Most of my listening was done with the Lotoo PAW6000 from the 4.4mm balanced out using a short adapter by Astrotec. Some listening was also with the Cowon Plenue 2 from the 2.5mm balanced out. Both are neutral sources with the Plenue 2 leaning a little more towards a natural sound and the PAW6000 a little more towards a reference sound. I primarily used the PAW6000 due to its greater transparency.
Here, said I, would it not be Prudent for those of us who have earphones that have been imbued with a hint of veil, to pair those earphones with a cable of silver pure that imparts them with transparency and air to blow away that veil for good?
Surely, said he.
Would it then not be most serendipitous for us owners of earphones warm and somewhat veiled to be in the presence of a Fortitudinous cable maker capable of offering within his line-up a cable with just this ability?
Most serendipitous indeed, said he…
Okay, I won’t write my entire impressions as a Socratic dialogue (I couldn’t find a way to slip Iliad in there anyway).
I always try to stress that with cables it is all about synergy with the IEMs because a cable does not have a sound in and of itself. This means that at times a less expensive cable can easily produce a better result over a more expensive cable simply because it synergises better. I still do feel that cables have some general characteristics, it is just that how those affect the sound of specific IEMs can be somewhat unpredictable.
In terms of general characteristics, I would say that Plato improves transparency and resolution by a not insignificant amount. It can help reduce the veil of warmer IEMs because it seems to pull back the mid- and upper-bass a little. This also reduces some of the bass impact, as well as producing less warmth to affect the mids. The mids can therefore end up with a little less body. Treble feels more extended while still smooth, adding air to a stage that feels much more spacious.
I would say that Plato is a fairly neutral cable that helps to expand the stage, make it more airy and improves resolution and transparency noticeably, but might not come across as the most natural sounding cable. I think this is why I really like Plato with my Empire Ears Phantom.
-Empire Ears Phantom-
The Empire Ears Phantom have been my babies for quite a while now. I love the richness of their timbre and the warm, smooth tone is a joy for me to get lost in. While that has not changed, I did find myself tinkering with the EQ every now and then, just to see if I could fine-tune their sound a bit more. Pairing them with Plato actually gave a result similar to what I was looking for.
Plato expands the Phantom’s stage very far and they change from intimate to open and spacious with lots of air. The warmth of the signature is reduced and this helps lift the veil to reveal just how good the transparency and resolution of the Phantom really are. It was like before I was confined to a small cave and seeing only the shadows of the music, and then I was released from my bonds to step out into the sunlight and see the music as it actually is (wink, wink, Plato’s Cave).
As I indicated earlier, it does come at a cost of the Phantom’s lushness in the mids. Notes become a bit leaner and the Phantom lose some of their signature timbre. I feel they can take it, although I think I might still be tempted to just occasionally roll cables simply because I have those around and I like my jazz warm and fuzzy and intimate. In general though Plato pairs outstandingly with the Phantom and it really opens them up.
Pairing the Phantom and Plato with the PAW6000 produced a really impressive result. Both the PAW6000 and Plato improve transparency and the combination pushed the Phantom to a level of transparency I had not heard from those before. This made Mozart’s Requiem especially enjoyable, as I had never quite heard the placement of the choir and solo vocals as clearly as this. It was very precise and emphasised the dynamics of the piece.
-64 Audio Tia Trio-
I initially discarded the pairing of Plato with the Trio because I felt the reduction in the mid-bass was taking away too much of the fun I have with the Trio. I do not think Plato reduces the bass’ extension, but rather the mid-bass kick and some of the body of the bass. I am quite a bass head at heart and so if I know IEMs can perform well there, I want to have it in spades. Plato just reduced it too much while I was in the mood for listening to EDM. Giving it another go later on and using less bass-needy music such as classical symphonies, I was suddenly very impressed by this pairing. The huge stage, heaps of air and the overall tonal balance was extremely nice and had a musical reference quality to it. I am still not convinced that this is an optimal pairing, at least not for me, and I suspect that (based on the description Eric gave me) a cable like Iliad would do better at keeping the Trio fun and exciting.
Still, this pairing is definitely not without merit. Listening to Paganini’s Violin Concerto no.4, I don’t think I have ever heard it with this kind of resolution. The ease with which this pairing rendered details was very impressive and even during a casual listen I caught minute details without any effort. The Trio of course also have the famous Tia treble and I have found that with some pairings it can be quite bright, especially when using a more reference-type source like the PAW6000, but with Plato I did not notice anything of the kind. Just a smooth and sparkly treble, despite the overall slightly brighter tonality.
-Effect Audio Eros II 8W (Phantom)-
The Eros II 8W has been my go-to cable for the Phantom for quite a long time now. I occasionally switched it, only to go back again because I felt it achieved the best result all round. Plato has certainly changed that and I think both cables pair outstandingly well.
Quite to my surprise Eros II feels more intimate and with a more forward presentation than Plato. Notes are fuller and more natural, and the overall feel to the Phantom/Eros II pairing is smooth and easy going. Plato on the other hand feels a lot more crisp and clear, revealing the true ability of the Phantom with a very high level of transparency and resolution. The stage too is far bigger and more airy with Plato, while with Eros II you still get a little of the veil from the slightly warmer tone. Everything is fuller with Eros II, lush bass, full voices and instruments, a similar treble, be it a little sweeter perhaps (but not by much). The Pairing with Eros II feels much bolder, whereas Plato adds a sense of refinement to the Phantom I had not expected.
In practical aspects Plato is thinner and more ergonomic than Eros II, but that would be logical anyway considering the latter is a bespoke 8-wire cable. Parts are of similar quality, although of course the Eros II has the 2-pin connectors with the plastic covers (which have stayed in place securely on this cable).
These two pairings offer really interesting options for the Phantom and there is something to say for either. Eros II, even in its bespoke 8-wire configuration, is a lot less expensive than Plato and maintains a sound close to how the Phantom sound stock. Plato on the other hand seems to reveal everything there is to reveal with the Phantom and that level of transparency and resolution, the large stage and the overall imaging is really quite special. It is the reason why I expect Plato will be my Phantom’s permanent companion for the foreseeable future.
-PlusSound Exo GPS (Trio)-
The Exo GPS has been my go-to cable for the Trio, although I do occasionally switch it with Cleopatra, which is another pairing I really enjoy. With all the cables I have tried though, I think the Exo GPS hits my sweet spot for the Trio and is a great example of excellent synergy. The most notable difference between the Exo GPS and Plato is found in the bass, where the Exo GPS provides more kick and body in quite an analogue way. Plato by comparison is more tightly controlled and reference-like in nature. There is also more air and detail in the bass, but I find it difficult to gauge which of the two cables digs deeper. Plato certainly digs plenty deep, it just doesn’t come across as such if you feed it music that doesn’t take advantage of it because it is such a tight and articulate bass.
At the other end of the frequency range the Exo GPS is the sparklier one when paired with the Trio and Plato slightly smoothens the treble to reduce some of the Trio’s brightness. The mids of Plato are more linearly placed, while the Exo GPS pushes them a bit back, which is why I prefer the Exo GPS for the Trio, just to add a bit of fun and excitement. Of note though is the stage of the Trio/Plato pairing, which is astonishingly big and while listening to Rachmaninoff’s Vespers I was absolutely gobsmacked by how incredibly realistic the venue was portrayed and how cavernously big the stage was. This was the sort of cave I would have no desire to leave.
In practical aspects Plato is surprisingly thinner than the Exo GPS, although the latter does have the edge in ergonomics because PlusSound’s cables have an incredibly supple insulation. In terms of parts I think they are equal in quality, but with a different style. Plato is more refined and has a bit of bling-factor, while the Exo GPS parts have a more functional design that I always call ‘utilistic’ (built to be used).
-Effect Audio Cleopatra (Trio)-
Another cable I like to pair with the Trio is the Cleopatra. This pairing feels closer to the Exo GPS than Plato in that it has the fuller bass response and more treble sparkle, but Cleopatra also has more linear mids. Once again Plato has the tighter bass, while Cleopatra has a fuller more analogue sounding bass. Cleopatra has this more pronounced than the Exo GPS and the bass gets something like a wetness to it.
The treble on the other hand is more sparkly and an area where I have a love-hate relationship with the Trio/Cleopatra pairing, as it really reveals the Tia treble. This can be absolutely sublime at times, but with the wrong recordings I find it fatiguing as it hits my treble sensitivity. Nowhere have I found that with the Trio/Plato pairing, which has always been forgiving despite Cleopatra being the warmer cable. A warmer sound does not always need to be the smoothest one.
That warmth affects the midrange with Cleopatra in that instruments get a slightly more natural tonality and a fuller sound, but it does make the Trio sound a little fuzzy. With Plato that warmth is far more controlled, the stage expands a lot wider and there is a lot more air around instruments. So while instruments might have less fullness, their tonality still separates beautifully because each instrument is given space to shine. I loved this while listening to Saint Saëns’ Danse Macabre that came across a lot clearer without loosing any of the emotion of the piece.
In practical aspects Plato still seems like it is a hair thinner than Cleopatra, but a little less supple. Both cables have the bling factor and similar quality parts, except for the 2-pin connectors, that with Cleopatra have the plastic cover (which here too have stayed in place securely).
Plato is a neutral cable with an emphasis on improving transparency and resolution over tonality. It can expand the stage quite significantly and adds a lot of air around instruments. I paired it mainly with warm IEMs, which works wonderfully well. So well in fact that it has earned a permanent place on my Phantom. The biggest downside is its non-Litz design that could lead to oxidation, with the upside that it does make for a very thin cable for 24 AWG. Parts on the cable are of an excellent quality and it comes with a great handcrafted leather case. Eletech has certainly made an impressive start!