A lot has happened with the Plato all-in-one streamer, recorder, and amplifier since the last one came my way nearly a year ago, not the least of which is the company has changed its name from Entotem to Convert Technologies; not because it went bust, but because no one could pronounce the word! The Plato itself is a rather more polished piece of kit than it was; build and finish feel a lot better, thanks in part to a matt rather than high gloss paintwork (the latter is still available at a premium). The big change, however, is there are now four Platos: Lite starting at £1,899; Pre/source without amplification from £2,400; the standard model at £2,999, and this range topping Class A version with a 2TB HDD for £3,999. You can have SSDs up to the same size if that appeals.
In all its guises, the Plato is a comprehensively equipped device that can stream music and movies from onboard and/or offboard libraries. It also has a phono input with variable loading in software and a remarkably well thought out recording function to enable vinyl ripping. Oddly, there is no means of ripping silver discs save for recording them in real time from a CD player. Loading digital music files can only be achieved via USB; you stick a drive into the socket on the front and use the touch screen to have its contents imported into the Plato. It is also an internet radio with full search facilities for tracking down your favourite station without trawling through categories – a much appreciated upgrade on most of the competition. There is also now a fully formed Plato app to run the device; this is Android based as is the OS for the machine itself and currently doesn’t allow streaming services like TIDAL on the player. You can, however, use a Chromecast dongle to achieve the same ends at a very reasonable price.
As the name implies, this Plato has a Class A amplifier onboard, which seems like a radical choice for a product that appears to be aiming at the wider market place, but an admirable choice nonetheless. It has a thicker bass and extra (hidden) metalwork to cope with the heat implications of this purist technology but is not a typical example of its kind. If it were a classic Class A design, it would need a lot more heatsinking, even a 15 Watt output needs a lot of cooling power if your output devices are going to be on all the time. What Convert has done is develop a feed-forward system to enable Class A operation that converts the incoming signal to digital (if necessary) and samples it to assess signal size. It uses this data to adjust the bias of the output transistors, which means that they are only ‘on’ as much as and for as long as they need to be. It’s a variable scaling system that means you can have Class A sound without large amounts of heat. If demand gets too great for the available Class A power, it switches to Class B, which takes output up to 50 Watts. It seems like a clever idea, especially if you are dealing with digital signals.