For some years
now, MarkAudio has been known around theCesti_pair4.jpg world by audio enthusiasts and DIY
speaker hobbyists for their full-range drivers. Their drivers make it very easy
for a hobbyist to build a reasonably good sounding speaker, since a single
driver design can be used with no crossover needed. All the user has to do is
build the cabinet. Full-range driver proponents champion this approach to
speaker design, since they claim that crossovers color the sound and that using
multiple drivers create lobing interference patterns that also sullies the
sound. Earlier this year, MarkAudio introduced their finished speaker brand,
MarkAudio-SOTA, into the U.S. market. Their product line-up consists of four
speakers: three bookshelf speakers and a tower speaker. In this review, we will
be looking at their tower speaker, the Cesti T. The Cesti T towers are a
modestly sized towers meant for two-channel applications that come in a finely
lacquered finish, and at nearly $3,500 per pair, are intended for an upscale
market.

Setup and Appearance

Cesti_packing.jpg

The Cesti T
towers arrived in boxes with a clever locking mechanism that kept the packaging
safely together and also made it easy to unpack. Within the boxes, the speakers
were sandwiched between thick foam blocks on the top and bottom of the box,
with a thick foam band protecting the middle. While the packing looked good to
protect the speakers from bumps and shocks, the speakers did not come in any
kind of plastic wrapping that would protect them from moisture, an odd omission
at this price point. Nonetheless, the speakers arrived at my doorstep in
excellent condition.

Cesti_pair_grille.jpg     Cesti_pair2.jpg

Out of the
box, the Cesti T speakers looked snazzy. They have a sleek, modernistic design,
and that vibrant red color with its exquisite polish certainly gives them
flair. Yes, ‘snazzy’ is the word I would use for these; they are not so
conservative that they become sedate, nor are they so unconventionally styled
that they become ostentatious. The rounded corners and the grooves of the
waveguides around the drivers give the Cesti T’s clean lines that are free from
any sharp angles. The drivers present themselves as aluminum disc cones
surrounded by the black rings of the surround and driver frame. The only logo
on the speaker is the inconspicuous initials ‘ML’ in the bottom corner of the
speaker. If you look carefully, you can see that the waveguides are not
completely symmetrical with respect to the cabinet. They have a slight
directional preference. With the grille on, the speakers do lose much of their
personality, and, as we will discuss later, the grille does not improve their
sound, so there is no harm in leaving the grille off if the user prefers. The
use of magnetic grilles keeps the front baffle clean of grille guides. The Cesti
T speakers also come in white and black colors for those who want a more
reserved look and would rather not have the speakers stand out as much. To sum
up the Cesti’s appearance, they look good, and, depending on their color, they
should be able to fit in a wide range of decors.

Design Overview

MarkAudio-SOTA
speakers place an emphasis on use of the MarkAudio full-range drivers as their
chief selling point, which is expected given the name of the company. The
MarkAudio drivers are full-range drivers, and, as such, should be able to cover
most of the frequency range of music as a single driver. The Cesti T uses two
4” drivers and one 2” driver. Typically, full-range drivers are used as the
sole driver in a speaker, in order to avoid the adverse effects of using a
crossover and interference that can occur when multiple drivers. Full-range
driver enthusiasts claim that the sound of a full-range driver speaker is purer
and has greater fidelity, since there is no way to introduce any phase
conflicts that can occur at crossover frequencies in speakers that divide
frequency bands between drivers. However, the Cesti T uses two different
full-range drivers and a crossover, in defiance of the traditional use of
full-range drivers. The reason may be that MarkAudio-SOTA wanted to avoid
beaming issues were they to use their 4.4” driver by itself, and their 2”
driver wouldn’t have had the dynamic range needed for a tower speaker. In
addition to that, the 4” driver would be far more capable of bass playback, and
the 2” driver would be more adept at treble. This then begs the question: why
use full-range drivers in this sort of orientation to begin with?

MarCesti_drivers.jpgkAudio-SOTA’s
answer looks to be that some of the more deleterious effects of crossovers and
drivers of different character can be reduced when you pair together similar
drivers with wide bands of operation such as MarkAudio drivers. One example of
this is that since the MarkAudio drivers in the Cesti have very similar cone
profiles and cone compositions, their behavior will be very similar, so you get
a very close match in performance over the crossover frequency and will be less
prone to the problems that occur between considerably different drivers such as
a typical 5” midrange driver and a 1” dome tweeter. Using full-range drivers of
such similar character also allows a more gentle and less severe crossover
slope, since the drivers will blend together very well, so that should reduce
the problems that crossovers can create. Since the Cesti drivers are so alike,
the behavior of the MarkAudio drivers should blend very well off axis as well
as on axis, in what MarkAudio-SOTA likes to call the symmetrical sound field,
where the dispersion characteristics are the same from both drivers.
MarkAudio-SOTA claims that these qualities give their speakers many of the
advantages of multi-way speakers while preserving the advantages of single
full-range driver speakers.

The drivers
themselves use a shallow-profile mixed-alloy cone and a healthy-sized magnet.
They have the distinctive “button” dustcap seen on all MarkAudio drivers. The
cone itself is very light. The 2” driver looks very much like a shrunken
version of the 4”. These drivers are also used as sole drivers in
MarkAudio-SOTA speakers sold in Europe and are specified in those speakers as
having a full-range response. The president of North American distribution
tells me that he is thinking about bringing the single driver speakers to the
American market. As with most full-range drivers, these are not able to take
enormous amounts of power. The amplifier requirements in the specs sheet should
be heeded here. These drivers are not as durable against large amount of
current as conventional driver types seen in this price class.

Cesti_crossover.jpg

The crossover
for the Cesti T speakers is a simple design. It uses second-order slopes for
both the high-pass filter and low-pass filter. As such, there looks to be only
a pair of inductors and a pair of capacitors on the board. The Inductors and
capacitors are sizable and look to be up to the task. As stated above, the
rationale for such a simple crossover is that the cones are so much alike that
they will be able to blend easily, so there is no need for a complicated
crossover with steep slopes.

Cesti_cabinet.jpg      Cesti_rear3.jpg

As with the
crossover, the cabinet coCesti_singleR.jpgnstruction is also relatively simple, but there are a
few noteworthy details. The paneling looks to be just short of 1” thick,
perhaps ⅞”. There is no real bracing in the upper part of the cabinet, but
there is a solid board bracing the lower section, perhaps to reduce the
internal volume for the 4” drivers. The 2” driver is sealed in its own
compartment in some kind of plastic rounded cone. This rounded cone shell looks
to be shaped to diffuse any standing waves. The Cesti T towers have a port on
both the front and back of the speaker, and port plugs are included with the
packaging for those who want to reduce the bass response. There are some
shallow waveguides carved around each cone on the exterior of the cabinet. One
interesting thing about these waveguides is that they are not symmetrical on
each speaker, but the waveguides do mirror each other as a speaker pair. One
half of the waveguide opens up on one side of the cabinet while the other keeps
contained in the front baffle. This is intended to allow broader dispersion of
sound on one side of the speaker, which can be used to either minimize
side-wall reflections or heighten them, depending on the user’s preference. The
binding posts have a little divider between them, which is a nice touch that
helps to prevent strands of cable from accidentally touching the other polarity
and causing a short. I wouldn’t mind seeing this on more binding posts in the
future.   

gene posts on July 10, 2017 01:30

MarkAudio-SOTA has recently launched their brand to the North American market, and we had a chance to give their Cesti T tower speakers a run around our testing grounds to gauge their performance. MarkAudio-SOTA is a new speaker manufacturer that uses a team of highly-respected industry vets to assemble a line-up of finished speakers based around full-range drivers. The Cesti T uses three full-range drivers placed into a very slick, modern cabinet with a crossover designed to get the most out of this driver array. Read our review to see how well this idea translated into practice.

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Read: MarkAudio-SOTA Cesti T Tower Loudspeaker Review

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