Aperion Audio Intimus 633-T (II) Surround Speaker System Page 2

The other distinctive feature of the 634-VAC is Aperion's "VoiceRight technology." This is a two-position switch that is designed to compensate for differences in the two most common placement options: on a stand or on top of a television/in a cabinet. In the latter situation, the television (or a cabinet) can reinforce the midbass and result in a bloated sound. Oddly, in my setup (on a short stand under a projection screen) voices were too warm and full-bodied in the Near Screen/In Cabinet position. They were better balanced in the On Stand setting. The lesson here: experiment. The best-sounding setting won't always be the obvious one.

Aperion supplies little additional information about the crossovers. The crossover points and slopes are not specified.

Two Aperion Intimus 632-LR bookshelf speakers were used as surrounds here, as they were in the previous review. It's a two-way bookshelf design, as well made and finished as the larger Aperion speakers. Since our first review the woofer cone material has been changed from composite to carbon fiber, as in the 633-T (II). But Aperion did not send us samples of the new 632-LR; the pair used here are the original design.

All of the Aperion full range speakers in the system share several characteristics. These include 1" thick cabinets of HDF (High Density Fiberboard) and magnetic shielding.

All the Aperion speakers also use the company's HD-X3 impedance leveling crossover technology. As the name suggests, this provides a more uniform impedance across the frequency range and thus eases the load on the amplifier. In theory this is a good idea, particularly with long runs of speaker cable and/or tube amps. But with a solid state amp and a reasonable length of speaker cable of the proper gauge (say, 25 feet and 12-gauge), it might be argued that impedance leveling is, at best, of limited importance. It also requires a more complex crossover design.

For this review, however, I did not use the Intimus S-12 subwoofer used in the earlier Aperion review. Having already reviewed it, I elected to see how the new Aperion system would perform with my resident Revel B-15 sub—which costs more than all the other speakers in the Aperion system combined! If you're thinking that's a mismatch, it wasn't. But check out my comments on S-12 in the first Aperion review. Its most obvious shortcoming (listed in the summary of Lows at the end of this review for easy reference) was a limited output at extreme low frequencies.

In that earlier review I also took a look at the inside of one of the Aperion speakers—the 632-LR. It was clearly very well made and I think it's safe to conclude that the other speakers in the system are, also. To take that inside tour, click here.

Performance
The Aperion system is remarkable in many ways. With two-channel music, the front pair of 633-T (II)s image as well as any speakers I have had in my home theater room. With centered vocalists and instruments you'll swear the center channel is operating even when it isn't. And if the recording contains a clearly defined spread of instruments or singers across the space between the speakers, you'll hear it on the Aperions.

Positioned well out from the front wall of my room, a pair of Aperion 633-T IIs also produce the sort of front-to-back depth that you might expect from a much more expensive set of floor-standing speakers or mini monitors. Instruments and voices that are supposed to be front and center are there, but never in-your-face unless the recording demands it.

The midrange is also clean and uncolored. I hear no trace of boxiness and nasality. Vocals sound natural. This also applies to the 634VAC center channel speaker, with its clean and uniform dialogue reproduction both on and off-axis. There are no obvious suckouts in its midrange response at any practical seating position.

Further down the range, the midbass is open and unmuddled in a way that, once again, is impressive at the price. Driven full range the 633-T (II)s provides solid low frequency performance that is more than adequate for most music. But if you're looking for bass that will overwhelm you with its shock value, don't look here. The 633-T's bass will be most appreciated by those who prefer a clean, tight bottom end. And while the power and extension were clearly more impressive when I engaged the subwoofer, and a sub is obviously the way to go with movie soundtracks or concertos for organ and synthesizer, the bass from a pair of 633-T (II)s alone is not embarrassed in any way when the sub is switched on. Nor did they complain at anything like reasonable levels (I did hear some marginal overloading in the original 633-Ts).

Your bass mileage may vary, of course. Low frequency performance is the most difficult aspect of a speaker to evaluate subjectively because the reviewer's room and yours will rarely have the same effect on the speaker. But when used well away from the walls and firing down the length of my 15.5" x 26" x 8' room, the Aperions produced a bottom end that even a picky audiophile could love.

I liked the Aperion tweeter in the past and I like it here. It's open and airy, but never sizzly, spitty, or metallic. And while it sounds like a pun on the material used for the tweeter's dome, the top end of Aperion speakers is definitely. . .silky.

The Aperions are also lively and fast sounding. Perhaps, in fact, a bit too much so for their own good. They can bite and are- pardon the techno-babble—"ruthlessly revealing." Whether or not this brightness bothers you will depend to a degree on the program material, the front end of your system, how loud you like to listen, and your tastes and expectations. I found it exciting on some recordings but off-putting on others. I noted this same characteristic in the original 633-T and it's here as well. It did bother me a bit more this time around, and it's the only serious concern I have about the Aperions' sound.

I did prefer to listen to the 633-T (II)s with their grilles on. This alone did not tame the brightness completely, but did help. Ironically, I preferred the 634-VAC center speaker with its grille off.

If you have an AV receiver or pre-pro with sophisticated equalization, however, the solution to the Aperion's sometime brightness may be no further away than your receiver's instruction manual. The Denon receiver I used for this review has Audyssey's auto- calibration and room EQ system, which can compensate to a remarkable degree for the nonlinear response of the speaker and room. After I calibrated the system with Audyssey, the excess brightness was tamed (using the Audyssey curve) without deadening the sound, which can sometimes occur with conventional tone controls. And the other strengths of the system—imaging, depth, clean and tight bass, uncolored mids, and an airy, detailed treble—remained intact. I still sense a trace of edginess on some recordings, but they are in a distinct minority.

Another option available on THX-certified pre-pros and AV receivers would be THX cinema equalization. But in some cases that might be accessible only for films, not for playback of two-channel music.

I was able to briefly compare the Aperion 633-T (II)s with the Revel Concerta F12s in two-channel stereo. The Revels are slightly warmer-sounding, but equally detailed and agile in the bass. They do not have the band of brightness that sometimes bothered me with the Aperions, so they did not really need any equalization to sound spectrally neutral on a wide range of program material. Overall, I would have to award the gold star to the Revels in this comparison. But they do cost 50% more than the 633-T (II)s and are finished in a vinyl wrap that, while very impressive on its own, suffers in a side-by-side comparison with the real wood veneer of the Aperions. And a complete Revel Concerta system, sans subs, will cost you about $700 more than the Aperion package. You pays your money and, well, you know. . .

That brings us to films. I did most of my listening to soundtracks with the Audyssey equalization (Audyssey curve) selected. This didn't feel like cheating; as noted above, I consider it similar to using cinema equalization (which the Denon receiver does not offer). Still some soundtracks sounded better with the EQ on, others sounded better without it.

With the entire Aperion system fired up, soundtracks came to life. Dialogue was clear from any seat. The big center channel speaker blended in well with the 633-T (II)s to produce a seamless front soundstage. More to the point, it never called attention to itself with obvious coloration, fizzy sibilants, or other nasties.

The 632-LR surrounds never called attention to themselves, either. In fact, the entire presentation produced that proverbial "bubble of sound," which is exactly what you want from a surround sound system.

It's also dynamic. The title chapter of Serenity (HD DVD) begins with an underscore of some of the sweetest-sounding strings you'll ever hear from a soundtrack. Then, suddenly, the engines fire and the audio explodes, with the music and sound effects fighting for prominence. It's huge, and my ears complained long before the Aperions showed any strain. With EQ on or off, the system pushed me back into my seat but didn't take my head off.

Happy Feet (HD DVD) also has very clean audio with a wide dynamic range. The Aperions excel here as well, on both the music and effects. I preferred the Audyssey equalization on for this soundtrack; it smoothed out its slight brightness. THX EQ, had it been available, would likely have worked just as well.

The just released Matrix Trilogy is a new reference for video on HD DVD (see the full review here). The sound is spectacular as well, particularly on The Matrix, the first and easily the best of the three films. It's nothing short of sensational over the Aperions. From the opening titles to the final battle with the Sentinels, every detail comes through and every dynamic flourish sounds right. I preferred to use the equalizer here, mainly because the gunshots sounded a bit too fierce. But other than that, I had no complaints.

Conclusion
The Aperion system is a fine performer. Can you do better? Sure. But bring money. But the combination of good design, overseas production and Internet sales make for terrific value.

My only real concern about the system is its tendency to brightness, depending on the program material and playback level. But if you have an AV receiver with an effective, automated equalization feature (increasingly common even in budget receivers) it should be able to tame this, as it did in my system. Audiophiles tend to reach for their Mr. Exorcism kits at the mere mention of equalization. But it can prove beneficial, particularly in a budget system where it is a reasonable alternative to big bucks, brute-force design. But it must be properly done, and that means automated EQ, not cut-and try DIY. Aperion's money back guarantee, which not only lets you audition the speakers in your own space, but also determine if the rest of your system is capable of getting the best out of them, makes this a practical consideration.

As I said in my first Aperion review, I could happily live with the Aperion system over the long haul. I highly recommend checking it out.

Highs
Fine sound at a fine price
Excellent fit and finish
No strings, in-home trial

Lows
Can sound bright in some situations
Intimus S-12 subwoofer extension could be better

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