Platanus is a relatively new concern in audio circles with the first models from the company making its appearance in 2020 after nearly a decade of testing and development. Before that, owner and founder Tetsuya Sukehiro was involved in OEM development of cartridges for a number of brands, and also helped design the legendary Miyagi Labs Fuuga cartridge. At a mere 43 years of age, he’s one of the younger people involved in this industry (and I take no small delight in someone fractionally older than me being viewed as ‘young’).
The current Platanus range comprises two models, which are almost identical in terms of their mechanicals. These are outwardly fairly conventional and comprise a line contact stylus mounted on a cantilever made of 2017 Aluminium alloy. Where things begin to get more interesting is that the magnetic section, in which the coil moves is machined from a single block of iron rather than being assembled from multiple pieces in the pursuit of higher rigidity.
This is part of a wider set of design decisions that have been taken to control resonance at every point in the cartridge. A base plate of 6063 Aluminium has been selected and shaped to further stiffen the cartridge as a whole. The 3.0S has a body made of 7075 Aluminium and weighs 11.5 grams less fixings. Meanwhile, the mechanically (and financially) identical 2.0S weighs a hefty 16 grams and is more suited to use in low compliance arms.
The Platanus delivers a useful 0.4mV of output and tracks at 2.0 grams. The exact recommended impedance isn’t stated but Sukehiro san feels that the relatively low internal impedance of 2.5 to four ohms suits a loading between 40 and 100 ohms and I’ve found a 100 ohm setting to work well under testing. Other aspects of the 3.0S are also usefully benign. The body has threaded inserts and benefits from a stylus guard that does a commendable job of actually protecting the stylus. Alignment is also a doddle thanks to flat sides and the pins are usefully spaced too.
Taken as a whole, the resulting cartridge doesn’t really feel like a low volume device. Some people shopping for a cartridge at this price might be a little underwhelmed by the absence of materials that are either precious, exotic or derived from something now dead and possibly extinct but it gives the Platanus a distinctive feel and identity all its own. It helps that the build and finish of the 3.0S is utterly superb. It may not draw your eye straightaway but when it does, you quickly become aware this is a serious piece of hardware.
In some ways, this is paralleled in the audio performance. Sukehiro san has remarked in the past that his sonic aim is to make devices that ‘disappear’ into the music that they make and the 3.0S goes a long way to doing just that. Installed on a Vertere MG-1 MkII; a device that is also usefully self-effacing, the result is very much the impression of information making its way out of the groove with little in the way of mechanical process taking place.
Drill down into what the Platanus is doing to achieve this and that becomes a more impressive achievement. First up, there’s not a trace of emphasis across the frequency response that would lead you to talk about a ‘rich midrange’ or ‘well emphasised bass.’ There is also a seriously impressive level of stereo separation on offer. Play the version of Berlin Sunrise from Fink Meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the manner in which the orchestra builds from near silence to full bore is dealt with imperiously by the 3.0S. The absence of drama from the hardware is more than made up for by the successful recreation of drama on the record.
The flat response
This also means that the Platanus has superb tonality across that usefully flat response. Every vocal performance – male and female – was delivered with absolute conviction, and a huge selection of instrumental styles didn’t phase it either. That latter, almost throwaway, comment is also noteworthy. On occasions when I’ve tested cartridges that are the result of a single human being’s thoughts and efforts, their preferences have silently embedded themselves in the cartridge itself. In the case of the Platanus, it has delivered everything I have thrown at it without fear or favour. A particularly wayward session that included both the Mark Holliss solo album and Trois by Acid Arab failed to discover any weakness to what the 3.0S does.
Something else that’s important to stress when talking about this unflappable capability is that the Platanus is still capable of delivering utter joy across your record collection, it simply doesn’t have an area where it produces more joy than others. I’ve found myself on several occasions absolutely enraptured by how it’s handled a track I know well.
There are some interesting parallels to the Audio Technica ART20 that I looked at in issue 213 in that the Platanus never makes its exceptional proficiency a hinderance to making you grin like an idiot. Where the 3.0S moves on from the Audio Technica is that those grins have been wider and present across more material. Like a few truly great components I’ve tested over the years, it asks very little of you while delivering truly outstanding engagement in return.
Of course, there is no shortage of transcendentally talented competition at this sort of price point and some people will find the ethos of the Platanus; from its unshowy design and material choices, through to the even handed way it goes about making music, to be lacking a little drama. For many others though, this is a truly peerless piece of engineering that will grab a disparate record collection by the horns and delight with absolutely all of it.
- Type Moving Coil Cartridge
- Stylus Profile Diamond/Line Contact
- Output Voltage 0.4mV (3.54cm/sec)
- Frequency Response 10Hz–50kHz
- Channel Separation 30dB @ 1kHZ
- Tracking force 1.9–2.1g (2g optimal)
- Recommended impedance >100 Ohms
- Price £5,750
http://platanus.tokyo/ (Japanese-language website only)
+44(0)118 321 8281