PATHOS ACOUSTICS Ethos - HiFi Choice review, August 2011

With the Ethos, Pathos has created a powerful hybrid tube/transistor integrated amplifier capable of acccepting a wide range of sources - from balanced analogue via XLR to digital via USB (with an optional DAC). Here`s an amplifier that meets the needs of two-channel purists, while catering for those interested in using digital sources.

The Ethos is provided with five unbalanced line sources via RCA phono plugs, two balanced line sources via XLR plugs, plus four video inputs. There`s an optional built-in 24-bit/192kHz D-to-A converter, with inputs via two USB ports type A and type B, and a S/PDIF co-axial RCA socket. A stereo pre-out pair and a mono subwoofer-out are also provided.

The pre-amp section is entirely tube; pure Class-A  and based around a pair of 6922 twin-triode tubes. The power amp section is a true dual-mono solid-state design that delivers over 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms - or 200 watts into 4 ohms. Unusually for an integrated, it is also possible to bridge the output, creating a single-channel amplifier of 270 watts. The specifications are impressive; a claimed frequency response from 2Hz to 200kHz (+/-0.5dB) and 0.01 percent distortion.

Massive Beast

Weighing in at a hefty 20 kilos, the Ethos is a massive beast. Just lifting it tells you it`s a well-made piece of kit. The casework features a combination of steel top and bottom plates, with heavy cast-alloy heatsinks and front panel. The heatsinks are extruded in the shape of the Pathos brand logo when viewed from above. This amp is well finished and solidly built - oozing quality and class from every pore.

There`s a relay protection system that mutes the amp while everything warms up and settles down - this takes about 30 seconds. Each input has its own individual volume control memory and can be set independently. This means you can adjust levels to cope with sources of differing sensitivities - a nice touch.

Immensely Impressive

Straight from the box, the unit needs to burn-in. But after a week or so it settles down nicely, producing a winning combination of immediacy and clarity. It`s very lucid and detailed, but not excessively `toppy` or overbright. The sound has excellent focus, lots of fine detail and there`s plenty of power. The bottom-end is taut and powerful, and there`s an immediacy that is immensely impressive. Transient attack is very good, and wide dynamic swings are handled with aplomb - the sound expands impressively with no hint of compression. The use of tubes in the preamp probably adds a degree of richness and warmth, but the Ethos is not obviously rose-tinted or soft.

Mix of Virtues

The Ethos is a sophisticated and highly accomplished stereo integrated amplifier that is good enough sonically to appeal to discerning purist two-channel audiophiles, whilst offering lots of extras to interest those looking for something more versatile.

It`s very well made and offers a lot for the money. It delivers the kind of smooth refinement that you expect from a good valve amplifier, but has the extra power, drive and control you expect from solid-state. Given such a mix of virtues, it should enjoy wide appeal.

                      HI FI CHOICE VERDICT   ***** FIVE STARS***** plus*****EDITOR`S CHOICE*****