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NEAT Audio Iota ALPHA tiny speaker

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These NEAT ACOUSTICS IOTA ALPHA speakers surprised me. I have only seen a few reviews from overseas where they well known, so I hope it helps somebody with an alternative choice and perhaps save their marriage.

 

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REASON FOR ME CHOOSING ALPHAS

For more than 50 years I have been searching for the ultimate affordable sound. My most recent encounter with what I considered ultimate affordable sound was from a pair of DIY hybrid ERAudio 505 mini ESL panels.

 

Will I keep them? I'm not sure, because I feel the shape of my room and the inflexible seating positions might be hindering the capabilities of these incredible little speakers. (More info in text)

 

After two years of enjoyment and refining I realised something was missing and I was not listening to the music I was listening to the SOUND!

 

The soul of music was missing and I started to remember how Pink Floyd sounded on a pair of VAF DC-X Gen fours with a gutsy OTL  Son of Beast valve amp. That was the MUSIC I remember!

 

LS50s DEFEATED BY MY ROOM

My 6x15 metre ‘bright’ room seems to hate speakers. My LS50s really struggled and were severely affected by window walls on 3 sides and a tile floor.

 

My ESLs eliminated much of the floor, wall and ceiling reflections because of the way ESLs sound is projected in a line and largely unaffected by the room reflections.

 

I soon became hooked on the sound but spent a large amount of time trying to perfectly integrate the woofer and could never get musical mids, bass and ESL to sound perfectly balanced due to strange phase and null issues. But the sound was still enjoyable and exciting.

 

After an impressive Wharfedale Linton Anniversary showroom demo at Audiofix, on the Sunshine Coast, Alex suggested I take them home for an audition.

 

Once they were assembled and mounted on their stands they were powered up I sat down to enjoy them as I had in the showroom. What a disappointment.  My room was full of boomy, bloated sound. It seems they would have no way of ever working in my room without major acoustic intervention.

 

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

After some serious research I found that Audiofix also stocked intriguing looking Neat Acoustics Iota Alpha speakers that I had read about recently.

 

I had never heard of NEAT speakers, so I did some more research and found most reviewers had positive experiences with the NEAT Alphas.

 

INTRODUCING THE ALPHAS

  • These speakers are NOT like any speakers I have experienced before. They look tiny but sound huge.
  • The Alphas are NOT audiophile speakers in the sense of being clinically detailed but are they extremely musical and laid back. They are capable of lulling me into state of audio bliss where I can’t stop listening and completely forget about frequency response, distortion or equipment.
  • They were designed and fine tuned tuned in the UK by musician/audio engineers and demonstrated at audio shows for over six years and the designers have been known to utilise psycho acoustic techniques in some of their prototypes.
  • They have an extremely high WAF. These are stealth speakers. They are almost invisible, cute and just make beautiful music.
  • The very solid beautifully finished oak veneer enclosure built in the UK. 
  • Bass from the down firing woofer is full and detailed.
  • Treble from the planar magnetic tweeter is smooth and detailed without any harshness or enhanced ‘edge’.
  • These remarkably tiny Alpha  speakers are only about 550mm high and stand just above knee height but they punch well above their weight and surprised me with the way they could reproduce drums and piano so cleanly with such authority and dynamics. I had read about this in reviews but didn’t expect it to be so impressive.
  • Obviously, physics don’t allow them to play as loudly as larger speakers but they can provide a convincing performance but they are deceptive because they don't sound like they are playing loud.

 

alphasfront.jpg.926abc71e7970803740cd5777fe6f674.jpgalpha-bottom.jpg.80a6bd57d218ada44cd9ab7ca219887e.jpg

 

SURPRISING SATISFYING BASS

Powerful, deep, sometimes subliminal bass was the first thing I noticed and a double bass seemed like it was playing in the room. Male and female voices sound lifelike without any noticable colouration. Thanks to the planar magnetic tweeters and the way the 4 inch mid bass shares the same compartment manages to blend them seamlessly.

 

Bass was so impressive from the 5 inch downward firing woofers that I sold my REL T-Zero subwoofers.

 

The Alpha’s seem to thrive on a decent amount volume. Bass seems unstressed and plays an important part in their character.

 

A 3D SOUND STAGE

The tweeter and mid/bass drivers sit side by side on the angled front sitting in their own sealed section of the cabinet. The result is that sound seems to harness room reflections within the room that had caused problems with other speakers while painting a spacious, 3d like sound stage where you can look around with your ears.

 

The planar magnetic tweeters seem to have some ESL like characteristics, but sound smoother and there is a sweet spot, but all this changes when listening from further away or rotating them.

 

Although the speakers sit low on the floor, the music height is where you expect it.

 

ALPHAS LOVE PLAYING COMPLEX MUSIC

Alphas don’t seem favour any specific type of music and have excellent separation with good placement of instruments and voices. They NEVER sound like small speakers.

 

YELLO fans will love them, so will live jazz and classical enthusiasts. These tiny speakers seem to be able to image the physical size and texture of double bass without stress. They do a pretty good job with Pink Floyd live and you feel like you are in the audience but you probably won’t suffer from hearing loss.

 

COULD THESE BE THE ULTIMATE APARTMENT SPEAKERS?

I have a lively 15 metre long x 6 metre wide room and although they sound great, a smaller room would really exploit their wonderful laid back characteristics.

 

Because the mid/bass & tweeters are angled upwards, a seating position around 2 metres away would be optimum. Unfortunately, my seating position is a touch over 3 metres away and fairly low, so I am not really getting the full impact of their potential at low levels.

 

However, at 4 metres and listening at a highish level from a higher seating position or standing, they provide a surprisingly gigantic and exciting performance with wall to wall sound and accurate imaging. The perception is like being in an audience looking at the stage from the back row.

 

To my mind, they would be perfect apartment speakers because they also produce such excellent bass and at low levels.

 

POINTERS

They take more than 200 hours to burn in according the the designers.

 

They seem to respond to different types of cable which gives you the opportunity to ’tune’ them to your own tastes. I have settled on Aurealis litz interconnects and speaker cables because of the way they open up the Alpha performance without enhancing anything. They are also great value and built in Brisbane by Geoff Maloney.

 

The Alphas are mirrored and the tweeter can be positioned on the inside or outside. I preferred them on the inside to centre the highs.

 

Positioning can have a big effect on the bass to detail ratio although I have positioned the between 100mm to 500mm from the wall and they still sound good.

 

Seating position can change their character.  2 metres away seems to be optimum for intimate listening but 4 or 5 metres away gives a surprising large 3d performance stage when standing or sitting higher than normal.

 

WHERE CAN YOU AUDITION THEM?

Sound Reference in Melbourne and Audio Fix at Warana on Queensland Sunshine Coast. Sorry, I couldn't find any others.

 

My supporting system:

Auralic Aries Mini music source - Spotify Very High and audio files

StereoCoffee 2020BT passive LDR preamp

Hypex nCore NC122MP amplifier

Aurealis litz interconnects

A pair of old inquisitive ears

 

 

alpha back.jpg

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Great looking speakers. Uses peerless midwoofers by the looks of it.

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Thanks for a very tidy write-up Rob, on a little-known little speaker, with a big sound. I think the fact that you sold the REL sub says a lot. And they look cute too!

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Nice work, Rob

 

I absolutely love the look of these and the little iota bookshelves but I’ve unfortunately never had the occasion to hear them. In such a big room, did you consider stepping up to the bigger ones (explorer?) or were they not as readily available or just not necessary? It’s always hard to get the scale of them in marketing images but that first photo shows how compact (adorable) they are. 

 

Thanks, Simon 

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9 hours ago, RankStranger said:

Nice work, Rob

 

I absolutely love the look of these and the little iota bookshelves but I’ve unfortunately never had the occasion to hear them. In such a big room, did you consider stepping up to the bigger ones (explorer?) or were they not as readily available or just not necessary? It’s always hard to get the scale of them in marketing images but that first photo shows how compact (adorable) they are. 

 

Thanks, Simon 

Hi Simon.

The explorers would have been a better choice for a large room but I think they around $6000 which is a lot of loot and they are quite a bit taller. They weren't available locally when I was auditioning.

 

The ALPHAs  are indeed cute. A bit too light to not move if I bump them but the cabinet damping is well thought out and doesn't seem to have any resonances. They are well designed and constructed.

 

Over the next few weeks I will be comparing their loveableness (?) with my Satori 2 way ARAs which also sound great but have excessive upper bass problems in my room. I am experimenting with a modified crossover to reduce the upper bass level.

 

They could show how tiny they are in advertising be putting them next to a pair of nice legs.

 

Cheers, Rob

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On 27/07/2020 at 12:07 PM, robmid said:

 

WHERE CAN YOU AUDITION THEM?

Sound Reference in Melbourne and Audio Fix at Warana on Queensland Sunshine Coast. Sorry, I couldn't find any others.

 

https://www.audiogenesis.com.au/  in Sydney 

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Your pre pro looks quite interesting.

What's your opinion about StereoCoffee 2020BT passive LDR preamp + Hypex nCore NC122MP amplifier?

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7 hours ago, Irek said:

Your pre pro looks quite interesting.

What's your opinion about StereoCoffee 2020BT passive LDR preamp + Hypex nCore NC122MP amplifier?

The 2020BT StereoCoffee gives the most dynamic uncoloured sound combined with 3d staging that I have heard in my 2 channel system. They aren't harsh or edgy,  just pure and musical. This performance complements with the Hypex NC122MP which I also find to be uncoloured and capable of driving the NEAT Alphas without stress while maintaining the bass.

 

The Alphas seem to  need a pure signal to keep them sparkling. They are laid back and I think a coloured amp might hamper the enjoyment factor. They have so much bass content that it would be easy to muzzle the sweet highs.

 

Cheers, Rob

 

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Great write-up Rob. I can understand their high WAF.

 

Years ago I recall NEAT Petite speakers being well-regarded.

 

Cheers,

David

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Hi Rob

great write up for the wee Neats. They remind me of scaled down Shiannans.

Seeing as you liked the ELS so much did you not think of full-range panels? I was thinking of getting a pair of your panels but I moved my listening chair 2 feet back and my speakers have now taken on a new lease of life!

 

Rgeards

 

Mike

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