In the era of D/A converters, streamers and amplifiers, which work almost on the basis of the perpetual motion, the loudspeakers are the last bastion of conservatives. Of course the manufacturers of speakers experiment with new materials. They work on improving improve the performance of magnets, coils and crossovers. If someone is more inventive than the rest, they install ribbon drivers, transmission lines or passive radiators, but still - the market of loudspeakers remains very classic. Most audiophile sets are based on the ideas born a few decades ago. There is nothing wrong with that, unless the engineer is able to do everything right, according to the best practices. Xavian is a Czech factory founded 17 years ago by Roberto Barletta. It is one of those companies who adhere to the great traditions of building speakers. Barletta's name doesn't sound very Czech, because he is a purebred Italian who emigrated north because of his wife. However the change of residence didn't took away the long-standing passion of building speakers.
Thanks to the fact that our designer has found a lot of talented craftsmen in Czech Republic, the first products of Xavian have been appreciated not only because of the sound performance, but also because of the quality of the woodwork. And it's the same today. Xavian's team has increased by a few people, but the philosophy hasn't changed one bit. Barletta's company still values traditional work and gentle, very patient tuning of new models. All this sounds very expensive, but Xavian managed to maintain prices at an acceptable level. Mass production was always out of the question and the customers often have to wait for some models a little longer. Despite the large number of orders, Xavian's team weren't going to do anything just to be done with it.
The launching of the Dolce Musica series with Bonbonus monitor speakers, Delizia floorstanders and centre speakers was the biggest 'love affair' with budget price level. The series was apparently created for home theatre fans and these speakers are available in several different colours, but not everyone has understood the idea behind them. Some people expected that inexpensive Bonbonus is able to give the sound performance of the floorstanding, high-end speakers. Every reasonable person realizes that it's impossible. However, Roberto Barletta decided to create a new series of speakers for music lovers looking for nice speakers for a reasonable price. That's how the NEOX series was born, consisting of one monitor, a floorstanding speaker, the centre channel and an active subwoofer to match.
Design and functionality
The last time I had a chance to listen to Xavian speakers was a couple of years ago, so I was very curious about what Roberto Barletta created this time. Some people would be more interested in reviewing some expensive boxes, but in my opinion products like NEOX1 are far more important. They can end up in many, many living rooms, if they turn out to be good enough of course. It seems that I'm not the only one who thinks so - even the manufacturer was interested in the results of our listening sessions and waited for some news from the distributor, so I connected the speakers to the T+A E-Serie Power Plant Balanced amplifier and started warming them up right away.
Looking at these monitors I can tell that Xavian didn't go for any shortcuts. NEOX1 is one of the best looking boxes in this price range, and even quite exclusive because of the finish. Classical, angular enclosures have been made using 22-mm thick MDF and covered with natural veneer. The speakers are also equipped with a couple of elements which we would rather expect to see in more expensive products. 15-cm woofer made by Scan-Speak has a coated paper cone and the high frequencies are reproduced by a 26-mm soft dome tweeter. At the back we see a bass-reflex port made entirely of aluminium. Another nice thing are magnetically mounted grilles, thanks to which we don't have nasty black holes on the fronts. Beautiful terminals with company engravings are very nice too.
I must admit that during unpacking and placing new Xavian speakers on the stands I already had good feelings about them. Speakers which have been designed and built quickly and from nasty materials just to keep distributors happy, simply don't look like this. Xavian's boxes were never to be considered 'products' like disposable razors or cars made just to run for maybe five years or so and be easy to recycle afterwards. Here we can feel that Roberto Barletta and his craftsmen have really put some work and emotion into making these speakers, and to make sure they'll look and sound nice. NEOX1 could easily be placed next to some boxes for twice the price and I don't think anyone will notice the difference. And if so, there is a chance that the designers cared about the sound too. After four days of warming the speakers up, it's finally time to see what's what.
You will not believe how full-range sound can be created by monitors the size of shoe boxes. From the first minute it was clear to me that getting the correct tonal balance and experiencing the complete sound were the designer's priorities. I think that the it was very time-consuming to perfectly capture the moment when the sound of small speakers stops being wide and spacious and begins to fall in unpleasant humming. Certainly it was important to get the impression of listening to the floorstanding speakers and I must say that this goal was achieved. When I was listening, even to the kind of music full of low frequencies, I didn't notice any signs of overloading or choking of the speakers. The bass wasn't just strong and dense, but also well controlled and varied in terms of temperature. Only a few soundtracks from Hollywood blockbusters forced Xavians to a slight hum, but to be fair, these soundtracks cause trouble for every pair of speakers. It's difficult to disconcert Xavians with average music. To put it simply, if you are looking for monitors that can really provide the experience comparable to what's usually offered by the medium-sized sets of floorstanders, you can put NEOX1 on your list.
Good news doesn't end here. The neutrality of Czech speakers extends to the opposite edge of the bandwidth, so they are very universal as regards both the type of music and cooperation with the other elements of hi-fi system. Surely they like amplifiers with dynamic performance, but if you prefer the sound of tube amps, you shouldn't have any problems with it. The NEOX1 speakers have a bit of a pleasant warmth of paper cones. Their pleasing nature reveals itself as a smoothness and consistency of frequency range, more than the heat. Indication of the area where the speakers share their responsibilities is a very difficult task, even for the experienced audiophiles. The same can be said about assisting the woofer by the bass-reflex port. In many vented monitors in this price range, the action of bass-reflex is easily heard and - despite the gains - sometimes even burdensome. Here once again we can notice that the designer knuckled down to work and probably spent many evenings to find the correct parameters of drivers and cabinet, the way of damping, the crossover configuration and dimensions of the port. In my opinion, Xavian's team managed to find the golden mean, and this is a big asset for any music lover who already had speakers which sounded differently depending on the recording, mood, air humidity and time of day. NEOX1 offer natural performance free of unpleasant surprises. The soundstage is the icing on the cake. In theory, this should be the strength of every small monitor speaker, but the experience shows that when the engineers focus on other goals, this part can be easily spoiled. Unfortunately, at this point I also wasn't able to catch Xavians on any faults. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail the NEOX1 built broad soundstage with outlined depth and the sources had clear contours. This type of stereo imaging is very natural and should work in all conditions.
Cons? Here I really have to use my imagination, because finding any isn't such an easy task. For some people this kind of performance is too polite. If someone needs strong experience and expects hyper-transparent sound or soundstage extending to five meters behind the base line, they won't find it here. NEOX1 goes in the direction of high fidelity and this idea requires that the hi-fi equipment adds as little as possible to the music.
Build quality and technical parameters
For a long time Xavian has been using drivers from Scandinavian suppliers and in NEOX1 they even extended their cooperation because this model uses drivers designed and built to company's specifications. The woofer is a 15-cm Scan-Speak unit with a diaphragm made of coated paper, and the high frequencies are covered by a 26-mm impregnated dome with wide dispersion, not only modified for Xavian, but also bearing its logo. Two-way box is ventilated by a metal port placed at the back. The crossover point is set to 2600 Hz. This is how NEOX1 are built in theory, and how does it look in real life? Well, I have to say that these are one of those speakers you really enjoy disassembling. Starting from the bolts which don't enter the MDF panels directly, but go into special nuts mounted from the inside of each cabinet. I just had to turn the screwdriver 2-3 times and I could carry on using just my fingers. This shows how precisely these speakers are made because I recognize that it only takes 1 mm slant and I wouldn't be able to do it mostly by hand. When the drivers are out you can spot several nice details. The cables connecting the speakers to the crossover are rather thick, carefully twisted and soldered at each end. There is a thin slice of foam between the tweeter and the cabinet to control vibrations and seal the enclosure. There are also pieces of acoustic foam on each wall and more of it behind the drivers. Everything has been measured and cut perfectly, so all the pieces of foam remain where they should be. The crossover has been mounted on the back wall and the quality of components used to build it is far better than we could expect at this price range. MKP capacitors also bear Xavian's logo. It's rare to see things like this in speakers for less than €1500.
T+A E-Serie Power Plant Balanced, Primare I32 + MM30, Cardas Clear Light, Albedo Geo, Enerr AC Point One, Enerr Symbol Hybrid, Ostoja T1.
The world of audio equipment has very little to do with logic and common sense. It's filled with expensive products built out of low quality components and with technical concept worth almost nothing. However, with added philosophy and some awards one can raise the price of such products easily. Against this backdrop, the NEOX1 speakers are quite unique. Compact, sleek monitors which sound and look as if they were at least 50% more expensive. When I was listening to them, I wondered how the engineers managed to obtain such a full-range sound from such a small cabinets. Well, it's pure mathematics - good enclosures, drivers from the best suppliers, high quality components, refined details and perfect, manual assembly. In our mad world such products should be rewarded, and I am happy to do so.
Speakers type: monitor, two-way
Sensitivity: 86 dB
Impedance: 4 Ω
Frequency response: 45 Hz - 20 kHz
Dimensions (H/W/D): 30/18/25 cm