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KingRex T20U & PSU MKII System with John Blue JB3 Loudspeakers Review

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I ran the two units together.  By itself, the T20U amp was fairly good but sounded a little rough on strings and seemed to have thinner bass depth.  If you can swing it, the PSU MKII is an improvement.  I felt there was a larger sense of the hall and this was noticeable on “Casino Nation” on the Jackson Brown Acoustic Vol 2 disc.  As in a live recording, Jackson often converses with the audience and with the PSU you get more of a sense of the hall, air and breath.  Indeed, decay on the guitar box and piano especially was improved rather greatly and I feel that PSU is worth the additional cost, especially if you plan to use quality loudspeakers where you’re more apt to notice the improvement.

KingRex T20U & PSU MKII System with John Blue JB3 Loudspeakers

As a two-box unit, the combinedheight is roughly equal to my Line Magnetic LM-215CD player but you could place them side by side where they would be roughly the width of a CD player, and about half as deep.  The Trends Audio gear is more compact but the KingRex amplifier offers more power at 20 watts.  The Trends Audio is a different sort of product being a tube preamplifier and offering a headphone output.  That system had two class T power amps to operate in a bi-amp configuration.

The KingRex system is a better system overall largely on the back of the JB3 loudspeakers.  Fortunately, I was able to review both amplifiers on my Audio Note loudspeakers.  The gap closes as a result and The Trends PA10 with its tube stage offers the user more tube rolling options and the ability to improve its sound.  Still, the KingRex T20U combined with the PSU MKII offers a richer, deeper presentation and as a combination is a step up over the Trends system (with stock tube).

But what may further tip the scales is the fact that the KingRex T20U has an onboard USB DAC.  Granted, this DAC isn’t cutting edge in that it is a “Burr-Brown PCM2702E which is 32/44.1/48 KHz ready 16-bit” affair.  Still, if you have not yet taken the computer audio path this is a nice addition.  Since the vast majority of recordings are still of 44.1KHz, this is a highly affordable way to get into computer audio.  I preferred the sound quality via my Line Magnetic CD player playing the same recordings but this is a higher-quality $1,500 tube CD player.  The T20U’s USB DAC was acceptably clean, leaning a little to the warm side of the spectrum slightly softening cymbals and transient attack and thus was never fatiguing.

The installation was a breeze as well – my computer took about 20 seconds to “install drivers” and it worked immediately playing all of my computer audio files regardless of format or recording.  For those not versed in computer audio, the T20U played all my recordings whether 16/44.1, 24/96, or 24/192, though it won’t take advantage of the higher resolution formats.  But again the amplifier is a strong buy even if this DAC was not on board, so the fact that you get one and it’s a pleasing one at that then makes it a fine value-added feature.  Now, 24/192 capability in itself doesn’t mean you will get superior sound.  It’s kind of like megapixels in a camera.  You can have a 20 megapixel camera, but a camera with a far superior lens and only 6 megapixels will take better quality photos, and a great 16/44 or 24/96 DAC will beat a lesser DAC that does 24/192 or better – just as Audio Note non-oversampling CD players sound better than numerous SACD players playing SACDs.  But if numbers matter, KingRex does offer the UD 384 USB DAC which is capable of 32/384 conversion.

2 Responses to KingRex T20U & PSU MKII System with John Blue JB3 Loudspeakers Review

  1. Second Mouse says:

    Thanks for the review of the Kingrex system and the John Blue JB3.

    Unfortunately, I must disagree a bit with the assessment of the TrendsAudio system. I currently use a very nice system which includes the Trends PA-10 (tube preamp), TA-10 (power amp), PW-10 (power supply), and a pair of John Blue JB3 speakers. A NOS tube in the PA-10, and the Trends power supply both add an extra bit of sparkle to my system similar to what was observed by the reviewer when he listened to the Kingrex system with the PSU.

    Further, the specifications of the TrendsAudio and Kingrex amplifiers differ very little if you look at the low distortion figures.

    And, the full power figures should hardly matter if the equipment from any of the three manufacturers in question is used on a desktop or in a small room as intended.

  2. Dear Second Mouse

    I would like to make it clear that I did not audition the Trends Audio amplifiers with the John Blue speakers. I auditioned both Trends Audio and KingRex on Audio Note AX Two speakers and I did allude to the fact that tube rolling the Trends may yield superior results.

    Comparing stock to stock without the King Rex power supply I would give the edge to Trends Audio. The KingRex power supply lifts the sound slightly ahead of the stock version of the Trends. But if you put in a very good NOS tube in the Trends Audio then it may leap ahead again. I like the Trends Audio personally a bit more because I like tubes and the ability to tube roll allows for changes and improvements and to be blunt that’s rather enjoyable. Plus it’s smaller and more portable. On the other hand the King Rex includes a DAC and has a nicer volume control and is a little more elegant (posh) and many people may not want to deal with tubes.

    As you point out the power issue with the JB3 won’t much matter but it could matter if a person buys a more traditional loudspeaker. Although neither is exactly a powerhouse.

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