It’s fair to say most hi-fi speakers are demanding houseguests. Most we test intrude quite heavily into the living space, refusing to sound balanced when placed near rear or side walls, let alone close to a corner.

It’s as though engineers in the speaker industry, as a whole, are so focused on getting the best sound under optimum conditions they seem to forget most people can’t devote a room solely to hi-fi. That’s why Neat’s original Iotas (£735) proved such a breath of fresh air when they were launched in 2011.

These are tiny speakers that can fit anywhere, from a windowsill to a shelf, and still sound good. Sure, if you pamper them with proper stands and precision placement they perform even better, but the point here is you don’t automatically need to.

Their unfussy nature was successfully transferred over the floorstanding versions, the Award-winning Alphas (£1385). These odd-looking boxes are barely tall enough to graze a knee, yet still manage to sound better than most conventional alternatives.

The latest members of the family, the Xplorers, are even more ambitious. Priced in premium territory, they have to couple the Iota’s friendly nature with the quality of performance of more overtly purist designs. Read more from…

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