Sadly, few Hybrid amps – those that combine valves and transistors – fulfil their promise of valve-style smoothness and midrange fluidity with transistor-like iron grip. Pathos's hybrid amps tend to get closer than most, but even its exceptional line-up had a letdown, the Classic One, which was a bit bright and aggressive in the treble.
Well, it isn't any more. This MkIII version, while retaining the same looks and superb build of the original, has had a comprehensive component upgrade. The result is a smooth yet refined amp with plenty of punch. Yes, that's right, an amplifier with a valve in the circuit can pack a decent dose of muscle – as clearly heard with Massive Attack's Angel, whose crunching bass lines pound out with great determination and speed.
The Classic One is rated at 70 watts per channel, but even with speakers as insensitive as our reference ATC SCM 50s, you'd never guess the output falls below three figures. You can add a full, articulate midrange to MkIII's plus points, too – a talent highlighted by Eric Whitacre's Cloudburst, which sounds as authoritative and solidly defined as we've heard at the price.
However, this Pathos still isn't as rounded as its pricier siblings. Its bass might be powerful, but it's also lacking the kind of finesse we'd want at this price. Low-level dynamics aren't as expressive as we'd like either, making this little amp sound a little bit too relaxed with music that demands zest.
Still, want an extravagantly styled, beautifully built integrated amp that sounds decent across a wide range of music? This is it.