MarkAu­dio-SOTA

Viotti One Loud­speaker

NOVO - - REVIEW -

In­no­va­tion

can be sim­ply de­fined as in­tro­duc­ing some­thing “new”, whether an idea, method, tech­nol­ogy or prod­uct. A key way to in­no­vate is to pull to­gether tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als with broad per­spec­tives and ex­per­tise, un­der a com­mon ob­jec­tive. Steve Cheng, founder of SOTA Acous­tics, branded Markau­dio-Sota, set out to ac­com­plish just this.

MarkAu­dio-SOTA is a col­lab­o­ra­tion of a num­ber of di­verse and most-ca­pa­ble pro­fes­sion­als with global per­spec­tives and ex­per­tise. Their team in­cludes the tal­ents of: Mark Fen­lon of Markau­dio Ltd., a Brit re­sid­ing in Hong Kong and ac­com­plished man­u­fac­turer of loud­speaker driv­ers; Dr. Scott Lind­gren, an­other Brit, well-known for loud­speaker de­sign; An­dre Ponti, an Ital­ian in­dus­trial de­signer and; a num­ber oth­ers draw­ing on ex­pe­ri­ence form Hong Kong and Ja­pan. To­gether, un­der Markau­dio-Sota, this team has set their tar­get on pro­duc­ing bestin-class loud­speaker prod­ucts.

The com­pany’s prod­uct line in­cludes tower, bookshelf, mon­i­tor bookshelf, mini and stand­mount loud­speak­ers, un­der three col­lec­tions – Viotti, Cesti and Tozzi. Prices range from $445 US / pair up to $3,495 US / pair. The Viotti One rep­re­sents the com­pany’s flag­ship stand-mount loud­speaker and re­tails for $2,495 US / pair.

DE­SIGN & FEA­TURES

The MarkAu­dio-SOTA Viotti One is dis­tinc­tive in ap­pear­ance and ex­udes a chic Euro­pean flare; yet, what makes it most unique are its driv­ers. At first glance, it seems some­one for­got the tweeter; how­ever, that is most def­i­nitely not the case here. Rather, the Viotti One uti­lizes two wide-range, widedis­per­sion, shal­low-pro­file cone driv­ers of dif­fer­ent di­am­e­ters – no domes or rib­bons here. These wide-range cone driv­ers are in­her­ently matched in their dis­per­sion and out­put char­ac­ter­is­tics, which lends to seam­less in­te­gra­tion, fur­ther en­hanced by the use of a sim­ple high-qual­ity low-or­der 2.4 kHz cross­over. De­signed by Mark Fen­lon and built by Markau­dio, the two driv­ers of the Viotti One are the Sota 11 (110 mm) for mid-bass and the Sota 5 (50 mm) for treble fre­quen­cies. These driv­ers are con­structed of an aerospace grade mixed alu­minum al­loy, for an ul­tra-low mass. Key ob­jec­tives of the driver choice were a smooth, nat­u­ral out­put with a wide and even dis­per­sion, along with trans­parency, dy­nam­ics and life­like vo­cal re­pro­duc­tion.

The Viotti One is a stand­mount loud­speaker with a tall-ish pro­file, of­fer­ing di­men­sions of 24.6 cm x 33.9 cm x 100.8 cm (WxDxH) with the in­cluded stands. The stands are per­fectly matched to the speakers and pro­vide two in­stal­la­tion con­fig­u­ra­tions, one re­tain­ing the Viotti One speaker base and the other elim­i­nat­ing the base to pro­vide a flush ap­pear­ance. Floor cones made of non­fer­rous me­tal, as op­posed to spikes, are also pro­vided.

The cabi­net of the Viotti One fea­tures a dual-core lam­i­nate con­struc­tion for op­ti­mal res­o­nance management. Drive units are acous­ti­cally iso­lated, with the high fre­quency driver hav­ing its own sub-cham­ber, while the low fre­quency driver uti­lizes the ported bass-re­flex cabi­net. The front baf­fle is cov­ered in a black, vel­vet-like ma­te­rial, for a re­fined and finely ap­pointed ap­pear­ance. Four cabi­net fin­ish choices are avail­able: light oak, dark oak, white pi­ano-lac­quer and black pi­ano-lac­quer. Mag­net­i­cally at­tached grills in­cor­po­rate wave­guides and are cov­ered in a chif­fon-like ma­te­rial that lets you gawk, if you so de­sire, at that pair of golden driv­ers.

When it comes to fit and fin­ish, the Viotti One is top-notch. I found the black pi­ano lac­quer of the re­view sam­ple to be im­pec­ca­ble, up there with the best I’ve come across. The over­all de­sign lines are very stylish, as well. Cer­tainly, the Viotti One is

a spec­i­men that will en­gen­der strong prideof-own­er­ship and per­fectly fit in with op­u­lent sur­round­ings. Spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the Viotti One in­clude a fre­quency range from 40 Hz – 25 KHz (ane­choic), along with 88.5 dB sen­si­tiv­ity.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The Viotti One was rather easy to place, so I soon landed on an ideal po­si­tion within my stu­dio. Un­usu­ally, I pre­ferred the sound with speaker grills on, as it de­liv­ered a bet­ter sound­stage, imag­ing and midrangeto-treble bal­ance. I ex­pect this may be due to the wave­guides in­te­grated in the grills. Thank­fully, the Viotti One ac­tu­ally looks more al­lur­ing with its grills in place.

I au­di­tioned the speakers in my sys­tem com­prised of a Brys­ton BP26 preamp, Brys­ton 4B3 am­pli­fier, and a Rega Apollo CD player connected into a MOON by Si­mau­dio 280D DAC. My ana­log source was a VPI Scout 1.1 turntable. Ca­bles were all Nor­dost Hiem­dall 2 and Tyr 2, with the ex­cep­tion of the speaker ca­bles and the DAC power cable, which were the Zavfino Prima PC-OCC 9-guage and Fina, re­spec­tively.

Within a short while of lis­ten­ing to the Viotti One, I knew that it pos­sessed some en­dear­ing qual­i­ties but be­fore I re­late its qual­i­ties I’d like to start by telling you what the Viotti One is not. If you yearn for a speaker with a mel­liflu­ous, ro­man­tic or sat­u­rated sound, the likes of clas­sic Sonus faber or Opera, look some­where else, that’s not the Viotti One, de­spite its Ital­ian name. As well, if you’re look­ing for con­cus­sive dy­namic bass – as per­haps a JBL or Legacy Au­dio speaker might de­liver, you won’t likely get your fix with the Viotti One. How­ever, if you seek a re­fined, quick and nim­ble, ac­cu­rate take on music; a speaker skil­ful at PRAT (pace, rhythm and tim­ing), with a sweet vo­cal pres­ence and fun­da­men­tally neu­tral in tone, then the Viotti One is a speaker you must hear.

Vinyl was my first port of call with the Viotti One. The first track on the Sketches of Spain LP, by Miles Davis is “Concierto De Aran­juez”. Lis­ten­ing to this with the Viotti One, de­tails popped from the mix - there was an en­tic­ing pun­gency to the sound of the tam­bourine cas­tanets and the string plucks pos­sessed dy­namic po­tency and bite in a re­al­is­tic man­ner. I did sense some thin­ness in the strings, their sound a tad light on in­ner warmth, yet the over­all de­liv­ery was ex­cit­ing, putting me on the edge of my seat in an­tic­i­pa­tion. I was im­pressed with the man­ner in which the horn sec­tion leapt for­ward – hav­ing vi­brant fer­vour, while at the same time the Viotti One pro­duced ac­cu­rate tim­bre that com­mu­ni­cated the warmth of Miles horn well. PRAT too was a qual­ity that the Viotti One heartily em­braced.

Leonard Cohen’s Pop­u­lar Prob­lems, also on vinyl, caught my at­ten­tion next. I played the track, “Al­most Like The Blues”, just to see how the Viotti One would re­late Leonard’s inimitable bari­tone voice. What I most def­i­nitely heard was that the Viotti One is a very ca­pa­ble speaker in the ar­eas of res­o­lu­tion, de­tail and fo­cus. There was an im­pres­sive de­gree of tex­ture con­veyed in the vo­cals, re­veal­ing the un­der­ly­ing record­ing. While de­tail, pres­ence and clar­ity were all there in spades, the Viotti One did come across to my ears as just a touch light on the low­est midrange. This lower midrange is very dis­tinct in Leonard Cohen’s voice, some­where the 100 to 200 Hz fre­quency re­gion. Since the Viotti One de­liv­ers a won­der­ful vo­cal pres­ence, I’m guess­ing I was hear­ing a con­trast be­tween a slightly raised vo­cal pres­ence re­gion against a flat or slightly dipped lower midrange. To the Viotti One’s ben­e­fit, this will likely pre­vent it

from ever sound­ing clouded, chesty or slow and also in­crease the in­tel­li­gi­bil­ity of vo­cals, which per­haps is what MarkAu­dio-SOTA was aim­ing for in the de­sign and tun­ing.

Turn­ing to dig­i­tal tracks, with Tidal HiFi music stream­ing, I played The Cran­ber­ries lat­est al­bum. Re­leased in April 2017, The Cran­ber­ries Some­thing Else, in­cludes a won­der­ful set of rein­ter­preted acous­tic hit sin­gles of the 90’s famed band. On the track “Linger”, the Viotti One pro­duced ra­zor-edge imag­ing and a dis­tinct sound­stage. Treble notes were sharp and quick, with cym­bals pos­sess­ing a beau­ti­ful shim­mer. There was also a sug­ary sweetness to Delores’ vo­cals, adding to my en­gage­ment. The treble qual­ity was akin to what I’ve heard with rib­bon tweet­ers, while al­ways re­main­ing well in­te­grated with the midrange.

Putting on the track “Son of Thir­teen” from Pat Metheny’s Day Trip al­bum, via Tidal HiFi, I took note of the solid and tight de­liv­ery of the drum roll from the right to the left. Though, I’d at­tribute this im­pres­sion to the Viotti One’s tran­sient speed and lack of over­hang, rather than to dy­namic bass weight. To my ears, the Viotti plays to 50 Hz solidly and drops off swiftly be­low 40 Hz. Re­gard­less, as ex­em­pli­fied with this track, drum play was quick, lim­ber and pos­sessed ex­hil­a­rat­ing at­tack, while the jux­ta­posed cym­bals were del­i­cate, re­fined and ex­tended.

Could I go on say­ing more about the Viotti One? For sure, but I think I’ve said enough to whet your ap­petite. The MarkAu­dioSOTA Viotti One is a nim­ble, fun, in­sight­ful speaker with lux­u­ri­ous styling and build. It’s a speaker that will surely garner a fol­low­ing given its unique mix of Euro­pean styling and sonic char­ac­ter. Amongst the masses of speaker prod­ucts out there, the Viotti One def­i­nitely shines with per­son­al­ity. Heck, I’ve had so much fun with them, enough said… let me get back to lis­ten­ing.

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