The first product that I will mention probably wouldn’t surprise anyone that knows me well, the Pathos TT. In the middle 90’s I was looking around for a new solid state amplification range as and alternative for the EAR valve amps that we imported. From the moment I laid eyes on it in a review of Sam Tellig in Stereophile I knew. It was love at first sight. My partner and mentor in those day always said ‘we must only sell that what we listen to in our own homes’ and I still keep to that sage advise today but will slightly edit it to read “that what we are willing to live with for a while..” It is 2020 and I still listen to the same TT imported in 1997 almost daily. What more is there to say. After having amps in the house from the most prestiges manufactures over the years I am still in love with the TT’s sound and looks.
Is it a perfect amp? No of course not. I heard it sounding amazing, good and pathetic over the years. With the wrong speakers(low sensitivity and unfriendly impedance) it is not special at all, but with the right match it sounds sublime. The fact that it is only a 35 W design and single ended as well necessitates careful matching. The best I have heard it sounding was with the Rosso Fiorentiono Fiesoles, the legendary Merlin VSM, Zu Droids and some of my own designs.
When in good company, both up and downstream the TT sounds immensely musical. The sound has a presence and a sense of realness in the mids, texture and density and is extended and transparent – it opens up the window of recordings. Surpassingly for many, is just how good the bass extension is. Only a few high powered solid state amps have bettered the TT in the bass region in my system over the years but in comparison these amps have sounded dry and mechanical compared to the organic sound of the Pathos.
Around 1997 I started thinking about designing loudspeakers. ProAc in general, disappointed with the Pathos TT as amp – definitely one of my favourite products. I was sure there would be better matches around. The ProAc 2.5 was great sounding on a Gryphon integrated amp and the midbass driver from Scan, with the newly carbon and slitpaper cone(8535) certainly showed loads of potential. The fanatical approach from Bobby Palkovic and his total commitment to refine his designs in an evolutionary manner caught my eye and of course the very good reviews and feedback on the web. His ability to put mega bucks systems to shame at shows with the Merlin VSM and low to medium output amps struck a chord with me and I started to share my enthusiasm with a few of my customers. In the background however the development of my own range kept me from taking up the agency with verve. I also was not 100% happy with the look and feel of the speaker- compare the looks of the VSM with a ProAc in Rosewood for example.
One customer took the plunge and I ordered a set. I really didn’t get a chance to listen to them properly when the first pair came in and it was only years later that I heard them in Dubai with the spectacular Lamm amplification and an Audio Research CDP that I realised how good they were. By that time the original owner has also ordered a 2nd set and 2 more VSMs were landed and one or to of the standmout units as well.
When an older set came up for sale I did a transaction and at last had the opportunity to listen to the set at home on the Pathos TT. I could kick myself that I didn’t make more effort with the legendary speaker. I guess few enthusiasts in SA had the pleasure to hear them, but they are absolutely astounding. They work very well with the TT, with SET amps and low powered valve amps in general. They have a top to bottom coherence, pristine clarity and midrange abilities in the Quad ESL territory. They of course have limitation in terms of bass extension, and lack maybe ultimate resolution and pitch in the bass, but the rest of the frequency spectrum is world class and a benchmark, still today. It shows what can be achieved with good driver selection (Scan 8545 midbass driver and Dynuadio Esotar tweeter) and fantastical dedication.. Palkovic almost had a cult like following from satisfied users. His advice was taken seriously from amplification to cables – he knew how to get the absolutely best from his designs
I think there are 4 pairs in SA, so the chances to find them for sale is almost zero now that Bobby sadly passed on. I hope to take the Shindo Montille 391 to the customer who originally took the leap of faith and listen to the VSMs – I guess it would be the end game….