Small, simple and strangely built.
Trends Audio's bargain UD10.1 Lite USB Audio Converter is an external digital audio converter that combines a non-existent background noise profile with high-quality stereo sound output. It's priced as a great competitor to other external sound cards while offering far superior sound quality.
- Tiny, USB powered, noise-free audio
- Confusing port locations, no power switch
As a sound card to transform your bog-standard PC into a music or media centre, the UD10.1 is fantastic. It has a confusing layout of ports, but if you can live with this you’ll be pleased.
Price$ 125.00 (AUD)
The UD10.1 Lite is a rather small and utilitarian device, with a simple grey aluminium face and black body. It has the same height and width as the TA10.1, but is roughly half the height. This might be slightly annoying if you intend on placing the two next to each other, but it's a very minor concern.
The UD10.1 is all business in terms of ports and connections. Compared to the Kingrex UD-01 that we've looked at before, it has a few extras which might make it a more attractive proposition. The front of the device has a USB port and a 3.5mm stereo headphone socket which can be converted to a dual RCA socket with the help of an included adapter.
While the rear of the unit already houses an external power jack and coaxial/optical digital ports, we would've liked to see the USB port on the rear as well. Having the port on the front means you'll have a USB connector stretching around and creating unsightly cable mess. In addition, there's no power switch to disable the unit. This might not seem much of a hassle, but the fact that it's powered via USB means that even when your PC is off the device will still be turned on — and this is very obvious thanks to a piercingly bright blue LED.
With the unit powered by USB, the external power jack might seem useless. Thankfully it still has a very novel purpose. Apart from powering the system when USB is not connected (i.e. if you're connecting via optical or coaxial digital) there is an optional add-on device consisting of a series of AA batteries in a simple black housing. This device's enigmatic purpose is to act as a simple capacitor to allow the system to produce a more even sound and deeper bass.
It really is a simple device to set up and use: it connects via USB to your PC and then outputs sound via the headphone jack to whatever you want it to. USB drivers install automatically and natively in both Windows XP and Vista, so there's no clicking through complicated set-up menus. This also means the device is free of all the bloat-ware sometimes found with sound card driver installs — Creative, in particular, is notorious for this.
During our testing, we were consistently impressed with the sound quality offered by our review unit. It had no shortcomings that we could find and was able to produce clear sound at its highest volume output with no trace of electronic noise or distortion. All in all, it is a fantastic and well-priced device for turning your PC into a high-end sound station.
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