● Four 522 Satellites, Ported
Design, Each with One
1" Fabric Dome Tweeter and One 5 1/4" Woofer
● MFR: 60 Hz - 20 kHz
● Sensitivity: 88 dB
● Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
● Power Handling: 150 Watts
● Size: 7 1/3" H x 11 1/2" W x
● Weight: 12.6 Pounds Each
● One Intimus 12 Subwoofer with
12" Driver, Ported
● MFR: 20 Hz - 180 Hz
● Amplifier: 250 Watts
● Low-Pass: Variable 40 Hz - 120
● Phase: Variable 00
● Size: 20 1/2" H x 15" W x 21
● Weight: 66 Pounds
MSRP: $1,499 USA for the Entire
Birth of a Bargain
For this review, Secrets arranged for me to visit the Aperion Audio
headquarters, to take a tour and then bring home an Intimus 5.1 speaker set (Intimus
522D satellites and center and Intimus S-12 powered subwoofer). Part way
through my visit with Marketing Manager John Wanderscheid, I realized I
didn't know the actual price of Aperion's products. John had told me that
their goal was to offer a great value for $1,500 instead of $3,000. I
assumed he was talking about two speakers. You know, stereo. (Sooner or
later I will join the surround sound age.) He was talking about the
complete 5.1 set with 12” subwoofer. But after spending some time with
these speakers in both my home theater and stereo systems, I would not
have found $2k surprising for just a pair of the satellites.
Aperion was founded as Edge Audio by Win Jeanfreau because he couldn't
find anything affordable that appealed to him. I think we've all been
there. He satisfied his short term need by buying a kit speaker from the
Fabulous Tweeter Brothers but then went on to enlist one of those brothers
Ken Humphreys, as the engineer to design the Aperion line. The name was
changed from Edge to Aperion a few years ago.
Aside from this bent for offering a good buy, Aperion keeps the price down
by selling direct over the Internet. A thirty day home trial with shipping
paid both ways by Aperion takes the edge off (sorry) any anxiety about the
All the speakers, satellite or subs, start with 1” thick High Density
Fiberboard (HDF). That's a bit more than I would expect in the mid-price range
and way more than you would get in an entry level system or Home Theater
in a Box (HTIB) system. In fact, the way most speaker companies create the lower
end of their line is to cheapen the cabinets.
How does HDF compare with
the more common Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)? It's more rigid and seems heavier, a
knuckle rap on the side of one of the satellites results in more of a ping
than a thud, a little bit of resonance is present. If you place your hands
on them while they are pumping out some Led Zep (more on this later!), you
will feel some taught vibration. This would be expected to muddy up the
sound at the corresponding frequency range (mid low's?), but if it did, I
was struggling to hear it.
The 522D satellites are rear ported two ways with a 5.25"
polypropylene coated paper mid/woofer and a 1" soft dome tweeter
both designed by Aperion and perhaps most importantly, a DiAural ™
crossover. This crossover which Aperion licenses from the inventor made
quite a splash at some audio trade shows a few years ago. The key
difference from traditional crossovers is no capacitor inline between
the amp and the tweeter. (A capacitor is normally used to cross over the
tweeter at a specific frequency, and eliminate the frequencies below the
crossover from getting to the tweeter.) Two-way speakers already enjoy some freedom from
crossover complications as there are only two drivers to be sorted out. To
my ear, the DiAural takes it another couple of steps forward. The sound
from these little two-ways is much less fatiguing, especially on CDs. The highs are open, airy, and light. Your
ears, rather than unconsciously recoiling as they do when a digital sound
source has that grating quality, happily relax and say, “Peel me some
more grapes please”. I'm not kidding. The highs coming out of that tweeter
are shimmering but not glaring. Somebody should study this.
The center channel speaker (522C) is identical to the satellites (522D) except that the
soft rubber feet are on the long side rather than the bottom. Also, the
grille is set to look right in this side position.
A knuckle rap on the side of the subwoofer sounds like someone knocking on
a board rather than on a box. No resonance whatsoever. The subwoofer is front firing, rear
ported. (They come in 8", 10", and 12" versions.) I was graced with
the 12” for this review. This subwoofer is driven by a 250 watt amp. The
standard RCA or speaker-wire-direct-from-amp hookups are on the amplifier
panel. I used
the RCA with my preamp-processor performing the crossover duties at 120 Hz.
A phase control is included on the subwoofer. This made placement a snap.
I had it against a wall to the side of my viewing position, turned the
phase knob to 900 and forgot about it. Oh, and the thing weighs a ton.
John Wanderscheid helped me load it into my car, but then I nearly busted a gut
moving it into my basement. Carrying one of these is a good job for two
Available finishes are real cherry veneer or seven coats of black lacquer. The
website pictures do not do justice to these finishes. Both are gorgeous, especially the luscious black lacquer. Aperion protects the finish in
transit by enclosing each speaker in a velvet bag (as well as a bunch of
Styrofoam and a sturdy box). After a few weeks they send a
white glove cleaning kit with care instructions.
My first exposure to the speakers was at Aperion's auditioning room (if
you live near Portland, Oregon, you too can drop by and audition the speakers
there). The opening scene of "The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers" where Gandolf sticks it to the nasty underworld beast is a pretty demanding
scene aurally, what with the fire and the falling and explosions. The Aperions kept all the sounds separate and distinct. There was
plenty of impact and impressive thumping. We also listened to Floyd's "Dark
Side of the Moon" on SACD. This was my first exposure to SACD and I
expected to hear a more analog type sound and I did. Now that I've played
ordinary CDs through the Aperions, I don't know how much to attribute to
the SACD format and how much to attribute to the speakers. I won't spend
any time worrying about this until the record companies make a serious
move to SACD.
The first thing I tried at home was a Led Zeppelin DVD. Luckily, my TV room
has is in the basement – no windows, because I was jumping around like an
idiot. I could hear the speakers break in a little as I went through the
disc. This was a very quick break in. The most amazing thing was that I
listened to all of disc in one sitting. Just as with CDs, I usually don't make it
through an entire music DVD before wanting to do something else. When I
wasn't hopping around I was grinning and leaning forward on the couch and
if I closed my eyes it was like I was there.
Now, let me say something
about Led Zeppelin here. "The Song Remains The Same" was their first concert
movie and it was less-than-impressive shall we say. It was released well
before the age of ubiquitous computers and Protools editing software. Just
putting two and two together – are we really hearing what Zep sounded like
live? My review notes for this experience say that I was most impressed by
the timbral accuracy – a guitar sounded like a guitar. But later when I
switched back to my JmLab Cobalts, I noticed a little more nuance
in that guitar sound. Jimmy Page plays a Gibson and I was reminded of the
difference in tone between Gibson and Fender Stratocasters which is what I
would have guessed from the Aperions. This was a subtle difference that
required my most critical ear. That same ear heard that my reference
speakers had a more closed-in sound. With the Cobalts, gone were the effortless highs that
had me jumping and leaning forward and smiling. The
no-capacitor-in-the-tweeter-signal-path seems to make a huge difference
with the Aperions.
When the Aperions were in the system the subwoofer integrated seamlessly.
I had to get near to it to see if it was on but when I turned it off it
was missed. Very well done.
Switching over to movies, my reviewing standard is "The Matrix". In the
Lobby Shooting Spree scene, the result was similar to Gandolf's exploits,
all the mayhem could be heard clearly. The subwoofer shook the couch with
authority, more so than any sub I've had in my viewing room up until now. The surprise
with these speakers was that, for whatever reason, I was playing the rest of
the movie more quietly than I usually do and the voices were easy to hear.
If there was any drawback to not having the traditional center channel
design where the tweeter is positioned between two drivers in a horizontal
array, I didn't hear it.
I moved a pair of the satellites upstairs to my stereo listening room for
a while. This room is nearly twice as large as my home theater room, so
it's a little too much for two small two-ways, but I confirmed all the
things I had heard downstairs. CDs are redeemed by that no-cap crossover. I listened for a good long
while and switched to vinyl only for reference or because that was the
recording I wanted to hear. I was amazed at how I could concentrate on the
sound of cymbals and how good they sounded. Two of these little guys were
able to get remarkably low as well. No wonder they integrated so well with
the sub. In a small room and with jazz or classical, these speakers would
do quite well even without the sub.
When I switched back over to my reference speakers (GoldSound kit #9)
which are three way speakers that cost $1500 for a pair that I had to
assemble – including the crossover, the effect was similar to switching
to the JmLabs. There was more color in voices. Kind of like the
difference in visual colors between a 10 bit and 12 bit DAC in a DVD
player. But, the sound was more closed in and congested. I was hearing
more but smiling less. If there was a bit of a growl in a Sinead O'Connor
vocal I heard it more with my reference than with the Aperions. If there
was a high guitar note or cymbals, much better on the Aperions. While the
Aperions were plugged in, when a CD ended I was jumping up to put in
another. Not so when I switched back to my reference. Why can't I have it
Any doubts I had about Aperion's dedication to reasonable pricing were
banished by the speaker stands at $95 for a pair. Don't get me started on
what some people charge for speaker stands out there. I'm a big believer
in picking audio equipment based on how you feel when you listen to it.
How does it feel in your chest? Are you smiling? Do you want to get up and
dance, or is your head bobbing? With the Aperions the answers are: Great,
Yes, and Yes. Based on this I would choose them over my existing reference
speakers if I had it to do all over again. The fact that they cost less
than my reference speakers would make me feel all the better.
Right now I'm eyeing a new preamp/processor that promises to drain my bank
account, so I am planning to reluctantly return the review samples but I
expect I will purchase some Aperions in the future. Aperion is planning a
tower speaker that combines their two-way design with a built-in sub.
- Rick Schmidt -
Analog source: Nottingham SpaceDeck
Digital sources: Panasonic RP-56, Naim CDX
Preamps: Edge, AudioRefinement Pre-2
Amps: Edge M4, Outlaw 770
Speakers: JmLab Cobalt 816, GoldSound Kit #9
Follow-up to Original
Aperion Audio Intimus 5.1 Speaker System Review - The 522D-PT Towers with Built-In Powered
Subwoofer, and 522D-VAC Center Channel Speaker - March 31, 2005
were two key items at the end of my review of the Aperion Intimus speakers:
1) I planned to buy some. I have done that, and I've been very happy with
them, more later; 2) Aperion was planning on expanding their line. They have
done that. My job was easier I'll admit, but hey, we both came through.
A year ago the Aperion line-up consisted solely of the 522D two-way speaker,
either upright, or on its side to serve as a center channel, and powered
subwoofers of various sizes.
line has since grown to include floor-standing tower speakers, the 522D-PT,
that combine the 522D two-way at the top of an elegant 42” tower with a
built-in 8” powered (100 watts) sub, MSRP $599 ea, and a new center channel,
the 522D-VAC (Vertical Array Center). The new center channel is an intricate
design with a new 4” midrange driver aligned vertically with the tweeter in
between the traditional 5-1/4” driver used in all the Intimus line, and a
passive radiator. Unlike the other Intimi, the VAC is a sealed box design.
began my review by replacing the speakers in my two-channel setup with the
PT's. I had tried this last year with the 522D's just to see how they worked
with a different amp (which was fine). but the room proved to be too much
for them. My two-channel setup is in a 12'x20' room, but that's only part of
it. The room opens to the kitchen, the stairs, and the hallway to the
bedrooms, basically it's the whole house. The PT's on the other hand, were
comfortable in this setting. I placed them well into the room, about 4' from
each wall, along the 20' span, angled to the listener (me!) at the center of
the other long wall. The woofers were facing inwards.
Since these speakers have powered subs, I had to find power for them. Not
always so easy in a house built in 1926. My speakers were review samples and
I'm sure it was for that reason that one of them came with a 6' power cord
and the other a 10' cord. I needed that 10' cord. The speaker-level
connection was the usual five-way binding post, although I found that the
banana jacks on these posts were tight. It took some work to get them in as
far as they would go, about half way. While I had no fear of a bad
connection, I didn't like the look of these half-way inserted connections
whenever I was around to the back of the subs.
I had to do this to adjust the bass level which is set for each speaker via
a stepped volume control on the back. This means you can adjust the bass
level to, or perhaps beyond your heart's content. It can come in handy if
you have some recordings that you'd like to EQ yourself, or if you are
worried about disturbing neighbors with your loud rock music. Since it's the
bass that carries through walls and through their windows, just turn the
bass down a notch or two.
I had an interesting experience with this that I can't quite explain. I
often use the balance control on my preamp as I shift my listening position.
It seemed that with the PT's, shifting the balance on my preamp had the
desired effect on the top of the tower, the midrange and tweeter, but it had
little or no effect on the subwoofer. I'm guessing that the output of the
woofer really did change but with the speakers in this configuration, with
the woofers facing in, I was not as able to localize the origin of the bass
The PT's preserve that open, relaxed, goes-on-forever quality of the high
frequencies that I heard in the 522D two way bookshelves. This makes sense,
as the top of the tower is a 522D. This is the quality that keeps me
recommending these speakers. The woofers, being driven by their own amps,
did sound a little less integrated into the soundstage compared to standard
three way designs. This is not something that I found bothersome. but it did
take some adjustment.
The PT's shone with particular kinds of music. They were able to channel
Miles Davis's trumpet. Whether its the beautifully packaged Jack Johnson
Sessions box set or the soundtrack to Ascenseur pour l'echafaud, the
trumpet was there in the room with the backing band comfortably tucked into
the background. With that open, relaxed tweeter, I could listen for hours,
and I did. Electronic music also seemed to be more ‘natural' through these
speakers. You know you're in hi-fi land when electronic music can sound more
natural. What I mean is, certain electronic sounds gave me the impression
that ‘this is how it was meant to sound'. With guitar based rock, or
classical, I found that the PT's were less in their element. Still a
remarkably enjoyable experience, but the mix was not sorted out as well when
Miles was on. My theory is that the Intimus line is voiced primarily for
movie soundtracks and the trumpet happens to hit the sweet spot of these
speakers. And it is very sweet.
Similarly, I found that the PT's brought female vocals to life more so than
male. Missing Person's Lost Tracks CD features plenty of electronic
touches and of course, Dale Bozzio's squeaks and squeals. On the PT's, the
fast edges and intense highs were all there. Even better was the first EP
from Smokey and Miho. That's jazz guitarist Smokey Hormel and Miho
Satori formally of Cibo Matto. Miho's voice is about the sweetest thing
going these days. This is a voice that wants to float, not project, into
your listening room. The PT's did just that. But with male vocals such as
Robert Plant's, I heard more throat and less chest than I would expect. Not
that Plant sang in an operatic style, so this is obviously a subtle
One other great thing about the sound of these speakers. The background is
black, black, black. I don't know what technical feature of speakers of
other equipment to attribute this to, but these speakers definitely have it.
You can hear it as clear space around the separate instruments in most any
musical passage, but you really get it when music quickly fades to silence.
It's as though the sound were sucked back into the speakers.
I have been very happy using the 522C which is simply a 522D, two-way
speaker, turned on its side. My opinion of these speakers has not been
changed by living with them for a year. The open, relaxed highs from
Aperions is a unique experience in hi-fi and is especially effective with
have one gripe though, the 522D is smaller than a traditional center
channel. Its proportions don't blend well when it's sitting on top of a 16:9
TV. In fact, on top of my 65” set, it looked altogether too small for the
job. Like a toaster.
522D-VAC fixes that right away. The proportions are more what we've become
accustomed to in center channel designs (toaster oven?). When my eyes wander
up, away from the screen, because I'm impressed yet again with the sound,
the viewing experience is enhanced,
The VAC continues the Aperion tradition of unique design choices and
superior results. Like the rest of the 522 line, the VAC uses the DiAural
crossover. While this nugget may be at the heart of the sound of these
speakers, it's also the source of job security for the Aperion engineers.
Even in a two-way design, which is a more natural fit for the crossover,
Aperion uses custom drivers and tweeters. The three-way design of the VAC
swallowed eight iterations of the 4” midrange driver before the sound was
right. A passive radiator on the left side of the center channel replaces
the rear port on the regular 522's.
I've always associated passive radiators with a soft sounding speaker, not
in a bad way, usually it's a pleasing, easy sound. The driver is not
constrained by the enclosure. While the VAC's may be slightly less extended
in the highs than the regular 522's, soft is not the word for it. In fact,
if I were going by the sound alone, I would not have guessed that they
utilize a passive radiator.
A glance at the specifications for the VAC shows that the high end rolls off
at 18 kHz as opposed to 20 kHz for the 522C, so that may account for the
difference I heard in the high end extension.
noticed two other differences from the 522C that were more significant. One
is a welcome expansion of the soundstage. A bigger, more room filling sound
than I had with the 522C. Not boomy or reverbed, but a sound that I
associate with movie theaters, probably associated with a back wall echo in
the theater and the passive radiator in the VAC. The other difference is
better resolving power, namely human breathing and inflection were now
present. I pumped many hours of VH1 Classic's The Alternative videos
through this center channel. I can't believe that it's been 15-20 years
since the golden age of pop that produced this glorious music. It has not
faded from my brain at all, I know what it should sound like. The VAC did a
great job of providing a space for each instrument in the mix, even music
with heavy, textured, multiple guitars such as Curve's "Fait Accompli" or
"Ministry" was presented as a collection of distinct instruments.
I eventually moved the 522D-PT towers downstairs to the home theater to join
the VAC, placing them as the L and R fronts, and unplugging the 12”
subwoofer. As expected, there was slightly less bass slam on movie
soundtracks, but this was not entirely unwelcome. I sometimes find the
impact from a 12” subwoofer a bit too much.
are building a home theater that is also your primary music system, this
setup is well worth considering. My preference is to stick with the regular
522D's and a subwoofer. However, there is a certain magic with two-way
speakers, and I'm willing to live with the harder job of integrating with a
subwoofer to get it. On movie soundtracks, other than the larger slam from
the larger sub, I'd call it wash. Most of the work is done by the center
My continued recommendation of these speakers is based on their great value
and how well they are suited to home theater. All speakers that cost less
than a house have some degree of voicing or coloration. The choices made by
the Aperion team, beginning with the DiAural crossover, are unique among
speaker manufactures, and that is what makes these speakers stand out. For a
two-channel system devoted entirely to music, the 522D-PT's are economical
contenders albeit with plenty of competition. In the home theater realm, the
Intimus line, in any configuration, is a leading contender. The low price is
just icing on the cake.
Still More to Follow?
Aperion is working on still more speakers: A two-way design with a larger
main driver than the Intimus line and some beautifully sculpted Home-Theater
In A Box style (read diminutive) speakers.
- Rick Schmidt -
Terms and Conditions of Use