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

Before you get déjà vu all over again, I'll beat you to it and note right up front that we reviewed an Aperion Audio Intimus 633-T system back in December 2005. But the Intimus 633-T ($499/ea.) has been redesigned, and Aperion chose not to change the model number. The parenthetical "II" in the heading of this article, which will be carried through the rest of the review to avoid confusion, is strictly my invention. You won't find it in any of Aperion's promotional material. The system reviewed here also includes the Aperion 634-VAC ($495) center channel speaker, which is entirely new.

Aperion is one of a growing number of companies that sell direct to consumers on the Internet. As I pointed out in the original 633-T review, this has both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you're able to audition the speakers in your own home. If you don't like them, Aperion will let you return them within 30 days, no questions asked. FedEx shipping to the buyer is included in the price, as is return shipping, if necessary. All of Aperion's passive speakers are guaranteed for 10 years. (These advantages may not apply to all vendors of Internet-only products; check with others you may be considering to determine their exact policies.)

In most cases you'll also pay less for speakers of roughly the same quality as store brands when you purchase from vendors of Internet-direct products. But the price/performance ratio on speakers, in particular, can be erratic, so there's no guarantee of a real bargain.

But Internet speaker shopping also has its downsides. There's no guarantee that you'll like what you hear, which is why a money back guarantee is so important. Your selection of speakers available exclusively online is also relatively limited. And your local hi-fi shop will usually have demonstration facilities.

A brick-and-mortar dealer is also handy if a problem arises. That's not to say that the best Internet companies offer poor support. Many of them offer strong support. But there's something reassuring to many buyers in having the dealer close at hand.

Nevertheless, buying speakers on the Internet is a good fit for many buyers. Aperion has been around long enough to earn a solid reputation for product quality and post sale service and support.

The Aperion Intimus 633-T(II) resembles the original Intimus 633-T in most ways. Just opening the box gives off good vibes. The packing is both plush and extensive enough to survive both rough handling and a long sea voyage (like many speakers today, for better or worse, Aperions are made in China). After you separate each speaker from its clamshell padding, you'll find that it's also protected by a soft velveteen bag. You seldom get this type of packaging even with speakers costing ten times as much.

The fit-and-finish of all Aperion speakers is superb. Our earlier 633-Ts came in a flawless piano black. This new set came in the other option for all Aperions, a real wood, matte-finished cherry veneer. Wood veneer is almost unheard of today at these prices.

Three drivers and a large, flared port take up much of the 633-T (II)'s front baffle. The main change here from the original 633-T is in the 6.5" woofer-midrange cones. Previously formed from a lightweight composite material, they are now made of woven carbon fiber that, according to Aperion, provides "super fast and accurate response." The drivers also have cast aluminum frames, heavy rubber surrounds, and are designed for extra long excursion. As before, both of the 633-T (II)'s woofers are driven together from the low bass to the crossover to the tweeter.

The silk-dome tweeter is the same design as before. It has a compact, neodymium magnet structure. (Neodymium is a very powerful magnetic material widely used in speaker drivers that must fit into tight spaces.)

A single pair of five-way binding posts is located on the lower back face of the cabinet. The speakers cannot be bi-wired or bi-amped. Threaded inserts on the bottom of the cabined may be used with spikes (provided), if desired.

The Intimus 634-VAC is similar in configuration to the Intimus 533-VAC that performed the center channel duties in that earlier review. But this new center speaker is considerably larger. It's a four-driver, three-way design, with the vertically positioned midrange and tweeter flanked by woofers on both sides. At $495, it's considerably more expensive than the 533-VAC ($280), but is still one of the least expensive center channel speakers to employ this desirable three-way design.

The tweeter in the 634-VAC is the same design used in the 633-T (II) and, in fact, in all Aperion full range speakers. The midrange is a 5.25" driver with a mineral-filled, polypropylene cone, and the woofers are 6.5" long-throw carbon fiber designs—to all appearances the same woofers used in the 633-T (II).

Both woofers in the 634-VAC are active, and the box is sealed. The 533-VAC had a single woofer plus a passive radiator.