Aperion Intimus 632-LR Build Quality
We've been big fans of several direct-to-consumer loudspeaker manufacturers - but only after they proved to us that their products held up against comparable models by more mainstream manufacturers. Last year Aperion Audio joined our recommended list by producing a good bang-for-the-buck product with the Intimus 5.1 system (comprised of four 532-LRs a 532-C and S-8 powered subwoofer). This year we wanted to hear what their newer, larger products had to offer in terms of quality and performance.
Build Quality & Features
While not an upgrade, but rather a different model, we want you to get an idea of the size of the new Intimus 632-LR loudspeakers by comparing them to the 532-LRs. Though they look similar from a distance, at over double the weight of the 532-LRs, the 632 series bookshelf speakers might just bend some particle board shelving at 26 lbs. They are 4.5" taller, about a 1/2" wider and provide over 50% more depth. In terms of volume, you're looking at an increase of 222%! Where the 532-LRs have a custom PVA-coated 5.25" midrange, the 632-LRs sport a custom designed 6.5" long-throw paper composite woofer. The bad news is that you will have to be very careful if you are choosing a mounting method - they're simply too heavy for anything but a rugged stud-anchored or shelf-type system. Of course we prefer speaker stands.
Baby Got Back
In case you thought Aperion was contemplating saving some money by cutting back on build quality - you'd be mistaken. Their entire loudspeaker line still utilizes the same 1" thick HDF cabinetry Aperion is famous for. Knock on the walls of these speakers and you may hurt your hand, but you won't hear any cabinet resonance. We removed one of the 6.5" midrange drivers and peered inside to see the well-braced, well-damped cabinet (ok, we admit it - we were looking for particle board or a reduction in the wall thickness!) While it is certainly impressive to see a 1" thick baffle, we have to say that it's really overkill for a cabinet of this size provided there is also some cross bracing (and there is). What ends up happening is the consumer simply pays more for the additional manufacturing and shipping costs with very little to no practical gains in sound quality. Ok, now that you've heard Audioholics criticize a company for having too good of quality in their products you can rest assured that you've probably seen everything.
The new 534-SS Dipole/Bipole surround speakers were much larger than I thought they would be. They sport dual 1" silk dome tweeters and 5.25" midrange drivers. The enclosures are designed to be flush-mounted to either side walls or, if need be, on the back wall as rear surrounds. They have a dipole/bipole switch that alters whether the drivers fire in-phase (bipole) or out of phase (dipole). With exception, the intended use is:
- Dipole: the default setting for creating a diffuse surround field desirable for home theater use
- Bipole: use for direct-radiating needs such as multi-channel music or in certain rear surround scenarios where placing the surrounds on the side wall is impossible and a less diffused sound is preferred.
In Reference System 3 I first configured the speakers on the back wall in Dipole mode for home theater, but switched them to Bipole mode when listening to multi-channel music. I tested both configurations for each use and finally determined that with my particular room configuration (rear-mounted surrounds above ear level) Bipole mode actually sounded better in almost all circumstances. It wasn't that the Dipole mode sounded wrong, but it was almost too diffuse and even approximate localization was difficult. Your room, of course may bring different results (and almost certainly will if you are mounting them on side walls, which is best). In either case be sure to mount the speakers correctly (they are labeled right/left) so that the out of phase drivers are located on the outside when in Dipole mode.
S-12 Powered Subwoofer
The 66 pound S-12 features a 12" PVA-coated front-firing paper driver powered by a 250 watt (400 watt peak) class A/B amplifier. The high excursion driver has a stamped steel frame and a butyl rubber surround. This unit is rather large, measuring over 6500 cubic inches (or 3.8 cubic feet). The interior of the subwoofer was well-damped and had adequate bracing across the center of the structure. There was no effective flexing that was going to occur in this cabinet. The single rear-firing port was not tapered on either end, but did appear to be tuned specifically for the system.
Pulling out the plate amplifier I found a large power supply with plenty of capacitance along for the ride - guaranteeing that the S-12 was more than equipped to drive the spec'd 250 watts per channel. One additional thing I noted was the organization of the circuit boards on the S-12 - everything was well laid-out on the power supply and cabling was more than sufficient to ensure good quality transfer of both power and audio throughout the system.