Our Verdict 
It takes an awesome amplifier to make a £5500 price-tag look reasonable: this is one of them
For 
Simply sensational sound – especially midrange – allied to extraordinary build-quality and unique looks
Against 
Some might find those looks a little too unique
not quite the bass kick of some at this price
Reviewed on

Hands up who continually listens to the same few CDs, leaving the majority of a large music collection gathering dust? In other words, if you're a U2 fan, you often listen to Achtung Baby, but avoid Zooropa. If it's Michael Jackson, it's Thriller, but never Invincible.

If we could show you a way to reignite your enthusiasm for your forgotten collection, would you be interested? Well, the Pathos Inpol 2 is that solution. This stereo amplifier will give your music library the kiss of life, lending recordings a quality that'll have grinning from ear-to-ear. You'll again enjoy music with the enthusiasm of that 15-year-old who thought he was the first person in the world to discover – choose your generation – the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols, The Smiths, Eminem or Arctic Monkeys… even Michael Jackson.

The key here is realism: nothing beats live music, and the Pathos delivers a sincere sense of the music being ‘alive'. Its midrange in particular is unreservedly gorgeous, but don't think for a second that this vocal excellence is due to a typically ‘gloopy' valve amplifier sound, or achieved at the expense of detail, pace or excitement.

Hybrid technology Contrary to what you might think from a quick glance this isn't an all-valve amp. It's actually a hybrid device, which mixes solid state and valve technology to stunning effect. Consequently, spin Eminem's Without Me, and you get not only awesome vocals, but also cracker-snapping percussion, masses of detail, and the necessary drive to propel this hip-hop tune along as smoothly and speedily as a top-of-the-range Ferrari.

If we were being hypercritical, we could mention that the lowest frequencies lack the punch and pace available from the bass kings at this price. But then everything else is so good that we defy you to be bothered. You might also find the Pathos struggles to drive massively demanding speaker loads, but fortunately such speakers are few and far between.

More after the break

Hooked on classics Play some dynamic classical music – try Jupiter from Holst's Planets – and the Pathos is in its element. Orchestral instruments are delivered with stunning refinement, and the amplifier avoids getting its feet stuck in its honeyed midrange. It dextrously delves down into the lower frequencies, and nimbly reaches up to the highest treble.

It also stops and starts notes with skill, keeping excitement levels high. This is addictive hi-fi and, once you've hit play, we dare you to stop a track before the end. The Inpol 2 is what you could call an ‘album amp' – once a disc is in, you'll want to listen to it from start to finish, with no need to touch the absolutely lovely remote control (we kind of expect that with five grand hi-fi).

So, are we getting carried away? Yes we are, but unashamedly so and for very good reason: after all, we haven't even discussed the styling yet. But then take a look at the picture and you'll see there's no further need for words…