Pathos Classic One MkIII vs. Krell S-300i


How does one decide which amplifier they prefer?

For a little background, my system started with an Integra 50.1 receiver (still have).  My first amplifier upgrade was to add a Yaqin MC-30L integrated tube amplifier to my setup using a switch.  The Yaqin MC-30L was clearly an upgrade to the Integra, but also had a very similar sound.  My audio journey then took me to a Cambridge Audio Azur 840A that I simply never liked the sound of so to make a long story short I traded it in to a local audio shop and picked up a Pathos Classic One MkIII that I have really enjoyed.  The Pathos was once again a clear upgrade to the Yaqin and again had a similar sound.  From the Integra to the Yaqin to the Pathos there was never a question about which one sounded better because each seemed to simply be a better version of the previous one.

Enter the Krell S-300i that has really upset the balance of my audio world.  It's not unexpected, but the Krell and Pathos have very different sounds and very different sound stages.  The Pathos has more pronounced and clear highs and the Krell has more detailed bass (there is a bit of a mid-bass hump that isn't pleasing).  In line with the Fletcher Munson Curve, the Pathos sound better at low levels and the Krell starts to move ahead as the volume is increased.

Sometimes I wonder if the majority of my "dislike" for the Krell is simply that it sounds different than the sound that I've had as long as I've had my system.  There's some music where the Krell is absolutely superior and some that I clearly don't prefer it.  I think the Krell has allowed me to hear difference between Redbook and SACD that I've not heard before and I have greatly enjoyed the sound I get feeding it with the Integra through the home theater bypass feature.

My system is far from being setup ideally, over even well, but that's just the reality of living in a 1,400 sq-ft house.  I honestly believe that most of my gear is well above the setup making it somewhat pointless to try and really evaluate them.

I could keep both of the amplifier and have them both connected to my overall system, but they also represent funds that could be used to try out a new pieces of gear.

I realize that this is kind of an open ended question like ramble, but it's a new experience to truly not be able to pick a favorite.  In the few A/B tests my wife and kids tend to prefer the Pathos (they also prefer lower listening volumes which make sense) and the Pathos is clearly a better looking piece of gear (WAF), but the home theater bypass feature on the Krell allows it to be fully integrated and could eliminate the switch.

Anyone else have the experience of not being able to choose a clear favorite?
mceljo
If you are trying to decide between the two, let me offer another option.  I had a single Pathos Classic MK III and found it lacking.  By that I mean it ran out of steam at listening levels I thought lower than the power rating would indicate and the bass, though not soft or tubby, just didn't have any impact.  Otherwise, I did like the sound.  I read a couple articles about bridging these amps so found another and did exactly that.  The improvements were quite obvious.  Detail became much more apparent, more presence if you will.  Though still not a bass monster, the bottom end no longer suffered any deficiencies and the PRAT, or boogie factor, improved as well.  My only very slight criticism of the bridged Pathos amps was a slight reduction in soundstage depth in my system.   After hearing them bridged, I can't imagine running a single Classic MK III.
What speakers are you using?
Icherepkai -  I have wondered how having a second Pathos might sound, but it's not really a realistic option given my current space constraints.  If I had a more dedicated listening space it would be very temping.  I think a Pathos Logos would be another temping option at that point.
mesch - I have Focal 836v speakers.  When I purchased my speakers both the Pathos Classic One (not MKIII) and Krell S-300i were in the audio store which is partly why I have them now.  I never really considered the Pathos an option at the time and the Krell was just out of reach.  That's actually why I picked up the Cambridge Audio Azur 840A since it was the piece of gear that I opted against when I made my original purchase.
For nighttime listening, the Pathos is a real gem. They aren’t made to play at Rovk Concert levels but with good speakers will reward you with presenting all the textures in the music. 
I have listened both amps (loan from friends) at my home, in my system and liked Pathos Classic much beter than Krell s 300. Of course, the krell has much more power, but even with decent gear (Burmester 001 cd player and SF Cremona Auditor M speakers) the overall sensation was like if somebody put the blanket over speakers. I have owned the Krell Kav 400 as well, it is a bit 'gray' sounding amp, but still much better than S 300. I would say that Krell makes fine amps, but not in that category.
As for Pathos Logos that you have mentioned, it is their worst sounding amp. I have owned Pathos Inpol 2, really nice sounding amp and its better than Classic (simillar type of sound, but bigger and wider stage, more details, etc), not to mention the Logos, but for the money neeed, I would say that there are better solutions than Inpol. Classic, however, is the sweet spot in their production
stereo5 - I would agree that the Pathos sounds fantastic at low volumes and honestly sounds great to my ears at just about any volume that I have interest in listening.  The biggest downside to the Pathos in my system is that it forces me to use a switch so that I can have my Focal speakers connected to my Integra for home theater and Pathos for stereo listening.  It's not really that complicated, but was a factor in trying out the Krell that has a home theater bypass.  The Pathos is still connected with the switch, so I have a lot of options at the moment.
alexatpos - I definately couldn't describe the Krell in my system that way though it does have an overall warmer sound than the Pathos.  The Krell seems to have a more visceral presence that some might say leads to toe tapping.  The other thing that sticks out is that it sounds more "black" to my ears which is the only way I know to describe the lack of noise.  This is something that has always impressed me with quality audio components and it's particularly noticeable when acting as the power amp for my Integra receiver, but I do hear the same qualities compared to the Pathos with some music.

I'm fairly certain that I could be happy with either and honestly don't have a pressing need to only have one other than simplicity appeals to me.  

I don't anticipate doing anything about it other than dreaming, but I'd love to hear the PS Audio Stellar GainCell DAC and Stellar S300 amplifier as it combines Class A analog with power and has a built-in DAC that would eliminate another component.  I'd be more tempted by the GainCell DAC if the Krell S-300i would allow for multiple home theater bypass inputs so that I could use the GainCell DAC and home theater receiver as sources.  I've never been around a pieces of PS Audio gear so have no idea if I'd like it or not, but it sounds great on paper :-)
I wrote reviews of the Classic One (original) and MkIII for Dagogo.com

I did not invent the idea of "Pathi" (two units used in Mono), but reviewed it as such. A very nice improvement over single unit without faltering in terms of the lovely characteristics of the amp.

Having handled many amps, the Classic One has more midrange presence/emphasis than most others. It's quite different in that respect, and can be very appealing. The bass is driven a bit lightly, but with two units it is improved. If you love the single Classic One's character, then a second unit would most likely delight. 
douglas_schroeder - How exactly does it work to run two units?  What do the connections from the sources and to the speakers look like?
Always good to have a third option. Heard both years ago but different stores so could not compare. The store that was auditioning the Pathos passed on picking the line up and to be fair it was a fresh unit, Classic One. Remember Sam Tellig of Stereophile loved that amp and I didn’t get it, but again it probably needed more time and it was the original. Maybe look at a Rogue as a third option in that price range. 
Mceljo, just checked your speakers, I would say that Pathos Classic might be on limit with them. Multiple drivers, impendance drop to 3 ohm, perhaps it just may be too much for that smallish amp, when driven 'hard'.
I do not know what do you use as a source, but I assure you that with a really good one, very soon you are going to hear limitations of that Krell.
As much as you like some of its characteristics, it is in fact a poor sounding amp. It has power, it is famous brand, good build quality, but it lacks the top end. Also, I would say that Focal speakers (aldo I have not heard your model) are 'helping' to hide Krell's S 300 faults. But, that is only my experience, yours might be very different  
alexatpos - By "helping" do you mean that the Focal 836v speakers making the Krell sound better than it should or they are not good enough to expose its faults?

Either way, I have always loved the Focal sound and have heard everything from the smallest bookshelf to the Grande Utopia.  It was interesting to hear the little Focal 706v speakers being driven by the Krell monoblocks that were also used to drive the Utopia speakers.

My source is a Pioneer PD-D6-J SACD player.  It's nothing special I'm sure, but it's done the job for quite a few years.
Mceljo, first part.
As for the source, you can always try something 'bettter' , with Pathos and than with Krell. I am sure that at one point you will hear the limits of Krell that I am talking about
I once owned the Pathos Classic One MK II.  Lovely amplifier when paired to right speakers. Not the most powerful 70WPC amp on the planet. The instruction manual shows how to use a pair in mono mode.
alexatpos - In the future I may be more interested in upgrading my sources, but as I mentioned in my first post my system is absolutely limited by setup and I can honestly say that I've heard very little difference, if any, among the various sources that I've used.  The difference between the Krell and Pathos, on the other hand, is quite obvious.

The other source that I am currently using is a Bluesound Node 2 through a Maverick Audio TubeMagic D2 DAC that has all of the offered upgrades.  I consider the SACD player to be superior simply because it has SACD capability, but the solid state output on the DAC sound identical to Redbook CD to my ears.

One thing that is interesting with the DAC as a source is that with the Pathos the difference between the tube and solid state outputs was simply a slight softening on the high end which I almost never preferred but didn't find objectionable.  I used it at time for general listening to take the edge off since my wife is volume sensitive.  With the Krell, the tube output on the DAC sounds awful to my ears.  I ended up putting a splitter between the DAC and Pathos and Krell so that I could use the solid state output for both.  The DAC is my casual listening source and the SACD player is directly connected to the Krell currently for best results.

You've probably picked up on the numerous less-than-optimal things in my systems ranging from the physical setup on the speakers to having a switch between the amplifiers and speakers, and splitters in the source connections.  I can certainly see how one could be driven nuts if the system was able to be setup optimally where it was easier/possible to really evaluate the more subtle differences in components and such.  Maybe a blessing in disguise for me...
mesch - I can only imagine the look on my wife's face if I told her that I wanted a second Pathos!  I had to shoehorn the Krell in and there's simply not a reasonable configuration that would allow for another Pathos as fun as that sounds.