|Aperion Audio Intimus System D Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Matt Evert|
|Wednesday, 01 September 2004|
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By now, as a tech-savvy Audio Video Revolution reader, you have likely heard of Dell Computers and their business model of selling customized PCs directly to customers. Aperion Audio takes a similar approach to selling customized, entry-level high-performance speaker systems directly to the consumer. Aperion Audio was formed in1998, a result of founder/CEO Win Jeanfreau’s personal quest to find an inexpensive yet excellent-sounding speaker system. Disappointed with the prices of the quality speakers that he wanted, Jeanfreau started his own speaker company to meet a market niche that at the time was not being addressed.
Aperion Audio offers Internet direct speaker systems to consumers at affordable prices, but what sets them apart from the household brands is their desire to please the customer. In the same ways that dealers are willing to work with you, Aperion’s sales staff will help you craft the perfect affordable speaker solution for your system. They also sell a few other electronics products, cables and accessories to complement their speaker offerings.
The Intimus 5.1 System D being reviewed is Aperion’s flagship product and retails for $2,337. Before getting into the guts of the speakers, it’s important to note what buying direct from Aperion offers. The buying experience is much improved over the traditional methods of going to a stereo store or buying from an online retailer. First, their web site is really helpful and offers a truly simple online system for figuring out what kind of speakers will perform best in your room. You input the dimensions of your room, answer a few simple questions and are then given several recommendations to select from, based on your budget. This “wizard” isn’t exclusive to Aperion but, much like a lease calculator helps you figure out if you can afford a certain car, this online feature allows you a chance to see which speakers are best for you from the comfort of your home office.
There are multiple ways to get assistance from Aperion before and after your purchase via the Web and phone. Since Aperion is the manufacturer, they tend to have a more knowledgeable staff that are more empowered to help solve your issues than many traditional AV retail outlets. Without the retailers and a rep network being involved, Aperion can significantly reduce the cost of selling the product, resulting in lower prices to the consumer (and no tax). Best of all, you get a 30-day audition period, so that if you are not totally happy with the speakers, you simply call Aperion and send ‘em back. Aperion offers free shipping both ways and a full refund. How safe is that?
Investing in new speakers can be a big deal. Auditioning the components allows you to evaluate them in your home and see if you can hear the improvement in your sound with the electronics you already own. Many expensive speakers sound “just okay” to certain listeners’ ears, so it is always important to listen to a new set of speakers using your music, maybe your own (or comparable) electronics and preferably your own room before making a big decision. Most high-end stereo stores will allow serious buyers (this is left to the discretion of the salesperson or management) to audition a component or speaker for a few days in their homes. You are expected to buy something at retail prices. Aperion eliminates this pressure on the consumer. If you aren’t completely impressed, you simply send their speakers back. They are confident that they have speakers that will surpass your expectations at a lower price than famous name speakers at a traditional retailer.
Aperion Audio asked me the size of my room and elected to send me their premium speaker system (System D) and some stands. This particular system includes two Intimus 522D-LR bookshelf speakers, two Intimus 522D-PT powered tower speakers, one Intimus 522D-VAC center channel speaker, and one Intimus S-10 powered subwoofer. The speakers are available in cherry or high-gloss black. The cherry finish is well done, having a natural look to it, so I elected to use that with my system. The high gloss is coated seven times with a piano-like black finish. The appearance of the speakers is very simple and basic, yet elegant. The speakers resemble fine furniture, yet don’t go overboard with coatings and polish. The enclosure ports are discretely located and the driver grilles are more functional than fancy.
The 522D-PT powered tower speakers stand a little over three feet tall (41.5 inches), nine-and-three-quarter inches wide, and 12.75 inches deep. At 50 pounds, this speaker is both solid and heavy, as are all of the Aperion speakers in this review. The 150-watt amplifier is partially responsible for this. It is also due to the fact the enclosures are made of one-inch HDF (high density fiberboard) versus MDF (medium density fiberboard), which most manufacturers use. HDF is better, since it is the same density at the edges of the sheet as it is at the center. Having thicker walls in the speaker enclosure yields a more inert and less colored speaker. The 522D-PT speaker features a five-and-one-quarter-inch midrange driver, a one-inch tweeter and an eight-inch powered subwoofer. Aperion’s DiAural Crossover aids a smooth frequency response from 30Hz to 20KHz with minimal distortion. The sensitivity is rated at 88dB and the impedance is eight ohms.
The 522D-PT towers run $599 each and come with everything you will need to set them up in your home. Brass spikes and footers are included for positioning on carpet or hardwood floors. A power cable is supplied to feed the built-in amplifier. A volume knob in the back allows the user to adjust the level of volume output of the subwoofer. A 110/220-voltage switch allows the tower to be used in Europe and other countries with 220V outlets. A power switch and LED power on allows the user the ability to turn off the built-in subwoofer.
All the Aperion speakers’ midrange drivers use a paper cone treated with PVA to provide stiffness without significant additional weight. The cone is nestled within a rubber surround and a polymer chassis. The eight-inch-long throw subwoofer is constructed using polypropylene. The one-inch dome tweeters employ a coated silk diaphragm instead of the coated paper. All of the speakers provide five-way binding posts to allow for most types of wire connection.
The 522D-LR bookshelf speakers run $180 each and sport the same ported HDF enclosures as the towers. The tweeters and midrange drivers are of the same materials as the towers. More importantly, the drivers are matched with the tower’s drivers, resulting in quicker dampening of lower frequencies below 1500Hz. The 552-LRs stand 11.5 inches tall, seven-and-one-third inches wide, and eight inches deep. At 12.5 pounds each, these monitors are rather heavy and as a result feature two threaded inserts at the back of the speaker for wall mounting. A bottom insert is present for bookshelf stand mounting as well. The 522D-LRs have the same sensitivity and impedance as the towers, but the frequency response range is higher at 80Hz to 20KHz.
The 522D-VAC center channel speaker adds crisp dialogue to your home theater and runs $280. Like the other speakers, the center features the same tweeter with a-five-and-one-quarter-inch midrange driver, but adds an additional four-inch driver. This additional driver better handles the lower midrange (900Hz to 2500Hz) dialogue that exists in most movies. This sealed HDF enclosure stands seven-and-one-third inches tall, 19 inches tall, and eight inches deep. It boasts similar dimensions to the bookshelf speakers, except the frequency response is 80Hz to 18KHz and the weight is a stout 20 pounds.
The $499 S-10 powered subwoofer provides low-frequency abundance for this system. The 56-pound HDF enclosure sports an asymmetric bracing system, which minimizes standing waves generated by the cabinet. The sealed cabinet of the subwoofer stands 17.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide and 19 inches deep. The 10-inch subwoofer is rated at four ohms impedance and has a frequency response of 25Hz to 160Hz. Two massive radiators aid the dissipation of heat from the 200-watt built-in amplifier. The crossover is adjustable from 40 to 160Hz and the phase can be adjusted up to 180 degrees with dials on the back of the unit. Line level and speaker level input/outputs are also provided on the back of the unit. If your amp or receiver has a LFE subwoofer output, it is recommended that you use the line level inputs. For amplifiers that support it, a line output on the subwoofer is able to send a bass-managed signal back to your amplifier.
As I stated earlier, the 522D-LR bookshelf speakers are fairly large and heavy. Originally, I placed them on some stands that I own, yet they were in constant danger of falling off or toppling these smaller stands. Aperion sent me their i29 Speaker Stands (which are $50 per stand), which assembled easily and secured the bookshelf speakers nicely. Make sure to get some sturdy stands for these bad boys or else make sure you wear steel-toed shoes while walking around your stereo room. I do not have much clearance between my couch and walls, so the bookshelves were placed in middle of the path to access the stereo. My recommendation is, if possible, to wall-mount your surround speakers. I would also highly recommend getting the wall mounts from Aperion, due to the fact the speakers require two screws to mount them. These mounts are harder to find and Aperion offers them at a reasonable price.
I set up the towers about eight feet apart and about 10 feet from my listening position. I faced the side-mounted tower’s subs away from each other and toward the walls.
The subwoofer was placed in the front right corner of the room, a location that I found to provide the best and most balanced bass response in my room.
Connecting everything up was a little tricky for me, since I only have bi-wired speaker cables in my home. After talking with Aperion about why they decided not to bi-wire, they informed me that because they employ series crossovers, bi-wiring the speakers could make them sound worse. The 522D-PT powered tower speakers and the S-10 subwoofer require power, so make sure you have available power outlets nearby.