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The TRI TK-2: a portable dynamo!

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Neighborhood. I feel honored to have the Tri TK-2 in the house for review prior to its launch for 11.11.21. The TK-2 is a portable DAC/amp that is ran off its own internal battery, which is charged via USB-C. Data transfer occurs via a separate USB-C connection, and the TK-2 outputs unbalanced via a 3.5mm output, and balanced via 4.4mm and 2.5mm outputs. So this is a balanced decamp, with dual ES9038 chips- all in a somewhat compacted, mirrored metal box that is about the size of two iPhones smushed together. In any case, you will soon find out, at a around the price of $259 dollars USD this thing may be one of the best values in audio right now. Let’s get InToit!

So, I’ve already spoiled a bit of the build here… it’s a mirrored metal box with silver sides and bottom, and a black top. I like the look of the unit that was sent to me, but apparently there is a matte black option as well for those that would prefer that look. The weight of the unit was 10.3 ounces, and it measures 1 inch in thickness, five-and-quarter inches long, and 2.75 inches across. It is a bit bulky in the hand, but I’m willing to forgive this for the unit’s power and versatility, which we’ll discuss later on.

The back of the unit consists of two USB-C connections, one for charging the 5000 mAh internal battery, which TRI claims lasts up to 9 hours, and another for data transfer between your computer or your smart phone. I’m not sure what effect it will have on the battery overtime, but you can keep the charge going during playback.

There is also a switch between variable and line out on the back of the device, which renders the variable volume knob on the front of the unit inoperable, in case you would like to use this unit purely as a DAC. By the way, running lineout mode works from both balanced outputs and from the 3.5mm unbalanced output; in case you have a separated balanced, or unbalanced amplifier to run with this thing when you’re not on the go.

The front of the unit includes the 2.5mm and 4.4mm balance outputs, the 3.5mm unbalanced output, and the volume knob- all of which sport a gold accent color. The rigged volume knob turns rather easily, but is somewhat recessed to prevent accidental movement. The top of the unit displays colored indicators that light up to show its various PCM cand DSD codec capabilities. TRI boasts that the TK-2 is capable of 32 bit, 384k hz PCM and DSD256 natively; however, in using Roon, I was unable to get Roon to recognize the device for native DSD playback, and had to resort to DSD over PCM (DOP). As this device is new, I’m sure this is something that can be adjusted in the future with drivers that weren’t available to me at the time of this review.

Maximum power output of the device is listed as 1250 mw at 32 ohms, and the amplification section utilizes class A/B power- which is somewhat unique for a headphone amplifier. Nevertheless, the unit still does get slightly warm to the touch, suggesting that there is a biased towards the class A portion of the circuit; at least early in the throw of the potentiometer. Nevertheless, this puppy isn’t hurting for power. No matter what I threw at it, it sounded good and could take it. It pushed the DT880 600 SE balanced with gusto, and ran Mk2 Argons with ease. The 300-ohm Sennheiser 6XX was also not a problem for this little powerhouse, and I was able to drive them sufficiently in both balanced and unbalanced operation. There was even enough current for the thirsty Dan Clark Audio Aeon Open X, and the Meze Empyrean in conjunction with its 2.5mm silver-plated upgrade cable was just a joy to experience with the TK-2.

This TRI DAC/amp could also do no wrong with IEMs- no matter what I threw at it. The Kanas Pro and TFZ No.3 benefited from the TK-2’s power and were enhanced by the detailed oriented nature of dual DAC chips. The Ikko OH10 and TRI’s own I3 Pro sang like dreams, and I’m not sure they’ve ever sounded better to my ears. Even sensitive IEMs like the KZ ZSX had a black background, which was surprising to me given its current capabilities and power handling. But be forewarned, the volume wheel was sensitive with IEM use, and only slight adjustments from zero were necessary with most IEMs.

The sound profile of TK-2 is very pleasing and linear, with some declining sub-bass and upper treble presence. In other words, the TK-2 has “trailing tails,” if you will, towards its upper and lower extensions. But, in the specific case of the TK-2, I’d say that it is lacking more sub-bass than treble presence in comparison.

Because of this, the overall tunning is very polite and inoffensive- never too harsh, and never too bassy. Mids are neither too forward nor too recessed, but rather clear and acceptable to the ear. Vocals are right on the midline. And, despite its propensity towards elevated volume, there is a slight softness to the individual quality of its notes, which I’d characterize overall as inviting and pleasant to listen to for hours. The soundstage is open, mildly airy and slightly reverberative, without going too far into echo. The TK-2 has an excellent sense of spaciousness to its general presentation, with good dimension, reliable distinction between instrumentation, and enhanced breathe between discrete musical notes. Furthermore, the sound of each note almost has a polished, sophisticated elegance to it, as if a craftsman has painstakingly filed off the rough edges of each note, just for your ears.

Whether one prefers this type of sound or not will be up to their personal preference, but I enjoyed the TK-2 quite a bit. In fact, right now, this may be my favorite DAC under $1300 dollars. I was surprised that such sound quality could come from such a small device, which was not only produced by the Chinese market, but also marketed to the portable marketplace. To my knowledge this is TRI’s first attempt at either a DAC or amplifier, but if the TK-2 is any indication of what this company is capable of, then I look forward to hearing other devices of the such from them in the future. In the end, the TRI TK-2 is simply a value device at $259. It is quality DAC with a powerful built-in amplifier that is capable of driving just above everything under the sun; from headphones to In Ear Monitors. It’s a unit for those that unwilling to compromise power or sound quality, even on the go. And with that, I’m out for now.

*Thanks to KeepHiFi for sending in the TRI TK-2 for Review!

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