (and XP ofcourse). It works flawlessly in my setup.<br />
      <br />
      http://www.esi-audio.com/products/maya44/<br />
      <br />
    1. Lucho's Avatar
      Lucho -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      I've been using a Trends Audio USB converter for almost two years now and it's been wonderful. Now, is there any similar product out there that is capable of doing 24/96 via USB? I'd be great if Trends Audio could offer the same product that can handle 24/96 files, but as far as I am concern, they don't intend to do it any time soon.<br />
      <br />
      My budget system is:<br />
      Dell Latitude D620===>USB===>Trends Audio USB converter===>Toslink===>Paradisea v.2 USB DAC===>Cambridge Audio 840A===>Monitor Audio RS6<br />
      <br />
      So, the system I have right now only does 16/44.1. The Paradisea DAC can handle 24/96 files, but only via SPID/F. So the "weak" link here is the UD-10.1.<br />
      <br />
      Is there anything out there with the same features (such an internal clock) of the UD-10.1 that can handle 24/96 via USB and stays within the same price range? <br />
      <br />
      Thanks a lot in advance<br />
      <br />
      Lucho
    1. mtan002's Avatar
      mtan002 -
      You asked at the right time. Have a look here:<br />
      <br />
      http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f46/usb-24-192khz-m2tech-hiface-446375/<br />
      http://www.m2tech.biz/products.html<br />
      <br />
      And also Musiland Monitor 01 USD also does similar thing at 24/98.<br />
      <br />
      Cheers.
    1. Lucho's Avatar
      Lucho -
      Thanks a lot mtan002! I'll have a look!!<br />
      Cheers<br />
      <br />
      Lucho
    1. Lucho's Avatar
      Lucho -
      I contacted M2tech in Italy about the USB 24/192 audio interface. The product is already available in Europe, but they will ship to anywhere in the US (I don't know the cost of shipping). <br />
      The "outside-Italy" price for this unit is 82.5 Euros. I am in Barcelona and they'll ship for 9 extra Euros. The unit uses its own drivers, and right now it will only work on "Foobar". The tech I contacted (via email) told me that they're working, as we speak, on drivers that will work on other players like Media Monkey, etc. In addition, they're also working on Mac and Lynux support.<br />
      <br />
      I think 100 Euros is worth the try! <br />
      <br />
      We'll see!<br />
      <br />
      Thanks for your help!<br />
      <br />
      Lucho
    1. mtan002's Avatar
      mtan002 -
      Good on you, Lucho. <br />
      <br />
      Please post your opinion after you have time to listen to it.<br />
      <br />
      Cheers!<br />
    1. tosehee's Avatar
      tosehee -
      I contacted m2tech about modding the default rca connector to be true 75ohm bnc connector, and I got a confirmation that they can. the connector will be Tyco brand due to physical constraints, but he was assuring me that the connector is a high quality parts. But, I had to pay slightly more for this mod.<br />
      <br />
      I have placed an order today, so with mods and everything, I should get it in 10 business days (2 weeks).<br />
      <br />
      I will give an initial impression once I get it.
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      IrisHays26 -
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