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Aperion Intimus 5.1 system review:

Aperion Intimus 5.1 system

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The Good Superb satellites; big 12-inch woofer mated with a 250-watt amplifier; gorgeous finish; impeccable build quality; risk-free, 30-day, in-home trial.

The Bad Satellites won't perform at their best with low-powered receivers; big and bulky sub with no direct input.

The Bottom Line Aperion's knockout package offers great sound, superb build quality, and extraordinary value.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0

Aperion Audio's recipe for success couldn't be more straightforward: offer state-of-the-art customer service, build great-sounding speakers, and sell them directly over the Internet. By eliminating all of the middleman's profits, Aperion can boast a level of quality rarely achieved at this price range. Oh, and we were dazzled by the system's gorgeous look. If you have the taste and the space for full-sized bookshelf speakers, the Intimus won't disappoint.

Editors' note:
Aperion sells the Intimus in 5.1-, 6.1-, and 7.1-channel configurations, with your choice of 8-, 10-, or 12-inch subwoofers. This review applies to the 5.1 system with the 12-inch sub. Although we loved the sound of this kit and the one with the 8-inch sub, we felt that the system delivered slightly better performance with the 10-inch sub, which is why that configuration earned a higher rating and our Editors' Choice award. How large of a subwoofer you should buy depends primarily on your room size and your taste for big bass.
Aperion's exquisitely crafted models stand head and shoulders above similarly priced packages and compare favorably with high-end speakers. People who need tiny satellites that blend into the living-room decor should probably look elsewhere, though.

The five sats are 11.5 inches tall, and the horizontally oriented center unit is 11.5 inches wide. Since these speakers are fabricated from rock-solid, 1-inch-thick, high-density fiberboard, they weigh a substantial 12.6 pounds each.

The Intimus 5.1 package comes with one of three subwoofers: the S-8APR, the S-10, or the S-12. Taste and room size dictate which model will light your fire. The massive 12-incher reviewed here measures the 20.5 by 15 by 21.5 inches and weighs a hefty 66 pounds. The Intimus system comes decked out in real, not vinyl, cherry wood or high-gloss black (pictured) finishes.

Aperion's first-class presentation can't be beat; the speakers and the sub are individually packed and coddled in velvet bags. The company even sends along a Love Your Speakers polishing kit to keep your ensemble looking like new. The sats sport custom-built, 5.25-inch midrange woofers and 1-inch, coated-fabric-dome tweeters. Aperion licenses a rather unique crossover technology, the DiAural circuit, to direct high frequencies to the tweeter while sending middle and bass frequencies to the woofer. The company claims that the crossover produces less distortion than conventional designs. Solid-brass binding posts provide a secure connection with speaker cables.

The S-12 subwoofer features a 250-watt amplifier (400 watts max) and a custom-engineered, 12-inch, long-throw woofer. Its cabinet is constructed of 1-inch, high-density fiberboard, which is cross-braced for additional rigidity. Connectivity options include line- and speaker-level inputs/outputs, but we noted the lack of a direct (a.k.a. unfiltered) subwoofer input to ease setup chores.

Aperion offers the Intimus with a 30-day, money-back return policy. UPS ground shipping is free--even the return shipping, if you're not satisfied--and the company doesn't charge sales tax in the continental United States. The Aperion Intimus's low-distortion sound had the assurance of a much larger system. On the Frailty DVD, Bill Paxton stars as a demented killer whose handiwork with an ax is always accompanied by shrieking, Psycho-esque violins. This system's laser-sharp, three-dimensional sound staging had us jumping out of our seats. We pushed the Intimus really hard, but its demeanor never faltered; even in the heat of The Thin Red Line's most bombastic battle scenes, dialogue remained clean and clear. The audio was so pure that we found ourselves playing DVDs much louder than usual. When we backed down the volume for late-night listening sessions, the system still sounded right.

We auditioned the subwoofer by sampling a few episodes from the recently released Six Feet Under box set. This HBO series has a great-sounding score, with tons of ultradeep bass, and the S-12 presence was felt as well as heard. Its prodigious power served up home-theater hijinks of all sorts and dance music that throbbed with extra gusto, but the beast wasn't agile enough to delineate the finer shadings of the acoustic basses on our jazz CDs (we preferred its smaller sibling, the 10-inch S-10, for that).

Playing those jazz CDs, we found the overall sound to be immediate and very upfront, although we sometimes wished that the balance was slightly more laid-back. The Intimus's sats are significantly less efficient than average models, so they need 50-plus watts per channel in order to sound correct. You should also avoid matching these sats with bright or aggressive receivers. Polk's sweet-sounding RM6700 package is a safer bet for owners of low-power electronics.
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