Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Aperion Audio Intimus 6T-DB Hybrid XD 5.1 Speaker System

ARTICLE INDEX
Aperion Audio Intimus 6T-DB Hybrid XD

Introduction

When I was just getting started in hi-fi back in college, going to look for a new piece of equipment was both exciting, and annoying. Venturing out with a collection of CD’s to evaluate speakers at different shops would often lead to two results: salespeople that would totally ignore me based on my perceived age and income, or salespeople that would try to steer me away from the speakers I could reasonable afford to something far more expensive. In those rare cases that I found a store with a salesperson that actually respected that I wanted a nice set of speakers but did have limited funds and tried to help, I would return there later as my finances allowed.

Specifications

  • Intimus 6T Tower Speaker
  • Design: Ported
  • Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, Two 6.5" Woven Fiberglass Mid/Woofers
  • MFR: 36 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 91 dB
  • Dimensions: 41.5" H x 7.75" W x 15.5" D
  • Weight: 70 Pounds/Each
  • Price: $699/Each USA; $1390/Pair USA
  • Intimus 6C Center Channel Speaker
  • Design: Sealed
  • Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 5.25" Woven Fiberglass Midrange, Two 6.6" Woven Fiberglass Woofers
  • MFR: 55 Hz - 20 kHz  ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB
  • Dimensions: 8.5" H x 25" W x 11" D
  • Weight: 39 Pounds
  • Price: $590 USA
  • Intimus 5DB Dipole/Bipole Surround Speaker
  • Design: Sealed
  • Drivers: Two 1" Silk Dome Tweeters, Two 5.25" Woven Fiberglass Mid/Woofers
  • MFR: 100 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 86 dB
  • Dimensions: 11.75" H x 10.6" W x 7.5" D
  • Weight: 17 Pounds/Each
  • Price: $345/Each USA; $690/Pair USA
  • Bravus 12D - Dual 12" Powered Subwoofer
  • Design: Sealed
  • Drivers: Two 12" Aluminum
  • Amplifier: 500 Watts
  • MFR: 22 Hz - 180 Hz ± 3 dB
  • Dimensions: 17" H x 15.5" W  15.5" D
  • Weight: 62 Pounds
  • Price: $1099 USA
  • Aperion Audio

Unfortunately for me, the Internet Direct companies that exist now were not available to me then. As half of the price of a pair of speakers can be dealer markup, these vendors promise better value and still can offer great support (via email, phone, and/or typically great owner forums). These companies have grown quickly to offer a wide range of products from entry level speakers and subwoofers, to high end reference quality speakers and AV separates. The worry is that you won’t have the chance to evaluate these options in your home as some stores may allow, but many vendors offer free shipping and 30 day guarantees, eliminating the risk on your end. Having read reviews for Aperion Audio over the past few years but unable to listen them myself, I was quite happy to be presented with the opportunity to review their new home theater speaker package.

Based in Oregon, Aperion Audio has been selling speakers direct since 2000 and has built up a very strong reputation for offering not only a great value in speakers, but also quality that is the equal of the high end brands out there. For this review, I was sent their new Intimus 6T-DB Hybrid HD system that consists of a pair of 6T towers for the front channels, a 6C center channel, two 5DB dipole/bipole surrounds, and a Bravus 12D subwoofer that features dual 12” woofers and a parametric EQ.


Design and Setup

The speakers arrived in some of the sturdiest packaging I have seen, leaving no chance that anything bad could happen to your speakers during transit. Under all of the packaging, each speaker came individually packaged in a dark blue velvet bag to preserve the finish. Typically, I’ve been a fan of piano black for speaker finishes, as the wood finishes that come on speakers I can afford look fairly cheap. Whoever provides the wood for the Aperion speakers has nothing in common with other speakers in their price range, however. The finish of the cherry speakers was nothing short of gorgeous, looking like a high quality piece of furniture and not a mid-priced set of speakers, right down to the nicely rounded corners.

Aperion Audio Intimus 6T-DB Hybrid XD

The only thing on the speakers that didn’t exude the quality of a much more expensive speaker were the binding posts which were of acceptable quality, but just not of the exceptional nature of the rest of the speaker.

Aperion Audio Intimus 6T-DB Hybrid XD

Nice touches that were present on the speakers included threaded holes for carpet spikes which are included with the speakers, and a threaded hole on the surrounds that let them easily attach them to my speaker stands. Aperion also included a nice set of wall mounts for the surrounds so you can easily attach them up and out of the way. The center channel speaker includes a switch on the back to select the position of the speaker relative to the display (above or below) and adjusts the speaker accordingly.

Hooking the speakers up was the same as any normal set of speakers, though the much larger center channel required me to install a new shelf as it wouldn’t fit where I usually put my EPOS center channel speaker. I let my receiver run the Audyssey setup to determine the distance and crossover settings for the speakers. It wound up selecting too high of a crossover value for the surrounds which I corrected, and it detected the fronts as full range, which I wasn’t sure of. I decided to run them as full range at first to see how they went, but after trying out a few audio tracks with some heavy bass, I settled on a crossover of 50Hz and got far better performance overall from them. The distances it detected was spot on, which was a first for me with Audyssey.


In Use

To get a feel for how the speakers sounded, I began by listening to some two channel music. Listening to the recent release from Wilco, Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch), the speakers began to come alive with much larger dynamics and a terrific vertical soundstage, and I had to check to make sure that my receiver hadn’t switched to a virtual surround mode, as the soundstage was so wide it seemed to be coming from both sides. The Aperions offered a far smoother high end than my current speakers, not causing me the fatigue that I sometimes can suffer from when listening to this album.

Moving onto more of my favorite albums, I threw on OK Computer from Radiohead. Recorded inside an estate in England, the band would change rooms they were recording in to get a different feel for the sound to fit the music. On Karma Police, as Thom’s singing grows more desperate at the end, for the first time I could hear him move from being close to the microphone in a typical studio environment, to being in a large open space, adding extra depth to his voice and the feeling of being helpless. I had easily heard the song a hundred times before, but the Aperions were revealing details to me that I hadn’t heard before, and adding even more emotional depth to the music.

Since I had a full 5.1 system, it was time to give a listen to some multichannel SACD and DVD-Audio discs. Listening to the surround mix of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon SACD, I was enveloped in a way that I had not been before. Sounds moved seamlessly from left to right, or front to back, without the typical jump between speakers that I would hear. The front soundstage was as wide and high as I have heard it, while the subwoofer provided tight, clear bass that effortlessly blending in with the rest of the speakers. Perhaps the Aperions were more clearly demonstrating to me the sonic advantage of SACD over Red Book CD, but as soon as I started listening I didn’t want to stop.

On The Beatles Love DVD-A, I heard a clarity on those Beatles songs that I have never heard before. Having been to shows by Cirque du Soleil before (though unfortunately not to the Love performance) and knowing how aggressive they could be with their surround mixes, these speakers brought that feeling home on the album. Some sounds were anchored to the center channel far more than they were on Dark Side of the Moon, but I believe that was due to the mix on the disc and not the speakers themselves. I was worried about having dipole speakers as I had not liked the sound from the previous set of dipoles that I owned, but these created such a seamless environment that I was never tempted to replace them with a standard pair of bookshelf speakers.

Aperion Audio Intimus 6T-DB Hybrid XD

Perhaps the most surprising revelation in listening was just watching football on a Sunday. The sounds that were picked up by the on field microphones came through with far more clarity than I had heard before, which I was not expecting at all. The sound of a player hitting their helmet to signal an audible came though perfectly instead of blending into the background, and at one point my wife even yelled from another room asking what sound I was making after a referee blew his whistle. The Aperions made the sounds come alive in a way they hadn’t in my living room before.

One of the movies I really enjoyed earlier this year was Iron Man, and the Blu-Ray disc has a TrueHD track on it that’s designed to give your home theater a real workout. The soundtrack was very aggressive throughout the movie, and the Aperion setup felt seamless, with sounds moving around you instead of just from speaker to speaker. The more that I listened to the speakers in dipole mode, the more I enjoyed the way they created a much larger side soundstage and made me wish I had a second pair for a full 7.1 setup behind me as well. The only aspect where I felt the setup was lacking was the lack of thump from the subwoofer in heavy action scenes. While it did a great job of filling in the lower octaves for the other speakers, it didn’t provide that truly deep bass that you can feel in addition to hear.


Conclusions

One issue that came up during the review is that while the Bravus sub includes a parametric EQ, I was unable to get it to function for me correctly. Measuring the output from the sub I had nearly flat response from 18 Hz to 80 Hz, except for a very large spike at 50 Hz of around 8 dB. Using the subs EQ I set it to 50 Hz and the response to be -6 db, but that only resulted in lowering the spike by 1 db. Perhaps the sub had too much interaction with the room at that frequency and would need more advanced corrective measures (such as room treatments) to fix it, but I really had hoped the EQ would be able to help with this issue. Even if I adjusted the width of the EQ band, I still could only lower the hump by 1-2 db. The EQ did help to correct for some of the issues, but wasn’t able to overcome the larger issue of the room it seemed.

While the sub did have nearly flat in-room response all the way down to 18 Hz, I never got the powerful bass notes that I could feel in my chest while watching a movie that I’ve felt with 15” subs. However, the sub blended in so seamlessly with the rest of the speakers that I would almost forget it’s there as it did its job, only enhancing the quality of the music and never attracting attention to itself.

Aperion Audio Intimus 6T-DB Hybrid XD

After living with the Aperion speakers for a few weeks, I am going to be sad to see them leave my listening room. What amazed me the most after a couple of months with the Aperions is how I could just watch a movie and the speakers would never draw attention to themselves, but instead just offer up a seamless soundstage that always enhanced what I was doing and never distracted.

Offering higher quality sound than other speakers I have heard for the same price, and a build quality that is superior to anything I have seen among their competitors, this is a speaker setup I would have no hesitation recommending to someone that was looking for either a full surround system, or a pair of stereo speakers. With Aperions wonderful 30 day trial you would have no risk to give them a try as well.