To get a flavour of the firepower that Neo Four brings to the table, we started by listening to Hellboy II: The Golden Army on Blu-ray with the subwoofer turned off. Watch the brilliant scene in which a giant plant rips up the streets under Brooklyn Bridge and straight away you get a sense of their larger scale and extra potency compared with the original Neo V2 system, lending unfeasible amounts of attack and drive to the sound of cars being crunched up and the plant’s thunderous footsteps. They really are a force to be reckoned with.
The dual low-frequency driver arrangement lends considerable bass weight. Blasts from Hellboy’s shotgun have a chest thumping richness, and during quiet scenes you can hear it gently underpinning the background ambience. If for any reason you can’t be arsed to switch on the sub then rest assured this system is capable of some very satisfying low-end performance without it. But in a normal 7.1 setup, the subwoofer’s performance is superb, blending smoothly with the Fours and delivering tight, nimble bass tones.
And despite Neo Four’s commanding presence and room-filling potency, they also work cohesively with the Neo Threes, Ones and Centre. The interplay is sharp and exciting and effects whizz round the expansive soundstage with pin-sharp precision but no fluctuation in tone. The pair of Neo Ones make a telling contribution to the 7.1 setup too thanks their crisp detail and surprisingly solid low frequencies.
Overall sound is wonderfully detailed, with high frequencies like tinkling glass and rustling plant life fizzing and popping from each speaker. Dialogue sounds great too, never struggling to be heard over the considerable din being made by the Neo Fours on either side.
Finally we checked the Neo Fours in isolation with two-channel music and we were treated to a smooth, articulate and intensely detailed performance. Their natural bass depth provides plenty of warmth and substance, which made the laid-back jazz of Blue In Green by Miles Davis sound heavenly. From the velvety sax and trumpet solos to the gentle drums and stirring piano chords, these speakers easily convey the emotion of the music and you can’t ask for more than that.
The Acoustic Energy Neo Max system comes highly recommended. You get an awful lot of boxes for your money, and the first-rate build quality across the entire system makes the seemingly high asking price actually seem like a bit of a steal. But when you hear them, you might even feel like giving AE a little bit more money for their trouble. The new Neo Fours are a revelation, adding extra potency to what was already a kick-ass system, ably supported by a team of other top-drawer speakers.