Pathos Twin Tower Amps Reviewed

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Pathos rates the Twin Towers at 30W/ch into 8 Ohms. Its frequency response is stated as 1-100kHz (+/-0.5dB), with an S/N ration of 90dB. In keeping with both the company's direct and implied recommendations, I stuck with non-difficult speakers including LS3/5As, the old Quad ESLs and Tannoy's delicious R-1, while avoiding the ALR Entry 2M because of its impedance. All wiring used was silver or silver-hybrid - mainly Kimber Select and Siltech - because of Pathos' preference. And I'll be damned if it didn't 'synergise' better with silver than copper.

And, oh! will you hear nuance and detail, naked enough to help you to assess wire. This amplifier is so quiet, so delicate, so transparent and so refined that I had to check and make sure I wasn't listening to some ultra-precious, non-300B SET. Note that I said 'non-300B'; I make that distinction because the Pathos does pee on its part of the valve tree by dialling in excessive warmth in the mid-band. In this respect, it sounds so explicitly like a modern tube amp of the ARC/C-J variety that anachrophiles might take it as an affront. But then, in keeping with the benefits of being a crossbreed, upstairs it demonstrates a vintage tubey-ness through the kind of silky, sweet, shimmering trebles you rarely hear this side of a Quad II or a Leak TL12. Call it judicious use of retro if you must. It's so luscious that a part of you wants to go into deep, irrecoverable denial, the kind of psychological state which puts a Porsche in every shrink's garage: you just will not believe that the guts of this baby are solid-state.

Then the bass kicks in and you just that no tube amplifier - unless penned by, say, the iconoclastic Tim de Paravicini - could provide the sort of damping, slam and bass extension as oozes from Twin Towers. It's not that the sound is particularly transistory; it's more a case of us never expecting a tube amp to deliver such chunky, authoritative lower registers. And the all-tube amplifiers which match or better the big solid-state amps tend to be rare, expensive or huge. Think ARC Reference 600, the classic EARs with 509 tubes or semi-pro units bearing a bushel of 6550s.

But, please, keep in mind that this is in the context of easy-to-drive speakers with sensible impedance and relative efficiency; I didn't dare try the WATT/Puppy system 5.1 or the aforementioned ALRs. So, in a curious way, you have to treat the Pathos (unless you can afford its beefier siblings) as you would an SET: fit mainly for sensitive, kindly speakers. If words like 'kind' and 'sensitive' suggest New Male warmth-and-fuzziness, please, spare me: we're talking about Italianate behaviour here, not Californian.

An old joke about (admittedly American) Italians goes: What's foreplay to an Italian? The joke-teller points to crotch and says, 'Yo!' The Pathos that kind of Rocky Balboa/Sonny Corleone Italian. It's a product of the smooth, sophisticated gene which gave us Dean Martin, most two-seater Alfa-Romeos, leather goods so supple that you'd swear the crocodile still lived, and food so delicious that it makes you cry. Tracks like Dino's 'Sott'er Cela de Roma' or Willy DeVille's 'Assassin of Love' showcase its rich vocals, correct dynamic contrasts, speed to cope with non-sequitur transients, and a sound-stage so deep and wide that you'd expect pigeons to drop down for a feeding. Try sparser works - solo piano courtesy of Otis Spann, for example - and you learn all about the intimacy denied us by systems which overwhelm.

Twin Towers is one of the finest amps I've ever heard, regardless of price. And Pathos need never apologise for its limited utility, especially not in a world awash with gutless single-ended triode amps: this amplifier sings for itself. And, had I not just sunk my life savings into my listening room, I'd be buying one right now. The Twin Towers is almost too good, too innovative, too classy to be true. Just like the Fiat Coupe, an Aurora pen,most Armani shmatte, a Morellato strap, olive all'ascolana...

UKD, 23 Richings Way, Iver, Bucks SL0 9DA. Tel 01753 652669; FAX 01753 654531

*I've now settled into acceptance that I can never Italian...
**Twin Towers is seemingly named after an American architectural achievement, while the company name is utterly invalid in this context if you look up the meaning: to elicit pity.

No sarcasm, please, for the lack of a circuit diagram: INPOL is a trade secret, so the company does not offer diagrams to reprint. In the most dry-roasted of nutshells, INPOL is a pure Class A, single-ended, zero-negative-feedback output stage using power MOSFETs 'current sourced' by a large inductor and loaded in parallel with a capacitor. As you'd expect, the latter, while acting as a 'passive' current regulator, prevents DC from reaching the outputs. A pair of E83CCs/12AX7s serve as the drivers, and they mate with INPOL in such a way as to determine pretty much its entire sonic signature; given the near-ubiquity of the ECC83 and its variants, the sound can almost be described as all things to all tube crazies - both modern and vintage, all at once. A mix of both strengths and weakness, INPOL's downside is relative inefficiency and hot-to-the-touch running (if not quite as poor in these areas as traditional Class A transistor amps), the requirement of a massive power supply and the need to face an impedance of a nominal 8 ohms; Pathos recommends 5-6 ohms and above, and you hear it cry if you connect it to anything dipping below that. INPOL also means that the Twin Towers bears no protection circuitry, so please, be nice to it.

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