Aperion Intimus 6 Series Home Theater Speaker System
Compact satellite speakers can sound great, but there's something I love about the authority and sheer dynamic impact of a full-size system — the bigger the better. So when the Aperion Intimus 6 Series home theater speaker system arrived at my door in five good-size cartons, with the delivery guy sweating and swearing a blue streak, my heart skipped a beat.
That optimism increased when I pulled the speakers from their cartons. As a company that sells only via the Web, Aperion is known for delivering high value. I could see that instantly: My system — comprising a pair of 41-inch-tall 633-T front towers, a large 634-VAC center speaker, two 534-SS dipole/bipole surrounds, and an S-12 subwoofer — had a combined weight of 277 pounds, the result of Aperion using full 1-inch, high-density fiberboard construction in all the cabinets. And the speakers had a glossy black finish that a 9-foot Steinway would envy. That, along with their simple black grilles, gave them a powerful, understated presence in my listening room. (The speakers are also available in cherry.)
To promote cohesive sound, all the Aperions use the same 1-inch silk-dome tweeter, the towers and center share 6.5-inch woofers (two apiece), and the center and surrounds share a common 5.25-inch driver (midrange for the center, woofer for the surrounds). Somewhat surprisingly for a tower its size, the 633-T is a two-way design, with its pair of woofers crossed over to the tweeter at 2 kHz and no dedicated midrange driver. The center speaker, on the other hand, is a true three-way. The large subwoofer, meanwhile, uses a front-firing 12-inch driver in a rear-ported cabinet, driven by a 250-watt amp.
I wrestled the Aperions into my rooms typical sweet spots, but given the center speaker's notably wide sound field, I ended up placing the towers slightly farther apart than usual. The 634-VAC, a recent addition to Aperion's lineup, is quite substantial for a center, measuring 8.5 inches high and 25 inches wide. It offers the vertically arrayed midrange-tweeter arrangement that Sound & Vision favored when we tested the Aperion 5 Series a couple of years back (see review), and it adds a new "VoiceRight" feature: a slide switch that compensates for stand mounting or placement in a cabinet near a TV screen, where interaction with the screen surface can emphasize bass and degrade clarity. The latter setting indeed proved best for the shelf underneath my 50-inch Samsung DLP TV.
The dipole/bipole surrounds gave me pause. My room has two distinct speaker locations: one that's optimal for dipoles (which put the front-facing drivers out of phase with the rear-facing drivers) and one that's best for bipoles (with all the drivers in phase). After auditioning, I chose an intermediate location for the speakers (on the side walls, 3 feet behind and 2 feet above the listening position), which allowed me to switch them according to program material. Generally, I used the dipole mode for movies and for music with mainly ambient content in the surrounds (such as most classical music) and the bipole mode for music with "direct" content in the surrounds (as in much pop music). The surrounds are a mirrored pair marked "left" and "right," and I carefully complied.
Over the course of 2 weeks, I took these speakers to Audio Boot Camp for a serious audition, playing light classical to heavy metal and everything in between.
On stereo pop, such as Santana's Supernatural, the towers' ear-height tweeters delivered a crisp sound on the guitar solos, with excellent fingering detail — as well as lots of air for the snare drum and hi-hat. Male vocals were warm and, along with some keyboard lines, just slightly pulled back. The rhythm guitar was slightly muddy at first, but a little playing with the speaker-to-wall distances and toe-in brought it out. The floor toms and kick drum were solid, with a tight punch and good musicality overall. Dynamic linearity was okay, but the towers did strain a bit when pushed to loud levels.
With symphonic music on a surround SACD, such as a disc of Sibelius's Kullervo, the towers' tweeters provided airy, but never harsh, treble. Violins had a bright, natural timbre, with fine high-end imaging. The lower midrange was pleasantly warm on bassoon and cello, as well as on the baritone soloist and the male chorus. The towers even cranked out a goodly amount of lower bass. This was one disc where I thought the towers' lack of a dedicated midrange driver might have hurt a bit, however; the mezzo-soprano (and the upper midrange in general) just had a somewhat constrained sound. The center speaker, with its dedicated midrange driver, had a much better presence on trumpet and other brass.
On more aggressive surround music, such as the DVD-Audio disc of Linkin Park's Reanimation, the towers' enunciated high end was a better match for the music; it really sizzled on the red-hot snare and cymbal samples on the track "FRGT/10." The low-end prowess of the towers, center, and sub was quite evident. Synth drums and bass were absolutely tight, with good punch — albeit with some subtle chattering and port chuffing when the sub was stressed at a really high volume. The surrounds (used here in bipole mode) again had a smaller sound against that of the mammoth towers and the center speaker, but they were a fair timbral match to the fronts, as evidenced by how the dry rap vocals panned there were fully integrated into the mix. For music reproduction, I'd say the front trio is in the upper percentile and the surrounds and sub aren't far behind.
On the DVD of the Pixar feature Cars, the towers had all the guts needed to rev up the big NASCAR race, with tuneful backing score, screaming crowd noise, and zooming vehicles. I was particularly impressed with the center speaker's dialogue intelligibility and natural vocal quality. When the sleepy semi starts swerving, the surrounds (switched back to dipole) neatly handled the high-speed lullaby as well as fast-panning effects, such as the rumble strips and the Doppler-shifted engine revving. Indeed, they delivered a great sense of immersion.
On Superman Returns, I skipped to the "midair emergency" sequence and let the subwoofer sweat it out. The lower octave of the toy model's earthquake rumbled convincingly, and that was only a teaser for the roaring, booming, and crashing of the shuttle and the jet. For its size and power, the sub cranked it all out nicely. I've heard bigger subs do better, but this one is well matched to the rest of the system, providing tight bass with a clean kick.
Aperion makes buying online about as attractive as anyone could make it, down to a 30-day money-back guarantee. But in the end, it's the sound that counts. For movie playback, I give this Aperion Intimus 6 Series home theater speaker system a big thumbs-up: These speakers can really sizzle, kick, and punch on demanding soundtracks. And I was quite pleased with the system's prowess with music, though the towers' somewhat pulled-back, relaxed midrange prevented me from falling completely in love. Still, quibbles aside, Aperion can't be faulted here for delivering very good sound and truly excellent value.