Magazine article Gramophone

Convert Technologies Plato: A British-Made All-in-One System for Music Ripping, Storage and Playback Is Designed to Make 'Computer Music' User-Friendly

Magazine article Gramophone

Convert Technologies Plato: A British-Made All-in-One System for Music Ripping, Storage and Playback Is Designed to Make 'Computer Music' User-Friendly

Article excerpt

An acquaintance is downsizing and would like to have all his favourites to hand without one wall of his room being taken up with a hi-fi system and another two with shelves full of CDs and LPs. So I sat down to explain to him just how easy it would be to convert his library into computer files, then--if he wanted--make it available in every room of his new abode. However, after a while I became aware that he'd stopped nodding, let alone asking questions, and had lapsed into silence.

'Still following all this?' I asked, to which the reply was a thinly-disguised sigh and 'I thought you said all this stuff was simple ...'

Then he delivered the killer blow: 'Right now,' he said, 'if I want to play a favourite work I just pull it off the shelf, put it on the turntable or in the CD player, and it plays --why can't this stuff just work like that?'

Clearly he's not the only one for whom all the initial faffery is a disincentive: British tech company Convert Technologies has developed its Plato system for just that kind of buyer. Headquartered in Derby, but with its R&D base in a converted stable-block in a very rural bit of Berkshire, the company was founded as Entotem as recently as 2013, has just rebranded as Convert Technologies, and has taken 'Home Entertainment for All' as the maxim of its first product. Plato is a one-box solution designed to record, store and play back record, CD, video and DVD collections with minimal fuss.

It's a deceptively simple-looking unit, smaller than most hi-fi components at around 37cm wide and 13 cm tall, and with a prominent display on the front panel. A choice of finishes is available, from the more obvious black and white gloss or satin through to black and white, red or silver, with others to order, and you can opt to have it with either a 2TB conventional hard disk, or a 1TB solid state drive.

In fact, there are several versions of the Plato: the 'standard' model is 2999 [pounds sterling], with premium finishes adding 300 [pounds sterling] and the SSD option 540 [pounds sterling], and comes complete with moving magnet/moving coil phono input, three line-ins, plus one coaxial and three optical digital inputs. Amplification is built-in, delivering 45W per channel via pro-type Neutrik speaker terminals (for which the company can supply adaptors or speaker cables, although a version with conventional speaker terminals is planned), and there are also pre-outs to allow the unit to be connected to external amplification or active speakers.

If you already have such amplification or speakers, the Plato Pre, starting from 2400 [pounds sterling] depending on colour and hard drive, leaves out the power amplification and has only pre-amp-level outputs, while those who have their own phono stage, or don't want to 'rip' vinyl LPs, can opt for the simplest model, the 1899 [pounds sterling] Plato Lite, which again is designed for use with an external amplifier. (There's also a fourth variant, the 3999 [pounds sterling] Class A, which replaces the conventional Class AB amplification of the standard model with non-switching Class A amps, using digital sampling of the signal to monitor and regulate the output transistor biasing to tackle the problem of increased heat dissipation inherent in all Class A designs.)

All the Plato models use the same control platform, which runs on a modified version of the Android operating system, and can be controlled over a home network using Plato apps running on a tablet or smartphone. In addition, the display--and of course videos stored on the device--can be viewed on a TV connected via the unit's HDMI output. Other connections extend to Ethernet networking and a pair of USB-Type B connections for the addition of extra storage on the rear panel, plus a further mini USB socket, while there's another USB connection on the front.

PERFORMANCE

As my introduction suggested, setting up for ripping/storing music can be complex, but the beauty of the Plato is that it just works. …

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