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This review first appeared in the April 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Neat Ultimatum XL6 in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Neat - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog – deck - Acoustic Solid MPX; tone arms - Phonotools Vivid-Two, SME M2 12-inch; carts - Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Zu Audio DL-103; phono pre - SAC Gamma Sym; digital - (SA)CD player - Luxman D-05; Computer & Co - Logitech Squeezebox 3, Readynas Duo NAS-Server, HP Notebook; DAC - Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: Preamp - Octave HP300 with MC phono; power amp -  Electrocompaniet AW180; integrated - Denon PMA-2010AE
Loudspeaker: Ascendo System F, Thiel SCS4
Sundry accessories, cables, racks etc
Review component retail:

At first glance the fact that this speaker contains six drivers is confounding. Sitting down only two are apparent.

Standing up two funny ones add themselves on the top. That makes four. Yet the speaker calls itself Ultimatum XL6.

An ultimatum with Neat Acoustics means that one belongs to their top of the range. Blue blood. XL however refers not to cab size which I’d peg more of an ‘M’ but (to add confusion) aims at the treble unit. Drivers five and six then hide at the bottom and inside.

But I’m not investigating the merits of model names. I’m writing a review on this Brit marquee’s third-largest and third priciest speaker. After the decidedly smaller but pretty whoa Motive SE2 had been our guest over the fall, something grander was called for next. Grander is relative of course. Though relevant vis-à-vis the Motive SE2, the actual tester’s sticker make its dimensions seem immodestly modest. One meter tall, 22cm broad and 37 deep isn’t exactly he-man strapping. Actually it’s about 70% less voluminous than my Ascendo System F – minus the latter’s base and tweeter module. In short (cough) the Utimatum XL6 is stumpy enough to be tolerated by the women but not short enough to have self-respecting he-folk feel castrated.

It’s a pretty clever optical compromise. And, it doesn’t steal from bass performance to come off. Let’s move closer to the enclosure first. It’s predominantly crafted from Birch ply. Such a choice more than one maker rationalizes with lower self resonance and thus sonic superiority over the ubiquitous MDF. You’re also told—and Neat chimes in as well—-that its relative rarity in such usage is due to rather more involved manufacturing procedures. Even so the Brits opt for MDF with their discrete and black front and top baffles. Those are bonded to the Ply carcass via polyethylene foil.

The resultant triple sandwich of MDF, polyethylene and Ply supposedly suppresses resonances yet further. In this it is aided and abetted by the inner five-chamber structure whose primary aim is to shield the drivers from the acoustic ruckus of the others of course but whose requisite bracing also stiffens the cabinet. Six drivers, five chambers, ceiling-facing baffle? That’s a bit out of the ordinary. The cross-section sketch below reveals the two most relevant details about that. On the ‘roof’ sit two magnetostatic tweeters or EMIT units, which, so designer Bob Surgeoner, "are positioned to inject airiness into the sound image which means they needn’t aim at the listener". Obviously only a few speakers bother with super tweeters, never mind two of 'em. The EMITs of the Ultimatum XL6 work above 13kHz to parallel the front-firing dome.

The second wrinkle applies to the opposite end of the spectrum. Downfiring per se is quite common though it mostly means a port rather than driver (the Neat twin ports for the mid/woofer and bass system aim out the back) but the XL6 arrays its woofers in an isobaric config. Here two drivers in matching polarity are staggered one behind the other. As Surgeoner explains the chief advantage is half the necessary cabinet volume to achieve the same F3 as a single woofer would.

That’s good for the stumpy diplomacy between sexes. But nothing is free and this scheme lowers efficiency by 3dB to mandate twice the amplifier power. As further asset we’re told that staggered drivers loaded into the same air volume control each other for reduced overshoot and thus cleaner more articulate bass.