Aperion Intimus and Outlaw LCR Home Theater Systems

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					                   Reliable Reviews

Aperion Intimus and Outlaw
LCR Home Theater Systems                                                                                By Gregory Koster

      Aperion Audio
      18151 SW Boones Ferry Road
      Portland, OR 97224                little system as much as or more than         I spent some time studying their
      Outlaw Audio                        the big rig with the jazz music that I     website and then consulting with
                                          tended to play there. The point is that    Aperion personnel to choose the
      PO Box 975
                                          a hi-fi system doesn’t need to be all      best system for this test. Aperion has
      Easton, MA 02334                    things to all people—if it serves the      5.1 systems ranging from $999 to                 particular purpose and your lifestyle,     $4,469 with recommendations for
                                          it will work.                              small, medium, and large rooms. My
I’m a big fan of the BBC’s Top Gear           So for the home theater system, I      room is 12 × 14, which is at the small
[a popular series about motoring on       decided right away that it wouldn’t        end of medium-size. I ruled out front
BBC TV. —Eds.], so when I decided to      go in the big rig room, which would        tower speakers because I can’t block
take the plunge and produce a home        require major rearranging to accom-        the heat duct, so we settled on the
theater, I thought, “How hard can it      modate rear speakers. And because          Intimus 5B-BD Fusion HD system
be?” I have decades of experience         there would need to be a subwoofer         ($2,289). This includes a pair of Inti-
with two-channel music systems, a         for the effects channel anyway, there      mus 5B Bookshelf Speakers for front
good amateur understanding of the         was no need for full-range front speak-    left and right, one Intimus 5C Center
physics involved in sound dispersion,     ers. This could also provide a closer      Channel Speaker, a pair of 5DB Di-
and I’ve had the opportunity to com-      balance between the sound of the           pole/Bipole Surround Speakers, and
pare various home theater approach-       front speakers and that of the center      one Bravus 10D Dual-Driver Powered
es at trade shows. This couldn’t be as    channel and possibly the surrounds.        Subwoofer.
difficult as turning a Triumph Herald         The first manufacturer I found with       The Intimus 5B (Photo 1) Book-
into a sailboat.                          a system that fit this description was     shelf Speaker ($225) sports a 1" silk-
   My first thought was to simplify the   Aperion Audio. I like Aperion’s busi-      dome tweeter and a 5.25" woven-fiber-
process by focusing expectations. For     ness model: they only sell direct off      glass mid-woofer, both with audiophile
years I chased the chimera of a hi-fi     their website (www.aperionaudio.           claims about design and construction,
system that could reproduce the full      com) with low prices that reflect the      in a handsome gloss-black cabinet that
range of musical types with astonish-     simplified supply chain. You can’t au-
ing realism. In the process, I built a    dition their stuff before you buy, but a
large, expensive rig in my living room    30-day free home trial and free ship-
that succeeded to a great degree—         ping both ways provide a risk-free au-
but it only produced aural magic with     dition that is both longer and more
certain material, when the recording      relevant (because it’s in your home)
method suited both the music and          than even the best dealer demo. Their
my system.                                website also has lots of explanatory
   Then I had an epiphany. I wanted       pages to help you understand home
to play music in my bedroom, and          theater basics, select the best com-
another “big rig” was out of the ques-    ponents for your needs and set up
tion for both space and cost con-         your system, and they have a toll-free
siderations. So I bought a Denon/         number to connect you with knowl-
Mission “executive system” (www.          edgeable staff to answer remaining and supplemented           questions. A ten-year warranty pro-
it with Velodyne’s expensive but tiny     vides a final level of assurance. All
HGS-10 subwoofer (www.velodyne.           in all, this is a company that inspires
com)—and I found I was enjoying the       great confidence.                            PHOTO 1: Intimus 5B.

                                                                                               audioXpress January 2011   29
                   Reliable Reviews

measures 12" H × 6.75" W × 8" D, and       designs experience when laid on their        er ($799 each), which features dual
is rated at 75-20,000Hz ±3dB. This         side, and the 4" driver aids clarity for     10" side-firing aluminum drivers and
is Aperion’s best-selling speaker, so it   the dialog that will be this speaker’s       a 300W BASH amplifier in a cabi-
seemed a solid choice to build a sys-      main role.                                   net that measures 15" H × 13.5" W
tem around.                                   The Intimus 5DB (Photo 3) Di-             × 13.5" D and is rated for 30-180Hz
   The Intimus 5C (Photo 2) Center         pole/Bipole Surround Speaker ($690           ±3dB. This is fairly small for a home
Channel Speaker ($350) is designed         pair) is particularly suited to small-to-    theater subwoofer, but Aperion claims
to mate with the 5B. It uses the same      medium rooms where the surrounds             that the dual drivers offer the perfor-
1" silk-dome tweeter arranged with         will be positioned close to the listen-      mance of a 12" subwoofer squeezed
a 4" woven-fiberglass mid-woofer in        ing area, because all the drivers are        into a small cabinet for easier place-
a vertical array in the center of the      on the angled side panels, rather than       ment.
cabinet, flanked by a pair of the same     aimed straight on from the front panel.          There are three input options: a pair
5.25" woven-fiberglass mid-woofers         Each speaker includes a pair of the 1"       of low-level RCA jacks for a pre-out
in a cabinet that measures 7.33" H ×       silk-dome tweeters and a pair of the         signal; four speaker binding posts for
19.33" W × 8" D, and is rated at 55-       5.25" woven-fiberglass mid-woofers           high-level signals (but no pass-through
20,000Hz ±3dB. The vertical array          in a cabinet that measures 1    1.75" H      for the satellite speakers); and a single
avoids the beaming that D’Appolito         × 10.6" W × 7.5" D, and is rated for         RCA jack for an LFE signal. There is a
                                                                                        compass-type control panel and a small
                                                                                        screen on the front of the cabinet, and
                                                                                        a very handy remote control that allows
                                                                                        you to change settings right from your
                                                                                        listening seat—I consider this a major
                                                                                        plus. The controls include music/mov-
                                                                                        ie/game mode, volume, and a range of
                                                                                        settings for crossover frequency, phase,
                                                                                        parametric EQ, and low-frequency ex-
                                                                                            All the Aperion speakers have 1"
                                                                                        HDF cabinet construction with high-
                                                                                        gloss black (or cherry veneer) finish,
 PHOTO 2: Intimus 5C.                                                                   black fabric grilles, and high-quality
                                                                                        five-way speaker binding posts. They
                                           100-20,000Hz ±3dB. The Dipole/               look stunning and fit in perfectly with
                                           Bipole designation means that you            my gloss black plasma display and the
                                           can switch the crossover between di-         black glass stand it sits on. The Aperion
                                           pole (out-of-phase mode that offers a        system sounded very musical out of the
                                           diffuse sound field for home theater)        box, and as a replacement for the plas-
                                           and bipole (in-phase mode for music).        ma TV’s attached speakers, the home
                                           Placement instructions direct you to         theater sound was a huge improve-
                                           mount the speakers to the side of the        ment-—but I wanted something more
                                           listener, or on the back wall, 2" above      substantial as a comparison.
                                           ear level for home theater; or at ear lev-       Outlaw Audio is another Internet-
                                           el for music. I put them directly to the     only manufacturer with a similar 30-
                                           sides, 2" above, in dipole mode.             day free trial and a five-year warranty
                                              The rated frequency ranges show           ( Their web-
                                           that this system was designed for a          site isn’t the home theater univer-
                                           subwoofer, and because I would be            sity that Aperion offers, but it does
                                           using Aperion’s medium-size speak-           describe their products very well,
                                           ers (between the small 4 series and          and because their line is much sim-
                                           the large 6 series), it seemed logical       pler there’s less complexity to sort
                                           to choose the medium-size Bravus             through. Outlaw was originally an am-
 PHOTO 3: Intimus 5DB.
                                           10D Dual-Driver Powered Subwoof-             plifier and receiver manufacturer, and

30   audioXpress 1/11                                www.audioXpress .com
                    Reliable Reviews

has now added speakers. The home
theater speaker lineup consists of the
Outlaw LCR Loudspeaker, designed
as its name implies to allow identical
speakers in the front left, center, and
right positions; the Outlaw Surround
Loudspeaker; and four subwoofers.
[There is also the Outlaw Bookshelf,
but that was designed mainly for mu-
sic.] I chose the second-biggest sub,
the LFM-1 Plus. The total system price
is $3,295 plus shipping, which, in my
case, would be $230.
   The Outlaw LCR (Photo 4) Loud-
speaker ($649) sports a 1" silk-dome
tweeter and a pair of 5.25" treated-         PHOTO 4: Outlaw LCR.
paper mid-woofers, with similar au-
diophile claims to the Aperion drivers,     pole) mode instead uses a pair of 2.5"    wall and may improve the esthetics.
in a flat-black cabinet measuring 19"       full-range drivers on the angled side     Direct mode is rated for 80-20,000Hz
H × 7.25" W × 8.875" D, and is rated        panels. This permits a shallower cabi-    ±3dB; diffuse mode, without a true
for 75-22,000Hz ±3dB. The design            net, only 11.75" H × 10.4" W × 5.5"       tweeter, only goes to 15,000Hz. I used
appears to be a D’Appolito configura-       D, which increases bass-coupling to the   the diffuse mode.
tion, which would cause problems in
the horizontal center placement—but
Outlaw includes a crossover switch            DC GOLD AUDIO speakers are single voice-coil, single
that optimizes performance in either          cone, full-range speakers. All of our speakers are hand
the vertical or horizontal orientation.       assembled in the USA with quality components for
Outlaw believes that using identical          durability in every environment. Every speaker uses a
drivers and enclosures produces better
                                              neodymium motor assembly, an aluminum alloy cone with
uniformity across the three speakers,
even though the crossover is different        a proprietary coating and a 1.5” voice-coil utilizing ferro-
in the center.                                fluid cooling. Our spider-less design ensures the best
   The Outlaw LCR speakers also in-           sound quality and power handling. A Beryllium dust cap is
clude a boundary compensation                 used in the Reference speakers in order to enhance the
switch to negate midrange build-up            smoothness and detail of sound in ways you will not
when the speakers are close to a wall         believe. All our speakers are 100% waterproof, UV &
or corner, and a high frequency control
for use in overly “live” or “dead” rooms.
                                              saltwater resistant and come with a 3 year warranty. DC
With the speaker fronts flush to my flat      Gold Audio Speakers are for the connoisseur, where music
panel, I have 5" clearance to the wall,       is not the background, but the main event.
so I used the middle (-2dB) bound-
ary setting. I settled on the low (-2dB)                                                We are offering a special
high-frequency setting.                                                                 to AudioXpress readers
   The Outlaw Surround Loudspeak-                                                        for our Reference line.
er ($799, Photo 5) tackles the music/
home theater conundrum in a slightly
different way than Aperion. The 5.25"
                                                                                         Please call Dean at
mid-woofer is on the front panel and                                                     (661) 618-1486 and
active in both modes. Music-oriented                                                    mention this add for a
direct (monopole) mode activates a 1"
soft-dome tweeter on the front panel.
                                                                                       20% discount off MSRP
   Home theater-oriented diffuse (di-

                                                                                                audioXpress January 2011   31
                                          Reliable Reviews

                         PHOTO 5: Outlaw Surround Loudspeaker.

                           The Outlaw LFM-1 Plus Subwoof-        volume but only goes down to 25Hz.
                        er ($549, Photo 6) uses a down-firing    Because my room is fairly small, I
                        12" driver and a 350W BASH ampli-        used the plug for maximum extension
                        fier in a large cabinet that measures    and never ran out of steam. A built-in
                        21.5" H × 22" W × 15" D, and is rated    crossover lets you connect the LFM-1
                        for 18-180Hz ±2dB with one of the        Plus between your power amp and the
                        two ports plugged. With the plug re-     satellite speakers, but I used a spare
                        moved, the speaker can produce more      set of preamp outs or a receiver LFE

                         PHOTO 6: Outlaw LFM-1 Plus Subwoofer.
32   audioXpress 1/11            www.audioXpress .com
                    Reliable Reviews

port and set the crossover control to       positions for the testing, matched the     the better-sounding Denon receiver.
bypass. Other controls include auto-        volumes with a Radio Shack SPL me-         The music system was a Rotel RCD-
matic on and volume.                        ter, and matched the subwoofers with         1
                                                                                       97 CD player (, Acu-
   The Outlaw speakers include MDF          the Chesky subwoofer level matching                1
                                                                                       rus LS-1 preamp (discontinued), and
cabinet construction and high-quality       test for the music selections.             a pair of Marantz MA500 monoblock
five-way speaker binding posts. The            My supposition had been that be-        power amps (
LCRs have a flat-black finish, which        cause this system is for movies, most
frankly isn’t very attractive in the day-   or all of the testing should be with       Music TesTs
time; but as the old joke goes, it’s        movies. But as I analyzed it further,      My music test suite covers a wide range
just fine in the dark (there’s also an      I realized that movie sound has four       of music types and recording styles, de-
optional cherry veneer finish for $50       components: music, dialog, surround,       signed to explore the speakers’ capa-
additional). The grille, a metal hon-       and special effects. It’s pretty easy to   bilities and deficiencies. First, I tried the
eycomb with the Outlaw logo at the          gauge the speakers’ effect on dialog       Aperion Intimus 5Bs as a stereo pair,
bottom, has a masculine/industrial          clarity and special effects impact,        then with the Aperion Bravus 10D sub-
look that I like very well, except that     but I found that the receiver has a        woofer. Next, I used the Outlaw LCRs as
when you turn the center speaker on         dramatic effect on music and on sur-       a stereo pair, and then with the Outlaw
its side the Outlaw logo is floating at     round. I used two different receivers      LFM-1 Plus subwoofer.
the left end.                               in the course of this testing, and the        Here are my music listening conclu-
   The surrounds are dominated by a         Denon AVR-4308CI and Pioneer Elite         sions about these five speaker combi-
similar metal honeycomb on the front        VSX-21TXH        (www.pioneerelectron-     nations:
and sides, with attractive black egg- sounded quite a bit differ-          Aperion Intimus 5B—As book-
shell finish on the top and bottom          ent. They also use different surround-     shelf speakers, the Aperions offer
plates. The subwoofer is finished in        sound algorithms (Audyssey versus          a warm musical presentation that is
black eggshell on all sides, and is the     MCACC).                                    very satisfying. Highs are silky, bass
most attractive of the set. I wish Out-        Therefore, I decided to start with a    doubling and room bloom give the
law would use the eggshell finish on        stereo music test of the front left and    sense of full range, and on all but
the LCRs, and make a special grille for     right speakers (with and without sub-      the loudest passages there’s plenty
the center speaker so the logo would        woofer reinforcement) using an au-         of headroom. At $450 a pair, this
look right—then this set would look as      diophile music front end, and then go      would be a great starter system that
good as it sounds.                          on to dialog, surround, special effects,   you could easily extend later with an
   I located all speakers in the same       and the overall movie experience using     Aperion subwoofer.

                                            High-end speaker units
                                               for OEM and DIY

                                                                                                  audioXpress January 2011      33
                    Reliable Reviews

   Aperion Intimus 5B with Bravus           string attacks and limitless high-end         set equal levels on all six speakers (in-
10D subwoofer—The 2.1 system pre-           extension, with the naturally aggres-         cluding the subwoofer), then retested
serves all the virtues of the bookshelf     sive sound of rosined bows; full middle       them from the other recliner. The final
arrangement, adds full-range bass, and      range that is clean and balanced; deep,       settings put the front left, front right,
cleans up the midbass. There’s a lot to     deep bass that is tight but still carries a   and right surround at 0.0dB, the center
like for $1,250, especially if you prefer   roundhouse punch. At $1,850 this is a         down 4.0dB, and the left surround up
a slightly warm presentation.               killer 2.1 system for all types of music.     0.5dB to produce a sweet spot in the
   Outlaw LCR—As bookshelf speak-                                                         main position without messing up the
ers, the Outlaws give a natural, neutral-   MOvie TesTs                                   other chair.
to-forward musical presentation that        Because I’ve already covered the mu-             For the Outlaws all three front
reveals lots of detail in the recording     sical characteristics of these speakers,      speakers ended up at 0.0dB (no sur-
without becoming shrill or screechy.        the movie tests focus on dialog, sur-         prise since they are the same model),
Huge dynamic range and punch—they           round, special effects, and the overall       the right surround was up 2.5dB,
can handle anything. At $1,300 a pair,      movie experience. This test required          and the left surround up 4.0dB. The
this would also make a good starter         balancing all six speakers. “How hard         subwoofer setting on the Denon only
system, but if you’re going for dynam-      can it be?”—that’s why audio/video re-        goes down to -12dB, but happily
ics and power you should add one of         ceivers have built-in room equalizations      that setting was just right to balance
Outlaw’s reasonably priced subwoofers       programs, right?                              both subwoofers to their mates. The
as soon as you can.                            Not so fast. Aperion warns in their        Aperion system put out 73dB on the
   Outlaw LCR with LFM-1 Plus sub-          owner’s manual that these automated           test tones, while the Outlaws were
woofer—This is like sitting in the front    programs often produce less than sat-         76dB—so I turned down the receiver
row of a good orchestra hall: strong        isfactory results, and I have come to         volume during the Outlaw tests to
                                            agree with them.                              equalize both systems.
                                               The Pioneer Elite MCACC system                The movie test suite consisted of
                                            sets a lot of parameters during the auto      three Blu-ray cuts. Transformers has
                                            cycle and then offers the ability to tweak    a unique Paramount logo at the be-
                                            them—but that receiver didn’t seem to         ginning with a 360° fly-around. The
                                            have enough power to drive the speak-         Casino Royale opening sequence
                                            ers to theater levels and it sounded thin     starts with a car driving on snow, lots
                                            and unmusical. This isn’t a review of the     of discrete Foley effects of car doors,
                                            Pioneer, so I didn’t spend much time          footsteps, and so on, an elevator that
                                            trying to get the best out of it—I moved      seems to include its own subwoofer
                                            on to the Denon.                              pumping out bass sounds, one of
                                               The Denon sounded much more                the rare occasions when dialog pans
                                            powerful and more musical, but its Au-        from center to right and back, and, of
                                            dyssey program does most of its work          course, the requisite gun shots, body
                                            in secret and doesn’t let you change it.      slams, and assorted mayhem. Flight
                                            And some of the results were strange,         of the Phoenix, an otherwise for-
                                            such as the report that my subwoofer          gettable movie, has an airplane crash-
                                            was 19′ away from the listening posi-         landing in a sandstorm that is a great
                                            tion in a 12 × 14′ room, a firm insis-        test of subwoofer extension and out-
                                            tence that the little Aperion bookshelf       put and of the center speaker’s ability
                                            speakers are large, and that the left sur-    to project dialog clearly through the
                                            round Outlaw speaker is out-of-phase          chaos.
                                            (even after I switched the two surround          Both systems were very effective in
                                            speakers). Clearly I wasn’t going to get      general, so I’m only going to mention
                                            results I could stand behind using the        the highlights and deficiencies.
                                            auto programs.                                   The Aperion system couldn’t bring
                                               So I ended up following Aperion’s          the fly-around out of the front plane,
                                            advice and using the Denon’s manual           and the subwoofer was loose and
                                            setup feature. I used a Radio Shack SPL       boomy. The elevator bass sounds
                                            meter on a tripod in the main recliner to     seemed disconnected and distracting,

34    audioXpress 1/11                                 www.audioXpress .com
                   Reliable Reviews

and the dialog pan had an obvious tim-     are drop-dead gorgeous. At $2,289
bre change from the center speaker to      this is a real bargain, and their no-risk
the right one. The crash landing had       home trial and 10-year warranty en-
enough bass loudness, which set both       sure confidence.
chairs vibrating—very effective—but the       Aperion makes so many variations
bass was clearly looser and not as loud    that you can tailor the system to your
as on the Outlaws. I used that handy       room and your budget. I could have
remote control to boost the subwoofer      used the Aperion Intimus 6B and 6C
two notches, but in my view this pro-      speakers and the Bravus 12D sub-
duced more problems without enhanc-        woofer, and still had a lower price
ing the overall experience. Still, the     than the Outlaw system. Aperion sug-
remote control is a very valuable tool     gests this system for large rooms, and
that will help you get the most out of     I wonder whether the larger drivers
the system.                                would make them even warmer in
   The Outlaw system brought the fly-      my smallish room. I would, however,
around all the way around my head,         definitely upgrade to the Bravus 12D
and the subwoofer was clearly lower        subwoofer: the $300 price difference
and tighter. The elevator sounds were      gets you 12" drivers that go down
felt more than heard, so this effect       to 22Hz and a much larger amp for
worked much better, and the dialog         loudness and impact. At $2,589 with
timbre remained the same as it panned      the five-series speakers, that would
from the center speaker to the right.      be a very satisfying system and a real
The crash landing was much louder,         value.
even after I reduced the receiver vol-        The Outlaw LCR system with the
ume setting even more than 3dB. This       LFM-1 Plus subwoofer is also excel-
was probably because the subwoofer         lent. At $3,295 plus shipping it costs
was pumping out so much bass—so            a great deal more than the Aperion
deep that it was vibrating the whole       system but it also delivers more: more
house. [My wife wasn’t pleased, until      volume, more headroom, way more
I got her to watch the sequence. Then      subwoofer extension and control, and
she said “Wow!”] Despite the higher        a home theater system that is so much
levels of special effects noise, dialog    like being there that your neighbors
was clearer.                               may request that you move somewhere
   As a double-check, I asked my son       else. I can’t say enough good things
to watch all the test scenes and give      about the Outlaws, so let me sum it up
me his impressions. He agreed that the     this way: I bought them. rr
Aperion subwoofer requires a choice
between tight bass and loud bass, but      Manufacturer’s Response:
he would take loud (on the theory that     We appreciate your consideration of
“there’s no such thing as too much         the Aperion Intimus 5B-DB Fusion HD
bass”!). He said the Outlaws are fantas-   home theater system, and are honored
tic: too much bass that is also cleaner    that you chose to compare it with a sys-
and deeper!                                tem that sells for $1000 more.

cOnclusiOn                                                      Ed de la Fuente
The Aperion Intimus 5B-BD Fu-                                 VP, Marketing and
sion HD system is an excellent home                        Product Management
theater system. It is very musical in               
a pleasingly warm way, and is very
effective in a home theater setup. It      [For more on the music the reviewer
includes a handy remote control for        used to test these systems, go to www.
the subwoofer, and all the speakers—Eds.]

                                                                                       audioXpress January 2011   35

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