Viotti One Loudspeaker
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.
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.