Aperion Audio Intimus System D Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Matt Evert   
Wednesday, 01 September 2004

Introduction
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.

Setup
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.

Music
I evaluated the Aperion system with the Harman Kardon AVR630 receiver reviewed a few months back. I used the Marantz DV8400 as the source player and the Polk Audio LSi Series speakers were used as a competitive reference. The Best of the Gypsy Kings (Nonesuch Records) was first on the list. I like this CD due the presence of all the various guitars throughout the album. “Volaré” is a splendid blend of Spanish guitars, piano and powerful vocals. The midrange of the 522D-PT towers sounded full and accurate. Thanks to the quick response of the five-and-a-quarter-inch driver, the midrange frequencies sounded vast and lush with good transparency. The 522D-PTs had an honest and sheer sound that was both revealing and sometimes unforgiving of a bad recording. Compared to the Polk LSi-15s, the 522D-PTs midrange was on the lean side, yet was never fatiguing. “Quiero Saber” is all about the dynamic voice of the lead singer, François Reyes. Reyes belts out some emotion-enriched lyrics in this track that seem to relax me no matter what my current stress level is. One minute he is singing a mellow verse and then the next he ups the ante and cranks out the lung-emptying cries of emotion. The Aperions handled the high frequencies of cymbals and guitars with ease. I felt the highs were well represented in a speaker of this class. Both these tracks imaged well with a solid three-dimensional property to the soundstage.

U2’s Achtung Baby (Island) recording is an all-time favorite of mine. “One” is one of the better songs on this album and reminds us all why Bono is such a god when it comes to vocal performances. His varying soft and loud cries are both soothing and mesmerizing to the ears. The pronounced tambourine rattles and taps are much to my liking on the Aperions. As with other evaluation music, the 522D-PTs surprised me with their solid detail and lack of grain. “Until The End of the World” features some great percussion performances with bongos and drums. The opening bongo solo was killer-sounding and got me pumped for The Edge and Bono to chime in and lay down the guitar riffs and the lyrics. Although Bono never really shows off his ability in this track, The Edge does have a good solo that heavily uses his pedal effects to create the psychedelic effect. Again, the Aperions answer the call to recreate the guitar sound with great resolve.

Movies
I never seem to get tired of “Pulp Fiction” (Miramax). It has everything from violence to drugs to ironic comedy. The scene where thugs Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) retrieve the briefcase at Brett’s apartment is a classic. Jules enters the apartment and at first seems to be cool. His does this by chatting with Brett (Frank Whaley) and his friends and setting them at ease with his talk of Big Kahuna burgers. Suddenly the real purpose of the visit is revealed and the thugs kill Brett and his friends. “What - ain’t no country I ever heard of. Do they speak English in What?” Jules shouts - a truly memorable line from the mind of Quentin Tarantino or the improv of Jackson. The stern and loud voice of Jackson as he shouts out this line rang in my ears as the volume increased. The sound of gunfire from the center channel in this scene could become slightly harsh at higher volumes. The harshness was not present to the point of dissatisfaction, but it was entirely absent from the comparably priced LSi-C center channel. The sound of shells hitting the floor as the thugs emptied their guns was detailed and showed no signs of coloration.

The scene where Vincent and Mia (Uma Thurman) go to Jack Rabbit Slim’s for dinner was aurally pleasing through the Aperions. The loud rumbling of the Harleys outside the restaurant roared with low frequencies and the woofers on the Aperion towers accepted the challenge. Bass response is impressive with the combination of the tower’s subwoofers and the separate subwoofer together. Powerful bass reproduction was never a problem for this speaker system. If anything, I needed to turn the volume down on the subs occasionally to not blow away my neighbors next door.

Breakdancing is making a comeback. Heck, I did The Worm at my best friend’s wedding last year. In fact, I think I made five bucks on that dare – nothing like Ozone (Adolpho Quinones) and Turbo (Michael Chambers) in the breakdancing classic “Breakin’” (MGM DVD). Popping, locking and lots of moonwalking are present in this flick. The scene at Venice Beach with the street dancers getting down, while the Muscle Beach guys (who are so big they look like they got stung by a swarm of Africanized honey bees) set the stage for the rest of the movie. There is lots of dancing and electro-funk music, yet there is never any threat of decent acting throughout the film. Whew! There is nothing more troubling than people tying to act in a break-dancing movie. The best sound came as a young Ice-T acted as MC to a dance competition at Radio Tron. The blend of rapping from Ice-T (wearing the latest fashion, ski goggles) and electronic funk music was convincingly reproduced by the Aperion system. The boxes the Aperions come in can easily be converted to cardboard mats. Then you can practice your windmills and backspins while listening to the movie.

Lastly, I auditioned the Aperions with “Desperado” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment). The opening scene with Steve Buscemi demonstrated some cool sound effects. The creaking sound as Buscemi opened the door to the bar and the scratching noise as he rubbed his boot on the floor to put out his cigarette. The loud and crude burp from Cheech Marin sent a chill down my spine. The Dick Dale-like surf music in the background was not obscured at all by the dominant sound effects throughout this scene. At no point did the Aperion package become congested, even at the most demanding times. Nor did I find any dynamic compression on the more demanding scenes.

The Downside
A potential downside for these speakers is the need to supply AC to the front towers. This is not a huge deal if you are doing new construction, because you can route the AC cable under the floor or at least make convenient provisions. Those who are doing a retrofit upgrade may find that there are no power outlets nearby and consider this something of a pain. I must note that there are several well-known speaker manufacturers that require AC power, including MartinLogan, Definitive Technology and others. As pointed out above, the powered woofers in the towers require AC to drive their internal subwoofers.

Aperion’s finishes are currently limited to cherry and black. This will be limiting to a number of prospective buyers, but keep in mind that limited options help facilitate the lower costs and greater value to the consumer. For many, these finish options are sufficient. The surrounds were monopole speakers. I feel that Aperion could offer a bipole/dipole surround speaker to make an even better sound in a room like mine. Aperion mentioned that they will have a bipole/dipole speaker coming this month for $490/pair.

Conclusion
With Aperion Audio’s system of direct sales to the consumer, the company can offer a great-sounding speaker at impressively reduced prices. With the consumer having the ability to audition the speakers for 30 days free of charge, it is hard to argue against giving them a try if they are in your price class. With an easy to use web site and knowledgeable technical staff to help guide you to the right system for your application and budget, Aperion should be considered for your next purchase. I wish more manufacturers supported the premise that auditioning is the best way to truly know what speakers are the best-sounding ones for your particular room and electronics. Without question, this speaker package performed well. They are legitimate contenders for those who want big league sound at a budget price. I felt the Aperion package performed above its price point in many ways, making them a solid buy.
Manufacturer Aperion Audio
Model Intimus System D Speaker System
Reviewer Matthew Evert





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