Highly Transparent and Resolving, Huge Soundstage, Excellent Separation and Layering, Premium Look and Feel
Falls Short in Note-Body and Timbre, Price
The Plato cable was provided to me free of charge in exchange for a review.
Element Technology or, EleTech in short, is a new IEM cable company based out of Singapore. While the company itself is a new kid on the block, its heritage isn’t. One of the company’s co-founders is Eric Chong, whose name is well known in the IEM cable circle, as he worked as the Head of Marketing at one of the highly regarded cable companies. As of right now, EleTech has 3 product lines, each occupying a different pricing and performance tier. Virtues is the entry-level/mid-fi line-up, School of Athens is the high-end line-up and Pranassus is the flagship line-up. Plato is part of the School of Athens series and retails for $1000.
Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:
The cable comes packed in a book style outer box. Inside the box you will find a metal plaque with the name Plato inscribed/etched on it and a zippered leather case, which holds the cable. Unlike most other cases that come bundled with cables, which are designed to store only the cable, Plato’s leather case is a very practical one, in the sense you can use it as your everyday cary case for your IEM and cable. But something I dislike about the case though is it has a couple of straps, loops and buckles, which takes away some level of sophistication from the otherwise slick looking case. The cable itself looks very well made and supple. Although it is not the most supple cable I have seen, it still is on the supple side and also quite thin, resulting in a very ergonomic use case. While I cannot speak for microphonics of the cable when used in a straight down fashion, what I can say is, it doesn’t have any microphonics when you wear the cable over your ear.
The overall build, as well as the parts of the cable, such as the source plugs, IEM plugs and the Y-split do seem to be of high quality and clearly displays premium stature of the cable. One thing to note is, because Plato uses a non-Litz wire, it is prone to oxidation, which results in the wire developing a golden brown patina initially, which then starts to turn black in the long run. The rate at which the oxidation occurs will depend on various factors such as; exposure time and humidity in air. I live in a tropical climate region and I have been using the Plato, on and off for the past 2 months, and the cable has not developed any patina yet. The company is transparent about Plato’s oxidising nature and are open to answering any question you may have on the subject.
Plato carries a typical Silver sound, which is neutral and transparent. If you are looking for a cable to add body or warmth, you may want to look elsewhere. But if you feel your DAP+IEM combo has a bit of muddiness with the stock OFC cable, and you wish to clean things up, while boosting the overall performance in terms of stage, separation and layering, that’s where the Plato comes in. While the cable itself doesn’t introduce any form of brightness in the treble, its revealing nature won’t help tame brightness of the source. For instance, using the cable with the Hugo2, ended up letting the bright, clinical nature of the Hugo2 come through at full glory. Whereas, when using the Cayin N8, it really showcased the neutral-smooth character of the player.
It is certainly not a cable to choose to improve sub-bass rumble or mid-bass impact, but it presents a very clean and tight bass. While it is a neutral cable, it is not a soft sounding cable by any means and it does dynamics very admirably with sharp attacks. As for the mid-range, it presents a very clean, transparent and neutral midrange. But in the process it cleans up a bit too much by slightly reducing the overall body of the midrange notes and shortening the decay. While I wouldn’t say the cable is thin sounding, the notes could use a touch more body. Cables that have a neutral tone, rely on note-body and the paired equipment to recreate correct timbre. Plato being neural in tone and lacking sufficient body, ends up falling short in timbre department. But as a result of all the above, it creates well-defined, compact notes in a large and airy stage, with precise imaging. Also very good are depth, layering and separation of notes/instruments.
As already mentioned in the Sound section, Plato is a revealing cable and will let the characteristic of the source come right through. I personally would not use the cable with a bright source. On the IEM side, it pairs the best with warm and neutral IEMs. I was able to enjoy it even with bright IEMs, as long as I was using a neutral or smooth source. But it doesn’t pair well with thin and lean sounding IEMs.
Plato vs SPC Cables:
In my experience, most SPC cables usually display bit of a U-shaped signature. They have a slightly enhanced bass and treble regions and a slightly recessed/thin midrange. Compared to an SPC, you can expect a more neutral bass region, less stridency in the treble and, a better midrange response with better body and transparency. On aspects like stage, separation and layering, the magnitude of difference with the Plato would depend on the quality of the SPC. Plato would be considerably better against a poor SPC cable, but against a good quality SPC cable, the difference wouldn’t be as dramatic.
Plato vs Dita Oslo:
Hardware: I usually don’t discuss hardware aspect when comparing cables, but the modular plug system and the quality of the parts on the Dita Oslo warrants one. Dita is one of the very few companies that offers a modular plug system that lets you swap between 3.5mm, 2.5mm Bal and 4.4mm Bal plugs and the Oslo comes bundled with all these 3 plugs. At this point, I feel such a swappable system must be a standard fare, particularly when it comes to premium cables that carry a premium price tag like the Plato. Also, another standout feature of the Oslo is the top notch quality of the parts, such as the IEM connectors, Y-split and source connectors. The connectors on the Plato is clearly a tier below.
Sound: In terms of tonal balance, Oslo is quite the opposite of the Plato. Plato is a clean and neutral sound cable, while Oslo is a warm and thick sounding cable, with respect to its enhanced bass and lower-mids section. As a result, it is not a very transparent or clean sounding cable. It pairs well with lean and bright sounding IEMs as it adds warmth/body and helps tame harshness in both upper-mids and treble, as it is quite smooth and laidback there. The size of the stage itself is in the same ball park as the Plato, but it isn’t as airy and clean. Hence Plato does layering and separation better than the Oslo.
Plato vs Eros II 8W:
This is an interesting comparison because I consider both these cables neutral sounding. While the Plato is the clean and revealing type neutral, Eros 8W is a more fuller and pleasant sounding neutral. Eros has a slightly stronger bass, especially in the sub-bass. The notes are fuller and rounded in the midrange and the treble is not as sharp and revealing as the Plato. Although Eros is not as clean and transparent sounding as the Plato, its tone and timbre has a more analog character. Plato does aspects like stage, separation and layering better than the Eros.
I have seen many people say that a cable or equipment in an audio chain should be a transparent window to the music and the Plato easily qualifies as one, as it is a very clean and transparent sounding cable. As a result it is also a very revealing cable, so make sure you pair it with equipment that line your preference. While it falls short in note-body and timbre, aspects such as huge soundstage, effortless separation and layering, makes Plato a technically impressive cable.
EleTech Plato Price: $1000