Pathos Classic One mk. III

The Pathos Classic One mk. III was one of those pieces that I always thought it would be amazing to have.  I first heard Pathos audio at a friend’s house and it was honestly the first time I thought I could live without separates!  The Pathos piece I heard was the Logos, it sounded amazing but I’m not crazy about that whole giant stereo amp thing. It is a very cool looking piece, as almost all of the Pathos gear is.  About a year after that encounter I was at Katli Audio in Chino Hills to hear some speakers and he had the Classic One mk. III. Now that thing was right up my alley, mono-block sized stereo output, steel and wood construction and FAT SOUND.  The price unfortunately was not up my alley and so began to lust after this Italian Beauty!

At that point in my life I had my daily Audiogon searches to spy on my favorite pieces that were out of my financial reach.  I came across an auction that was still sub-1000 and something in me just had to “Throw my hat in the ring”. I bid $850 not even knowing how I was going to afford it if I won.  After all, these pieces were going for 1500-2000 used. No way I was going to win an Audiogon Auction for half of that!  Well the stars must have been lined up because I won. It was one of those moments where you’re not sure if winning was actually losing.  My first prize was explaining this situation to my chuckling beautiful bride. But a few days later the amp showed up in perfect condition, in a Macintosh Audio box.  I guess the original box was lost, and not mentioned in the auction? I’m not sure how many of you out there do, but I just love original boxes! I keep them forever and I store them above my garage in the rafters to keep them perfect and out of the way.

I originally thought  before I heard the amp in my own system, that I would love to enjoy this for a while then need to buy a second one.  You know to run them as mono blocks.  Nope, these things have a huge sound and volume to spare.  Not even if I could get another one for $800 would I bother with that idea.  But they would look really cool as a set!

For those of you who have only seen pictures of a Pathos piece, the Pathos Logos or the Pathos Classic One, they are even more beautiful in person.  I’ve been told it has sort of a steampunk look, except that steampunk generally looks old, this looks like it came from the future with a blending of Chrome, steel and Padauk wood finish.   The front panel of the Classic One mk. III has chrome knobs where the older versions used brass. The red 2-digit digital output and very simple chrome toggle power switch give the Classic One mk. III a very classic elegant look indeed.

The attention to detail on all Pathos gear is amazing and the Classic One mk. III is no exception.  From the gloss black top to the heavy knobs on the front, every detail is perfect. Even the tiny bolts that hold the tube cages down are chrome plated.  It’s built like a Ferrari for stereo lovers. Padauk isn’t a common wood, and it’s pretty easy to see why Pathos selected it as a mate to the chrome body, black top and red capacitors.  It is a rich wood with lots of character. Using Padauk ensures a level of uniqueness in each piece. Like the Grand Canyon, each visit is different due to time of year and light. The deep red hue of the Italian Padauk pulls the other colors together like a nice little red bow tied to the front of the amp.

The Classic One mk. III packs 70 watts per channel neatly onto a compact frame that measures in at 8” x 14” x 5” (90 x 100x90mm).  These dimensions are similar to what you might expect to find on a larger narrow but deep monoblock amplifier. There are five inputs on the rear panel, the first of which can be either balanced XLR or RCA, while the remaining three are RCA. The amp includes a fixed level RCA output. The only thing I see missing is a pre-amp output that skips the amplifier stage.   

This is not a power amp with an attenuator mounted to the front of it, this is a true integrated amp.  If it was possible to split it in half, you would have an amazing 6922 tube preamp and a separate but equally awesome MOSFET based power amp.  It’s not cheap to build an integrated like this with fully separate sections, but it is the only way to get the best of both in one body. Kudo’s to Pathos for doing it right!  Speaking of the preamp, the digital volume control and power feel very linear to me, there aren’t any massive jumps in the range and each tick up has an equal sound feel to it.

Even playing speakers rated at 86db sensitivity, the Classic One is able to play far past what most people would consider a comfortable listening volume.  If you really need to make your ears bleed, these will do that with anything above about 89db efficiency. Honestly, for comfortable and even very loud listening this amp will play anything.  Like I mentioned earlier it is possible to put this model in mono-mode and get some serious power out it. I have heard this configuration in a demo room and I was reassured that personally I’m not missing anything.

One interesting thing that happens at my house is that I have an Amazon Echo device hooked up to my stereo, mostly for my wife to listen to her Amazon music.  She doesn’t want to mess with my audio stuff much, but enjoys the ease of playing music using the voice activated system that Amazon provides. The quality of the music is not great, the resolution is low and the music is generally on the pop spectrum so the recordings generally pretty bad.  I mention this because the Classic One mk. III makes it all sound pretty good. The output is far fuller than it has any right to be (or generally is anywhere else I play it), and honestly, for casual listening can be enjoyable. This is an admirable trait, to make music that is inherently bad and turn it into something that sounds passable.  

When fed good quality, full resolution WAV or FLAC files that’s when the Classic One mk. III really shines, obviously.  I wont say the music is without color, because it is. This isn’t a clinical piece of equipment. There is a bold and fresh sound to everything played through the Classic One mk. III that fills a room and inspires the soul like a good Italian wine. If I’m feeling like 2000s rock and throw on some 8Stops7 the presentation is exactly what I want from that, it is a big fat concert sounding distortion with clean vocals.  If I’m looking for some laid back Eva Cassidy Live at Blues Alley, I get exactly what I’m looking for. I get to hear the scratch in Eva’s voice when she is talking to the crowd.

I think the Classic One mk. III achieves something sort of magical in the audio world.  It is absolutely stunning and unique to look at, and it sounds beautiful no matter what you play.  I honestly can't endorse this piece enough. I have yet to have someone listen to this amp and not be impressed with the bold, fat sound as well as the elegant design.  The heart of this design is Italian, the looks stunning, and the styling simply elegant. The Pathos Classic One mkiii is a foundation piece for an exceptional audio system.
-Jeff Brown


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