Pathos Aurium headphone amp

21.01.2016..
Pathos Aurium
Pathos Aurium

Preamble

Without rhetoric, it is a great pleasure to test a Pathos Acoustic Aurium, a high quality Made-in-Italy Hi-Fi apparatus.

I do appreciate Pathos Acoustic’s products, since their mission inside the modern sound reproduction is the design and the technologic innovation. Besides, in the last years, I have tested many headphone amplifiers, from famous brands to DIY realizations, often with original and innovative design. In conclusion, my expectations here are very high. So, let’s see if they will be satisfied.

 

Pathos Acoustic describes as follows the Aurium: “Audiophile-quality headphones, something that we all thought belonged to the '70s, are back. Music enthusiasts from all around the world are upgrading their listening experience by getting rid of earbuds and connecting high-end headgear to their portable digital players, and more. With such great stuff on hand, it’s a shame that the only available holes are MP3 players' ones, as most quality amps have lost their jack sockets since decades. Pathos laboratories faced this new challenge: can we squeeze our very best quality and technology into few cubic centimeters? The result is the newest Aurium headphone amp.

Pure class A, tube pre stage and MOS-FET power stage, zero feedback, the Aurium performs what audiophiles are used to from Pathos: exquisite musicality, transparency, dynamics and total lack of listening fatigue. Flexibility is granted by the possibility to adjust output impedance from 16 to 1,000 ohm, in order to provide a perfect interface with any kind of headphone. The volume control - a critical component in every amp - is operated by means of a high precision Burr-Brown device”.

 

Out of the box

An aluminium parallelepiped with two small tubes peeping out at the bottom of the top side, protected by three little wings, each one placed at one hundred and twenty degrees from the other. It is a well-refined device, machined through modern CNC carving techniques and with a weight of three kilos. A quite powerful - 12 V 4,17 A - switching power supply, a good mains cable and a small user’s manual complete the whole.

The front panel is elegant, minimal, without carvings and serigraphy. On the left is the on/off button that blinks for the time required for preheating. Then, there is the selector for the four input channels that turns out blue when chosen. In addition, there is the volume knob in machined aluminium and the 6,3 mm jack plug for the headphone.

On the back panel, from left to right: two small potentiometers, one to adjust the channel balance and the other to adjust the gain for the input signal, below two connectors for the power supply: the first to serve another remote unity, the second to connect the provided 12 V power supply. Then, we find the outputs that allow the distribution of the input signal towards other amplifiers, mixers, etc., called, like in the old preamps and integrated amps Tape Out, with balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA sockets. Last, are the four possible inputs, three RCAs and one XLR. In the low part of the Aurium there a four positions dip switch for the insertion of an attenuation of six dB for each one of the input channels.

 

From the technical point of view

Pathos’ overall philosophy is clear: hybrid amplification in pure class A, no counter-reaction on the signal, tube pre-amplification, two double Electro-Harmonix 6922 EH triodes, MOSFET output stage with two sturdy IRFP240.

The volume is adjustable through a dedicated processor, the Burr Brown PGA2310.

The realization of the required dual tensions, starting from the primary at 12 V given by the switching power supply, takes place through NDS15-12D12 DC-DC converters by Mean Well. Overall, the amp is well assembled and with top components. The entire cabinet acts as a heat sink, as you can see from the high temperature reached after few hours of work.

 

Listening impressions

Already run-in by Giuseppe Castelli, Aurium’s performances were good and coherent from the first to the last listening test. In the last hours, I have simply noticed more fluidity in the most intricate passages, but it is just a matter of details. Pathos says the warm-up requires about twenty minutes, but I can assure you that after at least a couple of hours is “another “amplifier, more analytic and detailed in the high range and with a wider soundstage.

I confess: after the first tests –power supply, signal, headphones, warm-up – to make sure of the correct functioning of the amp, I connected it to the pre out of my Musical Fidelity A 5.5. I was very curious about listening some LPs with the Aurium. I was right: the overall tone - that we could define in an imperfect way “analogue”- goes along very well with the vinyl. The detail is very good as well as the stage recreation. At the same time, there is no listening fatigue with a credibility of high level, mostly for the percussions and the piano. I have tested the amplified output with four headphones, whose tone features, impedance and sensitivity are quite different: Denon AH-D5000, AKG K260, HiFiMan HE-400, Sennheiser HD800. I have not had any problem of driving, just adjusted a bit the gain to get more “pressure” with the less sensitive ones.

The Pathos Aurium tends to impose its personality/tone with all the headphones. That means that if you chose it as “your” amp, you can benefit from its character. Independently from the headphones chosen, of course, in a range of quality products.

 

Conclusions

I must say that in the last years the segment of the market dedicated to the headphone amplifiers is full of products. Therefore, if you read something about or, better, you make some listening experiences you can find what you like better.

The Pathos Aurium has to be listened with eyed closed….but also open so to appreciate the design.

If you do not wear heavy and tight headphone there is no listening fatigue. The sound is very “analogue”. Considering the high output power, you can drive most of the headphones available on the market by operating on the gain and volume controls. There is quality and you can hear it!

 

 

Selection of listened music

Supertramp ‎- Breakfast In America (SACD-2013)

Stevie Wonder‎ - Songs In The Key Of Life (SACD-2000)

Dave Matthews Band - Away From The World (CD-2012)

Pink Floyd - The Wall Experience (CD-2012)

Orchestral Spectaculars - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Erich Kunzel (Telarc CD-2002)

George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue / West Side Story, Bernstein & Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Deutsche Grammophon (LP)

Alice In Chains - MTV Unplugged (2LP - 2010)

Mumford & Sons - Wilder Mind (LP - 2015)

Peter Gabriel - UP (SACD)

Ben Harper - Fight for your mind (CD-1995)

Joe Jackson - Jumpin' Jive (LP-1981)

 

 

SCHEME SUMMARY

top score ✳✳✳✳✳ ReMusic Sparks

Timbric: ✳✳✳✳ | Very analogue. The listening session is pleasant and without any listening fatigue.

Dynamics: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | The dynamic peaks, mainly those created by the full orchestra, are reproduced in a very convincing way, never annoying.

Detail: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | When everything is warm…nothing slips away!

Versatility: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | Nothing is missing. The choice of inserting two potentiometers to adjust gain and balance is very good.

Image: ✳✳✳✳1/2 | Very good indeed.

Rate: ✳✳✳ 1/2 | This is not the best characteristic of the amp, but also this parameter is subjected to the long warm-up required for the best performances.

Manufacture and functionality: ✳✳✳1/2 | Minimal and elegant design. The rear panel is a little crowded. You must learn to leave with it as well with the long warm-up and the high temperature after a couple of hours.

Price/quality ratio: ✳✳✳✳ | You can see and hear the quality. A “personal taste” can be decisive to buy this amplifier.

 

 

Official technical specifications

Output power: 3.6W at 16ohm, Class A zero feedback

Output Impedance: <0.5ohm

Output level: 7V RMS max

Frequency response: 10Hz-80KHz

THD: <0.1%

Analog inputs: 1 stereo balanced XLR - 3 stereo unbalanced RCA line

Analog outputs: 1 XRL TAPE, 1 RCA line TAPE

Max input level: 6.4 V RMS unbalanced, 3.2+3.2 V RMS balanced

Main voltage: 90-250 V 50/60Hz

Power consumption: 30W

Size: 23x6x20cm WxHxD

Weight: 3kg

 

 

Official Italian dealer: to Music Tools website

Official current price in Italy: 1,310.00 EUR

Associated equipment: to Mauro Cittadini’s system

by Mauro Cittadini
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