Aperion Intimus 632-LR Setup and Listening Tests
The Aperion Audio Intimus system was set up and configured in Reference System 3. I spaced the 632-LR bookshelf speakers about 7' apart, with the subwoofer just to the outside of the left channel and pulled forward into the room far enough to break up the first room mode along the side wall. Typically I place loudspeakers a bit closer together, but the Aperions seemed to image better toed in a bit more and farther apart. The acoustics of Reference System 3 are such that there is natural diffusion and absorption occurring through out the room in sufficient amounts as to make the natural acoustics more than tolerable and ensuring that a significant amount of direct vs. reflected material reaches the listening position. In this particular room the surrounds are situated about 6 feet behind the listening position and on the back wall. For movie listening, we have found that dipole speakers work exceptionally well in diffusely mimicking a surround array, but as I found, the Bipole setting may work better in some scenarios.
I took particular approaches in listening to the Aperion Audio system. The first approach was what I knew it would do well with: movie soundtracks. The second, was high quality multi-channel surround audio - in particular, some tracks from AIX Records' Sampler Disc (multi-channel DVD-Audio) which are recorded and mixed without any electronic compression, EQ, or reverb.
This is an exceptional movie for hearing a full home theater system - from the mains, to the sub, to the surrounds. Chapter 22 got us started when Doctor Octavius robbed the bank using his newly acquired arms. During the intense battle sequence which followed, Doc Ock and Spider-Man scaled the side of a building and the deep, staccato sub sounds generated by the impact of the metal arms on the concrete structure was intense. With the level of sound coming from the system, I was almost surprised that Aunt May didn't get literally shaken off that building.
The pounding ensued as both hero and antagonist slammed against the building over and over. As the police opened fired on Octavius, both off-screen gunshots and their corresponding ricochets danced in the surrounds. Even the omnipresent ambient wind noise sounded very convincing.
In Chapter 42's transit car scene there was a section at the beginning where Spider-Man bent backwards to get under a low-flying tunnel. The effect went from the front speakers to the surrounds in a transitional "wipe" that flew the ambience over your head (it reminded me of the cavern entrance sequence in Star Wars Episode I's Pod Race). There was also a brief, but dramatic sub-harmonic hit that occurred as Doc Ock ripped the controls from the high speed train car. It was very low - and the S-12 took the opportunity to rattle my frame on the couch with it. Later, in Chapter 46, that same sub sweetener re-appeared when Doctor Octavius activated his fusion reactor. It was a super low sweep and the effect was as cool as it was startling. As the fusion reactor exploded, the S-12 started to shake the entire room (in a good way).
From the subwoofer and surround-sound rich opening credits, this film starts off using the entire Aperion Audio Intimus 6-Series. The S-12 accomplished two things very nicely: low, rumbly, powerful rolls, and smooth, tonal, low frequencies. Some subs succeed at one but lose control on the other.
In Chapter 7, when Hellboy performed his first on-screen mission there was very convincing use of the surrounds when the gunshots fired and the location of the creature he was hunting was off-screen. As the chase continued, it just got better. The following sword fight (if you can call it a "fight") had a nice crisp sound and motion was well-balanced within the sound stage. These speakers have an excellent ability to spatially represent what's happening on screen provided they are correctly placed and aligned.
Surrounds were once again hot and really accurate (spatially speaking) during a subsequent subway-based fight scene. I kept being very impressed by the immersive nature of the 534-SS surround speakers.
"Mosaic" from Laurence Juber's Guitar Noir Album (AIX 80018)
This is acoustic guitar at its best - plain and simple. The upright bass which was present on this track was smooth and clear. A shaker comes in about 30 seconds into the track and is nicely present in the mix - firmly placed in the surrounds without being distracting. In fact, they sounded as if they were not completely localized to one particular speaker, but within the room towards the right rear side. AT 1:45 there are ultra high metallic percussion bells which sprinkle across the soundstage. I doubt you would even hear these on a cubed system. As I played this track the only negative I could derive was that the center channel seemed a bit too localizable for my tastes. I have to admit, though - except for the slight vertical dip of the center channel tugging the soundstage downward it was like being in on the session.
"Moonlight Acoustica" by the AIX All Star Band (AIX80041)
A solid, driving kick drum marks the opening salvo of this track. The S-12 subwoofer sent the pressure of the kick drum across the floor and into the couch where I was listening. I could feel it in my chest as if I was there. There was what I perceived to be a slight de-emphasis of the mid-bass noticeable in this track, especially during one of the guitar solos. Soft snare rim hits filled the surrounds as did some rhythmic guitar fills and an organ.
"Nordenham" from The Carl Verheyen Band's Rumor Album (AIX83039)
This acoustic piece featured some very raw, well-played acoustic guitars and bass. Distinctive surround elements came through - again, without distraction or folding the front soundstage - even when utilizing multiple listening positions.
"Ocean" from Johnathan McEuen's One Step Ahead Album (AIX83029)
Firm, smooth bass and clean, clear vocals designate this recording as being an intricate recording that allowed me to hear a male voice with all of its detail and raw quality. The natural room reverb captured by the surrounds in this track are nothing short of amazing for a speaker package costing less than what many retail loudspeaker manufacturers charge for their center channels. Listen to the finger movement noises on the guitar and hear how the surrounds pick those up as part of the room reverb.
"The Hag at the Churn" from Bad Haggis' Span Album (AIX83029)
Bagpipes have never sounded this cool. We're talking harmonies set to a fast-paced Celtic rhythm. Toss in some raw vocal harmonies in the surrounds (the bagpipes are the front and center focus here), some center-anchored driving bass, and you have one excellent track that sounded refined and accurate on the Aperion system. A drum set was placed more directly in the surround off to your right and the effect was driving and "in your chest" solid.
For some extra low frequencies and a voice I was even more intimately familiar with, I popped in some Seal and queued up "Get It Together". Seal brought back some of those lower mids which were lacking earlier. It also, however, demonstrated the insanely low frequencies the "bargain" S-12 was capable of as the song ran several musical sweep effects throughout the course of this track. Surrounds were supportive and filling, but not nearly as interesting (or the focus) as with the AIX Records tracks. This is simply the result of a different mixing process and methodology.
A softer song, "Love Devine", gave a less compressed and more open sound to listen to. The artificial reverb came through with clean decay, and the subtle but sturdy bass made sure its presence was felt. The fuller mix of this track, as it was in later verses, showed me that the 533-VAC center channel could maintain detail and clarity - even with a full and active 5.1 soundtrack playing through the system.