Pathos Acoustics Converto
Input: USB, Toslink, 2x Coax S/PDIF, 1 pair analog RCA (for headphone output only)
Output: RCA, XLR, 3.5mm headphone jack
Dimensions (W x D x H): 200 x 230 x 60 mm
Availability: through Authorized Dealers
Italy's Pathos Acoustics is known in part for their sumptuously designed hi-fi gear. While today's Converto is somewhat understated, there are enough aesthetic touches to keep it apart from the mainstream black box crowd. A two-tone aluminum chassis with an engraved top plate wrap itself around the business innards of a DAC and headphone amp with a fully balanced class A analog output stage.
Capable of handling PCM resolutions up to 24/192 using the Burr Brown PCM1793 DAC, the Converto offers both single-ened RCA and balanced XLR outputs. Also around back are the inputs which include USB, 2x Coax S/PDIF, and Toslink. There's also analog RCA input pair whose output is for the headphone jack only. There are also two knobs which control headphone gain and balance. The sparse front panel houses the power button, an input selector button with an associated blue LED vertical line, and the gnarled headphone volume control. The company's logo is etched up top.
The Converto uses the m2Tech USB receiver so you need to download and install the m2Tech drivers from the Pathos website for Windows and OSX. I used my MacBook Pro running Pure Music 2 with the Converto and the drivers installed without a hitch. The Concerto was connected to my Pass INT-30A with Kimber XLR cables.
Refined. That's how I'd describe the sound of the Converto in a word. Refined. There's just enough of a sense of resolution to bring you into the performance but not the kind of super transparency of the more expensive Auralic Vega or even the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC. Tone colors are represented with a nice palette and overall the presentation is fit and firm. Bass response is ample and well controlled while the highs are never etched or overly analytical. The Converto is simply a nice sounding DAC.
I played all manner of music through the Converto including the usual suspects and something like Kind of Blue in mono (24/192) from HDtracks suited its strengths perfectly. All of players were laid out is space and their distinct voices shone through nicely. If anything, the Converto may be a bit too polite for some listeners as it tends to soften the overall musical picture. I am being especially picky here but that's what I'm supposed to be. Picky.
More challenging music like Angels & Devils from The Bug were handled equally adeptly with all of blips, bass bombs, and blistering noise delivered in an almost analog-like fashion. Music is presented as an engaging whole, yet each of the parts that comprise it are deftly rendered in voice and in space. Nice.
The headphone output used in conjunction with the NAD Viso HP50 displayed many of the same characteristics as the analog output. Baker's Holiday by Chet Baker in 24/192 from HDtracks sounded rich and delightful. The gain control around back helped to tailor the sound to my preferences, a nice touch. One small complaint is that the headphone output does not mute the analog output when engaged.
I found that the Converto was very easy to listen to over longer sessions and enjoyed its relaxed and inviting sound. For those looking for a PCM-only DAC and headphone amp that can handle up to 24/192 resolutions and who find most digital to sound overly-analytical, too incisive, harsh or sharp, the Pathos Acoustics Converto is worth your time and a long listen.
Also on hand and in use during the Converto review: Auralic Vega, Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC.