For a speaker company that's been around for nearly a decade, Aperion Audio has been remarkably focused on a product range with just a few bookshelf, center, and tower speakers. That's probably because Aperion designs each speaker with a lot of care and sees no need to come up with "all new" products every year. So we were surprised to find that the entire 5.1 channel system we're evaluating in this review really is all-new. The Aperion Intimus 5B Harmony SD ($1,750) boasts more than a few design details not seen on previous generations of Aperion products, and the changes aren't merely cosmetic.
The six-piece Intimus 5B Harmony SD system comes with four Intimus 5B bookshelf satellites, one Intimus 5C center speaker, and the Bravus 8D subwoofer. The satellite speakers are a foot tall and the center speaker is 19.3 inches wide. The 5B satellites have rear ports, which somewhat limits their placement possibilities, as wall-mounting won't sound optimal. The 5C center speaker isn't ported so it won't be adversely affected by wall mounting. The rock-solid feel and weight of the cabinets is extremely impressive. Cosmetically, they're nearly identical to older Aperion speakers, but the Bravus 8D subwoofer is a departure. Our sample's cherry finish covered the front, top, and rear of the sub; removable black cloth grilles cover the sub's sides. The 33-pound sub comes with four metal "spike" feet, and a set of pointy rubber cones. The sub is 13 inches high, and a foot wide and deep. The speakers' all-metal binding posts provide a secure connection with bare wire, spades, or banana plugs.
The satellite speakers and subwoofer are available in real wood cherry veneers or high gloss black finishes. We had the former, and it was stunning--easily on par with high-end speakers costing more than double the price of the Aperion's package. The Intimus 5B Harmony SD system is available in 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1-channel versions. If the Harmony SD system is a little out of your price range, check out the Intimus 5B Fusion SD. It's somewhat more affordable and is similar to the 5.1 review system, except it uses smaller satellite speakers. (Visit Aperion's Web site if you're interested in checking out different configurations and alternative options.)
The Intimus 5B satellite features a 5.25-inch woven fiberglass woofer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. The Intimus 5C Center Channel Speaker is an unusual design on a number of counts. First, instead of the more typical two-way, woofer/tweeter/woofer center design, the 5C is a bona fide three-way speaker. The outer 5.25-inch woofers flank a 4-inch midrange driver and 1-inch dome tweeter. The woven fiberglass midrange and woofer are similar to the 5B's driver, and the tweeter is identical to that of the satellite speakers. The tweeter sits above the midrange driver and that "vertical array" positioning is said to improve the center speaker's dispersion, so every person on your couch will hear the same tonal balance from the speaker.
The Bravus 8D has an 8-inch aluminum woofer on each side of its cabinet and a built-in 150-watt amplifier. The cabinet is constructed of 0.75 inch thick High Density Fiberboard, cross-braced for additional rigidity. Connectivity options include stereo and LFE line-level inputs, plus speaker-level inputs. Aperion's new sub also comes with a small remote that controls volume, mute, and cycles through Music, Movie, and Game modes, each of which can be customized beyond the factory defaults. Having a remote for your subwoofer is a great convenience because we often like to adjust the sub's volume for different sources, but it's a pain getting off the couch to do so. The remote and the sub's cursor controls can access the Bravus 8D's extensive setup menus, which provide parametric equalization to help deal with difficult room acoustic problems. That's nice, but unlike other subs with auto EQ, the Bravus' EQ is completely manual. You really have to know what you're doing and use a SPL meter (such as Radio Shack's 33-4050) and a CD or DVD with test tones to get anywhere with the sub's room-tuning potential.
The sub's versatile equalization and room-tuning options can be implemented via the remote or the directional pad located on the subwoofer. You're probably going to want to use the remote, as the directional pad on the sub is a pain to use. You really have to press the buttons hard--at first we thought they weren't working until we exerted more pressure on the buttons--and you'll have to be sitting on the floor in front of the sub.
We experimented a bit with the sub's "Low Bass Adjust" filter and decreased the deepest bass by 3 decibels, which seemed to smooth the match-up between the satellite speaks and sub. Unfortunately, the Bravus 8D's LCD menu is much too small to be seen from the listening position, so you might need a friend to sit near the sub to make the adjustments or relay the menu info back to you. Maybe the next generation Bravus subs will have video outputs that would put the menu on your TV.