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January 2019
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere Review!
MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower

Completely at home within the modern environment.
Review By Clive Meakins

 

MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower Review

 

  Back in June 2016 I reviewed the MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti One, this was the launch speaker produced by the company. Mark Fenlon – the chief designer – has been creating loudspeaker drivers for years and is now a big part of the MarkAudio-SOTA which is a collaboration between Steve Chen's SOTA Acoustics and MarkAudio Loudspeakers. I was most impressed with the Viotti One, the initial flagship product. A great deal of expertise went into the drivers, crossover concepts and bass alignment. Considerable investment allied to smart ideas also went to in the advanced cabinet design featuring laminated materials and high quality finishes. The MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower scales up the Viotti One concept and then some! The stand mount Viotti One now has a Big Daddy of a speaker in the form of the Viotti Tower.

 

MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower Review

 

The Viotti Tower carries over design concepts from the Viotti One:
A). Sophisticated curved back cabinet
B). Drivers which are close to full range operating well within their frequency capabilities
C). Easy to drive and meticulously designed crossovers
D). Wide dispersion symmetrical sound field facilitated by shallow cone profiles
E). Matching cone profile between bass/mid and tweeter

 

As with the One the Tower is a two-way speaker but unlike the twin-driver Viotti One the Viotti Tower speakers each comprise three Sota 11 bass/mid drivers and a pair of Sota 5 tweeters. In place of the stands used by the Viotti One you get a large and most elegant floor standing loudspeaker designed along similar lines and with the same eye for beauty. The smaller Viotti One is priced at $1995; the much larger statement Viotti Towers come in at $5995. Both Viottis are visually easy to place in rooms and are the most domestically acceptable speakers I've had the pleasure to accommodate. At 45.4" tall but only 11.8" wide these 65 lbs speakers are impressive and complement rooms rather than dominate them. When I say I've had no domestic issues with the speakers I think most readers will understand this is quite a plus point. My wife quite reasonably dislikes incongruous speakers; the Viotti Towers are speakers she actively likes the look of in our media room setting.

 

MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower Review

 

Drivers designed by Mark Fenlon are unusual in that they are what I call "Wideband" and Mark designates as "All-Range". The Viotti Tower drivers are pretty much capable of full-range audio reproduction even though they are configured as two-way speakers, albeit with five drivers. The crossover maintains the MarkAudio-SOTA preference for low-order, easy to drive characteristics. The crossover point of the second order network is 1.1kHz; polypropylene capacitors and high quality copper inductors are used. Being second order plays its part in ensuring the drivers blend well; this is further aided by the drivers sharing the same design philosophy and materials. The tweeter and mid/bass are both cone designs where the cones are very light aluminum supported by super freely moving and lightweight suspension. The designs are inherently wide-dispersion to get away from the "single audiophile hot seat" situation. These are speakers which intended to be enjoyed by groups of people – not only by a single hot-seat-jockey at a time.

 

MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower Review

 

The Towers are specified as reaching down to 36Hz and up to 30kHz with an impedance of 6 Ohms and a sensitivity of 88dB/W/m. There is a front firing bass port allowing relatively close rear wall placement. Cabinet finish can be ordered as either black or light oak with gold/bronze colored cones though the pair I had for review was a special in white with silver colored cones. The grill cover is secured magnetically which is easy to remove and replace. As is typical with MarkAudio-SOTA the finish is superb.

 

Towering Sound
I've been fortunate to have the Towers for a few months; they have been used virtually daily either for purist two-channel music or as part of the AV setup either side of our 65" TV. I will start out by describing the situation for which I believe the Viotti Tower speakers are best suited. These are speakers for sharing enjoyment from multiple sources such as AV streaming, audio streaming as well as traditional vinyl or CD playback. The Towers most definitely are not hair-shirt, audiophile speakers with a single-listener sweet spot. Their sound is most impressive with the best material and at the same time they are very forgiving of lower quality audio feeds. The wide dispersion nature of the Towers makes them ideal for enjoyment by family and friends in addition to solo listening. Naturally if you want to restrict the Towers to pure stereo use that's your prerogative and they will deliver a great sound in that environment. Somehow though the Towers ache to be used in a wider and more modern social context.

 

MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower Review

 

Certain speakers are renowned for sounding great in a demo but are hard to live with as what at first seems to be incisive detail turns out to be due to ropey drivers or a hyped-up frequency response. The Towers in a demo are quite the reverse of the impressive demo / hard to live characterization I've just made. The Towers in a quick demo might even slightly under whelmed, yet I assure you that living with the speakers is a very different proposition indeed. My experience is that with serious use you'll absolutely love the Towers. I will try to describe what they do so very well.

 

MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower Review

 

First of all the Viotti Towers are classy to look at and they sound classy too; there's nothing remotely uncouth about the looks or sound. Their sound is coherent and cohesive; at no point are you made aware of any change in character through the frequency bands, the five drivers per side operate as one, and they blend magically in glorious unison. I'd describe the Tower sound as sonorous rather than trying to play a nervous balancing act on a knife edge seeking to pierce your ears; this is crucial when several sources are in use all with their own sonic foibles. As for bass they are supremely capable. Some speakers are tilted towards the bass making everything sound bass heavy, the Towers are not like this. The Towers can produce thunderous bass, far more than I'd expected given the available cone area. Such bass is only reproduced when the source material demands it, though as you'd hope with speakers of this size the sound is rich with excellent body and realism.

Now we come to scale and authority. I'm tempted to use the term wall-of-sound; certainly presence and scale is very impressive. The sound from the speakers is room-filling and capable of driving large rooms. Substitute another speaker into the system and you really notice how puny many speakers can be. The Towers are most certainly suitable for a solitary audiophile but for me, first and foremost they are speakers for family and friends, for living with and deeply enjoying without any fuss.

 

MarkAudio-SOTA Viotti Tower Review

 

I've mentioned my stereo experience though I often ran the Towers in the context of a 2.1 system as on many occasions I add a subwoofer for movies for that "soundtrack" sound. The subwoofer wasn't totally necessary but for films it adds that extra bass which is typically unwanted with pure music. This got me to thinking about the Towers in the context of a full AV system. Where such an AV system would also be used for two-channel music the Towers would make a lot a sense; I'd be tempted to use a MarkAudio-SOTA Cesti MB for the center channel as this uses the same SOTA 11 driver as is found in the Towers, this would give fabulous integration.

For the rear channels you could use either a couple more Cesti MBs or perhaps the smaller Tozzi TWO; the Tozzi TWO uses the SOTA 5 (specifically a 5A variant) so again the drivers are common creating great synergy whichever way you go. For the barely need subwoofer you'd need to look to a different manufacturer as MarkAudio-SOTA don't currently offer one in the range. Whilst I'm more of an old fashioned stereo guy I must say that such an AV system comprising two Towers, three Cesti MBs with a subwoofer would probably convert me.

I should say a little about room and amplification requirements for the Towers. The short summary is that they are a really easy drive and almost any quality amplifier is likely to be a good match in most rooms. It is though fairly unlikely that a small room would be a good match for the floorstanding multi-driver Towers. The two rooms I used are both 18ft x 15ft; it would be viable to go a little smaller but not by much in my opinion. The Towers would certainly easily drive a significantly larger open plan room. Most of my listening was done via two amplifiers:

1) Temple Audio Monoblocks – Class D 70W with Temple Audio SuperCap linear power supplies.

2) Quad 306 50W with Dada Electronics upgrades to bring key components up to date.

 

As expected the Temples and Quad drove the Towers with ease with neither breaking sweat. My curiosity got the better of me so I also tried my 8 Watt 300B single-ended amplifier; this too was fine and in the context of my 18 foot x 15 foot room there was enough power. I would not suggest however that an 8 Watt SE amplifier is a natural pairing as the amplifier will be running into quite a high distortion zone, such amplifiers really do sound better when reined into the first watt or two. Any decent amplifier with enough power to drive your room size will be fine; the Towers are an easy drive with no sonic quirks requiring electronic compensation.

 

Conclusions
Over the months I auditioned the Towers you can imagine that I listened to a very wide range of material; this included almost daily use watching TV and films. A couple of examples of live concert DVDs I played were Loreena McKennett Nights from the Alhambra and Carole King Tapestry: Live in Hyde Park. I listened to these recordings properly in stereo mode, i.e. with the AV subwoofer off. Having a 65" screen I had a wonderful experience, I certainly couldn't find fault with the sound. The Towers don't shout at you, they don't say "look at me, aren't I brilliant"; they merge into the room and deliver superb sound without fuss. Playing files and streaming digital audio (Spotify in High Quality mode) I listened to my usual eclectic mix of jazz, rock, folk, blues, bluegrass and classical.

The MarkAudio-SOTA Tower speakers are to my mind completely at home within the modern environment of a mixed music and AV entertainment setup. This works so well allowing family and friends to enjoy a very high quality sound in medium to large sized rooms. The styling of the speakers makes them very easy to place within multiple types of interior settings. The Viotti Towers are thoroughly well conceived, designed and executed loudspeakers.

 

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Floorstanding loudspeakers
Drivers: Two Sota 5 wide-range cone tweeter
            Three Sota 11 wide-range cone bass-mids
Frequency Response: 36Hz to 30kHz
Impedance: 6 Ohms
Sensitivity 88dB/W/m
Amplifier Power: 12W to 100W
Dimensions: 11.8" x 17" x 45.4" (WxDxH)
Weight: 64 lbs.
Standard Colors: Black and Light Oak
Price $5995

 

Company Information
Sota Acoustics Limited Hong Kong
E-mail: enquires@sotaacoustics.com
Website: www.Markaudio-Sota.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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