These standmounters use a good few interesting design features and cost £1199. Ian Ringstead takes a listen.
Markaudio Sota is a brand that is new to me so I was intrigued when asked to review one of their loudspeaker models the Cesti B. Scott Lindgren one of the design team based here in the UK kindly dropped the review pair off and we had a good chat about the company and the model under review.
What Markaudio Sota are aiming for with Cesti B is ‘simply’ to provide an attractive, reasonably priced, quality standmount which offers something a bit different to the norm in terms of its engineering design. They think it’s valid, and has advantages over the more usual approaches – but of course, ultimately that call belongs to the listener.
The Cesti B enclosure is a bass reflex design with a moderately damped alignment and a slightly flared front vent to provide reasonable positioning flexibility in a variety of rooms. In most UK spaces you should find them good for a solid 40Hz. Construction is an MDF/HDF variant with piano lacquer finish (available options are black, red & white). The Sota 5, which is being used as a tweeter in the Cesti B, is an open-back unit, so is isolated from the bass driver in its own aerodynamically shaped sealed sub-chamber. There is a shallow waveguide machined into the front baffle -the speakers are supplied as mirrored pairs and can have this providing a very gentle bit of lateral dispersion either toward the sides of the room or toward each other. It gives a little extra positioning flexibility. Binding posts are a low-resistance 5-way type with good quality OFC copper internal wiring. Grills are standard and magnetically attach to the front baffle so there aren’t any peg holes etc. There isn’t a vast amount of difference in the sound whether the grills are on or off.
Drivers & Crossover
Cesti B uses Mark audio’s Sota 11 and Sota 5 units (names come from their diameter in cm). These are actually all-range / wideband drivers; the Sota 11 will make < 40Hz depending on box design, and can cheerfully motor up to 23KHz or so. The Sota 5 is good for < 100Hz when run solo and can get up to about 30KHz. The drivers and crossover are really where the Markaudio are a bit different. They’re both custom designed and made in-house; the design is by Mark Fenlon, who developed the Alpair, CHR, CHP and Pluvia ranges of full-range drivers for Markaudio. Both have very long stroke suspension, and are extremely low-mass. Where things get particularly interesting from an engineering perspective is the cone design. If you look at them, you’ll see they have a very shallow profile compared to drivers of similar size, giving a very wide dispersion angle. It gets even more interesting, because the cones share the same profile, so their dispersion behaviour is almost identical, which is not the case for a typical cone midbass + dome tweeter. Makes using low order filters much more practical -in the case of Cesti B, 2nd order acoustic (and electrical), which as you know has less in the way of phase-rotation than higher order slopes. As a bald principle, lower order slopes in Scott’s view are preferable to steeper slopes, but that usually comes with a large bunch of caveats over power-handling, dissimilar dispersion behaviour, stop-band rejection etc. In this case, the Sota 5 has about 4x the radiating area of a typical 1in dome tweeter, about 5x – 6x the radiating area of a 3/4in dome, long stroke suspension & the same basic cone profile, so Markaudio are able to use them with more flexibility than is often the case.
As you can see Scott and the team of designers at Markaudio put a lot of time and effort into each model with every detail being meticulously researched and developed. On unpacking the Cesti B, I was very impressed with the fit and finish. I requested the piano black option and the finish was immaculate. I used them on my resident 28 inch wooden stands to great effect and they looked very smart in my living room.
Running in didn’t take long and Scott felt that this design was not fussy about long burn in periods. Being a decent sized cabinet the Cesti B had no trouble producing a good bass end down to 40Hz in my living room and had a very clear full frequency range as it was designed to. What impressed me most was when I got used to the presentation I could really hear the layering in the sound stage and really good depth. I can only put this down to the clever design of the full range drive units, crossover and that contoured front baffle. It was an effect that remained, being a characteristic of the Cesti B and Scott had said he felt the Cesti B was an unsung hero in the range.
I tried Audiolab’s 8300A amp and my Tisbury Audio passive pre / Meridian 556 amp combination and both worked seamlessly. The Cesti B’s doesn’t appear to be amp fussy and were easy to drive, but like any good design they should respond well to much more expensive electronics.
Compared to larger floorstanders I am currently trying the Cesti B won’t plumb that lower octave, but still make a valiant attempt and don’t sound out of control like some other designs I have used or reviewed in the past. When you don’t listen to larger floorstanders for a while you soon forget their lower end advantage if designed properly and the human brain is fantastic at adapting. I recently got Christine and the Queens new album “Chaleur Humane” with the catchy single Tilted on it that has been well received. Recorded here in the UK, the album has some good low synth bass lines, and the quirky arrangements Christine likes worked well on the Cesti B and the recording techniques were easily picked out. As Scott told me with both drive units in the Cesti B being full range, they have a great ability to not sound limited or restrained to a particular frequency range and so blend seamlessly along with the crossover design.
I could happily live with the Cesti B and along with a run of speaker designs I have recently had the pleasure to review modern designs have really got rather good. With a lot of clever design collaboration and excellent build quality the Cesti B are a welcome newcomer onto the audio scene.
Build Quality: Excellent for the money.
Sound Quality: Detailed, well layered sound.
Value for Money: With a price of £1199 this is excellent value.
Great musicality and detail
Look great in the piano lacquer gloss finishes
Unless you are a bass fiend plenty of low end for most people
Can handle power well
None really other than the fact the drive units are delicate with regards to handling so don’t go poking them and treat with respect