There is a lot of discussion about ‘price creep’ in audio. A lot of it is extremely understandable and, to no small amount, justified. Granted some of that comes from taking long hiatuses in audio (if you last bought a pair of loudspeakers in 1989, 30 years of inflation might come as a bit of a shock), but that doesn’t explain the whole situation. The Neat Acoustics Ekstra wasn’t necessarily created to address this problem – Neat designer Bob Surgeoner simply wanted to build a damn good loudspeaker that fitted between two ranges – but in the process built a loudspeaker that pulls much from the company’s top models, and the resultant design is very much a ‘punches above its weight’ model.
Neat makes some extremely good high-end loudspeakers in its Ultimatum range (although even here, high-end is a relative term... high-end by UK standards not the ‘help yourself to my bank balance’ high five, six, or even seven-figure sums we sometimes see). It also makes several ranges that bring the price of admission down to the distinctly attainable or – in the case of the Iota series – affordable. They all share Neat’s distinctive take on product design. The Ekstra simply takes much of the design criteria found in models like the Ultimatum XL6 loudspeaker, puts it in a smaller, slimmer box (making it ideal for smaller rooms), and undercuts itself by several grand! OK, if only things were that simple, but that’s the core of the idea behind Ekstra.
In a way, the popular Iota range was born out of the same mindset, making the company’s Motive sound more widely available. Ekstra does the same to Momentum and Ultimatum. The new design uses the same configuration first used by Neat in the Ultimatum XL6. The top section is sealed off from the lower, and incorporates two sealed chambers, operating as a two-way infinite baffle loudspeaker. A 50mm ribbon-type tweeter and 134mm bass/midrange unit (that has been used in both Motive and Iota Alpha designs) are both mounted on a specially profiled sub-baffle, attached to the main cabinet via a de-coupling polyethylene membrane.
Meanwhile, the lower, ported, section of the Ekstra houses two more of those 134mm bass drive units. One unit is located on the bottom panel, facing the floor, while the second is located internally, directly above the first, in a sealed isobaric arrangement, handling only low frequencies and acting as an integral subwoofer system. The low-Q port is specially tuned to enable close to wall placement of the speaker in most rooms.
The chambered design is relatively simple – at least compared to labyrinths used by companies like PMC – but very effective, as it essentially means the loudspeaker is a two-way stand-mount sitting on a subwoofer with minimal interaction between the two.
This system also helps make the Ekstra a relatively benign load. An eight-ohm load with minimum impedance dipping to around five ohms and a realistic sensitivity of 88dB/w adds up to make a loudspeaker that could be run by the humblest of electronics. However, with a loudspeaker of the Ekstra’s calibre, it’s more about quality than quantity, and a good amplifier like the Hegel H390 and the Primare I25 both worked perfectly with the Ekstra.