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Aperion Audio Verus Grand Loudspeaker System Review

by January 20, 2011
Contributors:
The Aperion Verus Grand System

The Aperion Verus Grand System

  • Product Name: Verus Grand Speakers
  • Manufacturer: Aperion Audio
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: January 20, 2011 22:30
  • MSRP: $ 899/each (Towers), $699/each (center), $299/each (Bookshelf); $3095 (5.0 system) $999 (Bravus II 12D)
  • Buy Now

Verus Grand Tower

  • 1-inch Aperion Axially Stabilized Radiator silk dome tweeter
  • Two 5-inch woven Kevlar® mid-range drivers with aluminum phase plugs
  • Two 6-inch woven Kevlar® woofers with butyl rubber surrounds
  • 3-way bass reflex design
  • Bi-ampable 5-way gold-plated binding posts
  • Furniture-grade gloss cherry wood veneer or gloss piano black finish
  • Beautiful curved cabinet with compound angles and internal bracing
  • Acoustically transparent, magnetically held, cloth-covered metal grillee
  • Frequency Response: (+/- 3dB) 45-20,000 Hz -- (+/- 6dB) 35-22,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 92 dB
  • Recommended Power: 20-300 Watts
  • Driver Configuration: 3-Way
  • Enclosure Type: Anti-Resonant, Internally Braced, Dual Rear Ported
  • Dimensions: 43.5" H x 8" W x 12" D
  • Weight: 65lbs

 

Verus Grand Center

  • 3-Way, Sealed Enclosure design
  • One 1" Aperion Axially Stabilized Radiator silk dome tweeter
  • One 4” Woven Kevlar® Mid-range driver with Aluminum Phase Plug
  • Two 6” Woven Kevlar® Woofers with Butyl Rubber Surrounds
  • Curvilinear cabinet with compound angles and internal bracing
  • Furniture-grade gloss cherry wood veneer or gloss piano black finish
  • VoiceRight™ phase correction switch for bass optimization
  • 5-Way Gold-plated Binding Posts
  • Acoustically transparent cloth-covered metal grillee
  • Frequency Response: (+/- 3dB) 50-20,000 Hz (+/- 6dB) 42-22,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB
  • Recommended Power: 40-300 Watts
  • Driver Configuration: 3-Way
  • Enclosure Type: Anti-Resonant, Internally Braced, Sealed
  • Dimensions: 9" H x 24.75" W x 11" D
  • Weight: 39 lbs

 

Verus Grand Bookshelf

  • 1-inch Aperion Axially Stabilized Radiator silk dome tweeter
  • One 5-inch woven Kevlar® mid-range drivers with aluminum phase plug
  • 2-way bass reflex design
  • 5-way gold-plated binding posts
  • Furniture-grade gloss cherry wood veneer or gloss piano black finish
  • Beautiful curved cabinet with compound angles and internal bracing
  • Acoustically transparent, magnetically held, cloth-covered metal grillee
  • Frequency Response: (+/- 3dB) 59-20,000 Hz -- (+/- 6dB) 54-22,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 87dB
  • Recommended Power: 30-200 Watts
  • Driver Configuration: 2-Way
  • Enclosure Type: Anti-Resonant, Internally Braced, Rear Ported
  • Dimensions: 13" H x 7.5" W x 9" D
  • Weight: 14 lbs

 

Bravus II 12D Subwoofer

  • Single down-firing active 12” aluminum driver
  • Dual side-firing 12” aluminum passive radiators
  • 600 watt BASH® amplifier
  • Digital display with remote control
  • Fully customizable parametric EQ settings with crossover bypass mode
  • Customizable pre-set modes for movies, music & games
  • Small internally braced 1” HDF sealed enclosure
  • Virtually vibration-free cabinet
  • Frequency Response: -3dB, 20Hz - 200Hz -- -6dB, 16Hz - 200Hz
  • Amplifier Power: 600W RMS
  • Enclosure Type: Sealed and Internally Braced 1" HDF
  • Dimensions: 17" H x 15.5" W x 15.5" D (with feet attached)
  • Weight: 62 Lbs

Pros

  • Fantastic high end
  • Very linear response both in lab and in room
  • Great imaging
  • Value

Cons

  • Low end response a little weak on the Bravus II 12D subwoofer
  • Non-standard grille design

 

 Aperion Audio Verus Introduction

Verus SystemFor any that have listened to the AV Rant podcast, you know that I was fortunate enough to get the very first review sample of Aperion Audio's new Verus Grand line of speakers. These are speakers that are so new they aren't, at the time of this writing, yet shipping. The reason is simple - Aperion Audio is considering expanding their market into Australia and I was moving to Perth, Australia. Serendipitous don't you think? This means that all our Australian readers should take careful note. Not only are you learning about some of the latest and greatest speakers from a well respected and established speaker manufacturer, but you are being introduced to a company that you've previously been denied access. Let's hope they make the move soon.

Followers of Audioholics will know that I'm a no-nonsense reviewer. I don't like to communicate with manufacturers before or during the review process. It's like trying to accurately assess someone's baby for attractiveness while talking to the mom - she can't help but be biased and try to bias you in the process. That being said, I've pretty well managed to not do that here as well. But I did want to share with you the idea behind the design of the Verus Grand speakers. From Aperion's press materials:

At Aperion, we want our speakers to capture this magic undiminished – but on a budget.  Many engineering choices can improve performance without increasing costs. 

And here:

We derive great satisfaction in bringing this magic to folks like us, who work hard for a living and need to balance the joy of the listening experience with other priorities in life.  So, with this in mind, these were our design goals for the Verus Grand:

  • True-to-life sound

  • Flat frequency response

  • Smooth power response

  • Reasonable sensitivity but not to the detriment of bass extension

  • Vertical response optimized for expected listening elevations

  • LF response tailored to expected room placement

This is what they were striving for which, in my opinion, should be the goal for all speaker manufacturers. My review will try to test whether or not they've achieved these measurable goals. For the cost, well, only you can decide that. The Verus Grand system comes in at just under $3100 for a 5.0 system with an extra $999 for the Bravus II 12D used in the test. If they meet their design goals, it's a reasonable price. Whether you can afford it is another question.

Aperion Verus Grand First Impressions & Build Quality

 Verus_center_grill001.jpgUsually I would post a picture or two of the speakers coming out of their boxes in this part of the review. Unfortunately, because the speakers were the first off the line, they didn't have all the right packaging on hand. They were able to send the correct boxes but all the packaging material was different (and non-standard). That being said, even with the make shift packaging, the speakers still arrived undamaged and in good order. Aperion, like many manufacturers, has opted for the cotton sock as a method of "protecting" the finish of the speakers and to convey a sense of quality.

Regular readers of Audioholics will know that I'm not a big fan of the cotton sock. There are a few reasons. First, more often than not, the protection they offer is minimal. They don't keep out the elements, they don't keep out pests or insects, and they often add a layer of fuzz that has to be immediately cleaned off. The Verus Grand speakers I received had the high gloss black finish which theoretically could benefit from a layer of cloth between it and the packaging. Aperion made the good decision to include, around the sock, a plastic bag which actually is good for keeping out the elements and other nasties. While I still maintain that the cotton sock is more trouble than it's worth (getting the 65 pound Tower out of the box without it sliding, like a slip-n-slide, out of the sock is worthy of an Olympic event), it may have saved some minor scratches on the surface. Maybe.

I am a big fan of the high gloss black finish on a speaker for a number of reasons. When done well, it is very durable. While some might decry the reflectivity of the finish saying that it can be distracting, I've found that most speakers sound best with a bit of toe-in. This means that any reflections are usually not visible at my seated position. Even when I have noticed reflections on speakers, it is the sort of nit-picky thing that shows up in reviews and on forum posts but, in real world applications, rarely distracts for longer than a few moments and is easily forgotten.

The finish on the Verus Grand speakers was immaculate. As expected, there was a bit of fuzz on the outside that needed to be wiped off but once I did, I could find no blemish or scuff anywhere. The Verus Grand speakers proved to be very resilient as I have younger children that couldn't help but touch, push, and throw toys at them. As far as I can tell, so far, they have stood up well. I didn't like, as much, the black front baffle. While it isn't as noticeable with the black speakers, it clearly shows up with the cherry finish. While is still feels and looks like a gloss black veneer, it is slightly duller than the rest of the speaker. In low light you won't notice it but I'd prefer if they had continued with the normal veneer and used a magnetic grille that stuck to the baffle.

Verus_glamour001.jpgThose of you familiar with Aperion Audio speakers will know that they are fond of inset grilles. In the case of the Verus Grand line, they are a perforated metal grille covered in speaker cloth. Aperion provides a little hook that you are directed to slip between the side of the grille and the speaker baffle. This didn't work for me. Instead, I had to dig the hook into the grille risking tearing the fabric. The grilles are held on magnetically so the hard part is breaking that connection. Once you have, the grille comes off easily to expose the drivers. If I didn't have children I'd probably always keep the grilles off my speakers. The Audioholic in me just loves seeing those drivers in action. It is obvious that Aperion expects you to keep the grilles on (which is great for those with kids - believe me, they are never getting these off). The lip around the outside of the front baffle (where the grille insets) gives the speakers a strange look without the grilles. With they grilles, they look quite fine though I would have liked an attractive non-grille option.

The driver complement of the Verus Grand is more diverse than you usually see in a line of speakers. What manufacturers often do is the pick a common tweeter and a midrange (and sometimes a woofer) and spread them across the different speaker offerings. What we find with the Verus Grand is that they've changed up the drivers slightly based on the speaker design. While for some that might suggest they've sourced their drivers from different companies, we think it shows how they've had to modify the driver compliment based on the speaker design.

The design of the speakers may look a bit boxy at first blush but actually isn't. The front, sides and top are all curved on the bookshelves and tower with the front baffle and top both having a slight convex angle. The front baffle is much larger than the back creating an additional angle though the curve is just as gentle. On the tower speaker the back has two flared ports and dual pairs of binding posts with a bar connecting them. The bookshelves have a single port but retain the dual binding posts. This allows you to bi-amp the speakers if you wish though the 6 ohm impedance and 92dB sensitivity for the towers suggests you won't need to (not that you won't, we would). We probably wouldn't bi-amp the bookshelves (6 ohm impedance and 87dB sensitivity) simply because of the size. The center is not ported, has a single set of binding posts, and includes a switch to cut the bass for in-cabinet placement.

The biggest problem we had with the Verus Grand line in general is that they are not field serviceable. Around the plate for the binding posts and each of the drivers is a rubber surround that is glued down. You literally must tear it out in order to access any of the screws. This is pretty short sighted on Aperion's part. While we're sure you could glue the surround back down if you wanted, making a speaker that can't be serviced in the field means a lot of extra shipping for them if there turns out to be a problem and a lot of customers that will feel put out when they are waiting for speakers to be serviced. It seems that it would have made more sense to use some sort of removable surround (we've seen these in the past) so that minor problems could be addressed by particularly handy consumers or field techs. We've experienced in the past, particularly with subwoofers, wires shaking loose that needed only access to a Philips head screwdriver. Would we like to wait for roundtrip shipping for such a fix? Would you?

Verus_tweeter001.jpgAll the speakers have the new a one inch Aperion Axially Stabilized Radiator silk dome tweeter which we'll discuss in detail in a moment. The towers mate the tweeter with two 5-inch woven Kevlar mid-range drivers with aluminum phase plugs, and two 6-inch woven Kevlar woofers with butyl rubber surrounds in a three way design. The bookshelves have the tweeter with one of the 5-inch woven Kevlar mid-range drivers while the center sports a pair of the 6" woofers but a 4-inch Kevlar mid-range driver. We're actually surprised to see Kevlar listed as the material in the drivers as we were under the impression that Kevlar had discouraged their name being used. Many manufacturers have gone to using the more generic term "woven fiberglass" instead. The drivers are arranged with a MTM "d'Appolito" configuration on the top with the two woofers on the bottom on the towers with the center having the woofers flanking either side of the vertically arranged tweeter and mid. The real story here is with the tweeter. The tweeter is a new design from Aperion that is optimized for lower frequency performance. This allows them to cross the tweeter over at a lower frequency which relieves the midrange drivers from having to reproduce frequencies that are notoriously hard for them without the cone "breaking up" or beaming. Aperion does this though a number of innovations.

Verus_mid001.jpg     Verus_woof001.jpg

Verus_Tweeter_back001.jpgThe most obvious is the use of the stabilization bar. This goes across the front of the tweeter and pins the center of it down. On other dome tweeters, the dome is allowed to rock during playback which can cause distortion when playing low. By pinning the center down, this rocking is eliminated allowing the tweeter to play lower without distortion. In addition, most really good dome tweeters are vented in the back into a damped chamber to reduce the pressure on the dome. Aperion also added eight additional vents to relieve the pressure behind the surround. Together, these additions allow the ASR tweeter to play lower (it is crossed over in the tower at 1.8kHz) creating a smoother, more natural off-axis roll off. I've included Aperion's measurement of the tweeter. Note - they took this measurements, not us.

 

                                             Verus_Tweeter_response001.jpg

Aperion Audio Tweeter Frequency Response

While they had covered the magnets on the grille with felt to protect the front baffle, I did damage the side of the speaker as I pulled the grille off. It really seems that Aperion doesn't expect you to remove the grilles. I chanced opening one of the bookshelf speakers so that I could get a closer look at the crossover and drivers. While I couldn't get the tweeter out without risking permanent damage, the woofer eventually relented.  This is the same midrange they use in the Tower and an inch larger than the one they use in the Center. The woofer sports a cast basket and a hefty magnet.

Verus Driver     Verus_cross001.jpg

Verus_magnet001.jpg

Editorial Note on Grills by Aperion Audio
The main problem with most grilles isn’t the cloth – it’s actually the grille frame. Sound waves reflecting off the inside edge of the frame arrive time-delayed at the listening position and therefore are out-of-phase at some frequency. (Actually there are a series of frequencies that arrive out-of-phase but usually all but the lowest of these are beaming enough that their energy reaching the grille edge doesn’t contribute much.) The small edge Tom noted with the grille removed is much smaller than a typical grille frame and is aimed at keeping this problem to a minimum.

Aperion Verus Crossover

Aperion Audio's design engineer Ken Humphreys confessed to us he is sort of a topology atheist when it comes to loudspeaker crossover designs. Instead, he believes that imposing a desired topology onto drivers is doomed to yield poor results since this fails to recognize the driver's impedance response, natural roll offs & frequency response, the speaker's off-axis response, the desired angle of best-summing through the crossover zone and more. Better is to do the time-consuming task of adjusting parts until speaker's performance is deemed to have the most optimized compromise. We certainly agree with this approach especially since loudspeaker filter networks are not designed to a fixed DC resistive input or output impedance. Aperion's goals are to get the flattest possible frequency response, smoothest off-axis roll off towards the highs so that delayed arrivals sound to have a natural balance, directing the best summing through the crossover zone at & above the listening elevation, amplifier friendly impedance response, protecting the drivers, sensible cost and, of course, sounding the best to their listening panel.

Verus Crossovers

Aperion Audio Verus Crossovers

The Verus Center channel crossover could serve as an example:

  • Woofer low pass (LP): 2nd order near Linkwitz-Riley, shaded a little towards Butterworth. Also with a larger coil to correct for "diffraction step".
  • Mid HP: 1st order Butterworth topologically but, considering the mechanical roll off of the mid in its sub-enclosure, closer to 3rd order Butterworth.
  • Mid LP: Same as woofer LP but with much larger first coil to attenuate the driver's rising frequency response.
  • Tweeter HP: 3rd order topologically but the slope is closer to 2nd order L-R until below the crossover zone where it gets steeper.

Regarding parts usage, Aperion likes to use hard-to-saturate but lower DC resistance coils that use laminated soft iron cores. The inductor in series with the midrange for example doesn't require a low DCR coil only to place a larger resister in series with it. The adjacent coils were oriented orthogonally to minimize unwanted mutual coupling per our article inductor coil crosstalk basics. The tweeter employs high quality mylar bypass capacitors in parallel with the electrolytics for improved sound quality and stability.

Aperion Verus Grand Tower Overview and Measurements

Verus_Tower_stock001.jpgThe Verus Grand Tower comes in either a high gloss black or cherry finish. Our review pair came in the black. The speaker is quite heavy at 65 pounds and is tall but not overly wide or deep (43.5" H x 8" W x 12" D). One of the problems with a tower speaker is making sure it is stable, especially if you are striving to create one with a smaller footprint. Aperion Audio has addressed that by providing an outrigger-like solution for the feet. While they only stick out about an inch or less to the side of the front and back baffle, it is enough to make for a very stable speaker. The foot options on the Verus Grand Tower speakers are fairly limited with only a sharpish spike provided with a dimpled metal round to use on tile or wood floors. We would have preferred Aperion to provide some sort of rubber foot. Also, the spike isn't all that sharp (though may argue it doesn't have to be) which may make piercing particularly tough carpets a bit of a challenge. The metal round could have used a felt side to facilitate small positioning changes and to better protect hardwood floors. We like how the outriggers give better access to the carpet spikes.

Verus_feet_tower001.jpgAperion rates the Verus Grand Towers down to 45Hz at -3dB and 35Hz at -6dB. In room, I found that I got noticeable output in the mid to high 30's and decent output at the mid 40's. It certainly seemed to me that Aperion had rated their new flagship speakers honestly. That said, in my listening tests, I found that, unless I was watching a movie or video where I expected visceral, tangible bass, I preferred the Verus Grand speakers without the use of a powered subwoofer. While the Bravus II 12D provided that impact that I sometimes desired and additional extension for some content, for most music, I was fine with the Verus Grand Towers alone.

As mentioned previously, the tweeter is the real innovation with this speaker line and it didn't disappoint. Even at reference levels for extended listening sessions, the tweeter never felt fatiguing or strained. I had plenty of opportunities to impress neighbors and friends with movies at ear-bleed levels without the aforementioned ear bleeding. This really allows you to crank the volume to show off other parts of you system (like the sub) without worrying about adding unpleasant distortion or compression to the high end.

I measured the Aperion Audio Verus Grand Tower speakers in room to get an idea of their performance in the space. While I don't have access to an anechoic chamber or even a large driveway, some measurement is better than none. Fortunately, I have access to a Berhinger ECM8000 microphone professionally measured at Cross Spectrum Labs. They provided a correction file that can be used with TrueRTA to correct for any idiosyncrasies in individual microphones. Using the Berhinger, an M-Audio Fast Track Pro preamp, and a Sherbourn Model 2/75B amp, I measured the Verus Grand Tower at one meter on axis and 30 degrees off.

 

Verus_Tower_meas001.jpg

Green - 1 meter on, Purple - 1 meter 30 degrees off (1/24 resolution)
Note - this is NOT a one watt measurement

As you can see, in my room, the response was a little hot on the top end on axis but smoothed out a bit as you got off axis. You can also clearly see how linear it is even in-room. The response is very flat down to 40Hz where it starts to drop off. The top end rolls off after 15kHz where human hearing is weakest anyhow and is due, at least partially, to the measurement mic being in close proximity to the tweeter phase plug. If you are wondering why I might be so impressed with a speaker, the above graph should be proof positive. After I completed my in room measurements I asked Aperion to send me their in house measurements. I was astonished to find just how similar the two graphs were. The other physical difference (other than the room) between the min and Aperion's measurements is that Aperion measured with the grilles on and I did them with the grilles off.

 

Verus_Tower_meas_AP001.jpg
Aperion Verus Grand Tower Frequency Response Measurement from Manufacturer

These graphs look eerily similar. As an Audioholic, I've always been taught that in room measurements are inherently flawed - and they are at frequencies below the transition band (300Hz) where they become room dominant. But you can see that, when compared to the Aperion in house measurement, our in room one tracks pretty closely.  The bass response is a bit skewed by the room and there are a few suckouts but the overall shape is nearly identical from the slightly increased energy on the top and bottom end and the drop off around 15kHz.

 VGT-Z.jpg
Aperion Verus Grand Tower Impedance Measurement

The Verus Tower appears to be tuned in the 35Hz region as indicated by the saddle point between the two impedance maximas.  Towards DC, the system impedance measures 6 ohms as Aperion rates this speaker but be mindful of the 4 ohm dip in the 80-150Hz region when mating an amp with these speakers.  Feed them quality from an amp rated down to 4 ohms and you will be rewarded.  These speakers deserve quality amplification. 

Aperion Verus Grand Bookshelf Overview and Measurements

 

Verus_book_grilloff001.jpgThe Verus Grand Bookshelf speakers are very small and compact weighing in at 14 pounds each and measuring 13" H x 7.5" W x 9" D. The most stunning part of the Verus Grand Bookshelfs is how small they are. This should make placement very easy. The foot options on the Verus Grand Bookshelf speakers are limited to sticky rubber pads you can place on the bottom. The back has a flared port at near the top and dual pairs of binding posts with a bar connecting them. There are two rubber covers on the back and one on the bottom that can be removed to reveal threaded inserts for connections to wall mounts. This type of placement may cause a problem with bloated bass response from the rear ports so you'll want to be careful if you go this route.  A simple solution for such installations would be to either plug the ports or bass manage (recommended) the speakers via your A/V receiver.  We recommend an 80Hz crossover setting which will provide the best integration to your sub(s) while also increasing system dynamic range by diverting the stressful bass frequencies away from the little woofers in the Verus bookshelf speakers.

 

Verus_book_back001.jpg      Verus_book_mount001.jpg

      

Verus_book_grillon001.jpgThe Verus Grand Bookshelves, unfortunately, were reduced to mostly playing a support role as surround speakers. While I did give them a listen individually, they spent most of their time behind the couch positioned for surround sound. For surround duties, I felt that these speakers were sorely under taxed and underutilized. They did manage, for the most part, to blend in but occasionally, I couldn't help but notice them. I've never been a huge fan of using bookshelf speakers as surrounds, preferring the less localizable performance of a dipole speaker. With speakers as nice as the Verus Grand Bookshelves, it almost seems a crime not to feature them in your setup for main front channel duties.

Aperion rates the Verus Grand Bookshelves down to 59Hz at -3dB and 54dB at -6dB. My listening impressions easily confirmed this. While you might get away for a while without using a sub for music, you'll definitely notice the upgrade in bass depth when you add one. The lower extension means you'll have no problems crossing over the Bookshelves at the THX recommended 80Hz. I measured the Aperion Audio Verus Grand Bookshelf speakers in room at one meter on axis.

                                   Verus_Book_meas001.jpg

Verus Grand Bookshelf 1 Meter On Axis (1/24 resolution)
Note - this is NOT a one watt/meter measurement

 Like the Verus Grand Towers, the Bookshelf speaker measured very well in room. We see the same dropoff  around 17Hz and a near ruler flat response down to 55Hz. This is phenomenal performance for a bookshelf speaker only 14 pounds and just over a foot tall. While you are paying a premium for the added bass and output of the Towers, the Verus Grand Bookshelves should perform very well in smaller rooms especially paired with a sub.

Again I asked Aperion to send me their in house measurements and again I was astonished to find just how similar the two graphs were. The other physical difference (other than the room) between the two measurements is that Aperion measured with the grilles on and I did them with the grilles off.

 

Verus_Book_meas_AP001.jpg
Aperion Verus Grand Bookshelf Measurement from Manufacturer

Again these graphs look eerily similar. You can see that, when compared to the Aperion in house measurement, our in room one tracks pretty closely. The bass response is a mess because of the room but the overall shape is nearly identical from the slightly increased energy on the top and bottom end and the drop off around 15kHz.

VGB-Z.jpg
Aperion Verus Bookshelf Impedance Measurement

The Aperion Verus Bookshelf speaker appears to be tuned in the 55Hz region as indicated by the saddle point between the two impedance maximas.  Towards DC, the system impedance measures above 8 ohms though Aperion rates these speaker at 6 ohms.  Be mindful of the 4 ohm dip in the 100-150Hz region when mating an amp with these speakers.  Feed them quality from an amp rated down to 4 ohms and you will be rewarded.  These speakers deserve quality amplification, even if being crossed over above 80Hz. 

Aperion Verus Grand Center Overview and Measurements

 Verus_center001.jpgThe Verus Grand Center is quite large and heavy for a center at 39 pounds, 9" H x 24.75" W x 11" D. What we really loved about the Verus Grand Center is that the only flat side is the back. Provided with the speaker are two long rubber feet that are concave with one side taller than the other. This allows you to place the speaker on a stand or in a cabinet and angle it as needed. We placed our review sample on a makeshift stand in front of a pull up projection screen. We finally found a long-term use for the cotton sock provided with the speaker as we used it to cover our makeshift stand (which was a huge limestone brick our neighbor wasn't using). Unlike the bookshelf speakers, there are no provisions for wall mounting, a curious omission. Even though the speaker is quite heavy, we would have thought they'd had some way of wall mounting it.

Verus_feet_center001.jpg

If any speaker can make or break your movie and surround experience, it's the center. While I continue to contend (and you'll see how true this is later in the review)Verus_center_back001.jpg that the center is the least important speaker in your surround sound system for the simple reason that it is the only that can be removed and have other speakers take up it's duties (at least if you sit in the sweet spot), a good one can make a world of difference. Conversely, I've been in the presence of a bad center and it is, without a doubt, the single most annoying thing sans a torn woofer. When the center is handling all of the vocals, to have one that underperforms means that you'll either struggle to understand the dialogue or you'll be forced to increase the volume so that it no longer blends well with the rest of the system. This can be a huge problem.

Luckily, this wasn't the case with the Verus Grand Center. Not only did it hold up well in the presence of the Towers, it had no problems blending while maintaining intelligibility. Aperion rates the Verus Grand Center down to 50Hz at -3db and 42Hz at -6dB. There were a few times in my listening tests when I walked up to the Center to adjust the position and noticed just how clear and non-fatiguing it was. In particular, when I was listening to the Diana Krall: Live in Rio Blu-ray, only her vocals are coming from the Center. At reference levels, I walked up to the speaker and could practically put my ear on it without pain. The Verus Grand Center was so clear, so distortion free, I have no problems saying it is the best center speaker I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in my room. Sure it's a bit big but it is sooooooo worth it when you hear it.

The measurements of the Aperion Audio Verus Grand Center was just as impressive as the rest of the lot.

 Verus_Center_meas001.jpg

Verus Grand Center 1 Meter On Axis (1/24 resolution)
Boundary Switch Set to "On Stand"
Note - this is NOT a one watt /meter sensitivity measurement

If you are starting to think you're seeing double, Aperion has really excelled at maintaining very uniform frequency responses across all these speakers. Again, the Center shows a super flat response down to nearly 40Hz with a few room related dips. The top end starts to drop out near 15kHz which is consistent with all of the measurements. I've honestly not seen any set of speakers that measured this flat in room. These speakers exhibit incredible linearity which can be seen even in real in-room measurements.  In contrast, we've measured speakers from companies touting their anechoic linear response that didn't even come close to measuring this linear. 

 

Verus_Center_meas_AP001.jpg
Aperion Verus Grand Center Measurement from Manufacturer

The Aperion in-house measurement again looks similar. The bass response of my graph is a bit skewed by the room and there are a few suckouts but the overall shape is nearly identical from the slightly increased energy on the top end and the drop off around 15kHz. The "Voice Right" refers to the switch in the back. This bumps down the bass response for in cabinet placement.

 

VGC-Z.jpg
Aperion Verus Center Impedance Measurement

The Aperion Verus center speaker exhibits a very linear impedance load despite its complex array of drivers and crossover topology.  Aperion rates it at 6 ohms but be mindful of the 4 ohm dip (Voice Off) in the 100-200Hz region when mating an amp with these speakers.  Feed them quality from an amp rated down to 4 ohms and you will be rewarded.  This center channel deserve quality amplification, even if being crossed over above 80Hz. 

 

Aperion Bravus II 12D Subwoofer Overview and Measurements

Verus_sub_stock001.jpgThe Bravus II line is the new, upgraded Bravus subs from Aperion. The 12D is the largest and most powerful in the line. Like the Verus Grand line, the Bravus subs come in high gloss black or cherry. To match the rest of the speakers in the review, Aperion sent me a high gloss black.

There are a few distinguishing features of the Bravus II 12D sub. First, it has an active, downfiring 12 inch driver. On either side, covered by the inset grilles reminiscent of the Verus Grand, are a 12 inch passive radiator.

Editorial Note about downfiring woofers
A downfiring woofer generally make less distortion due to the angular nature of the harmonics, which are naturally attenuated. The downside (no pun intended) is gravity is acting in concert on the outstroke, and against on the instroke, so the lower harmonic distortions (even order mostly second) will rise. This is typically worse for a heavy woofer with a low Fs, than a lighter woofer in a sealed box with a stiff suspension, but the effect of gravity is always acting on the suspension, causing the driver to float off center. 

The Bravus II 12D sub features a 600 watt BASH amp, front controls with an included remote, a fully defeatable and configurable parametric EQ, and preset modes for music and movies. There are two foot options on the Bravus II 12D; a spike or a rubber spike. Since there needs to be a bit of distance between the bottom of the sub and the floor (for the downfiring driver to extend), you're going to have to choose one. While theoretically a carpet spike is best, I've found that often it is too hard to keep a sub from rattling. I opted for the rubber spike foot even on my short pile carpet. On the amp you have three RCA inputs (LFE, Left, Right) plus line level inputs. We were surprised to find no XLR inputs on a sub of this price.

 Verus_feet_sub001.jpg        Verus_sub_grill001.jpg

There's a lot to like about the Bravus II 12D. The enclosure is constructed out of one inch HDF (High Density Fiberboard) and holds up against the knock test well. It's a small sub at only 17 inches tall by 15.5 inches wide by 15.5 deep but still weighs in at a hefty 62 pounds. The finish is as superb as the Verus Grand speakers. The sub is rated down to 20Hz at -3dB which is very respectable, and something you'd like to see in a $1K sub. Unlike the Verus Grand line, the Bravus II 12D is field serviceable. The grilles were more traditional cloth stretched over an HDF frame rather than the perforated metal of the Verus Grand and used chrome binding posts rather than magnets. They were hard enough to remove that we didn't worry about them falling off but no so hard that we couldn't get them off... eventually.

There were a few complaints, however. In order to figure out how to use the EQ or even access the menus, we had to go online. None of that information was included with our test sample. There is a huge flowchart on the Aperion website which makes everything fairly easy to understand and we hope they include it with the consumer samples. The biggest complaint we had was there was no way to lock out the front controls. While we liked have easy access to the controls from the front panel or the remote, our kids loved to adjust the volume of the sub. Too many nights were spent wondering why we weren't getting any bass before we learned what they were doing. There is a Music,  Movie, and Night modes (no Game as indicated on the Aperion website) but no User mode. In Aperion's defense, the Movie and Music modes are completely configurable so it isn't a problem but we'd prefer something like EQ defeat mode where you know there is no processing going on no matter what random buttons your kids press.

 Verus_sub_flow001.jpg

 The parametric EQ is a single band which can be set differently for each of the modes. While this is useful for power users, casual users may find the EQ too advanced for them. If Aperion had opted for a User mode, they could have had Movie and Music preset (though adjustable) and the User mode defaulted to flat. This would have been the best of all worlds with causal users having something to experiment with (currently, Music and Movie default to EQ off) while still giving power users something to play with.

While you could set up the EQ, volume, and distance from the menu, what was missing was phase. Even the most basic subs have a phase switch. While we find a switch to be mostly useless, power users (you know, the ones that will play with a parametric EQ) use a variable phase control to dial in the performance of a sub. This was a noticeable omission from the menu. In lieu, they include distance which can be used in a similar way (though it takes a really informed consumer to know that).

Opening up the Bravus II, we find a large open area in the center with very thick walls on all sides. There was no internal cross bracing or corner/edge braces. I was happy that they had allowed the sub to be opened since I found the twist ties they had used to bind the extra cable that ran from the front control to the amp stuck to the driver magnet. While I hadn't heard any rattling during my tests, I probably would have noticed it eventually. Since I had the sub open I just reconnected the twist ties and didn't have to worry about it.

The driver and two passive radiators share similar stamped rather than cast baskets. This was a bit of a disappointment to us considering the caliber of this product. The magnet structure on the driver was large and beefy and it seemed like the driver accounted for nearly a third the weight of the sub. The BASH amp is rated for 600 watts but we weren’t sure if that was a continuous rating or peak.  We have found BASH has typically always over-estimated power of their amplifiers so we are inclined to believe it is a peak rating.

 

Verus_sub_inside001.jpg          Verus_sub_driver001.jpg

 

Verus_Sub_Amp001.jpg      Verus_sub_side001.jpg

 

Individual Listening Observations: Bravus II 12D Subwoofer

I was not as impressed with the in room performance of the Bravus II 12D as I was the Verus Grand line. I don't know if Aperion has a Verus Grand sub in the works, but they should. While the Bravus managed to add a much needed tactility to the bass, it didn't seem to add a ton of extension. While the Bravus II is rated down to 20Hz, I found it dropping off considerably higher than that - closer to the low 30's. While this is respectable performance, it isn't 20Hz.

 

There were times that the sub blended very well with the Verus Grand speakers. In particular, during certain CDs I could turn the sub on and off and literally only "feel" the difference. Other times, however, it seemed the sub couldn't help but stand out. During playback of movies like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and other kid favorites that have ultra low end (or movies that both entertain the kids while letting Dad try to kill the sub), the Bravus II 12D did an admirable job of moving the couch. It didn't quite hold up to my reference Axiom EP500 but it is smaller and costs two thirds the price. For that, you could get two and really even out the bass response.

 

I measured, like the other speakers, the Bravus II 12D in room but the graph looked pretty rough, mostly due to room modes. I used a one meter groundplane measurement. While I don't have access to an anechoic chamber or even a large driveway, some measurement is better than none. Fortunately, I have access to a Berhinger ECM8000 microphone professionally measured at Cross Spectrum Labs (http://www.cross-spectrum.com/). They provided a correction file that can be used with TrueRTA to correct for any idiosyncrasies in individual microphones. Using the Berhinger, an M-Audio Fast Track Pro preamp, and the 600 watt BASH amp in the sub, I measured the Bravus II 12D at one meter groundplane.

 
 

 Verus_Sub_meas001.jpg

Aperion Bravus II 12D Sub, Groundplane In Room (1/24 Resolution)

 

While the output above 100Hz decreases significantly, I don't really care since you shouldn't be crossing the sub over any higher than that anyhow. Aside from some room modes, the graph tells a decent story. From about 90 Hz down to 40Hz there is a pretty flat response. After that, it drops off precariously. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take the sub outside and do a proper measurement so this very well could be a bass suckout at those lowest regions. Unfortunately, Aperion could only provide me with a modeled response rather than an actual measurement (which I've included below). I would have liked to have seen how my in room measurement held up to an actual one provided by the manufacturer since all the others were so similar.

 

 Verus_Sub_meas_AP001.jpg

Bravus II 12D Modeled Response

 

 

 
 

     

 

Aperion Verus Grand Set-Up and Group Impressions

Verus_inroom001.jpgI started off my connecting up the Aperion Audio Verus Grand speakers to my Denon AVR-2301CI Receiver using Ram Electronics HS Speaker Cables, Impact Acoustics SonicWave interconnect for the sub. Setting up the Verus Grand speakers was actually quite easy. The center channel's rubber feet that allowed me to aim it toward the listening area easily. This gives you a great deal of flexibility in your placement. The switch on the back of the center also helps the speaker retain a flat response regardless of the placement. While I liked the feet and outrigger setup on the towers, I wished for a longer spike or some way of adjusting the depth of the spike from the top. Having the spikes off to the side rather than under the speaker definitely helped and they seemed to pierce my short pile carpet. I've found with sharper spikes, you can hear them pop through the bottom of the carpet but with the duller Aperion spikes, that wasn't the case. I still felt like they made solid contact though I was less confident than I could have been.

I stand-mounted the bookshelves to the sides and slightly behind the couch for use as surrounds. I placed the towers on either end of the screen with the center on my makeshift stand below. The subwoofer I placed to the left of the front left speaker off the wall about a foot. My room is treated with a combination of ReadyAcoustic Chameleon panels and six GiK Tri-Traps. These make for a much better listening experience as they tame some of the room's worst problems.

The first thing I noticed after setting up the speakers was how well the Verus Grand Towers performed both on and off axis. This was obviously a design goal of Aperion and they hit it out of the park. While I prefer a slightly more detailed sound so you'd think I'd point the speakers directly toward my listening position, I found that they sounded just as good off axis. I've set up enough speakers to be very sensitive to performance decreases based on position. With the Verus Grand, any position I put them in from pointed straight forward to directly at me, they sounded great. Imaging was dead on in all positions which was astounding. Actually I ran without a center for the first week or so as I was doing mostly stereo testing. Even then, and even sitting off center, the vocals still sounded like they were coming from dead center. This was true even when you were sitting in line with one of the main speakers. While the center channel locked down the vocals, it wasn't strictly needed.

That said, I couldn't help but marvel at the Verus Grand Center. While the Towers did a great job of creating a convincing phantom center, the Verus Grand Center was like wiping a mirror clean of steam after a hot shower. It was so much sharper and immediate. Vocals were crisp and lifelike. Pans were seamless and fluid. The ability to aim the speaker meant I could tune it for on and off axis listening which meant if I wanted a bit more energy on the top, I could point it at me or slightly away if I wanted to tone it down. A very nice solution.

Listening Evaluation

I spent a lot of time with the Aperion Verus Grand speakers and I have to say I always left impressed. The imaging, the clarity, but most of all the lack of distortion.

CD: Yello - the eye
I use this album not only for a setup disc, but also to test some of the more gross functions of a pair of speakers. While it doesn't have a lot of range to it, this album does allow you to test the imaging and bass linearity. Bass response for the Gran Verus Towers alone was very good but you could tell where they dropped out early in the bass run of Junior B. The Bravus II 12D did an admirable job of picking up where the Towers left off and added a lot of tactile bass. What really came through in this stereo recording was the imaging. There is a section in the final track when the sound can not only pan left to right, but front to back. This is very hard for non-electrostatic speakers to achieve in room. If you took every speaker I've ever heard in just about every room ever (that's a lot of everys), the Verus Grand Tower's outperformed them all on this imaging test. That includes speakers that are nearly 3x's the price. While other speakers managed to suggest the forward to back movement, the Verus Grand actually delivered it. Not as good as electrostats, mind you, but better than every other speaker I've heard.


Blu-Ray: Diana Krall - Live in Rio
I didn't want to focus too much on stereo recordings even though I spent a lot of time listening to the Verus Grand Towers in 2.1 channel mode. Diana Krall is one of the easiest to recommend artists for audiophiles. It really doesn't matter if you like Jazz or not, Krall is just great to listen to and the recording quality is easily some of the best. One of the things I really picked up on with this recording is how transparent the Verus Grand line could be. They completely faded into the background during playback. I've already noted how well the Center performed during this playback but it deserves to be mentioned again. If you turned off the rest of the speakers and left only the Center you'd swear she was in the room with you singing a capella. It's that convincing. With Live in Rio, I found that the sub did add impact but not enough for me to really need it. I found that if I turned the sub off, I actually enjoyed the playback even more. While absolutely necessary for movies, the Verus Grand speakers really didn't need any help from a sub on this one.


DVD-A: Blue Man Group - The Complex
If you thought you could get rid of the sub, think again. The Verus Grand speakers alone might be fine for Jazz and similar content but The Blue Man Group demand a robust low end. The Bookshelf speakers did a decent job in their surround duties but they sometimes stood out a bit much. This is partially because of the recording which is very dynamic. Speaking of dynamic all the Verus speakers did a fantastic job with some of the most intense percussion you're likely to hear. There was no carryover of notes or smearing of the sound. The bass was tactile if not as clean as I'd like with the sub. Without the sub, it was solely lacking. I've had quite a bit of experience with floorstanding speakers in this price range and compared to others, the bass extension of the Verus Grand towers wasn't it's strong point. I've had other speakers of comparable price that had much better extension. The overall linearity of the speakers and top end clarity, however, can't be denied.


Blu-Ray: Iron Man, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
It's almost a crime to not include a mention of a Lord of the Rings movie in a review that includes a sub. The Bravus II 12D did a good job with the explosions and hitting some of the lower notes. The bass had great impact and was visceral but didn't dip as deep as I wanted. With Iron Man, I felt the bass was a bit bloated at times but overall was well represented. The couch shook convincingly and you could feel the wind off the sub if you sat in the right place. With both these movies the Bookshelves gave off their cues well without drawing undue attention to themselves. They blended into the surround experience and were very convincing.

 

Aperion Verus Grand Loudspeaker System Conclusion

Verus_logo001.jpgAt just over $3k for a 5.0 system and an extra grand for a the Bravus II 12D sub, the Aperion Audio Verus Grand speakers are not an impulse buy. But they're not meant to be. Aperion has attempted to put together the very best speakers they can for the least amount of money. I have to say, unequivocally, they've succeeded. The Verus Grand Towers image as good if not better than any speaker I've ever experienced (sans electrostats). The Verus Grand Center is a joy to experience and makes a huge difference with listening to multichannel content. Our in-room and manufacturers measurements of the speakers are remarkably similar showing that not only has Aperion created a speaker that can measure well in a lab, but can do so in a real world environment. With Aperion's free shipping and 30 day in home audition with free return shipping if you don't like them, well, you've really got nothing to lose. Except for $3k because there is no way you're sending these back.

The Aperion Audio Verus Grand Loudspeaker System has redefined, for me, value in high end, which is why they earned the Audioholics coveted 2010 Product of the Year Award. These are the speakers to beat and will likely send many of their competitors back to the drawing boards, or in their cases, their engineering sound labs.   Highly Recommended!

Aperion Audio Verus Grand Speakers
$3095 (5.0 system)
$899/each (Towers)
$699/each (Center)
$299/each (Bookshelf)
$999/each (Bravus II 12D sub)

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About Aperion Audio
Aperion Audio, a direct-to-consumer maker of award-winning home theater audio products, is focused on ensuring customers enjoy a lifetime of great sound. The company’s primary storefront, AperionAudio.com, is a fun and informative home-audio shopping destination backed by "Home Theater Gurus" who provide generous support before and after purchase. At Aperion Audio, everyone from newbies to audiophiles can get the help they need to research and select an exceptional home theater speaker system or upgrade for their home audio environment. For more information, visit AperionAudio.com or call 888-880-8992.

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The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

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MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
SoundstageStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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