Calling all of those out there that have small listening rooms and who want a floorstanding speaker. Neat Acoustics have recently released some speakers that can easily be overlooked by many hi-fi enthusiasts – I, myself overlooked them when they first arrived in the shop. The Iota Alpha is probably one of the smallest, if not the smallest, floorstanding speakers I’ve ever come across. Standing only 450mm in height, 200mm in width, and 160mm in depth I cannot think of any other floorstander this small; some standmounts are bigger than this. But, let me be the first to say, and say it with certainty, this speaker has a massive presence and shouldn’t be written off.
As hinted, I had my doubts about the Iota Alpha. I wasn’t sure what Neat Acoustics, a British based speaker manufacturer I have great respect for, were trying to accomplish by producing such a small floorstanding speaker. How could these stack up to other in their price point of £1,385? Why wouldn’t I just go for a standmount of said price point? Why would I want a floorstanding speaker that barely comes up to my knees? As these questions flooded my thoughts, I did what most reviewers do, I put them on to one my current reference system (Arcam SR250 and Naim ND5 XS) and I listened. In all honesty, I shut my eyes to convince my brain not judge it on looks alone.
“Wow! What the hell?” Were my exact words when the music started playing. With my eyes still shut, I was engulfed in this massive three-dimensional soundstage that was well beyond what I thought a speaker of this size should be able to produce. That was enough to convince me to open my eyes and not think twice about these tiny floorstanders. The speaker is designed with two isolated chambers within the cabinet. The top upward facing chamber is a modified version of Neat’s well-received Iota speakers. The Alpha uses the same 100mm mid/bass driver and the same 50mm vertical planar magnetic ribbon tweeter. I did a bit of experimenting and found that I preferred the ribbon tweeters on the outside of the speaker, rather than the inside. The mid/bass driver and tweeter work so well together to create that massive soundstage mentioned earlier. Angled up towards the listener’s direction, I never felt “off axis”, the music/soundstage was exactly where I knew it should be; so much so that after about a half hour of listening, I completely forgot about the speakers and just enjoyed my music.
Now if you’re worried that the Alphas might not be able to reproduce the full dynamic range as some larger standmount or other floorstanding speakers – wipe those fears away. Rated to go down to 33Hz, these little beauties produce a great low end thanks to their downward firing 134mm bass drive unit. The low frequency driver is housed in the second isolated chamber within the cabinet and is rear ported. Now don’t get me wrong these don’t go as low as some of the large floorstanders but that, I believe, is acceptable given the size of the cabinet and drive unit.
What these speakers do, they do well; better than I expected, to my own fault of initially writing them off. With the Arcam/Naim combo, I enjoyed the musical presentation but felt it was ever so laid back. The speakers seemed to want a bit more current, which made sense when considering their 86dB sensitivity with a nominal impedance of 4ohms. So on went the Naim SuperNait 2 and immediately the Alphas were happier with the driving force behind them. Replacing the Arcam for the Naim helped give that little extra "forward" sound, making it a much more engaging listening experience.
The Neat Iota Alpha speakers work great in small listening rooms; and will do a pretty damn good job in medium sized listening rooms but might get a little lost. I highly recommend these to those of you out there that do have small listening rooms - no longer are you restricted to only standmount speakers. Don’t be like me. Don’t write these small floorstanding speakers off before you have a chance to listen to them.
To see other Neat Acoustic products click HERE
For availability of the Iota Alpha click HERE