NEAT ACOUSTICS MINISTRA > Stereonet – Applause Award
A hi-fi manufacturer is only as good as its products. Of course, grand brands sensibly trade off their heritage – but ultimately if something sounds good, it should sell regardless. That is what has kept Neat in business over the years – founder Bob Surgeoner is a passionate guitarist who started a company to make speakers he personally wanted to hear. Since then, his authentic, no-nonsense approach has won him many ardent fans.
Over the past year or two, a number of exceptionally good small standmounters have appeared on the market. To these ranks, we must now add the new Neat Ministra. Whether it’s “the best” or not is down to personal taste, but it’s certainly first among equals at the price, and of some designs costing a good deal more.
Tonally, it doesn’t make everything it plays sound like it was recorded in the same studio. The spiky ska of The Specials’ Ghost Town comes across with a different texture to the sleek soul/funk of George Benson’s Give Me The Night, for example. The Ministra tells the listener in no uncertain terms that there’s a slight mid-forwardness to Terry Hall’s vocals on this classic Specials track. At the same time, you can hear the mastering engineer on the George Benson track has pushed up the fader on the upper bass for example, and the great man’s voice is slightly more recessed than perhaps it should be – considering how silky smooth it already is. This is a trick that some speakers at five or six times the Neat’s price fail to pull off – and it’s a testament to the quality of the drive units and a cabinet that’s stiff enough to let them do their job properly.
Soundstaging was excellent, although the Ministra proved sensitive to both running in (it needs a good hundred hours or so) and to warming up. When suitably settled in, this little box again belied its small size to throw out a most capacious stereo image. I really enjoyed the super-precise image placement with Japan’s Quiet Life. This synth-driven new romantic classic is very well recorded, and I heard a panoramic recorded acoustic that pulled me right in. Stage depth wasn’t quite as impressive but was still seriously capable at the investment price being asked – so it would be churlish to complain. Overall then, whatever music I threw at this small speaker, it just kept on getting into the groove, making music magic and surprising me with its dimension-defying performance.
Whether you’re after your first serious standmounter or downsizing from a big box but cannot live without realistic sounding music, Neat’s Ministra is an essential audition. With its wonderfully open, informative and enjoyable sound, right now it’s the class of the sub-£2,000 field – and any prospective purchaser of small speakers should hear it if they possibly can. Thanks to its excellent packaging, classy drive units and isobaric loading it shows that sometimes, less can actually be more.
– David Price, Stereonet | May, 2020