We've recently looked at a few solidly performing mini satellite and subwoofer packages, so we were curious to see how Aperion Audio's new entry-level Intimus 4B Harmony SA package would fare. Its somewhat steep $999 list price is $180 below the company's next most affordable six-piece system, the
Design and features
The Intimus 4B Harmony SA is a six-piece 5.1 system that includes four Intimus 4B satellites, a 4C center channel speaker, and a Bravus 8A powered subwoofer.
All of the speakers feature the same 4-inch woven fiberglass woofer and 1-inch silk dome tweeter. The woofer is a newer design and looks aesthetically different than the 4-inch driver used in our reference Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD speaker system. The 1-inch silk dome tweeter, however, remains unchanged.
The 4B speaker measures a compact 8.75 inches tall by 5.33 inches wide by 5.5 inches deep, and the fact it weighs 6.5 pounds certainly adds a solid presence. The 4C center speaker is not much larger at 5.33 inches tall by 12.8 inches wide by 5.5 inches deep and weighs 8 pounds. The speakers' all-metal binding posts provide a secure connection with bare wire, spades, or banana plugs. Matching floor stands, and wall and ceiling mounts for the speakers are available separately direct from Aperion.
The speakers in the Intimus 4B Harmony SA system are available in either real cherry wood veneers or high-gloss black finishes. Both are on par with high-end speakers that go for more than double the price of this system. Also, all of the speakers have removable black cloth grilles.
As mentioned earlier, the Bravus 8A is a good deal larger than the company's other 8-inch subwoofer, the Bravus 8D. The 8A is the same size as the 10-inch subwoofer, the Bravus 10D. The Bravus 8A is 15 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide by 13.5 inches deep and weighs a hefty 33 pounds.
The Bravus 8A is the first Aperion subwoofer with a bottom-mounted woofer and port. All of the other subs the company has manufactured have front- and/or side-mounted designs. The Bravus 8A has an 8-inch aluminum woofer powered by a built-in 100 watt amplifier.
The subwoofer's cabinet, like the speakers, is constructed of .75-inch thick high-density fiberboard--which is stronger than more common medium-density fiberboard--and is cross-braced for additional rigidity. Connectivity options include stereo and LFE line-level inputs, plus speaker-level inputs.
The subwoofer comes with a set of metal spiked feet for use with carpeted floors and a set of pointy rubber cones for hardwood or tiled floors. The Bravus 8A subwoofers are sold separately for $319 each.
System setup was a bit trickier than normal. First, when we sent our Denon AVR 3808CI receiver's test tones through the speakers, we noted the Intimus 4B satellites sounded a bit different than the 4C center channel. The 4C, for whatever reason, sounded fuller. Ideally, they should all sound exactly the same, but we were able to smooth everything out after we ran the Denon Audyssey auto setup (you may have a similar technology on your receiver). At the end of the day, we weren't overly concerned with the mismatch between the 4B and 4C speakers.
We were a bit more concerned with the fact that we had to work at blending the speakers with the Bravus 8A subwoofer. The Aperion owner's manual recommends a "80-100 Hertz" crossover point, so we tried 80, 90, and 100Hz, but we were never totally satisfied with the blend between the speakers and subwoofer because the bass region between subwoofer and speakers was too thin.
We also had to keep fiddling with the subwoofer volume setting. Every time we thought we had it nailed, the sound would either become too bass-shy or give off too much of a thud. It was a constant back-and-forth process that never seemed to balance.
All Aperion products are only available on the company's Web site, where they're sold with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Shipping is free and if you're not satisfied with the speakers or subwoofer, you can return the products for free.
The speakers come with a 10-year warranty, which is twice as long as most speakers' warranties. The subwoofer's driver gets the same 10-year plan, but its amplifier is only covered for 3 years, still well above average.
The Intimus 4B Harmony SA is a 5.1 channel system, so if you're running a 6.1 or 7.1 channel home theater, you can buy additional 4B satellites for $130 each.
We put the Intimus 4B Harmony SA through our audio samples, starting with "The Day the Earth Stood Still" DVD. Special effects came hot and heavy when the giant spaceship landed in New York. The whooshing and shrieking sounds were loaded with detail. The front and rear speaker blend was fine, and the alien Klaatu's voice (Keanu Reeves) sounded perfectly human.
The gigantic spaceship's movements were accompanied by massive low rumbling bass, but we felt (literally) the ship's tremors were a bit too thick and murky. Swapping out the Bravus 8A for our reference Bravus 8D confirmed that hunch. Once replaced, the low-bass definition snapped into focus. The difference between the two subs isn't a question of how much bass they make--they're about the same--it's more about the quality of the bass, which is definitely on the side of the 8D.
We'd recommend starting with the Bravus 8A and if you think its bass is too loose, trading up to the Bravus 8D. Better yet, Aperion will pay return shipping and send the Bravus 8D out to you for free. That said, we stayed with the Bravus 8A for the duration of our listening sessions.
Moving onto the "Master and Commander" Blu-ray, the naval battle cannon blasts had good dynamic range impact. The subwoofer performed a bit better on this film, but it's not as punchy or solid sounding as the better 8-inch subs.
We didn't have any of our recent satellite and subwoofer review samples on hand to directly compare the Intimus 4B Harmony SA with the likes of the Canton Movie 150 QX ($1,090) or Energy Take Classic ($600), but we think we'd prefer either of those two systems over this Aperion.
For our two-channel evaluations we used Leonard Cohen's new "Live in London" two-disc set. It's a great-sounding recording, but the Intimus 4B satellites robbed Cohen's vocals of their natural warmth. We got around the 4B's undernourished sound by switching on the Denon receiver's Dolby Pro Logic II surround processing. The fuller-sounding 4C center channel was finally able to shine as the Pro Logic threw Cohen's vocals into that channel.
The Black Keys' hard rock revealed the speaker/subwoofer system's uneven bass. We turned up the subwoofer's volume, which helped, but the Intimus 4B Harmony SA strained when we played the Black Keys record even louder.
Summing up, we were pleased to see that Aperion maintained its high-quality fit and finish on its least expensive system, but the sound quality, while acceptable, isn't in the top rank--especially at its price point. If spending more for the smaller, but better matched, subwoofer isn't an option, either the similarly priced Canton Movie 150 QX or cheaper Energy RC-Micro or Energy Take Classic are excellent alternatives.