It’s not always possible to accommodate large speakers in our listening spaces. We are not all MotiveSX1pairfortunate enough to have large living rooms or rooms dedicated solely to Hifi. With the constraints of a modern home, should we consider this factor a limitation on obtaining great sound quality from a small package?

The Motive SX1 floorstanding loudspeakers from UK manufacturer Neat acoustics, are full range, 3 driver units with a modest footprint of only 22cm x 26cm. They also stand a reasonable 92cm in height, never really imposing themselves on the home or its décor.

Coming in a large range of real wood veneers and any other specialist finish to order, you can rest assured that whatever any significant “other” may deem fit for the living room then the Neats can accommodate!

The finish I was sent was Natural Oak, coincidently matching my listening room perfectly. The bottom of the speaker has a black plinth and under the plinth is the reflex port, firing downwards to once again allow for further ease of placement in the room.

Driver compliment is a 25mm inverted polydome tweeter surrounded by foam for reflection absorption and two 13.5cm doped paper cone mid/bass drivers.

The cabinet which houses the drivers leans backwards by a few degrees helping to aim the tweeters more towards the ears and to control time alignment. The cabinet is pretty inert and the overall finish is very nice indeed from top to bottom where a set of spikes raise that downward firing port above floor level.

Setting Up

Although the SX1 have a down firing port, placement is still somewhat crucial but… not as much as rear firing speakers. With my room being about 15 foot wide I found the Neats to work exceptionally well at about 7 feet apart tweeter to tweeter, less than a foot from the back wall provided the best bass response across a broad range of music and in line with my various room interactions. Toeing in was minimal and the speakers sat almost flat, reproducing a wide soundstage with strong centre focus.

Running In

Straight out of the box the SX1 had an over-lively top end which showed up some brash artifacts at neatfrontcropbeyond average listening levels. Bass response offered a leanness restricting lower mids from sounding full and fleshed out.

Moving towards 60 hours of average volumes to break the drivers in, a richer tone began to come through allowing piano notes to have more body. The top end gained better control and edges had less sharpness allowing guitar, strings and cymbals to show more character.

The midrange of the SX1 is slightly forward of flat, well pronounced and, after around 100-120 hours use, well fleshed out, bringing lower-mid upper-bass frequencies into more cohesion with the whole. This added period of running-in time, where volume levels could be raised more comfortably, gave a more relaxed and confident overall appeal to the presentation. With a little care and patience, as with any other new component, this running-in period always benefits long lasting performance.

The Sound

As already mentioned, the SX1 does have a slightly forward midband with female vocalists sounding clean and fully formed, offering great projection from a height in the soundstage and which directly compares to any other larger speakers in my listening space. The few degrees of rearward lean to these loudspeakers offers the presence that a realistic soundstage should portray, despite the cabinets physical dimensions.

The very top and lower end of the SX1 is slightly more recessed than the mid-band. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the top end is rolled off, but its slightly more laid back nature allows for female vocals to hold body and extension without any harshness.

On the flip side the overall cabinet size does only allow for a degree of real bottom end. I found the height of the spikes and flooring material adds to the overall bass response, so have a play with granite slabs on carpet and spike shoe’s height as well as the height of the spike itself.

Playing male vocals always allows me to hear well through the lower-mid reproduction. The Neats for their size really don’t do too bad a job in my more average sized room, allowing for good undertones if not really filling out the lower tones of deeper vocals. If I had to make any compromises with a sound and had to state a key feature I want in a speaker, then for me it’s a strongly projected vocal and the SX1 for their size and price point do tick that box with a thick marker pen.

Moving on to soundstage attributes I was once again very impressed with the height capabilities of the SX1. Soundstage width was beyond the cabinets’ outer width and the front to back image was pretty good, giving a better rear sensation behind me with particular music/tracks than depth behind the speakers which was shallow.

Dynamically the Neats have a better punch than deep slam and give a strong dynamic range when it comes to midrange notes which resulted in a responsive and convincing vocal with energy and presence.

The top-end conveys good smaller details and flares of small dynamics, especially around the neatsidecropboundaries of the room, allowing for an open stage that doesn’t sound forced but remains controlled and restrained.

Considering all these factors I can understand why a lot of people enjoy Naim amplification with Neats, adding top-end excitement and lower end slam which will balance the overall presentation better than my Emille or Kavent amps could. The Kavent did however give the SX1 a good bit of juice which they responded to more emphatically, allowing them to offer better drive and pace.

Conclusions

The Neat SX1 is a small speaker for the big music fan. Combined with some good solid state muscle they will deliver good strong notes across a broad range of musical genres, giving an exciting and engrossing sound which will keep the avid listener satisfied.

The finish is particularly nice on the Neats and the wood grain has nice texture. Placement of the speakers will need to be paid attention to, but the design implementation makes it nowhere near as tricky to extract the best from them in any modern home.

With the addition of complimentary speakers for a full theatre experience, a good solid 2 channel amp running with home theatre bypass into a surround setup would offer a complete system for all requirements.RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Dan Worth
Build Quality – 8/10
Sound Quality – 8/10
Value For Money – 8/10
Overall – 8/10

Price at time of review – £1888

Recommended – for their flexibility of placement, soundstaging abilities and strong midrange.

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