Finally in the assessment phase, comes the pace, and it’s here that the Ekstra ekcells. It’s a beat-hound; put on a piece of music with even the merest sense of a beat and the Ekstra will sniff it out and play it for you. Not push it upfront or force you into a beat when listening to talk radio, but when you find yourself listening to the meter of the speaker instead of thinking about hand grenades when listening to one of the more pompous orators on Radio 4, you know there’s something special in the beat-reproduction of the Ekstra. It makes news sound like poetry, it makes a click track sound like Buddy Rich, and so it goes on. It’s an exceptionally good rhythmic performer, one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. Perhaps more so because its rhythmic properties fall under that whole ‘effortless’ part of the performance. Not only was it great at keeping a beat – even those crazy beats like Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ or Dave Brubeck’s ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ – but because it does it without any kind of effort or difficulty.
In truth, I struggled with not struggling with the Neat Acoustics Ekstra. I felt the review process shouldn’t be this easy, and in truth I laboured over the writing more than normal, trying to find what it did so well. Then the speakers went away and then it hit me. I’d imprinted on them like a duckling to its mother. There was something so musically adept and enjoyable about the Ekstra that it made the playing of music a vital thing. That is the most obvious thing when you hear them and the sappiest thing you can write.
Attributed to everyone from Elvis Costello to Frank Zappa, the quote “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” holds a lot of truth here. The loudspeaker is not one that opens itself to critical inspection, even though it passes muster in almost all aspects for many. It’s a loudspeaker that you either ‘get’ or ‘don’t’ and if you get it all those details about imaging, dynamics, rhythm, timing, and so on are all academic. It’s just a bloody good loudspeaker and all the other considerations melt away. It’s little wonder that I got the downsides out of the way first; if you really let the Ekstra get under your skin, it’s like insulting a family member.
The interesting thing with this is the last time a loudspeaker and I bonded in the same way, that was a Neat loudspeaker too. That time it was one of the most expensive ones in the group. This time it’s way more affordable. There’s clearly a lot of commonalities shared here between the Ekstra and the Ultimatum, and the difference in price and performance might be marked, but they have more in common than you might expect for the price.
Neat Acoustics Ekstra’s tagline is ‘Thinking Inside The Box’ and while that is absolutely correct, it’s so much more than that. Ekstra is a loudspeaker that does manage to squeeze a quart into a pint pot and does it perfectly. You need to be fairly well in lockstep with the sound of Neat (put another way, the sound Bob from Neat likes), but if that is the case, the Ekstra will melt your heart, extra fast.
System: 2.5-way isobaric bass reflex, incorporating integral isobaric subwoofer
Drive units: 1× 134mm LF/Midrange unit; 1× Ribbon HF unit; 2× 134mm LF units
Impedance: 8 Ohms (minimum 5 Ohms)
Sensitivity: 88dB/1 watt
Finish: American walnut, black oak, satin white
Size (H×W×D): 110 × 17 × 25cm
Weight: 18Kg each
Price: £2,999 per pair
Manufactured by: Neat Acoustics
Tel: +44(0)1833 631021