Neat Majistra Standmount Speaker Review
- A glorious balance of impact, scale, speed and refinement
- Easy to position
- Very well made
- Require a reasonable amount of power
- Will put a little of their own spin on a presentation
- Not the prettiest speaker at the price
Introduction - What Is the Neat Majistra?
The Neat Majistra is a two way standmount speaker. It is the fourth member of the Strata range of speakers that has the curious distinction of not originally being intended to be a range of speakers at all. The company originally envisaged the Ekstra floorstander to be just that; an extra model that allowed Neat to offer a slim, small form factor floostander in addition to its other models. The performance that the Ekstra delivered was sufficiently good though that it warranted further development. From the Ekstra came the Ministra - still one of the most talented speakers I’ve tested anywhere near the price.
Then, Neat’s founder and head, Bob Surgeoner, returned to the Ekstra and investigated what would happen if the driver layout and the cabinet that held them were scaled up. The resulting Orkestra is more than a ‘big Ekstra’; it does things that the slimmer speaker cannot and it is an absolutely stellar speaker that didn’t pass through at entirely the right time for it to be reviewed here. Happily, the Majistra; a standmount relative of the Orkestra in the same way the Ministra is to the Ekstra, allows me to partially redress this.
Of course, previous results are not a guarantee of future performance and the Majistra pitches into a keenly contested part of the market. Can this final instalment of the Strata series deliver on the qualities of the Orkestra in a more usefully compact form factor? It’s time to find out.
Specification and Design
Key to understanding the work involved in creating the Majistra is pointing out that the difference between Neat standmounts and floorstanders is rather more profound than taking a saw to the lower cabinet and sealing the bottom. Neat floorstanders frequently (but not exclusively) make use of a pair of drivers, arranged in a downward firing isobaric pattern, at the bottom of the cabinet. This gives frequently very slim and elegant looking speakers a punch that can be momentarily surprising to the uninitiated. The larger driver you see on the front of an Orkestra is a midrange device and voiced as such. Chopping the bottom off and going “bosh, Standmount!” would be unsatisfactory.
This means that the Majistra is closely related to the Ministra internally. Behind the 170mm cone you can see is another forward firing 170mm cone that you can’t. This gives the Majista a huge radiating area for a standmount speaker. Furthermore, as the radiating area is split over two drivers, there’s less issue around starting, stopping and controlling the equivalent larger driver. The drivers themselves are doped paper units and the same basic configuration as the ones used in the Orkestra.
The tweeter is also carried over from the Orkestra. It is a 60mm ribbon design and it is mounted flush to the front baffle with the only recess being down to the ribbon itself being recessed in its own housing. It is worth noting this is not the same driver as is used in the Ministra. It’s 10mm larger which makes this a relatively unusual phenomenon in that both drivers different to the smaller model. The well-publicised benefits of ribbon designs; ultra low mass helping them generate high frequencies more effortlessly, have to be offset against their lower roll off being more pronounced than a dome. This means that the Majistra crosses over to the midbass at 3.5kHz, comfortably higher than what many rivals are up to (although, worth noting that some dome designs choose this point too).
Both drivers mount to the cabinet in the same way as the other members of the range. This process is derived from the range topping Ultimatum designs and attaches the drivers firmly to the front baffle. This is then attached to the cabinet with a polyethene membrane between the two sections as a means of decoupling them. It’s a different approach to the often seen idea of decoupling by rear mounting the drivers and mounting them firmly but in a decoupled manner against the front baffle but one that has scope to be no less effective. The cabinet itself is MDF with internal bracing; including a very significant partition to mount the second 170mm driver. There is a rear port but, proportionate to the rest of the speaker it’s relatively small and mounted behind the tweeter, operating at a lower velocity. Neat sees it more as a means of equalising pressure than boosting the low end.
The crossover that mates the two drivers is a minimal design that makes use of 1st and 2nd order slopes. In keeping with Neat’s design philosophy going back decades, the crossover employs a smaller number of high quality components like voltage propylene capacitors and air core conductors rather a more complex system with a greater number of lower quality devices. The philosophy is one of a ‘light touch’ approach rather than the more heavy duty methodology favoured by some rivals. Something that’s fairly unusual is that, as standard, the Ministra is fitted with a single set of speaker terminals but you can ask for it to be equipped for biwiring at no extra cost.
The speaker that results from this is possessed of the unique set of pros and cons that goes with isobaric designs. Neat suggests an in-room roll-off of 25Hz which is simply outstanding for a standmount speaker and that ribbon assists in a claimed upper frequency of 40kHz. The caveat to this is that the impedance is a fixed four ohms and the claimed sensitivity of 88dB/w feels a little optimistic in use. This is not a desperately hard speaker to drive but it does benefit from a little power and current behind it.
Something that is easier to see in the flesh rather than in the pictures is that the Majstra is not a ‘big Ministra.’ The proportions are different, with the Majistra being proportionally wider, with a total volume of around 18 litres to the Ministra’s 10. As if to emphasise the differences in the overall design, where on the Ministra, the front baffle takes up the whole forward part of the speaker, on the Majistra, it is not full height. This leaves a small strake beneath the baffle in the same colour as the rest of the cabinet. For me, this is a significant aesthetic improvement, helping to make the front of the speaker look less austere. I’d still argue that this is not the prettiest speaker you can buy for the money; compared to the similarly priced Kudos Cardea C10, it’s fussier and more imposing, but it is far from unattractive.
It’s also very solidly built. Again, you can find speakers at the price which have a higher perceived ‘finish’ (as distinct from the manner in which something is physically bolted together) but the Majistra has a no nonsense solidity that is very appealing. Four finishes; white, black ash, natural oak and American walnut. The oak finish is what the review samples were supplied in and it should work in a decent selection of rooms.
Behind the 170mm cone you can see is another forward firing 170mm cone that you can’t. This gives the Majista a huge radiating area for a standmount speaker
How Was the Majistra tested?
The samples have been tested with: a Naim Supernait 3 connected to a Chord Qutest and iFi ZEN Stream running as a Roon Endpoint; a Cambridge Audio Edge A connected to a Zidoo Neo S streamer and Michell GyroDec, SME309 arm and Goldring Ethos cartridge running via Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage; with some limited running also done using the Technics SU-G700Mk2 integrated amp connected to a Roon Nucleus via USB. Material used has been FLAC, AIFF, DSD, Tidal Qobuz and vinyl.
More: Audio Formats
Some of the products I test here have a degree of nuance to what they do that takes to time to unpick and contextualise. In one key regard, the Majistra is not one of those products. It possesses a level of low end impact that is simply glorious for a relatively compact speaker. There are arguments to be found on this very forum about the merits of transmission lines vs isobarics but for me, there’s very little that gets anywhere near what the Majistra can do.
The key thing to note is that the extension is not the ‘killer app.’ Sure, it’s a whisker under 34Hz in this room before the Ministra drops out the +/-3dB threshold but the KEF LS50 Meta can get fairly close to that for less than a third of the price. What the KEF (and indeed most other speakers) cannot touch is the speed and control that comes with it. The Majistra hits like a heavyweight and moves like a featherweight. It’s absolutely integral to what Neat Speakers are about and this doesn’t let the side down.
Furthermore, this is something that benefits pretty much all music rather than things you associate as benefitting from bass. Sure, the manner in which the Majistra tears into Shades by The Chameleons is glorious; an absolute Sunday punch of impact and control, but it also fills out Neptune by the Olympians into something that is utterly and convincingly room filling. This is a standmount with a remarkable relationship with scale; one that you traditionally need to be another rung up the ladder (think B&W 805D4 or Kudos Titan 505) to experience.
Good things are happening at the other end of the frequency response too. Having also spent time with the Ekstra and Orkestra, the most significant difference between the two speakers is that the Orkestra’s ability to recreate scale is a full spectrum affair. The upper registers are wonderfully open and airy without losing the means of creating a convincing soundstage. Ribbon tweeters are one of many parts of Hi-Fi where, if you look over the benefits, you’d question why you’d use anything else when, in reality, they come with a lively selection of caveats to them too. This is one of the most viceless implementations I’ve experienced. It crosses over neatly and imperceptibly to the mid bass drivers and tonality is absolutely even from top to bottom.
The nature of this tonality is something that does warrant a note of caution if not an outright ‘warning.’ As noted in the ‘how it was tested’ section, the Neat has been used with three (very) different amps. Across all of them, it has largely exhibited the same admirable qualities throughout This will mean different things to different people. For those of you looking for a warts and all monitor, this is probably not your final destination. For those of you looking for a speaker that seemingly delivers its qualities with anything that can power it correctly, the Majistra could well be the tonic you need.
In some ways, given this determination to plough its own furrow, the most intriguing competition for the Majistra comes from its own stablemate the Ekstra. The floorstander is £200 cheaper (and doesn’t need stands) and those elegant proportions will win many friends. The downward firing isobarics also pack a mighty punch too - probably a little harder than what the standmount can achieve. Where the Majstra hits back is that greater sense of space at the top end and the nature of how it ‘puts its power down.’ Use the Ekstra on a suspended floor and its virtues tend to suffer as those two drivers set the floor off. So long as it is on a sturdy stand, the Majistra does what it does almost anywhere. I suspect that, however close they may appear on paper, most Neat dealers won’t struggle to justify having both in the shop at once.
It possesses a level of low end impact that is simply glorious for a relatively compact speaker
Neat Majistra Standmount Speaker Review
The Majistra arrives at a price point contested by the Editor’s Choice winning Kudos Cardea C10 and just below that of PMC’s compact but supremely capable twenty5.23i. I’ve enjoyed having all three of them here but I think the most interesting aspect of them is that they speak for three slightly different models of making a speaker and will in turn appeal to different people. The manner in which the Kudos gels with amps like the Supernait 3 forever hits a soft spot of mine. It’s a gloriously compelling partnership and it’s barely less convincing with other amps; an unforced, invigorating delight. The PMC offers ‘just so’ accuracy (it’s comfortably the most transparent) and remarkable room friendliness too. If you need to know what you’re hearing is right, it’s the closest to a monitor.
The Majistra is by contrast, a carefully honed device that runs on just about anything with fifty watts or more to its name and uses it to deliver a sound that it big, cohesive and enormous fun. As I type this conclusion up, it’s hammering its way through the Mammoth WVH album on the end of the Technics and it’s all I can do not to stop typing and do some (crap) air guitar. As a device for taking any music collection you can imagine and delivering it enjoyably in almost any space you envisage, it is truly one of the most tractable speakers I’ve tested at any price. The final member of the Strata family might just be the most complete all rounder of the range too and it comes Highly Recommended.
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