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In short, it’s a music server that incorporates 2TB of hard disk storage alongside networking capability, an MM/MC phono stage, recording function, 24bit/192kHz DAC and a 45 Watts per channel amplifier – all in a box measuring just 370mm x 130mm x 300mm (W/H/D) and costing £3600 (there’s also an alternative version which omits the amplifier section available for £2700).
Added to this is a 5” TFT LCD touch-panel front screen and an Android-based app for phone/tablet devices (iOS to follow shortly, I’m told) which makes control of the unit relatively simple and allows regular software upgrades.
All these features, of course, would be pointless if the Plato wasn’t, at its heart, a decent hi-fi component – which, I’m glad to say, it is.
...and can also display track information including artist, title, sample rate and
file type (above) while (below) are the Plato's modular-style electronics,
power supply and hard disk components.
Entotem is a relatively new company – formed just two years ago by four music-loving entrepreneurs to design and develop a multimedia home entertainment system which integrates both high-resolution audio playback and high-definition video (see box-out for more on the latter).
The company’s vision was a system that combined the ability to convert, play and record vinyl alongside network streaming capability, digital inputs and amplification to make a one-stop solution for music lovers.
If that makes the Plato sound a complex beast, well, it is – boasting a range of capabilities I’ve never come across in a single unit before. However, Entotem has obviously put significant work into the user interface as it is remarkably easy to operate, with an intuitive control structure that anyone familiar with an Android tablet will get to grips with within minutes.
From this you can access the various connections – optical and coaxial in/outs, line level and MM/MC phono, HDMI, ethernet network and pre-outs – as well as control the volume. As it’s DLNA-equipped the Plato will also look up other uPnP devices on your network so it can play their content – although it does need a wired connection.
The speaker sockets are of the plug-and-twist Neutrik variety which, while rare, do provide a secure fit. The pre-production unit we had for review came in a mustard colour but Entotem say the final version will ship in black with custom finishes a possibility in the future.
With the Plato connected to the network, the first task is to experiment with its stand-out feature – recording vinyl in high-resolution 24bit/192kHz resolution to the internal 2TB hard disk.
And this is where things get very clever. Plugging in Hi-Fi World’s reference Timestep Evo turntable with SME309 arm and Ortofon A95 cartridge the Plato’s control app let us select input impedance as well as gain and – if desired – bring in a rumble filter. Once the needle hits the groove, initiating recording is simply a matter of pressing a red dot on the tablet’s touchscreen.
The free Android app makes control of the Plato via a tablet a breeze.
An iOS version is set to follow shortly.
As this happens the Plato automatically sends a sample of the track to the on-line Gracenote music database and – hey presto! – album details and artwork appear on the unit’s front panel screen and the tablet. It really is that simple. What’s more Gracenote is remarkably accurate – only failing on some of my most obscure selections.
The same process works for importing music from cassette or CD players, while files can also be saved to the disk from the front USB socket.
After that, all albums appear under a Media Library section of the control application which is fully searchable by artist, genre, track name etc.