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Editor's note: This system was formerly known as the Intimus 5.1 System D. Aside from the name change to Intimus 533-PT Cinema HD, the system is otherwise identical.
Aperion Audio sells its speakers exclusively on its Web site. You can buy them à la carte from Aperion's wide range of models or select a complete home-theater package, such as the five-piece 533-PT Cinema HD ($1,968) that we're looking at here. That's a lot of money, but Aperion's winning combination of exceptional build quality, customer service, and high-end sound are definitely worth it. Aperion's 533-PT Cinema HD not only knocked our socks off with its home-theater skills, its musical talents were just as keen.
As with all the speakers in Aperion's Intimus line, the models that comprise the 533-PT Cinema HD are available in luscious cherrywood veneer or piano-black finish, both of which make the competition's vinyl-wrapped speakers look low-rent by comparison. The system is anchored by a pair of 533-PT tower speakers--two aptly named giants that each stand 41.5 inches tall, 9.75 wide, and 12.5 deep and weigh in at 57 pounds. The PT designation in the 533-PT's name stands for powered tower, referring to the speaker's built-in 8-inch, 150-watt subwoofer. The pair of 8-inch subwoofer drivers obviates the need for a separate stand-alone subs that you'd find in a standard 5.1-speaker system. Just remember that in addition to running speaker wires, each 533-PT has its own power cord that must be plugged into an AC outlet.
The 533-PT's backside is fitted with two bass-enhancing ports and finned heat-sink cooling for the subwoofer's power amplifier. There's also a subwoofer volume control on each speaker, and we consider the ability to dial in the amount of bass you want to be a big plus. Even in our huge home theater, we had the control set just slightly past the middle position, so there's plenty of reserve bass power for those buyers who like their bass maxed out. While we didn't bemoan the lack of a stand-alone subwoofer--a pair of 533-PTs more than got the job done--it's safe to say that Aperion's 10-inch Intimus S-10 or 12-inch Intimus S-12 subs would delve deeper and pack more of a wallop.
The 533-VAC center speaker is 7.4 by 19 by 8 inches and weighs a hefty 20 pounds. The wedge-shaped 534-SS surround speaker measures 10.6 by 14.25 by 6.75 inches and weighs 16 pounds. The speakers' 1-inch-thick high-density fiberboard (HDF) cabinetry feels extrasolid. We'd rate the overall build quality and finish standard on a par with that of high-end models going for at least two or three times the price. Inside its shipping box, each speaker comes sheathed in a plush velvet bag.
As a special bonus, Aperion sends along a very useful accessory with the 533-PT Cinema HD: a decent-quality sound-pressure meter that will help you get the best sound from your investment.
The Aperion Intimus 533-PT utilizes a three-way design featuring a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter, a 5.25-inch midrange driver, and a side-mounted 8-inch woofer. Since the woofer is powered by the tower's built-in 150-watt amplifier, it effectively eases the load on your receiver.
The 533-VAC center speaker is a three-way design featuring a 1-inch tweeter, a 4-inch midrange, and two 5-inch woofers.
The wedge-shaped 534-SS surround speaker features two 1-inch tweeters and two 5.25-inch woofers that project sound out to the sides in either a bipole or dipole pattern. We like both modes because they produce a diffuse sound field and are therefore harder to localize than a standard box speaker; a front-mounted switch makes it easy to experiment between bi- or dipole operation. The 534-SS was designed to work with OmniMount and B-Tech wall mounts. The speakers' back panel has a channel to route speaker cables when flush wall-mounting the speaker.
Starting with models that were introduced in 2005, Aperion speakers all feature HD-X3 impedance-leveling crossover technology to produce an easier load for amplifiers. So even lower-powered receivers won't strain to dish out home-theater fun with the 533-PT Cinema HD. All of the speakers feature high-quality binding posts that accept bare wire, spade connectors, or banana jacks.
Aperion is so confident you'll love the 533-PT Cinema HD that it sells it with a 30-day money-back return policy. UPS Ground shipping is free, and Aperion doesn't collect sales tax in the continental United States. Go ahead and try 533-PT Cinema HD sans subwoofer, and if you're still not sure about whether you need a sub, order one from Aperion. If it substantially adds to your enjoyment, keep it; if you're not convinced, Aperion will pick up the tab on return shipping--within a 30-day window--and refund your money. What could be better than that? That deal applies to all Aperion speakers.
If you've never lived with full-size speakers such as the Cinema HD's 533-PTs, the Aperion ensemble will probably blow you away. This system sounds great at any volume level, but what really distinguishes it from the competition is its ability to effortlessly deliver full boogie, home-theater thrills without complaint. Stylish, wall-mount, flat-screen-friendly speakers are hot right now, but not a single one can approach the 533-PT Cinema HD's capabilities. If you care about sound quality and quantity, big speakers still rule. We even compared the 533-PT Cinema HD with a slick-looking high-end 5.1 system with skinny tower speakers that retails for nearly $6,000--and much preferred the Aperion ensemble. Yes, we'd grant that the other system's detail resolution was superior, but it wasn't as much fun to listen to. The 533-PT Cinema HD rocked harder on the Rolling Stones' new A Bigger Bang: bass was significantly punchier, and when we cranked the volume, the Aperions' strengths were magnified.
The Jarhead DVD's Desert Storm battle sequences fully exercised the 533-PT Cinema HD's home-theater muscle. The five speakers' coherent, wraparound soundstage was remarkably seamless, and our attention was so focused on the onscreen action that the big 533-PT speakers disappeared as sound sources. The 533-VAC center speaker was articulate, while maintaining essentially the same tonal balance for every position on our couch. Even without a stand-alone subwoofer providing deep bass support, the 533-PT Cinema HD strutted its stuff, ably wielding the war movie's exploding artillery shells. If you're a fan of action movies, you'll love what these speakers can do for you. The Aperions' poise under pressure was exceptional--they're incredibly entertaining speakers.
Easing back on the high-impact program material, we next auditioned the 533-PT Cinema HD with some of Telarc's latest classical music SACDs. The sound was supremely dynamic, yet refined and smooth on Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra with Paavo Jarvi conducting the Cincinnati Symphony. String tone was beautifully realized, and the low strings had a nice sense of weight.
The Aperion Intimus 533-PT Cinema HD speaker package was equally adept with rock, jazz, and classical music, as well as with every DVD we tried. We came away from the experience convinced that these speakers will satisfy just about every customer's desires.