Product: Pathos New Classic One - 70 + 70 watt hybrid integrated amp
Manufacturer: Pathos - Italy
Approx price: 2040 Euro, in Italy (YMMV)
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: April, 2004
I reviewed the original Pathos Classic One more than 3 years ago. Hence, let me invite you to read that review for details about the amp and let me also concentrate on the main novelties introduced by Pathos on this "New" integrated amp.
From the outside, at a first glance, nothing has been changed. At a closer inspection, one detects a small two-digits display and the step-by-step volume control and inputs selector.
The most relevant changes lie under-cover.
The new volume pot allowed to eliminate some caps in the input stage. Also, the input stage tubes have now a better polarization. Newer and better relays have been used as well, and the quality of the passive components has been significantly increased.
The main board has been improved too, with better and cleaner "ground" patterns while the power output now is claimed to reach 70 watts per channel instead of 50.
Somehow, the New Classic One inherited many of the ideas developed and applied by Pathos when designing their (bigger) Logos integrated amp.
It doesn't take much to understand what the Pathos crew did to their (New) Classic One. I've had the possibility to test the new improved model against the old one (thanks Pathos!) so I have had no necessity to recall old memories from my previous review. In my opinion, this is the only way comparison tests should be made, especially when a "mkII" edition of a certain product becomes available. Old vs new, head to head. No quibbles, no IFs nor BUTs.
3 years ago the system(s) I used to evaluate the Classic One were quite different from what I use today, so a kind of "comparison by memory" would have been unfair, to say the least.
Improving and upgrading successful products ain't an easy task. Indeed, it implies the designer knows well the faults of his previous work and, even better, he should know how to solve those problems. It may happen (and it happens!) that a "mkII" release of a certain product is so different from the original one that the two units can be hardly compared one against the other.
Luckily, listening to the new Classic One by Pathos has been a quite enlightening experience. Why? Simply because it has been proved once again the designers at Pathos know what they want and how to achieve their goals.
Hence, while it is undoubtedly clear the two amps share the very same family feeling one can't help but notice the new unit represents a substantial and unquestionable improvement over the old one.
The first thing that catches one's ears is the level of refinement and smoothness of the reproduced sound. The tonal balance is still on the bright side but now with added linearity between the mid and the high range. Untrained listeners may find this New Classic One darker (or less bright) than the previous version. Not so! It is the level of distortion that has been lowered and, most relevantly, the coherence between mids and mid-highs has improved.
So, while the brightness of the previous version was sometimes related to the peculiar balance between mid and highs, now everything appears to be smoother and better balanced.
Musical presentation is less "up front" and a bit more "laid back".
My complaints with respect to the old unit were mainly referred to the bass range. I've always found the Classic One a bit dry in the bass, too much "controlled" and not exactly punchy. Things haven't improved much in this area, though the New Classic One seems capable of delivering more energy in the first octaves. Anyway, I wouldn't call this amp a walls-shaker.
On the contrary, especially when partnered with small bookshelf loudspeakers, one may find it lacks some oooomph, body and even bass drive. The sound remains on the dry side so much that it makes me think this amp has been designed having big, slow and bass-inflated loudspeakers in mind...in few words, speakers (or drivers) which will benefit from the extra (excessive?) control the New Classic One is capable of.
This kind of "control" makes some kind of Music sound too educated and less aggressive than it should be. If those are your needs, you won't be disappointed. Otherwise, better to be safe than sorry, listen to this amp with YOUR speakers before buying!
As said, this amp hasn't been designed to delight bass-freaks or die-hard rockers. Its controlled nature will make some musical program sound a bit boring, if I may. It lacks the sheer energy needed to make your heart thump together with your feet. In this area, despite the 20 extra watts of output power, things haven't improved much. Oh yes, it can sound loud but it is not the thing it likes most.
Moderate listening levels are much more welcomed here, so that the New Classic One can caress your ears with its gentle and smooth sound.
I wouldn't dare to say it is dynamically compressed but clearly highly dynamic musical programs aren't its favourite battlefield.
It performs very good in the microdynamics department, though, much better than the previous version.
This is one of the areas where the difference between the old and the new unit is more evident. The soundstage created by the New Classic One is now wider, much more focused and way deeper. If you have read my previous review, you should already know I complained about a slight tendency of the Classic One to sound "forward". In other words, the stage of the previous version was more "in front of" the speakers rather than "behind" them. Now it has moved :-) It has earned at least 1 meter of extra depth, so it is much more realistic now. Still, it is not the kind of (big) soundstage you can get from bigger (and much more expensive) amplifiers but, even if reduced in scale, it is very enjoyable.
Usual rules apply here, exactly the same for the previous unit. Let me add that the volume control behaves quite differently than the majority of preamps or integrated amps in the market. Hence you can use the whole range (from 0 to 99) while normally at 50% of the volume range one gets full power. So don't let the numbers fool you. You can end up listening at 70 or 80 (out of the 99 digits on the display), still operating in the "safe" area, far from the clipping zone.
Since the amp is identical to the old version, please refer to my complaints on that review :-)
Now the remote control includes the input selector and a muting switch. Cranking up the volume with the stepped potentiometer is a slower operation than with the old rotative one.
The price has increased: slightly more than 2000 Euro, here in Italy, could become much more abroad. Considering the uniqueness of its design and the materials which have been used, one may find it still adequate.
Sound. Being a clear upgrade from the old version I'm afraid I have few things to say. The main complaint could be - from a different point of view - the best "plus" of this amplifier: it sounds (too much) controlled and dry in the bass. Bass-freaks may find the sonic behaviour of this amplifier hard to understand.
For this reason, careful system matching becomes of paramount importance. DO NOT (I repeat, DO NOT!) buy this amp without a serious listening session with your speakers (at least!).
If you are a fan of the old Pathos Classic One you will find this amp an irresistible upgrade. Selling the old one and buying the new unit is perhaps one of the most logical (pricewise) upgrades you can perform on your system.
If you weren't a big fan of this amp you won't find the new one worth the hassle, since its sonic personality (read: tonal balance) has remained virtually unchanged.
It does what it did, just better.
Copyright © 2004 Lucio Cadeddu - www.tnt-audio.com