Neat Petite Classic £2,000
The latest speaker from Neat Acoustics is both a blast from the past and absolutely of the moment
The Petite Classic is a new speaker from Neat that isn’t completely new. The original Petite was the first model that the company ever produced; indeed it is the reason why North Eastern Audio Traders become Neat Acoustics. The highly regarded Petite stayed in production until 2016 before Neat changed their focus. When they launched a limited edition version for their 30anniversary though, demand was so enthusiastic that the design was tweaked to become the Petite Classic.
The result is a speaker that is an intriguing blend of old and new. The Petite Classic is the same size to the millimetre as the original which makes it comparatively shallow compared to many rivals. In keeping with many speakers that Neat has released in more recent years though, it makes use of an Air Motion Tranformer for the tweeter. This is a folded membrane that combines a very large radiating area with low mass to give a wide but even dispersion. It is partnered with a 150mm polymer mid bass driver that is more in keeping with the original Petite but features refinements that Neat has developed over time.
The result is a speaker that looks a little different to some key rivals- mostly thanks to that shallow cabinet- but is attractive and well finished. Where the Anniversary model had a gloss finish, the Petite has moved to black and white sheen and the result is very contemporary. At a mere 30 centimetres high, the Petite Classic lives up to its name and should be easy enough to accommodate in most rooms.
The Petite Classic’s use of that sophisticated Air Motion Transformer pays dividends from the second you start listening to it. This is an astonishingly open and unconstrained sounding device for a speaker this size. As well as pushing sound horizontally beyond the cabinet, the Neat creates the illusion of height astonishingly well too. The effect is to produce a reliable three dimensional image in front of the listener and it manages to sound big without being diffuse.
The handover to the mid bass driver is utterly seamless and, despite the very different materials and technology at work, the Neat is beautifully even from top to bottom. This is not a speaker that goes in for forensic detail (although everything is there), more an easy going presentation that let everything happen in an unforced way. Something that you will note fairly quickly is that the Petite Classic has remarkable bass for a speaker this small. Reached at the end of that extremely even frequency response is a level of impact you feel as well as hear. There’s very little else of a similar size that can get anywhere near it.
And do you know what? We haven’t even got to the best bit yet. This speaker is fun. It’s a head nodding, foot tapping, ‘go on just one more album’ entertainer that will power its way through any musical style you can think of and leave you grinning like an idiot edging the volume level up as you go. ‘Fun’ is not a measurable construct but the Neat channels the joy and emotion in music and makes it the priority. You can’t put the Petite Classic on in the background and have it murmur away gently. From the moment it is running, this is a speaker that engages and delights and it manages to do this while being tonally believable and entirely accurate.
The Neat is small, well made and unfussy about placement. So long as you employ a sturdy pair of speaker stands it will perform as it should in most surroundings and handle spaces larger than you might reasonably expect. Neat quotes a sensitivity of 87dB/w and an impedance of between 4 and 6 ohms so, as long as you have 30 watts or more available to power them, they are likely to work well. This is, in short, an extremely easy device to live with. The only mild criticism is that no grilles are supplied which might be annoying for some.
The Neat is speaker you buy with your heart but with your head nodding along approvingly. You can buy bigger and more sophisticated speakers for the asking price but very little can get anywhere near the unbridled musical joy that they can deliver. This is an utterly fabulous little speaker.
Gomez Bring it on
The Neat’s exceptional grasp of rhythm means this album’s wonderful array of styles and tempos absolutely flows along while those glorious vocal harmonies are faithfully layered across the top.
Otis Taylor Double V
This passionate and powerful album allows the Neat to show just how effortlessly it recreate the emotional intensity of music while still ensuring that Taylor and his guitar sound vibrant and believable.
Gregory Porter All Rise
By rights a speaker as small as the Petite Classic should sound strained handling a recording as big and compelling as this one. Instead, the Petite Classic gives Porter the space and impact he needs to excel.
If you own one of the many great amps in the £1,500 to £3,000 range and you don’t have a barn to fill, very little will be as consistently satisfying to partner them as the Petite Classic.