In 2014, Steve Cheng founded Sota Acoustics Limited, fulfilling a life long dream to design and manufacture high end audio equipment. Based in Hong Kong, Cheng set about to build a team that could produce high quality loudspeakers available for a reasonable price.
Like all strong leaders, Cheng chose a team of excellence he thought would deliver the goods, including Mark Fenlon, founder of Markaudio, designer/producer of high quality drivers and loudspeakers. Thus, Markaudio-Sota was born.
Design by committee can produce products full of limitations and regret. Space Shuttle, anyone? That said Markaudio-Sota (MAS) has taken pains, even in a relatively short time, to walk before they can run. The MAS lineup includes three loudspeaker 'families', Viotti, Cesti and Tozzi. Cesti has three models, Tozzi, two and our speaker in question, Viotti, one.
MAS describes itself as:
...a company dedicated to the creation of a family of audio products that have an engineered approach. Branded Markaudio-Sota, one of its goals is to apply an All-Range audio driver technology with minimalist control networks.
MAS continues its description of the stand mounted Viotti One as:
Italian styling with British engineering. Our flagship 2-way stand-mount loudspeaker. Custom all-range symmetric driver technology. Minimal control network with range-topping components. Laminated dual-core panels and polymers for maximum strength and acoustic stability. Statement-level sound quality for the discerning listener.
The Viotti One is two way design with a 2nd order shallow slope design crossover @1.9kHz which is said to 'progressively transition the higher and lower ranges of the audio signal to the driver optimized to handle that part of the spectrum'. All parts of the speaker are purpose built by MAS - no off the shelf parts. The build quality is excellent as is the finish -- mine came in a lustrous piano black (they also are available in Light Oak, Dark Oak and White.
The speakers look substantial and measure with stands 246mm x 339mm x 1008mm. Weight with stands is 16.4 kg.
The most interesting part of the design is MAS' 'Symmetrical Sound Field'. MAS dispenses with the standard tweeter/woofer configuration and uses two wide dispersion, shallow profile cone drivers. MAS designers' thinking was to reduce colorations inherent with poor driver matching and for the speaker to deliver sonic coherence. I've heard lots of single driver speakers with the tweeter cleverly implanted into the woofer, but not two drivers of such similar topology doing all the grunt work. A very interesting design.
The driver units include a 50mm low mass mixed alloy symmetical sound field cone unit and 110mm low mass, long throw mix alloy symmetical sound field cone unit.
And all these design smarts, superior parts, stands and exceptional fit and finish sell direct from the manufacturer for USD$2995.00/pair.
The Viotti One comes shipped in three boxes, one each per speaker and another for the matching, proprietary stands. Packaging was first class.
Attaching the speakers to the stands takes but a few minutes. You'll be up and running in no time. There were a few hours on my speakers' drivers, so 50 hours of very casual listening followed (MAS prescribes 100 hours). They sound crisp and dynamic out of the box, but the breakin chiseled down some initial edginess.
Because the speakers are sized between a bookshelf monitor and a floor standing speaker, the matching stands should be used to get the correct height for listening. The Viottis are single wired with very high quality binding posts. For position, I placed them firing straight out into my room. They liked the configuration. The speakers are designed to be played with the grills on, much like Sonus Faber models. The sound with grills off sounded slightly brighter. I preferred the sound with the grills on -- the MAS grill design philosophy works. No unwanted reflections to blur the sound.
After the required breakin, the Viotti One exhibited a very refined, musical quality. The speaker offers lots of detail but always at the service of a balanced musical fabric. Nothing sticks out, no frequency shouts, nothing blurts. It's exceedingly well behaved.
Cymbals and other percussion have bite, and bass at 40 Hz was solid in my fairly small listening room. The opening of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben was rich and redolent leaving me very impressed with not only the bass performance but its resolution. And just like the midrange and the treble, it was coherent with each tessitura.
At 88.5 dB efficiency, the speakers can be driven quite easily and reacted beautifully to my Jeff Rowland Continuum S2 Integrated Amplifier.
Voices, especially of the powerhouse operatic soprano variety, were handled with ease. Birgit Nilsson on Solti's seminal Ring was splendid. Nothing her resplendent chest tones threw at the speakers stopped them from producing the difficult Wagnerian sounds effortlessly. Simply, gorgeous. And Wagner's huge orchestra, and we're talking Trump huuuuuge here, was also in perfect focus. Rocking out seems a little indelicate with these very gentlemanly speakers, but technically, it'll be no bother.
Stylistically, Mark Fenlon and the team of designers have created a loudspeaker that accurately replicates what it is fed. Unlike other loudspeakers with plasma or beryllium tweeters, Mylar strips, electrostats, and the myriad of other driver technologies that have a specific musical stamp, the Viotti Ones remain Zelig-like. They blend into the musical society in which they find themselves. Instrumental timbre is accurate, imaging is good, and, firing straight out, they threw a very wide soundstage. Nothing jars, nothing shocks. They'll blend into any music room decor and give much musical pleasure.
Certainly, the Viotti One is a very refined design. If you want the very best monitor loudspeakers, you're going to have to pay very big bucks (my Raidho XT-1s are 9K with stands, the magical Magico Q1s, 25 large). Yet, for less than three grand with a cast iron 30 day home trial, money back guarantee, you'll get a hefty slice of the very best. Highly recommended.
Further information: Markaudio-Sota