Macworld (USA)

Markaudio-sota Tozzi One loudspeake­r review

- BY THEO NICOLAKIS

Markaudio-sota’s Tozzi One speakers deliver modern styling and audiophile sound with a small footprint. They’re a perfect complement for apartment dwellers or anyone with a smaller listening room.

I first came across the Markaudio-sota Tozzi One speakers at the 2017 New York Audio Show ( go.macworld.com/17as). While visiting various manufactur­er demos, I saw the Tozzi One flanking a VPI turntable and a PS Audio Sprout integrated amplifier on a long dresser. The setup looked stylish and compact. Fast forward a few months and the Markaudio-sota team sent me a similar setup for this review.

Once I unboxed the system, I appreciate­d its compact dimensions even more. The PS Audio Sprout is about the size of a large external hard drive, and the

Tozzi One measure just 15.75 by 11.8 by11 inches each.

Markaudio-sota offers a 30-day money back guarantee ( go.macworld.com/30dy) so you can try out the speakers in your home. The company tells us it will even pay the return shipping cost if you decide they’re not a good fit (when this article was published, the page linked above indicated the buyer was obligated to pay the return shipping cost).

BULLSEYE

The Markaudio-sota Tozzi One speakers feature a single, full-range driver. Most people are accustomed to seeing two-way speakers, with a separate tweeter handling the high frequencie­s and a separate woofer handling the midrange and bass frequencie­s. Some audiophile­s swear by single, full-range driver designs because there are no crossover networks and phase issues to address.

In the case of the Tozzi One, that single driver is recessed in the center of the speaker’s wave guide, making the speaker look a bit like a target. There are no fabric grilles accompanyi­ng the speaker, so make sure little kids don’t put their fingers in the bullseye, potentiall­y damaging the driver.

The Tozzi One’s enclosure feels solid. There’s nothing cheap or flimsy here. The speakers weigh in at 3.13 pounds each and come in your choice of charcoal, ruby, or pearl finishes. The rear of the speakers have five-way binding posts. You can use your choice of banana plugs, spades, or bare speaker wire. The review setup came with banana plugs.

The Tozzi One speakers have a nominal impedance of 6 Ohms, so you won’t have a problem driving these speakers with any integrated amplifier or A/V receiver. You’ll want to use the bestqualit­y electronic­s you can, of course, and the Sprout made for a good partner here. It’s an integrated amplifier, which means a two-channel stereo unit with both a preamp (to handle your music sources and volume) and an amplifier (providing power to the speakers) in a single enclosure.

The Tozzi One’s rated anechoic frequency response range isn’t terribly deep (80Hz to 22khz at ±6db). Using test tone frequency sweeps from my Revel

LFO test CD, the Tozzi One speakers gave me bass output that exceeded the published specs. If you use the exact same review setup outlined here, you might see usable bass into the 60Hz range, thanks to the PS Sprout’s design, as I note further on in this review.

SIMPLE SETUP

I set up the Tozzi One speakers with a slight toe-in on a 35-inch-tall bookcase. The Tozzi One’s cabinets tilt up slightly, which will serve them well in instances where they are set up below ear level.

The PS Audio Sprout integrated amplifier and U-turn Orbit Plus Turntable (with acrylic platter and Orfotron OM 5E cartridge) found a comfortabl­e home between the Tozzi One speakers.

A CAPTIVATIN­G VINYL EXPERIENCE

I don’t think I’ve had any review gear that’s captivated my household’s attention as much as the Tozzi One setup. My kids and guests were fixated by the design and sound of the system. One of my kids asked, “Is it just me, or do the vinyl records actually

sound better?” Kids can notice a difference between vinyl and digital? You bet.

In fact, the Tozzi One created a tectonic shift in my household’s listening habits. I found my kids pulling out record after record from our household collection so we could play it. Perhaps the thing that shocked me most was seeing a Supreme’s LP sitting on the turntable! My kids don’t even know who the Supremes are. Can the Tozzi One bring vinyl back into your home? Check.

As with most high-quality monitor and micro speakers, the Tozzi One excelled at creating a focused, detailed soundstage. The Tozzi One played music cleanly and reproduced microdynam­ics well. It was easy to pick out instrument­s and vocals firmly placed in space and time. The Tozzi One relished in reproducin­g well-mixed albums, such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad. Complex musical layers on “Bad” were easily discernibl­e, with clear articulati­on and no significan­t loss of texture.

As I mentioned, the Tozzi One’s bass response exceeded my expectatio­ns. For example, playing the 24-bit/192-khz high-resolution FLAC version of the Dark Knight Rises soundtrack through the Sprout’s USB DAC showed both the Tozzi One speakers’ strengths and limitation­s. The Tozzi One speakers did a decent job on the bass-rumbling track, “Imagine the Fire,” but had no output whatsoever on the same track’s deepest notes.

Bass notes were punchy and dynamic. Come to find out, the bass may have been receiving a little extra benefit from the PS Audio Sprout’s amplifier, which Stereophil­e Magazine’s John Atkinson notes in his measuremen­ts ( go.macworld.com/jams). If you’re looking for electronic­s to pair with the Tozzi One, the Sprout is a good option.

Electronic­s aside, it’s all about the music. I lost track of how many albums and artists I spun on the Tozzi One system. Adele, Pink, Elton John, Yo-yo Ma, John

Williams, Mozart, Pearl Jam, and Sade to name just a few. I especially enjoyed Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun on vinyl. The Tozzi One did a fine job reproducin­g silky smooth soprano saxophone notes present on many of the album’s songs, including “Sister Moon”.

I felt as though the Tozzi One needed to play at moderate to high volumes to open up. At lower volumes, the overall sound is a bit thin, especially in the midrange. Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me was a good example. Jones’ breathy vocals seemed too recessed, as though there wasn’t enough midrange energy. And no matter what volume I played the Tozzi One, the speakers couldn’t quite reproduce the full body of piano notes throughout the album.

Whether you fall in love with the Tozzi One system’s overall tonal balance will be a matter of personal preference. There are some trade-offs in the bass and midrange, but that comes with the territory at this size and price point. In other words, the Tozzi One isn’t a perfect speaker, but it sure is a fun one.

And my kids don’t want that fun to stop. When they learned

The Tozzi One played music cleanly and reproduced microdynam­ics well. It was easy to pick out instrument­s and vocals firmly placed in space and time.

that the Tozzi One review set would be going back soon, let’s just say it caused a bit of a stir.

A LONG-TERM MUSICAL INVESTMENT

Compact, stylish, audiophile-grade speakers that won’t break the bank are a rare find. At $445 a pair, the MarksotaAu­dio Tozzi One speakers are just that: Audiophile fun on a budget. Paired with a simple integrated amplifier, you can set up the Tozzi One with your computer for a high-quality desktop sound system. For less than $1,300 you can put together this complete review setup—cables and all— for a full-blown vinyl, high-res, and Bluetooth wireless playback system. If you want to save $200, Marksota-audio will soon be offering the bundle at a discounted price of $1,095. This system is obviously an investment; but it’s a purchase you’ll enjoy for years to come. ■

 ??  ?? The PS Audio Sprout integrated amplifier is smaller than a compact reference book.
The PS Audio Sprout integrated amplifier is smaller than a compact reference book.
 ??  ?? Vinyl, vinyl, everywhere. The Tozzi One setup was a huge hit in my house.
Vinyl, vinyl, everywhere. The Tozzi One setup was a huge hit in my house.
 ??  ?? The Tozzi One is a single, full-range driver design. The enclosure’s wave guide makes it look like a bullseye.
The Tozzi One is a single, full-range driver design. The enclosure’s wave guide makes it look like a bullseye.
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