The musician who appreciates good audio equipment and the hi-if enthusiast who is also a serious musician are rare breeds. Musicians often don’t seem to be bothered about sound quality. They appear to hear everything they want to with a basic pair of headphones or desk monitors, which explains why the use of the Yamaha NS-10 (one of the fiercest small speakers of its era) in so many studios of the ‘80s and ‘90s; they’re probably still around today. Bob Surgeoner who started Neat Acoustics in 1989 is the exception that proves the rule, he was a professional guitar player in the ‘80s and got into hi-fi by selling it from his home to make ends meet. Then he took the next step and opened a shop called North Eastern Audio Traders in Darlington and developed the Neat Petite to fill a gap in the market. In 1990 he took it to the Penta show at Heathrow and discovered that the trade appreciated his efforts and has focussed on speaker building ever since.
Neat now makes four speaker ranges amounting to 13 different models. The latest addition is the floorstanding Orkestra which sits somewhere near the middle of the catalogue between the Motive and Ultimatum ranges. Neat enthusiasts will be able to figure out that it replaced the Momentum SX5 no longer in production. The Orkestra stands just over a metre high on its spikes and has a compact footprint the like of which might not prove too imposing on domestic arrangements. Who am I kidding? If you need speakers that don’t provoke a divorce, stick with the Iota models; they’re almost invisible.
The Orkestra is a larger version of the Ekstra and shares many of its features but adds a fourth spiked outrigger to the base for extra stability. The outriggers are a distinctive part of this speaker. They’re chunky lumps of aluminium that bolt onto the base and provide two functions, they increase the footprint and raise the box for the six and a half-inch bass driver at the bottom to drive the room. The bass system is isobaric with one driver inside the cabinet directly over the one you see (if you turn the whole thing over). The lower part of the cabinet is dedicated to the bass system with a reflex port to load it in the rear. This isobaric arrangement effectively acts as a dedicated subwoofer for each speaker. The mid/bass and tweeter are therefore in their cabinet on top, and this is a sealed infinite baffle system with another six-and-a-half-inch main driver topped by a ribbon tweeter with a claimed treble extension of 40kHz. The latter is 75mm long and described as a true ribbon to differentiate it from EMIT iso‑dynamic tweeters misdescribed as ribbons. This ribbon driver type has become a feature of Neat designs with only the range-topping Ultimatum models sporting domes, and even they have EMIT tweeters for the highest frequencies.
Both the visible drivers attach to a secondary baffle isolated from the main cabinet to some extent by a polyethylene membrane. The secondary baffle gives the mid and treble some chance of avoiding the bass drivers’ resonances. I asked Bob about the optimum distance between the floor and the base of the box given that this will affect how the bass system interacts with the room, he said that if the gap is too small, the bass can become overloaded. Still, as ever with such considerations, this will vary with room and the floor surface. Neat provides rather nice spikes and lock nuts that allow a degree of height variation with which to experiment.