Aperion Audio is a relatively young, successful audio company (founded in 1998) that sells direct only. With an online direct or mail order company like this, it is very important to build customer confidence on the products the company offers. Aperion seems to go all out in this regard by offering a 30-day home trial, free shipping both ways (in case you need to return the products) and a 10-year warranty on its products.
However, those things alone cannot guarantee success. The quality of the company’s products is what usually leads to success in the audio world. Therefore, I was quite excited for the opportunity to get acquainted with a set of Aperion’s products. For this review, Aperion shipped the Intimus 422/S-8 compact home theater speaker system (which includes the S-8 subwoofer) and an additional subwoofer, the Intimus S-10, for comparison.
As a reviewer, I usually try to limit the impact of any first impressions. But Aperion seems to know how to make a lasting first impression. And that really impressed me. Aperion includes special touches with its products that indicates red-carpet treatment for its customers. First, together with the main shipment, Aperion also shipped a small box containing an SPL meter (which looks very similar a Radio Shack SPL meter) and the so-called “Love Your Speakers” care kit, consisting of a pair of white gloves and a wiping cloth. Very thoughtful! In fact, I do not know of any other audio companies that ship an SPL meter with their speaker systems. A manual for using the SPL meter is included, as well as a welcome letter personally signed by Winthrop Jeanfreau, the CEO of Aperion Audio, with the following opening words: “Dear New Aperion, I have a theory. That in actuality there’s far more inside the velvet bags we sent you than mere audio components. What’s really inside are the spirited experiences our speakers will help you create and embellish.” That paragraph alone was enough to intrigue me. The statement also contains a second touch that I want to specifically mention: the velvet bags. Indeed, all the speakers shipped, including the subwoofers, were wrapped in classy blue velvet bags. I’ve seen some manufacturers shipped their speakers using fabric cloths, but this was the first time I’ve seen velvet bags used as speaker wrappers. Very cool–and the velvet bags can also function as dust covers for the speakers if necessary!
All of the above treatments might not be a surprise if we’re talking about very expensive speakers. But this Intimus system can hardly be considered expensive. The whole 422/S-8 system for example, costs only $799, which makes all those special treatments even more special. However, to put it in perspective, all of these are merely icing on the cake, and they do not mean anything if the cake itself is not good–so let’s look at the cake itself.
Fit, finish, and features
The review samples consisted of four Intimus 422-LR satellite speakers, an Intimus 422-C center channel speaker, and two Intimus-powered subwoofers, the S-8 and S-10. The fit and finish of these speakers are excellent. Our review samples came in the glossy black finish, but a medium cherry finish is also available. It’s hard not to impress with the build quality of these speakers. Their cabinets seem to be solidly constructed and they are heavier than their sizes indicate. It definately doesn’t look as if Aperion skimps on anything in terms of the construction of its products.
Aperion Audio Accessories
The 422-LR satellite speaker houses a 1″ dome silk tweeter and a 4″ polypropylene midrange driver in a sealed enclosure. It is magnetically shielded, so it should not be a problem to put it close to a CRT television. The speaker terminals are of a good quality, five-way binding post type. The 422-LR was clearly designed with placement flexibility in mind. On the bottom of the speaker, four small rubber feet are provided. Three threaded holes are also provided, two on the back and one on the bottom, which make it easier to mount the speakers on the wall. When not in use, these holes are covered with rubber plugs. The drivers are protected by a detachable cloth grill. The 422-LR speaker is smaller than your average bookshelf speaker; it’s almost more of a mini-speaker.
Aperion Audio 422-LR Satellite Speakers
Intimus 422-C center channel speaker
The 422-C center channel houses a tweeter flanked by two midrange drivers, all of which are of the same types as the ones used in the 422-LR satellite speaker. This is a relatively small center channel and therefore should be very easy to accommodate. It also shares other features found in the 422-LR, such as five-way binding posts, rubber feet, a detachable grill, and threaded holes for easy mounting. Both the 422-LR and 422-C speakers feature the company’s patent-pending HD-X3 crossover technology, which flattens the speaker impedance to improve the speaker frequency response and efficiency. A more detailed description of this technology can be found in Aperion’s website.
Aperion Audio 422-C Center Channel Speaker
Intimus S-8 subwoofer
The Intimus 422/S-8 system is comprised of four 422-LR satellites, a 422-C center channel, and an S-8 subwoofer. The S-8 subwoofer is rear-ported with an 8″ polypropylene driver and powered by a 100 W class A/B internal amplifier, which is equipped with line level inputs/outputs, low pass continuous crossover adjustment, phase switch, and a detachable power cord. This subwoofer is supported by four 1″ high square feet, which are also threaded, should additional spikes are needed (also supplied). This subwoofer is relatively small, and therefore placement should not be a big issue for it.
Intimus S-8 Subwoofer
Intimus S-10 subwoofer
Besides the complete 422/S-8 system, Aperion also shipped the Intimus S-10 subwoofer. The S-10 subwoofer can be considered the big brother of the S-8. It shares much of the S-8 design elements, but with a larger driver, a larger enclosure, and a more powerful amplifier. The S-10 uses a 10″ propylene driver driven by a 200 W internal amplifier. In addition to the S-8 features, the S-10 also has high level inputs/outputs and continuous phase adjustment. For a rather big subwoofer like this, the ability to adjust the phase continuously is a valuable feature, because moving it around may not be easy and practical.
Aperion Audio S-10 Subwoofer w/no Grill
Associated equipment for this review:
- Digital playback: Toshiba SD-3800, Shanling CDS-100
- Satellite receiver: Dish 301
- Surround processor: Lexicon MC-4, Meridian 565
- Amplifier: Parasound HCA-855A, Sherbourn 7/2100
- Other speakers: NHT T6, Rocket home theater system (RS-750, RS-250, RSC-200, UFW-10 subwoofer)
Feature-wise, this Intimus system has a lot to offer; but what about performance? As usual, I tested the system for both music (two-channel and multi-channel) and home-theater applications. Because the 422-LR and 422-C speakers are small and could only produce frequencies down to about 100 Hz, it was necessary to use a rather high crossover point (≥ 100 Hz) between the satellite and the subwoofer. Ideally, in a satellite-subwoofer setup, a crossover point lower than or equal to 80 Hz is desirable, because sound below 80 Hz is not localizable. The use of a crossover point above 80 Hz might cause sound localization problem. In the evaluation, I used the suggested crossover setting of 100 Hz between the subwoofer and the satellite speakers, which was about the lowest setting possible that wouldn’t leave a hole in the system’s frequency response. I found that by using such setting, the localization issue could be avoided for most program materials and was benign at best.
After playing many program materials using the 422 speaker system in combination with the S-8 or S-10 subwoofer, I could summarize its performance in one word: impressive! This is especially true when you factor in the price. It exceeded my expectations in many ways. For starters, even though the 422 system was a compact set of speakers, there was nothing in the sound produced by this system that indicated their smallish size. Dynamics were excellent and the system could play loudly without sounding strained. Unless you have a very large room, this system should have no problem in filling up your room with good sound. Even the two subwoofers surprised me with their capability to generate serious sound pressure level (SPL) that belied its size. This was even truer for the smaller S-8 subwoofer. More important than SPL, these subwoofers generated a nice articulated bass with no trace of boominess. The S-10 was capable of producing lower bass extension and higher SPL over the S-8.
For music playback, the performance of the system was good, and maybe one of the best among small speaker systems that I have ever tried. Music enthusiasts would even be happy with the combination of a 422-LR pair and the S-8 or S-10 subwoofer for two-channel music listening. They produced sound with good tonal balance and sufficient naturality. Their performance was not without weaknesses, but these weaknesses were only obvious when a comparison was made with the better system. For example, when compared with my reference system (NHT T6), I noticed a slight lack of smoothness and treble-airiness. But by no means was this a major shortcoming, considering the price gap between the systems compared. The presentation of the 422 system was slightly forward, and with proper setup it could paint a realistic soundstage. For most music program material, the S-8 and S-10 subwoofers delivered similar performance. The S-10 only exhibited an advantage over the S-8 when the program material called for a very deep bass.
For home theater, the Intimus 422/S-8 or S-10 system did not miss a beat. Although compact in size, this system handled whatever program materials I threw at it in a grand way, be it action movies, drama, or TV programs. This system might not possess the last word in smoothness when compared to some of the much more expensive systems out there; however, everything was presented with good clarity and transparency. Movie dialogues, for example, were always presented with a high degree of intelligibility. Also, the 422-LR and 422-C possessed an excellent timbre match. As a result, this system never failed to engage the viewer with what was happening on the screen. The system could also generate the necessary sound impact when called for, for example, during an action sequence. Part of it was due to the competence of the subwoofer. In terms of impact produced, the two subwoofers produced slightly different results. Although the S-8 subwoofer was no slouch and in my opinion was better than many small subwoofers out there, the S-10 was simply better and capable of delivering a more convincing impact in an effortless manner.
From product packaging to product features and performance, Aperion Audio has impressed me big time. The product packaging and the accessories included truly show the company’s care for its customers. The build quality and the finish of the Intimus 422 speaker system, together with the S-8 and S-10 subwoofers, are excellent and about as good as you can get for the price. “Versatile” is probably the right word to describe this system. With flexible placement and mounting options, and strong all-around performance, it was hard not to like this system. The Intimus 422/S-8 speaker system is one of the best compact systems I have ever tried. And if you are still not satisfied in the bass department, you can replace the S-8 subwoofer with the bigger S-10, which will give you lower bass extension and higher SPL capability. But regardless whether you choose to match the 422 speaker system with the S-8 or the S-10 subwoofer, you can be sure that you’ve made the right decision that value-wise is hard to beat. Highly recommended!
- Great packaging and accessories
- Excellent build quality and finish
- Wonderful sound for the price
- Sound has slight lack of smoothness and treble airiness