XDUOO TA-10 REVIEW :
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.
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.
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 :
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.
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.
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.
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.
VS Xduoo XD-05:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 usefull. 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 powerfull to the point of making explode 600ohm headphones, this is not the case, its way more powerfull than portable amp or little deskop one, but this isn’t crazy powerfull 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 sensitivy. At max volume, my 22ohm Meze Neo do not explode.
Still, the Xduoo TA-10 is extremely powerfull for its small deskop size, as well, it deliver a suprisingly clear sound that we rarely find with tube amp at entry level price, wich 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 deskope 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.
- Clean natural sound
- 2xAUX IN
- Affordable price
- Few Accessories
- AK4490 dac sound isn’t loved by everyone