Upgrade path

Looking for a little advice.

I currently have an Olive Nac 52 + Supercap + 2x 135’s into SBL’s and I also have another 2x 135’s and a Snaxo 2-4 and had been planning to go active into SBL’s.

But recently I demoed a pair of Neat Ekstra’s using 2x 135’s and think they are definitely better than the passive SBL’s so I’m now in a bit of a quandary.

Do I continue on the active SBL route and finish what I started and buy the final missing bits I would need to go active which are a cheap rack + a Supercap and two more lengths of Nac A5 or just stay passive into better speakers?

Going active is a lot of boxes (and I’m already half way there) but if the end result is worth it then maybe I should finish the journey but maybe things have moved on in the last twenty years.

The Neat Ekstra"s have a very good frequency range (25hz- 40khz) and a nice ribbon tweeter, whereas the SBL’s lack the bottom end a little only being (30hz - 20khz).

Maybe the SBL’s would produce a better frequency range when active or might be better with an added Sub woofer.

In my experience with SBLs every upgrade revealed more of their abilities, including when I went active (with 2x-140 then 2x250). You will be amazed what they can do.

SL2s at a later date might give you that extra bass and more sophistication, but well driven active SBLs aren’t too shabby. You get ‘better’ bass active, if not rib shaking.

Not heard the Neats I am afraid. One thing that made SBL and SL2 for me is the close-to-the-wall positioning. Speakers out into the (smallish) room were not something I wanted. Not sure how the Neats are positioned.


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I’m half way there already as I already have 4x 135’s and a Snaxo 2-4, just need another cheap hifi rack + a Supercap and two more lengths of Nac A5.

The Neat’s can be placed near the wall but I found the bass was too much so preferred them away from the wall, I have a fairly large room so it’s not really important to me.

I have a chest of drawers in between the speakers and maybe the cavity underneath was acting as a bass trap/reinforcement so without a chest of drawers they may of been better.

I would be tempted to keep things simple and go with the Neats (or better). Unless going active is an itch you just have to scratch, which would be understandable

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Going active was an itch I wanted to scratch but now wondering if it’s the right direction.

Passive with the neat Ekstra’s bigger brother the Orkestra’s might be a better option

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Now that you are so close to the full active setup I’d go for it. If you buy the Supercap at a good price you could sell it on if you don’t like it. The 52/135 four pack was the pinnacle of an SBL system and it would be great to have it.

I say this having always steered clear of active due to the complexity and finicky setup. Bear in mind that if the SBL was made today it would sell for a lot of money; far more than either of the Neats.


I’ve been watching these active threads for a while, and pondering the outlay and payback in SQ terms. I can’t judge if it will be worth it, especially trying to do it “Olive”. I take comfort that the boxes are ready saleable. But I note you used the word ‘finicky’, which I’ve not seen before. Is there some dark art I need to consider?

Unless one can have all the boxes serviced and matched together i’d ditch the active idea and head for a much better passive setup instead. Active is good but it cannot be compromised, even in the smallest of instances i’ve found that it magnifies any weak link, like a hawk with a telescope - which is how it should be; really…

I’ve just been looking at the Neats online. Big and small. Wondering if the downward facing cone would work OK on suspended flooring with carpeting (where I have to keep my system :unamused:) but at the same time feeling like I do love the SBLs even in their compromised location and also drawn to do the active upgrade but stay olive. Interested therefore to follow your thinking as this progresses!

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All the 'boxes, that @Yorkshireman mentions, can be serviced… :slightly_smiling_face:

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It does seem that owning the 135s and the snaxo that you’re almost all the way there. Assuming the SBLs are healthy you have little reason not to complete the active setup. If it doesn’t press the right buttons for you, you can easily revert to passive with better speakers.

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Indeed. I did also appreciate @Stephen_Tate warning about matching too, since I’d imagine there would be variations in spec over the product life of say the 135s.


The most significant difference, in 135’s (from 1984 to 2002), is likely whether they have Holden & Fisher (up to 1993) or Nuvotem (1993 onward) transformers. The nature of the 135 as a Mono amp, means they would be bought in pairs.


Hi, As long as you have a consecutive serial number pair of 135’s there shouldn’t really be any problems as one pair is on the HF tweeters and the other pair on the LF mids or bass units.

I also have a modern suspended wooden floor with a thin commercial office type carpet in my listening room (see system pics) and I have granite plinths and Mana Sound Bases under my SBL’s.

I don’t currently have anything under the Neat Ekstra’s and they seem to be OK and they sound pretty good to me.

I originally got the Ekstra’s Ex Demo just to try out with my Nait 2 but then tried them on my main Nac 52 - Nap 135 system and they’ve stayed on there ever since.

The demo period came to an end and I ended up keeping the Ekstra’s, although I did get them at half RRP.

There bigger brother the Orkestra’s are brand new out so there won’t be any good deals on those for a while but maybe in a year or two I may look to upgrade.


Thank you, and as you mention it, I do begin to recall some of the conversations I had when l bought my 135s. It does seem an awfully long time ago now!


@Yorkshireman and @IanRobertM thank you both for your considerate responses. Very much appreciated. I’m going to look into mana stands, and will also see if I can now listen to some Neat speakers. I’m probably a ‘box obsessive’ if that’s a thing, and my gut instinct is to go active but it’s quite a £££ outlay, and best to make an informed decision.


A view often expressed, on here, can be summed up as - “Good Passive often beat Bad Active”.

A pair of Neats - or perhaps Kudos - driven by 135’s would be very nice… IMHO … :slightly_smiling_face:

(I will admit hear to having Kudos X3’s…)

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Naim SBL is a rare true piece of audio engineering. It embodies all that’s good and sensible in a loudspeaker. As such, it requires the best possible electronics.
I’ve heard many Neats and, with all due respect, the mere idea of swapping SBLs for any Neats makes me shiver.


I won’t ever sell either of my two pairs of SBL’s (Black Ash and Cherry hornslet) and I also have a new passive crossover to try on my SBL’s with much better components so hopefully they will improve them further.

Don’t get me wrong I like the SBL’s a lot but they can be a little bit forward in there presentation and they can lack the very bottom LF range.

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