Trends Audio SA-10 Monitors & CQ500 Speaker Cable Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Andre Marc   
Thursday, 23 February 2012

Trends Audio, located in Hong Kong, is one of my favorite purveyors of budget minded, nice sounding, mini components. Recently a real market has grown for smaller components that don’t compromise on sonics and are affordable to all.  I had a blast with their PA-10 Tube Headphone and Pre Amplifier and Mini Component Combo. Their product line has been growing, and they now offer speakers, cables, and accessories.

I remember, above all, how much fun I had with their mini components and how easy they were to set up and enjoy. To their credit, Trends has loyal customers through out Asia, North America, and Europe, partly due to a slew of positive reviews and good customer service. I received an email from Trends asking if I would like to receive a sample of their new SA-10 monitor loudspeakers for review. I enthusiastically replied in the affirmative.  The package arrived from Hong Kong a few days later. Such is the world we live in today. Six thousand miles is meaningless.

When I unpacked the SA-10s I was delighted by their appearance, which to me resembled a take on the classic Rogers LS3/5a BBC monitors, but with a smaller footprint. They arrived in what seemed to be a very nice dark cherry finish. The SA-10s are priced at $265 per pair. According to Trends, the SA-10s' basic design principles and features are as follows:

  • 1" polymer dome tweeter with neodymium magnet and lightweight for low mass
  •  Double Magnet structure for shielding and optimized field strength.
  • Front mounted bass port
  • Proprietary core inductor used (instead of magnetic-core)
  • 5-way binding posts provide a wide array of secure wire-hook up options.
  • High efficiency design
  • Low loss rubber driver surrounds
  • Wide dispersion drivers and tweeters
  • Compact design

Trends decided to include their new CQ500 speaker cable as well. The cable is extremely impressive in build quality, and the gold-plated copper banana connectors are absolutely top flight. The conductors, according to Trends, are comprised of “Single Crystallized Copper (OCC), which has been considered one of the state-of-art conductor materials in the world. OCC is actually a special type of high purity Oxygen Free Copper (OFC) in which the whole copper rope is composited by a single copper crystal. There is no "Crystal Boundary" ("Crystal Boundary" reflects and refracts the signal to produce distortion & signal decline) exists between crystals.” There is also a silver-plated copper-braiding shield, and the cable is housed in a rugged and attractive black jacket.  The overall appearance of the cable rivals anything I have had in my system. The price? $110 per 2.5 meter pair. I had to check it twice. Spade lugs are also available for an additional $10.


 

SA-10 Set Up & Listening:

I set the SA-10s up on my 24” Atacama, sand-filled speaker stands. The SA-10s feature upward-facing binding posts near the top of the speaker, which is a bit unusual. It turns out this is a rather clever design choice, as the CQ500 is a somewhat heavy speaker cable and the binding posts prevent the speakers from being dragged down off stands and help suspend cables off the floor for less clutter.  Set up, the speakers are attractive and blend nicely with my wood floors. Their retro look even charmed my wife.

From the first few notes of music, it's clear the SA-10s are nicely balanced, with an emphasis on a prominent, lush midrange. The clear sonic resemblance to the aforementioned LS3/5a did not surprise me. The original Rogers BBC monitor is a highly prized collectible speaker through out Asia. It sold 50,000 pairs world wide, and I myself have owned two pairs. Trends may have used the LS3/5a as a template but they also had the benefit of the three decades of known speaker design refinements. The SA-10 offers a bit more resolution and a more even balance than a vintage BBC style monitor. The SA-10 also goes a wee bit lower in bass, spec wise, and is easier to drive.

Trends SA-10

On a 1974 live recording of the classic band Chicago from Louisville, Kentucky, when the band was near it’s peak, the music is vibrant, and spreads across a wider soundstage than I had anticipated. Imagined detail is also quite pleasing. On such powerhouse numbers as “Beginnings” and “Saturday In The Park”, the horns have nice body and the individual parts in the trademark harmony vocals are easy to follow.

One of my favorite albums from last year was Pink Martini’s 1969, cut with a well-known Japanese vocalist Saori Yuki. The album is lush, and features classic early to mid 60’s style arrangements. Through SA-10s it is irresistible. Again, imaging is very good, midrange textures are very nice, and tonality is natural, which had me searching out a lot of acoustic jazz and classic singer songwriter recordings.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and neither are the SA-10s. They certainly won’t fill up more than a medium size room. Low bass was missing in action, and the scale of the music was certainly smaller than when played through my Harbeth’s which are about two and half times the size of the SA-10’s. All of this is to be expected with a speaker this small, but regardless of these obvious shortcomings, they are highly enjoyable to listen to in the correct environment, which are small rooms, and in desktop set ups, which I am in the process now of setting up.

 

CQ500 Listening:

I described above how impressed I am with the build quality and overall appearance of the CQ500 speaker cable. I listened to the CQ500 with four separate speakers: Thiel CS2.4s, Harbeth Compact 7s, Transmission Audio M1s and, of course, Trends' own SA-10s. These are very good speaker cables, offering clarity, coherence, and an even-handed presentation that utterly belies its amazingly low price. I am really hard pressed to find any faults. When subbing the CQ500 for far, far more expensive speaker cables, there is no collapsing of the soundstage, no change in overall tonality, or clues that something major has changed.

Trends CQ500


I literally rechecked the price to see if I was seeing things. I was not; the CQ500 indeed sells for $110, with an additional $10 for spade lugs. I spun every kind of music with the CQ500 installed -- from Terence Trent D'Arby's bass heavy funk to Indian/Jazz fusion,to orchestral pieces -- and I could not seem to trip it up.

Conclusion:

Trends Audio, in my opinion, is doing a great job of providing products for a growing segment of the audio market: buyers looking for inexpensive, yet great sounding, gear that is easy to set up and integrate into a listening space.  Their full suite of HiFi products -- from tubed headphone amps, amplifiers, DAC units, cables, and now speakers -- are all well made and, most importantly, fun to use.

I can imagine a very neat desktop system assembled from the Trends product line that would give you everything you need to play music, minus a source, for around $600. Pretty neat. SA-10 speakers are a great little find, and even though there are tons of competitors making speakers in the sub $300 market, SA-10s will appeal to those who prefer a more retro sound and look. By the way, SA-10s come in two flavors: standard, and the SA-10R, with a slightly different tweeter and woofer alignment.

The CQ500 speaker cable is a stone cold bargain. As a matter of fact, it may have spoiled me for any future “giant killer” speaker cables. The CQ500 can be used with much more expensive speakers than SA-10s and hold its own (and then some). Check out the Trends website for their complete product line. They also offer upgrades, like external power supplies.  HiFi does not get any more fun than this.

Specifications


Trends Audio SA-10 Speakers: $265/ per pair.

Frequency Response: 65-22K Hz
Impedance: 8 ohms
Sensitivity: 88 db
Power Handling: 15-70 watts
Tweeter: Single 1.00” polymer dome and neodymium motor with heat sink
Woofer: Single 5.25” Multi-fibre coated pulped paper cone
Weight: 6.5 KG (Pair)
Dimensions (DxWxH): 125 x 195 x 300 mm

Manufacturer:
Trends Audio
Unit E, 13/F, World Tech Centre, 95 How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2304 0730 (9am-6pm, HKG Time)    
Fax: +852 2566 5740    
Email: support@TrendsAudio.com    


Review System 1



CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT, Unison Research CD Primo
Server: Squeezebox Touch with CIA  VDC-SB power supply
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box
Preamp: Audio Research SP16,
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Integrated Amplifier; McIntosh MA6600
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC),  Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rack


Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, Rein Audio X-DAC
Preamplifer: Densen B-200
Amplifier: Revox A722
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Transmission Audio M1
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant (IC),/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), Kiimber(digital)

 






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