Hardware Reviews

Neat Elite Classic: speakers to go

Neat Elite Classic loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

Neat Elite Classic loudspeaker

In 2022, Neat launched the first model in its Classic range with a new version of the legendary shoebox-sized Petite. I enjoyed what this mighty mini could do and was not surprised that the giant-killing little speaker became an immediate success. This led to demand for a floorstanding companion for the revamped standmount and so the new-look Mystique was born followed by the revised Elite which initially left the catalogue in 2016. That said, the Elite Classic isn’t simply a floorstanding Petite and, as we shall discover, it is conceptually different with a character all its own.

Make no mistake though, the Elite Classics are not simply a recreation of the past. Oh, no. The opportunity has been taken to rethink the designs from the ground up. So, while looking totally conventional, and a hark to bygone days, we are in for a treat as far as the sonics are concerned.

Neat Acoustics

In rural Teesdale, northern England, Neat have been creating what it likes to term ‘musical’ loudspeakers for over twenty years. They are hand-crafted and aimed at discerning audiophiles. The models have no pretention of being studio monitors and, rather than slavishly following historic design principles, owner/designer Bob Surgeoner uses his knowledge and love of music to create hi-fi loudspeakers that communicate what he considers important.

Thus, extensive listening rather than slavishly following frequency response, impedance or distortion curves is what makes a Neat loudspeaker what it is. Crossovers tend towards the minimalistic and are a far cry from the heavily populated circuit boards found in more complex speaker designs. This makes a refreshing change for me. Cabinet construction, overall design and meticulous build quality are all hallmarks of a Neat product. Thus they are available in a range of superb real wood veneer finishes and special premium finishes to special order.

Neat Elite Classic loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

The development of a Neat product invariably involves hundreds of hours of listening tests. The Neat listening room is the starting point, though a new design must prove itself in a variety of different rooms and systems before it is signed off for production. This unusual approach also involves listening to many different types of music and allowing the music to govern the tuning and voicing of the loudspeaker – to the exclusion of almost all other criteria.

Few hi-fi brands feature an in-house recording studio and yet at Neat it allows for bespoke recordings to be made, providing a reference point for the research and development work. The studio has a huge variety of musical instruments, including piano, pump organ, harp, double bass, synthesisers, and a range of electric and acoustic guitars (Bob plays guitar) as well as other stringed instruments. High-resolution recordings are created and instantly played back in the listening room.


Like the Petite Classic, the new version of the Elite Classic retains the outer dimensions of the original model, but with updated drive units and a completely redesigned crossover. Designed to work well in smaller listening spaces, this latest model brings a full-range performance without dominating the living room. Neat advised that the Elites do take quite a bit of use before coming “on-song”, and I found it thus so. Even a week of running-in led me to think that even more time was needed before critical listening ensued and the panel assembled.

Neat Elite Classic loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

With the smaller Mystique leaving such an impression on my mind, we have in the Elite Classic a cabinet that is slightly taller and a bit deeper. Its 165mm R3 mid/bass drive unit is the one used on flagship Ultimatum models, so that bodes well for the sound quality. It boasts a steel chassis and coated-paper cone with a fixed phase plug that’s separate from the cone itself. Supplied as standard with a single set of binding posts to the rear, a bi-wire/amp option is available to order.

The Elite Classic also has a staggered port tuning system where the two ports (one on the rear and one at the base) are tuned to different frequencies, enabling a smoother low-frequency roll-off instead of the standard fast roll-off of conventional ports. The bass reflex-port is raised above a plinth by four aluminium spacers, much like the Mystique that I so much admired.

All three Classic models share the same 50mm Air Motion Transformer high frequency driver, but the mid/bass drivers are different so that they work in the respective cabinet volumes. The AMT tweeter technique was first developed by Dr. Oskar Heil, a German physicist, in the late sixties. It operates on a different transduction principle from other ribbon designs as the diaphragm of the AMT is pleated. It pushes air back and forth in a similar manner to an accordion, resulting in an extremely rapid response rate. It also means that more air is moved than would be the case from a similar sized planar diaphragm.

To round off the design, we have a minimalistic crossover network comprising hardwired, high-grade components such as Jantzen audio-grade capacitors which give a 12dB roll-off on the tweeter with a crossover frequency seemingly quite high at around 4kHz. The main drive unit has just a single inductor giving 6dB/octave roll-off, mounted separately, behind the bass unit with a Zobel network across it.


While standmount loudspeakers are affected by their position in the listening environment they have the added hassle of finding suitable stands to create the ‘best’ sound. What type – metal, wooden, open, solid – and then how to couple to the cabinet and also to the floor. That, at least, is removed with a floor-stander as is the extra cost of suitable stands.

The Elite Classics come with floor spikes which screw into the lower plinth and Neat suggest starting with the cabinets 30cm from the rear wall and 60cm from side walls to minimise boundary effects, with an initial toe-in of about 10-degrees. As much as 200 hours of ‘run in’ is also recommended and indeed I founded that the Elites needed all of this before sounding their best.

Neat Elite Classic loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net


Initially connected to my Hegel H190 streaming amp, my go to mid-price integrated, I felt that the Elite’s lowish impedance (down to 5 Ohms) and a quoted sensitivity of 86dB might be troubling the electronics, so I connected the mighty H600 with its enormous power reserves. However, the answer seemed to be positioning and not amplification. I increased the toe-in and the midrange increased noticeably or, more accurately, the treble output reduced slightly off-axis to create the sort of the balance I am used to. The downward-firing reflex port means the Elites are less critical regarding proximity to the rear wall although a position further into the room will improve imaging and detail.

Sound quality

From the first few notes of Joakim Karud’s Vibe With Me it was clear that the Elite Classics are capable of a full-bodied, driving bass full of engaging energy to fill the room. There is real drive to the music along with a clear and detailed treble from that AMT tweeter. Feet tapped involuntarily and it was easy to become immersed in the sound.

Spaceship’s dance track Lesion X was portrayed across a wide soundstage; the bassline clear and very well-defined revealing that in the compact Elite Classics we have a Goliath of a loudspeaker. The sound is big, fulfilling and draws the listener into the music. Decent imaging adds to the experience to make the whole thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining. Raising the volume, to neighbour-disturbing levels, simply increased the enjoyment factor. We have “an immersive sound”, said the panel with levels of weight, scale and authority to the sound way beyond what’s expected from a loudspeaker of this size and price.

Lacking any surround sound facilities, I was persuaded to play a DVD of Hot Fuzz where the [dubbed] effects were mightily impressive from just a two-channel system, although I felt that the dialogue was a bit further back in the mix than I remember. The absence of a subwoofer was hardly noticeable as we felt the floor vibrate from the highly convincing soundtrack on this 2007 action comedy. The Elite Classics would certainly make for wonderful main channel speakers in a home theatre set-up.

Neat Elite Classic loudspeaker review https://the-ear.net

The more mellow yet still powerful tones of Handel’s Organ Concertos (Brandenburg Consort under Roy Goodman on Hyperion) revealed the Elite Classics’s capabilities on classical repertoire. Bringing a smile to our faces as the bird call pops out of the texture on The Cuckoo and the Nightingale in this lively performance which the Neats brought home so well.

Despite my initial concern that the Elite Classics are almost the opposite of my usual BBC-style monitors, I grew to love what they could do and agreed with the panel’s conclusions that they are capable of a lively, engaging and captivating sound even if the frequency response is not ruler flat.


In the Elite Classic, Neat have managed to revisit the past and yet bring it completely up-to-date. Originally, I expected a similar presentation to the smaller Mystiques, but just more of it. How wrong I was. The sonic values of the larger model are of incredible bass extension from a modest cabinet/driver combination, impressively wide dispersion to aid realism, and an ability to play impressively loud without distortion or intrusive overhang.

The sound is fast, invigorating and with an engaging rhythm which shows how well they can time given the right source material. For anyone who finds the Mystique rather laid-back, slightly too polite and without adequate bite, the Elite Classic is bound to satisfy. It is superbly built in the UK, and brings out the best in well-recorded music effortlessly. It’s a hi-fi sensation.


Type: 2-way bass reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
Crossover frequency: 4kHz
Drive units:
Mid/bass: 165mm R3 doped paper-cone
Tweeter: 50mm AMT
Nominal frequency response: (room-averaged stereo pair) 25Hz – 22kHz
Nominal/minimum impedance: 8 Ohms/5 Ohms
Connectors: single-wire binding posts
Sensitivity: 86dB @ 1W/1m
Dimensions HxWxD: 900 x 200 x 180mm
Weight: 13kg each
Finishes: textured black, satin white, natural oak and walnut
Warranty: 5 years (transferable)

Price when tested:
textured black, satin white £3,250
natural oak and walnut £3,500
Manufacturer Details:

Neat Acoustics
T 01833 631021


floorstanding loudspeakers


Trevor Butler

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