Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Jared Rachwalski
- Published on 11 December 2008
The question I am asked most often regarding stereo systems is â€œwhat speaker should I buyâ€? My answer is usually â€œthe one that sounds best in your roomâ€. If you have a good relationship with your local HiFi dealer, you just may be able to audition in your own home. Not all of the good speakers are sold in stores and sometimes to get the best value you need to purchase online. The problem is, you will have to at least pay shipping one way to get the speakers into your home. This can get pricey. What if you could audition in home, risk free? How about a ten year warranty? While we are at it, toss in a 100% credit trade up program. Call in the next 30 minutes and you get a free velvet bag to keep you marbles in! This is exactly what Aperion Audio offers on all their products, and donâ€™t worry there is no time limit on the velvet bag offer. Each speaker comes deliciously wrapped in velvet.
- Front Left/Right - Intimus 4T Tower Speaker
- Design: Two-way Ported
- Drivers: One Silk Dome Tweeter, Two 4" Fiberglass Woofers
- MFR:Â 55 Hz - 20 kHz,Â Â± 3 dB
- Low Frequency Extension: 45 Hz
- Sensitivity: 86 dB
- Dimensions: 34" H x 5" W x 7.5" D
- Weight: 32 Pounds/Each
- MSRP: $650/Pair USA
- Center Channel - Intimus 4C Center Channel Speaker
- Design: Two-way Ported
- Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, Two 4" FiberglassÂ Woofer
- MFR:Â 80 Hz - 20 kHz,Â Â± 3 dB
- Low Frequency Extension: 70 Hz
- Sensitivity: 84 dB
- Dimensions:Â 5.33" H x 12.8" W x 5.5" D
- Weight: 15 Pounds
- MSRP: $160 USA
- Surrounds - Intimus 4B Satellite Speaker
- Design: Two-way Ported
- Drivers: One 1" Silk Dome Tweeter, One 4" Fiberglass Woofer
- MFR:Â 120 Hz - 20 kHz,Â Â± 3 dB
- Low Frequency Extension: 100 Hz
- Sensitivity: 84 dB
- Dimensions: 8.75" H x 5.33" W x 5.5" D
- Weight: 12 Pounds/Each
- MSRP: $260/Each USA
- Subwoofer - Bravus 8D Powered Subwoofer
- Design: Sealed Enclosure
- Driver:Â Two 8" Aluminum, Side Firing
- Amplifier: 150 Watt RMS BASH
- MFR:Â 35 Hz - 180 Hz, - 3 dB
- Low Frequency Extension: 30 Hz
- Dimensions 13.5" H x 12" W x 12"
- Weight: 45 Pounds
- MSRP: $499 USA
- $1569.00 USD System Price
- Aperion Audio
Aperion Audio has been in the business of designing and selling loudspeakers for nearly ten years. They design and distribute their speakers from the Pacific Northwest of the US, with the construction done in China. With a no risk audition program (they will pay shipping both ways if you actually return the product) and a ten year warranty, you can trust they stand behind their product. As I found out, they have good reason to. Overbuilt cabinets, beautiful sound and looks, and rarely seen features for the price make for a tremendous value.
Design and Setup
The Intimus 4T tower speakers are short narrow speakers with dual midrange drivers that dip down to around 55 Hz and are rated at 6 ohms nominally. Normally you will find speakers rated at 8 ohms, and while 6 ohms is actually more difficult forÂ amplifiers, most (if not all amplifiers) can drive 6 ohm loads without issue. These speakers are constructed with Â¾â€ HDF (High Density Fiberboard), and are front ported.Â There is zero resonance when you knock on the cabinet. It is very nice to seeÂ speakers at less than $700/pair built out of real wood. My sample came finished in a high gloss piano black, and is available in cherry (as is the rest of the package).
For a center channel, the Intimus 4C is used. This speaker uses the same tweeter and midwoofer as the rest of the system, and it adds a passive midwoofer to increase bass response. A passive woofer acts like a port in that it extends the low frequency response. However it does so without drastically increasing cabinet size. This drops the -3dB point to 80 Hz compared to the simillar 4Bâ€™s 120 Hz cut off. As the center channel is responsible for most of the work in a surround system, this extra bass response is helpful.
Surround duty is taken care of by the elegant and tiny Intimus 4B Satellite Speaker. This speaker is a small sealed box constructed with Â¾â€ HDF. This is very overbuilt for such a small speaker, and unheard of at only $260 for the pair. No plastic composite here! Also fitted with a 4â€ midwoofer and 1â€ tweeter, and includes binding posts rather than spring clips.
The Bravus 8D contains features not usually seen in a eight inch $500 sub. For starters it is not ported. It contains two drivers, is remote controlled and provides a single band parametric equalizer. Normally designers shove in a port, increase the overall size and then claim to go deep. The problem is when you exceed the tuning frequency, you get noticeable distortion as the driver is pushed to its physical limits. With a sealed sub, you can reduce the cabinet size with low frequency extension sacrificed. Aperion added a second driver and equalization.
Now EQ is not the preferred way to address room acoustic issues as it creates a very small sweet spot and/or introduces audible distortion. Not so when you just use EQ on low frequencies. The human hearing system is not nearly as sensitive to distortion below 100 Hz and this is why you can easily EQ your subwoofers without audible penalty. In the case of the Bravus, it does two things, provides a â€œLow Bass Adjustâ€ and a single frequency adjustment. While no information was provided about the specific frequency and boost/cut levels one can assume it will adjust around 35Hz as this is the -3 dB point for this sub. The parametric EQ on the other hand allows you to boost or cut a frequency of your choosing, from 50 Hz to 90 Hz in 10 dB increments.
Width of the band is set by choosing narrow, normal or wide. When you use equalization you can either boost or cut a frequency band to smooth out the response. If you boost you will be putting a greater load on the amp. I prefer to only cut when possible. Using this control I was able to smooth out a 6 dB bump at 50 Hz in my system, which was instantly noticeable â€“ in a good way. And finally, the subwoofer has phase adjustment from 00 to 1800.
I set up the system in my main listening room, which is 16x20 and has large openings on three walls. The power was supplied by a Rotel RMB-1085 Class D 100x5 amplifier. A Rotel RSP-1069 did all the switching and processing. Sources were my Oppo 981-HD for SACD and DVD-Audio, and lossless digital audio via my HTPC over HDMI. Calibration was done with a RS SPL Meter (analog) to level match the speakers. Bass calibration and EQ settings were done using Room Eq Wizard software.
Stereo playback was done with both the Oppo and my HTPC. The speakers were set to small, crossed over at 100Hz (for the Towers, and 120 Hz for the bookshelves), with the dual 8â€ sub taking over from there. The subwoofers equalizer was set to cut a narrow 5 dB bump at 50 Hz. No other equalization was used. The 4T towers blended very well with the subwoofer and were well suited for each other at low to modest volumes. At higher levels with heavy rock music, the subwoofer ran out of steam before the towers did. The sound was not unpleasant, just a tad shy of bass. When paired directly with the 4B bookshelf speakers, the sound was more consistent throughout the volume range.
The first thing that I noticed about the sound was the rock-solid center image. I had to double check my processor to ensure that I did not accidentally engage the center channel. With both the 4Bs and the 4Ts minimal toe-in created a deep soundstage and produced superb imaging. Vocals and acoustic guitars are resolved much better than heavy rock with these speakers. Although a couple of tracks from The Melvins' A Senile Animal were very enjoyable, there was not as much punch and dynamics at higher volumes.
For multi-channel music and DVD playback I used the Oppo and both the multichannel and HDMI outputs. The front speakers were crossed over at 100 Hz, the rears at 120 Hz, and the subwoofer was located near the front speakers. There was 8 feet of distance between the front left and front right speakers. This presented roughly 3.5 feet of space from the center speaker to either front speaker. I found in my setup that this distance proved to be to large and I was able to notices the sound panning from one speaker to the other. Normally this should be seamless and the soundstage should blend very well. When brought closer together the issues disappeared. This problem was even more evident with movie playback. If you have a wide setup and require placing the mains further than 3 feet from the center speaker I would suggest you opt for the larger center channel.
The subwoofer performed very well with music playback. Having the ability to reduce a nasty room node via the onboard equalizer helped smooth out the bass response. The fact that the sub only reached down to 35Hz was not detrimental to music playback. With movies the sub was a tad too small for my large room and the lower octave was missed. What surprised me was the lack of distortion when presented with content below the subs cut off. With ported designs subwoofers will often make a nasty sound when you exceed the low frequency capabilities. Not so with this dual driver sealed design, the bass rolled off without being offensive.
The Intimus 4T Hybrid SD package provides real value. While excellent for small to medium rooms, I found it to be a little lacking in my larger living room. With Aperionâ€™s ample system choices one could easily opt for a larger center, mains, or sub and this would improve the sound quality in larger rooms. The build quality is second to none at this price level, and do not overlook the value in a no risk in home audition and a ten year warranty. All things considered (price and size) this speaker system really does sound great.