While there’s no shortage of great speakers at the two grand mark, if you need something that sounds best close to a wall, you’ll still struggle. That’s where Neat’s Ministras come in. They’re specifically designed to do that job, with a suggested initial placement of just 20cm into the room.
Impedance 4 ohms
Max power 100W
Dimensions (hwd) 30 x 17 x 29cm
But there’s more to these standmounters than just convenient positioning – there’s some unusual engineering too. Neat has long used ribbon tweeters, so it’s not a surprise to find one here.
It’s a 50mm unit that’s claimed to offer excellent dynamics over dome alternatives. In this installation, it’s mated to a pair of 13.4cm treated paper mid/bass drivers arranged in an isobaric configuration, one behind the other.
The idea is to keep the air pressure behind the front driver consistent, fooling it into behaving as though it is working in a larger enclosure, with all the benefits in bass extension and dynamics that implies.
This kind of dual-driver arrangement remains relatively rare because of the extra cost of the hidden second mid/bass unit and the complicity of design and build. Perceived value is affected too, because the buyer can’t see this extra hardware.
Neat uses such a configuration in a number of its models, but we’re surprised to find it in something so small. However, it goes a long way to explaining the Ministras’ premium price, which is reflected in the build too. While this Neat doesn’t quite display the sophistication of finish found on speakers from industry majors such as B&W or KEF, the Ministras are certainly tidy and well made.
Their cabinet is about the size of a large shoebox and feels immensely strong and rigid, while the sculpted front panel echoes the shapes used on the company’s high-end Ultimatum range, adding visual character. There are three standard finishes: American walnut, black oak and satin white.
These are fairly demanding speakers. They have a claimed sensitivity of 86dB/W/m and that’s with 4ohm nominal impedance. You’ll need an amplifier with a bit of poke to get the best from them. Something like Naim’s SuperNait 3 integrated amplifier or Rega’s Aethos would work well.
We start with the speakers placed as per Neat’s recommendations, and they perform well enough. With further experimentation, we find that a distance of around 30cm works best with our system in a medium-sized test room. Even so, these speakers prove impressively unfussy overall, giving pretty balanced results anywhere from 10cm to 70cm into the room.
We angle the boxes slightly towards the listening position to firm up the stereo imaging, but even here the speakers don’t prove overly fussy. They benefit from solid stands though, so while their small size might tempt you to put them on a bookshelf, they won’t sound optimum there.
These Neats need an extended run-in period. The company suggests 200 hours, which is way longer than that needed by most rivals. But things sound good from around 50 hours onwards, so it shouldn’t be an issue for most people.
We’re really impressed by the Ministras’ bass, considering their compact nature. Listen to a demanding album such as Hans Zimmer’s Inception OST and it’s surprising just how muscular these speakers sound at low frequencies. Bass notes are taut and dig down much deeper than expected. If you know the music well you’ll realise that the Neats aren’t giving you everything, but they cover their tracks with skill.
Listening to Mombasa proves the speaker’s ability to keep a tight hold of a multitude of instrumental strands without losing grip. The result is a musically cohesive presentation that communicates the energy of the track well.
Tonally, these aren’t the most neutral around, but they are balanced enough to avoid complaint. There’s a pleasing amount of body to the presentation and despite a tweeter that’s revealing (and capable of plenty of bite) we have no issue with refinement. These standmounters are essentially honest; feed them a poor signal and you’ll know about it, but they don’t go out of their way to be nasty.
Switching to Melody Gardot’s The Absence shows off the Ministras’ talented midrange. Gardot’s distinctive voice comes through with solidity and passion intact, while the complex instrumental backing is conveyed with assurance. These boxes are great at organising information and presenting it in a natural and convincing way.
The Ministras aren’t perfect, though. Neat’s speakers normally excel when it comes to rhythmic drive, but that’s not quite the case here. These are competent, but lack a little verve. The same could be said of the way they handle dynamic contrasts. The difference in intensity between different musical strands isn’t as profound as it could be.
The results are still entertaining, but we know more is possible at this level. Perhaps that’s the price paid to get so much performance out of such a small box.
For many, these trade-offs will be more than acceptable given the advantages of having such a small speaker that’s so easy to accommodate. We have no issue with that.
The Ministras remain hugely capable performers that, in the right set-up, still deliver a sound that is capable of stirring the soul. That’s a strong enough reason to give them a good long audition.
- Sound 4
- Compatibility 4
- Build 4
Read our ATC SCM19 review
The footprint of those stands and the volume of space that the stands + speakers effectively occupy make no sense, in terms of being small objects. A very capable £2000-worth of floor stander could occupy the same volume in a room, standing on the same footprint, and provide superior results.
The bête-noir of speakers like this was rumbled when the review mentioned the drop-off in performance if the speakers had to go 'on a shelf'