Convert Technologies Plato Class A All-in-One System Review
Is this the ultimate one box product?
What is the Convert Technologies Plato Class A?The Convert Technologies Plato Class A is an all-in-one system but simply describing it as that is to do it something of a disservice – like describing the Shard as a spacious office complex. It is designed to be at once self-contained but just as capable of functioning as the centre of a wider system of components.
Of course, we’ve seen a few of these before – the excellent Moon NEO ACE and the equally talented Leema Quasar to name but two. Where the Plato is different again is that the whole approach and philosophy that has led to its creation is different to anything else we’ve tested so far. When I say that the unit is self-contained, it is in a way that rival devices get nowhere near. This is a product designed to attract a subtly different customer and be used in a manner that is also slightly different from the notional competition.
This is all well and good but the specification of the Plato is very ambitious and products of this nature live or die on how accessible, stable and usable these features are. On paper, this might be one of the cleverest pieces of audio equipment you can buy but power is nothing without control so is the Plato the device you need for some serious audio smarts?
SpecificationsIf you are familiar with the way I structure reviews, you’ll know that this is generally the longest part of the content but in this case I really recommend you make yourself the beverage of your choice and get comfortable as this is going to be a really long one. Put simply, the Plato does a great deal.
As a core function, the Plato is designed to rip and store CD and digital material. It has an internal hard drive which can either be a 1TB SSD or 2TB rotary depending on your preferences and this can be used to store content that can either be transferred to the Plato having been ripped elsewhere or you can attached a CD/DVD drive and rip directly – more on this and the twist on this in a bit.
Having put the material on the drive, the Plato uses a modified Android platform to display your media library. Unusually, this display process occurs at three levels. There is a display on the front panel that shows information and doubles as a touchscreen, this information is then available via an HDMI output so you can see the same information in rather greater scale and play video, more of which in a bit.
Finally there is a control app that pretty much replicates the functionality of the front panel which is available for iOS and Android. Unusually, the Android app is the ‘lead’ platform for the Plato with the iOS app generally following behind. The reason for this is simple once you spend any time with the unit. The Plato operates a modified Android platform as its operating system which means that – fairly unsurprisingly, it plays nicely with the Android control app. It does also mean that if you are familiar with how recent Android phones work – and let’s face it, quite a few people are – the Plato is going to seem pretty logical to operate.
In terms of file support, the Plato is pretty well specified. With the exception of DSD, every audio format you might reasonably expect is covered and will additionally handle the bulk of mainstream video formats up to 1080p – although that 2TB capacity is going to fill up pretty fast if you lean on the Plato as a media server. In audio terms, it makes rather more sense – you can get an awful lot of content onto the Plato even if you happen to be a full on high res junkie. The Plato is also perfectly capable of playing material from a NAS drive on the same network if you need it to.
Where the Plato moves off into uncharted territory is in its ability to rip material to the drive via the digital and analogue inputs. This is something that can be done at a variety of resolutions and can also be done via the direct connection of a turntable as the Plato has an internal phono stage that supports both moving magnet and moving coil outputs and has an impressively wide variety of loading and impedance settings. Where the Plato makes a valid claim for this functionality actually being useful is down to the software that supports the ripper. This uses the feed from multiple databases to identify the material coming down on the drive and tag it accordingly. For vinyl rips there is also the ability to top, tail and track split your work. This doesn’t change the fundamental issue that ripping vinyl has to be done in real time and is a life sapping exercise as a result but it is something.
The Plato then goes on to offer a useful selection of digital and analogue inputs. As well as the phono stage, there are three RCA line inputs, three optical inputs and a single coaxial connection. This means that you should be able to handle all but the most sprawling systems with the connections to hand. It isn’t a perfect selection – I’d personally prefer an equal selection or coaxial and optical connections and there’s no Bluetooth – but it gives the Plato good flexibility. Slightly more annoying is the lack of any form of wireless connection. I know why companies omit wireless from products – it’s a major point of unreliability and customers are often slow to blame their own hardware – but for those of us who have gone to the effort of ensuring we have high bandwidth, stable wireless available it’s an annoyance.
If you select the Plato Pre in the Plato range, this is then made available via a preout connection to the amplifier of your choice but if you go for the model you see here, you get amplification included in the chassis. This takes the form of a 50W solid state design that – as the name suggests has been biased to run in Class A for the first 8W or so of output with a clever monitoring system helping to make best use of the available power. This might not sound like much but for the bulk of normal listening with all but the most unsuitable speakers, it should allow the Plato to run in the optimal topology.
DesignI hope that simply looking at the pictures attached to this review, it should be enough to demonstrate that the Plato doesn’t really look like much else on the market. Saying something and conveying entirely the wrong thing in reviews is easily done so I need to be careful how I phrase this but more than anything else, the Plato feels like a tremendously highly evolved PC rather than a traditional piece of audio equipment.
The key word in that sentence by the way, should be ‘evolved.’ The casework and detailing of the Plato is exceptionally good. It feels solid, carefully constructed and – in this two tone black and white finish – its attractive too. There’s plenty of clever engineering as well. The Plato has been completely silent in use in the time it’s been here and the use of the casework as a radiator is extremely well implanted. If you like your engineering heavy – like in the Leema Quasar – the Plato is going to feel a little less beefy but it’s well built and well thought out.
It isn’t perfect though. Like a number of app controlled devices, the Plato has no remote and while it can be controlled by the front panel, the act of performing a task like a quick mute is slow compared to the process of pressing a single button on a physical IR handset. This isn’t the end of the world but I’m always surprised by the number of times, I need to suddenly kill the volume to work out what the latest atrocity carried out by my son happens to be.
On the plus side – given you are so dependent on the control app – it’s a good one. More significantly, if you buy a Plato Class A, it comes with a tablet to run it on. The app is effectively a mirror of the front panel and it’s been stable, pretty intuitive and easy to use in the time it’d been running. The implementation of custom features like the recording and the playlist functionality has all been done extremely well. This is a genuinely easy product to live with day to day.
This is a genuinely easy product to live with day to day
How was the Plato Class A tested?As a standalone unit, the Plato has been tested for the most part on its own with a pair of Neat Momentum 4i speakers and the XTZ Spirit 11s reviewed recently. It has been connected to an IsoTek Evo3 Sigmas mains conditioner and largely run on a local network. Content has been imported onto the internal drive but some content has also been accessed via the network from a Western Digital MyBook NAS. The phono stage has been tested via a Roksan Radius 7 turntable running a selection of moving magnet and moving coil catridges. Material used has included lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF files as well as a smattering of vinyl.
Sound QualityConvert Technolgies have been working with storage, servers and network hardware for some considerable time and this shows when you boot the Plato from cold and set it up. Put simply there are no histrionics, no unexpected hang ups or anything that suggests that the Plato isn’t very well sorted indeed. At idle it is completely silent and in keeping with any equivalent piece of audio equipment.
Interestingly, the Plato exhibits a very definite character all of its own. With the Leema Quasar and to a lesser extent the Moon Neo ACE, there is a propulsive sense of force to the way that they make music. Both products are quite rhythm driven – their performance is to a greater or lesser extent focused on the beat of music they play. The Plato is a little different. It’s a very together sounding product but it is much more of a device for getting handle on the whole performance.
The opening few minutes of Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Soundsystem are deliberately quiet and compressed before opening out into the trademark LCD presentation. The Plato takes this compressed, mumbled intro and prises it open in a rather unexpected way. Once the full force of the track does make itself felt, the whole thing is quite incredibly three dimensional. The Plato has a knack for filling the space between the speakers with a rock solid image that has an impressive sense of front to back depth at the same time.
With music that has a little space in the recording, the results are deeply impressive. A favourite fall back of mine, Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring is a fantastically vivid experience. The superb production values have the space to shine and this means that voices and instruments are demonstrably real and lifelike. Quite apart from its functionality, the Plato is at times almost valve like in the way it goes about making music. As noted, the sense of timing isn’t as involved and integral to this as it is with some rivals but the Plato never sounds slow or awkward, it just doesn’t want to be as ballistic with punchy material.
Part of this is down to the bass response. The Plato is detailed and there is admirable control to the low end but even with the hefty Neat Momentums on the end of it, it isn’t the most seismic device going. If you’re looking for something with the ability to find an extra half an octave lurking in your cabinets, this probably isn’t it. There is an impressive sense of detail retrieval though and the integration from top to bottom is consistently good.
Also extremely noteworthy is the top end. The Plato manages to be refined under extreme provocation without sounding smoothed off or overly warm. Listening to War Stories by UNKLE – a jagged, compressed and at times actively shouty album (albeit a staggeringly good one) – the Plato uses this refinement and spaciousness to make for a genuinely good listen.
A final welcome feature of the Plato is the phono stage. I will be honest; the basic design and origin of the unit did not have me expecting miracles from it – phono stages can trip up manufacturers that are historically good at them – but if you are looking for an all-in-one system that delivers with a turntable, the Plato should be on your list. The stage is quiet, possessed of more than reasonable gain and keeps the same basic attributes as the rest of the system.
Put simply there are no histrionics, no unexpected hang ups or anything that suggests that the Plato isn’t very well sorted indeed
- Exceptionally capable
- Spacious and refined performance
- Excellent build
- Can lack a little excitement
- Relatively pricey
- No shortage of more conventional competition
Convert Technologies Plato Class A All-in-One System ReviewSumming up the Plato isn’t entirely straightforward because it is necessary to separate some of my own preferences from the abilities this device offers. On a basic level, my choices for an all-in-one system would be shaped by being perfectly happy to keep my content on a dedicated device with backup and have that available to multiple locations while also being accessible, editable and managed from the computer I’m typing this on. I’ve no burning desire to rip my vinyl because I generally listen to it as a record rather than a file. For people like me, the Plato isn’t necessarily pressing the right buttons as its key features are a little extraneous for my needs.
The thing is though, there are plenty of devices aimed at people like me and more appear all the time. The Plato is gunning for a different clientele and it has to be said, viewed through a slightly different light, it makes a very convincing case for itself. What is most impressive about the Plato is how well its functionality is made accessible and how logical and sensible it feels to use. At the same time, just as much care has been taken making it feel solid, look nice and offer the required flexibility to work in the modern world. If you want all your music in one place with the prospect of listening to that and some additional equipment in one place, you will find this a well worked out means of doing so.
Most importantly, the Plato sounds really very good indeed. Its balance of refinement, spaciousness and naturalness are in keeping with its relatively lofty asking price and it should form a happy partnership with a great many loudspeakers. If you are looking for an all-in-one that really is one box, Convert Technologies has built one that comes enthusiastically recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £4,350.00
Ease of Use9
Value for Money8
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