Aperion INTIMUS 5.1 Review

Highs

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 10

Lows

The sound that filled the room could have been coming from towers several times their size instead of these bookshelf speakers.

Summary

The looks, performance and price of the INTIMUS 5.1 home theater system should make this a very attractive option for many home audio enthusiasts. It can stand up to the sound and power of many more expensive systems and won’t break the bank in doing so.

The well engineered system and quality components provide outstanding sound quality. For an installation where bookshelf speakers are desired or towers simply won’t fit, the INTIMUS 5.1 system should definitely be considered.

Coupled with Aperion’s great customer service reputation and a no-risk 30-day trial (return shipping billed to Aperion) you can’t go wrong.

Introduction

In the crowded and sometimes confusing arena of high-end home audio equipment, Aperion Audio stands out as a company doing things a bit different than the others.

Aperion only sells their speaker systems directly over the Internet or over the phone. By cutting out reps, retailers and distributors, they are able to provide an exceptional product at very reasonable prices.

Praised by their customers for unparalleled service and support and a superior product, we assumed up-front that we would love this setup. It turns out our assumptions were correct – they did not disappoint.

The Aperion INTIMUS 5.1 Home Theater System consists of four 522D-LR bookshelf speakers for front and surround, one 522D-C center speaker, and one powered subwoofer. The S-10 subwoofer was chosen for this review; however, 8-inch and 12-inch models are also available.

The $1399 INTIMUS 5.1 package is available through Aperion’s Website and includes free shipping. Aperion has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee on their speakers in addition to a standard 5-year warranty – one year on subwoofers. They are so confident in their products that if after 30 days you are not satisfied with their speakers, they will refund your money, and even foot the bill for the shipping.


A close look at the 522D speaker and an INTIMUS shown in each finish option.

Construction and Looks

The INTIMUS 5.1 system is available in two finishes: high gloss black or medium cherry. Our review unit featured the medium cherry finish. This look has a smooth fine furniture grade finish which is quite exceptional for a system in this price range. If looks are important to you in your speaker selection – and they often are very important – this system should not disappoint in that respect.

The 522D bookshelf speakers are 11.5 inches tall, 7.33 inches wide and 8 inches deep. The speakers are quite dense for their small size. This is due to construction with 1-inch thick high density fiber board. The speakers are supplied with small adhesive-backed feet to provide protection and isolation from speaker stands or furniture

The black speaker grill snaps firmly to the front and leaves a small portion of the cherry finish exposed at the bottom. The center channel speaker (522D-C appears to be identical in construction to the left and right front and surround speakers with the exception of the speaker grill which is changed so that the “right side” of the speaker is now the bottom. Each bookshelf speaker features one 5.25-inch mid-woofer and a single 1-inch Ferro fluid filled dome tweeter.

The single rear port is about 1.5 inch in diameter. The speakers are not designed to be directly mounted to the wall as this would obstruct the rear port. There is, however, a ¼inch threaded insert in the bottom of each speaker for secure attachment to a speaker stand or mounting bracket. The binding posts on the rear of the speakers are 5-way gold plated binding posts for multiple attachment options. There are no crossover adjustments on the passive speakers.

Overall the 522Ds are quite attractive with the fine cherry finish and the solid construction. According to Aperion, this construction and finish provides “the acoustic-damping qualities of only the most expensive loudspeakers with the furniture-grade finish that has made us famous.”

The S-10 subwoofer is 17.5 inches tall, 13.25 inches wide and 19 inches deep. There is a single 10-inch long-throw woofer. There is a single port on the back of the S-10 near the bottom of the cabinet. This port is about an inch tall and runs the entire width of the cabinet. There is a black finned heat sink above the rear port that is about 10 inches x 5 inches. The S-10 weighs about 56 lbs. The substantial weight is no doubt due to the 1 inch fiberboard construction, additional internal cross-bracing and the heat sink.

The back of the S-10 contains line-level and speaker-level inputs/outputs, low-pass crossover adjustment, phase adjustment, auto on/off switching, 110/220-volt switch, and a detachable power cord. When the power switch is left on, the S-10 automatically detects the presence of a signal on the line input and powers up from standby.

The level control adjusts the subwoofer output relative to the other speaker channels. The low pass filter control allows user adjustment of the range of low frequencies that are directed to the subwoofer. A phase control selects 0 through 180 degrees phase shift of the subwoofer output relative to the other speakers.

Powering Up

The rear panel of the S-10 contains 4-way binding posts; also referred to as speaker level inputs and outputs. The high level inputs are provided for receivers or amps that have no separate line-out for subwoofers. When the high level inputs are connected to the receiver’s front left and right speaker outputs, the front left and right speakers can be connected to the S-10’s high level outputs. The speakers are daisy chained through the subwoofer so that it can tap into both channels to recover low frequency signals from the front speakers.

In addition to high level inputs, the S-10 also has stereo RCA type jacks; for line level inputs and outputs. These are the more common inputs for an A/V receiver with a “sub out” connection. The output(s) can be used to daisy chain to another subwoofer.

Hearing Is Believing

For our test listening environment, the front speakers were placed about 18 inches from the front wall. The rear channel speakers were placed on stands at the rear of the room about 10 feet from the towers. The S-10 subwoofer was placed to the side of the right front speaker.

An Onkyo TX-SR701 surround sound receiver drove all of the speakers. A Yamaha CDC-905 compact disc changer and Sony DVP-NS700P DVD player were used for the audio sources. The optical outputs were used so that the receiver’s D/A converters were utilized to reproduce the sound for both movies and compact discs.


A look at the back of the 10-inch sub and a 522D bookshelf speaker.

It took several minutes and several different audio sources to get a satisfactory set up for the subwoofer phase, level, and low pass frequency. Even after this initial setup it was not uncommon to make fine level adjustments between different movies and audio CDs. Ideally, a sound level meter and test disk could be used to set up the sub’s controls; however, personal listening preferences would probably overrule those settings anyway.

The first listening tests were done with various compact discs. The 522D’s have the heart of a German shepherd in a terrier’s body. The sound that filled the listening room could have been coming from towers several times their size instead of these bookshelf-sized speakers.

A recent local concert by “Little Charlie and the Nightcats” provided a great opportunity to compare a live performance in an intimate theater to a CD by the same artist with the sound stage created by the 522Ds. The result was the same great sound at home without the people talking through the concert.

The vocals sounded like they were really on a stage a few feet in front of the listener. The guitar and harmonica solos were simply “real.” The S-10 bass sounded tight with excellent transition from the 522Ds to the sub. The 522D’s would be adequate without the subwoofer for a bookshelf audio system , but the sub is absolutely required to complete a home theater installation or provide a full range stereo experience.

Continued…

Next up was Walter Trout and the Radicals. Possibly one of the 10 best rock guitarists of all time, Walter’s vocals and guitar solos really provide a good test of a system’s ability to reproduce loud music and still pull out the details. Once again a recent local concert, the same one actually, provided a unique opportunity to compare a live performance to the performance of the 522D’s. Sorry Walter, but the songs on your “Relentless” CD were much more detailed and clear when performed at home on the 522Ds. However, Walter’s guitar artistry simply must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. It was hard to pick a clear winner between the live performance and the 522Ds – the Aperion INTIMUS 5.1 system sounds that good.

The high frequency response was balanced quite nicely with the midrange. No doubt this is due to the unique DiAural crossover system that Aperion uses under license. The DiAural circuit is a new patented crossover technique that allows for proper communication and interaction between transducers (woofer, mids and tweeters). The system has fewer parts than typical crossovers, produces less distortion, and renders the high frequency and mid range transducers virtually burnout proof. According to Aperion, DiAural technology produces a sound that is natural and true to the original source. We thought the DiAural technology accomplished what they intended it to do; the transition from the midrange to the tweeters sounded seamless.

The next listening tests were done with several DVD movies. First, Terminator 2, Judgment Day was used to evaluate the INTIMUS 5.1’s performance for home theater. The “Extreme DVD” with audio remix supervised by THX Inc. provided an exciting home theater experience with a full range of audio for evaluation. The surround imaging was near flawless with extreme bass LFE (Low Frequency Effects) and full ambient surround experience. In addtion, the center channel dialogue was never overwhelmed by the other channels. The S-10 sub blended very well with the 522D’s.

The S-10 sub was doing double duty as the LFE channel as well as extending the low frequency range for the 522Ds. As mentioned previously, it was common for us to have to re-adjust the subwoofer for different movies in order to get the right balance. This re-adjustment was required less frequently between different music CDs. However, since the S-10 was called upon to provide more of the low frequency range for the 522D’s, unlike full range towers, it was not uncommon to make slight subwoofer adjustments for CDs as well. Aperion says that the 10 inch Sub uses a long throw driver. There was certainly no evidence of bottoming out or other artifacts while playing extremely loud movie Low Frequency Effects.

The 522D-C center did an excellent job of reproducing the dialogue in movies. Since the 522D-LR’s and 522D-C are essentially the same speakers, there was never any issue with matching. As a result there was no straining by the 522D-C to be clearly heard over the 522D-LR’s when speech was overlaid on loud music or sound effects. Again, the 522D-LR’s are used for the rear surround channels so there was no matching issue there either.

Conclusions

The looks, performance and price of the INTIMUS 5.1 home theater system should make this a very attractive option for many home audio enthusiasts. It can stand up to the sound and power of many more expensive systems and won’t break the bank in doing so.

The well engineered system and quality components provide outstanding sound quality. For an installation where bookshelf speakers are desired or towers simply won’t fit, the INTIMUS 5.1 system should definitely be considered.

Coupled with Aperion’s great customer service reputation and a no-risk 30-day trial (return shipping billed to Aperion) you can’t go wrong.

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