That Was Then... Neat Petite review

That Was Then... Neat Petite review

Neat Acoustics began life as a hi-fi shop based in Darlington, County Durham. North Eastern Audio Traders, as it was called then, saw a gap in the market for a musical small speaker and decided to develop one. The process lasted 18 months, and the result was the Neat Petite. The speakers got the What Hi-Fi? review treatment in 1993.

The £525 standmounters' plain appearance and relatively low-tech drive units might have made it look like a budget offering, but the sound quality was terrific. Neat’s unusual design process – where listening took priority over measurement – resulted in a truly entertaining performance.

The Petites sounded best on solid stands, positioned relatively close to a rear wall, and they craved a quality input. While they’d produce a pleasing sound with price-compatible kit, a move to top-end electronics and a suitably capable source lifted performance notably.

These bookshelf speakers timed brilliantly and delivered dynamic shifts with enthusiasm. These were speakers through which to enjoy, rather than analyse, music.

As the name suggests, they are small, standing just 30cm high. The lack of stature made the omission of truly deep bass understandable, but get past the lack of extension and you’d find the lows as tuneful as they come.

The more recent Neat Motive SX3 speakers have inherited much of the originals’ character. Moving with the times, they are smarter in finish and deliver a greater degree of insight and tonal accuracy. Yet at heart they remain speakers that make listening to music fun – and that’s a talent to be cherished.

Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.