I'm not sure if you read it, but a couple of years ago I wrote a nice article about the Aperion Audio 633T floor standing speakers (click here). During the course of that article I discovered a very reasonably priced set of floor standers that performed well on both music and HT duties. Those speakers not only looked stellar, they didn't sound half bad either. Just recently, John Wanderscheid, VP of Sales and Marketing contacted me to see if I'd interested in giving his latest generation of floor standers a listen. After reading the information on the Aperion website about the upgrades they made to the (now retired) 633T's, I signed on.
As part of the constant evolution in loudspeaker design and improvements by manufacturers, Aperion has redesigned their flagship tower speakers, the new 6T. Although the cabinets haven't significantly changed, everything else is new, right down to the crossover. As part of the redesign, Aperion has developed a new line of proprietary woofers and silk dome tweeters to use, not only in the 6T but also across their entire product line. The woofers have gone from a woven carbon fiber cone to a woven fiberglass cone. The redesign on the tweeter now provides a multiple vented rear chamber as opposed to the traditional single vent centered in the middle of the magnet found on many tweeters. This provides their tweeter a lower resonant frequency.
In their older version 633T, Aperion used what they termed the HD-X 3 crossover technology. This was essentially a Zobel with a twist or two that they used to achieve a flatter impedance curve. In the new 6T, Aperion has done away with the HD-X 3 crossover design in favor of a more simply second order crossover for both the woofer and tweeter. The drivers are now crossed at 1200Hz. The speakers still have a single pair of binding posts which for most (me included) works just fine.
As I mentioned, the cabinets haven't changed, much. They are still drop dead gorgeous especially when you get them in Cherry, my personal favorite. The only difference between the old design and the new is that they have rounded the edges of the new cabinets, softening the look of the enclosure just a bit. Other than that, they remain the extremely well constructed (and damned heavy) speakers you saw with the old versions.
As I moved my personal pair of 633T's to perform rear channel duties and slid the new 6T's in place in our main level combination Home Theater and 2 Channel rig (Arcam AVR 100), I was a little worried about the new design and their placement near the walls. Since the 6T's are still front ported, I was hoping it wouldn't be an issue but one never knows until you flip the switch and crank the music up. In fact, that is exactly what I did. I flipped on some bass heavy music and stood back at the sweet spot in our living room (12 x 25) and gave it a listen. Thankfully, placing these speakers right up against a wall isn't an issue (at least in my room).
After a few weeks of the 6T's doing two and five channel duty, I figured they were finally broke in, so I gave the 6T's their first critical listen. For this, I bought up my Bolder modified Squeezebox 3, a decent power supply and slid the new MHDT Laboratories Havana tube DAC to warm and open things up a bit. Just a quick word on the Havana. This is the real deal guys. Mo' money?... sure. Mo' better?... considerably. Watch for the full write up in the coming months.
Anyway, on first listen and directly comparing the 6T's to the older 633T's I am immediately struck by how much more detailed the 6T's are. It's not just detail for details sake, these are simply more refined sounding, more natural and far less congested. That's not to say the 633T's were a bad sounding speaker by any stretch because they aren't. It's just that Aperion has taken the 6T's to a new level that firmly resides in the audiophile realm. In my mind, this is pretty amazing considering the 6T's list at just under $1400 clams.
The Music Sings!
Speaking of bass, my all time favorite song to use for this is Rachelle Farrell's "Do You Remember Me" from her Individuality release. Not only is this a great piece of music but the synth'ed bass (when you crank the hell out of it) makes everything in the house shake. I still enjoy having my music served up really loud on occasion. My wife calls it getting my bass fix. Staying on that same album, "I Can Explain" has an excellent recording of Rachelle singing with a piano. Providing the system and speakers are up to the task, there isn't song on the planet that engulfs my body with goose bumps quicker than this one. The clarity of the piano and her searing vocals cuts right to my emotional quick. As I listen critically to the timbre of the piano on this recording, it's pretty darned close. The veils I mentioned when I wrote about when I was listening to the 633T's are all but gone. The 6T's midrange clarity has encroached the hallowed ground of many audiophile speaker designers.
When it comes to the high frequency reproduction on the 6T's, I played a number of different tunes to gage their quality. On songs like Ella Fitzgerald's "Good Morning Heartache", the triangle comes through crisp and natural with loads of air around it and Ella's upper vocal registers. I found the overall character of the 6T's to be that of a ‘front row' or ‘front hall' speaker. Though forward sounding and detail oriented, they didn't come across as being harsh or gritty in the treble and midrange regions. Just be sure to take care in choosing the components that will drive the 6T's. We'll get into more of that as the article progresses.
Listening to several reference tracks for sound staging, width and depth of stage, the Aperion 6T's faired quite well also. The opening track to Pink Floyd's Momentary Lapse of Reason presents the water lapping on the shore about four to five feet outside of the speakers' boundary. That is well on par with nearly every speaker I've had through the house. Moving onto the performers' placement across our virtual stage I used Kodo's "Daraijin" from their Mondo Head release. If you've ever seen this preformed live, you know that they have about 17 individual drummers on stage. There are about ten or twelve that are lined up across the front of the stage. As the song starts, there are a couple of drummers on either side of the stage that begin drumming. As the song progresses, the rest of the drummers, in random positions on the stage, join in to the rapid beats. On a quality system, you can locate nearly each drummer as he or she joins in. The 6T's while not perfect, did a very nice job in keeping the drummers separated allowing me to spatially locate most of the performers. When it comes to sound stage depth, the Aperions also did a nice job when you consider they are a fairly forward sounding speaker. In this listening environment, I achieved a stage depth of six or seven feet which (again) for a ‘front row' speaker is well on par.
As I move on to something completely different, I put on some Postal Service "Give Up". I wanted to get a feel for the Aperion's ability to handle microdynamics. The second track, Such Great Heights starts off with all kinds of quick, ticky electronic stuff. Though not as quick or dynamic as my Lowthers, the 6T's performed quite well. Their ability to capture the leading edge of this electronica came though quite well.
Let us talk about the 6T's bass a little bit more. First and foremost, although these monoliths pump out deep and solid bass, you won't mistake that bass for the room filling sound of a 12-inch or 15-inch sub (or woofer). That said, the bass this pair of 6.5-inchers is darned solid. With all the music I threw at these things, they sure didn't waiver much, if at all. On a track that had some (near) 20Hz bass I had it cranked a wee bit too loud and I made one of the drivers bark. Other than that lone track, they literally handled everything else without an issue. Overall I have to say the when it comes to the quality of the bass the 6T's deliver, its damned fine. Behind decent solid state gear with a reasonable damping factor, overhang was at a bare minimum. It was very satisfying to hear that the cabinet tuning didn't add any major harmonics issues to the quality of the bass either.
While I'm going on about the bass, I have to tell you this little story. As I cycled through my music collection, I began gravitating to the tracks with the heaviest bass. As I dug deeper finding more impactful bass heavy tracks, I noticed a piece of paper on one of my side tables flapping in the wind. The side table sits the best part of six or seven feet away from the Aperion 6T's front port. After getting a giggle out of watching the paper flop around on the table for a while, I cranked it up some more to see if I could actually blow it off the table. All of the sudden I felt something whisk across my arm. It startled the hell out of me. I immediately looked around to see what it was that brushed against me. Then I realized it was just the Aperion loudspeakers are moving quite a bit of air. Keep in mind, I was sitting the best part of fifteen feet away when that happened. I've had that happen with 12-inch and 15-inch woofers, but never a pair of 6.5-inchers. Needless to say, I was pretty impressed.
Now with all this talk of how great these speakers perform, you have to be asking when the other shoe is going to drop. Well, here it is. With the increased amount of detail the Aperion 6T's provide, they now fall squarely into the audiophile speaker camp. This means no longer are the 633T's ‘forgiving' to less than well recorded music. I don't want to say the 6T's are ruthlessly revealing but they can have that effect on most not-so-well recorded music. We all have ‘those' recordings in our collection. So just like your favorite speakers that are fairly forward sounding, the Aperion 6T's definitely have a front hall sound. Is this a bad thing? Not a flippin' chance. It's just something you need to keep in mind when you are assembling your system. Remember, great sound is all about proper component matching. Don't try pairing a forward sounding amp with forward sounding speakers... unless you want your ears to bleed. A pairing like my Arcam and the Aperion 6T's proved to be a very nice match. One other thing I noticed was a slight mid-bass dip when I played vocals. It was anything too major but it seemed to be a db or two, right in the ‘chesty' region on vocals. Keep in mind, all of my other systems are fully tubed so I'm used to a little fuller sounding mid-bass. Let us see how the 6T's fair with tubed amplification driving them.
Now for the question I've had in the back of my mind since the day these oversized beauties showed up…how do they sound with tubes? If you scrolled to the specifications at the bottom of the article, you will see that the Aperion 6T's are up a db in sensitivity to 91dB/W/m. When you look at the impedance plots provided by Aperion on their website, you will see that they are a fairly benign load. They present between a 4 and 16 Ohm load with the exception of a peak of about 25 Ohms at about 50Hz. Not bad, not bad at all. So next up in the amplification line is my almost flea powered factory modified JoLida 102B (my favorite amp in the house at about 25wpc) and my heavily modified Radii KT88 monoblocks (about 100wpc).
So I was off to my laboratory (said like Boris Karloff) to pop in a fresh set of tubes in the JoLida and give it a quick bias. After bringing up the 102b I decided to insert the new MHDT Havana DAC behind the Bolder modified Squeezebox. I plugged in the Aperion 6T's and double-checked the phasing. I flipped the switch and pushed play on my Bolder Modified SB3. I slowly turned the volume up and stood back and gathered my first impressions. The first thing I discovered was that my initial choice in tubes wasn't the best. I thought my vintage Amperex EL84's would sound great driving the 6T's but sure enough, they didn't. After rolling a few other sets in and out of the JoLida, I finally settled on a quad of new production EH's. They seemed to give me the best bass response which was the issue with the Amperex's.
After letting the amp warm up a bit, sat down to give the 6T's their first critical listen being driven by a simple push pull EL84 amp. Although the JoLida 102b only puts out 25 wpc, I was pleasantly surprised to find it had more than enough oomph to drive these rather large floor standers in this a 25' x 12' room. Though she starts to clip if you push her too hard, the JoLida's 25 watts easily drove the Aperion 6T's into the mid-90's sitting two-thirds of the way back in the room. To top it off, the JoLida did an admirable job controlling the bass on these EBS (extended bass shelf) enclosures. The reason I bring up the enclosures is your typical EBS design can cause some weird impedance peaks in the lowest frequencies. Those peaks can deal tube amp users a fit.
Listening to the modified JoLida 102b in comparison to the Arcam which drove them previously, the bass didn't have quite the authority of its solid state counterpart. On the opposite hand, with a pure tube based system driving the 6T's, everything opened up and became far more natural sounding. If you remember what I typed about the slight midbass dip, that was completely absent with tubes in place. Just one more reason I love tubes.
Moving onto some tube amps with more power, I slid my heavily modified Radii mono blocks into place using the Arcam as a preamp. The 100wpc of KT88 tube goodness drove the Aperions extremely well. The Radii design uses a bit more feedback than the JoLida so I had a wee bit better damping factor than before. In turn after letting the beasts warm up a bit I started rolling through loads of different music. Just as it was with the JoLida, the Aperions responded quite well to being driven by higher powered tubes.
After those very minor caveats, it's all praise. The Aperion 6T's provide loads of quick, tight bass providing your amp is up to the task. The midrange is remarkably clean for reasonably priced speaker and the highs are clean and well extended. Weighing in at just under $1400, the 6T's present a tremendous value not to mention, killer sound.
For those that already own a pair of Aperion Audio speakers that happen to be a different, less expensive model (the 4 or 5 series, 632 or 6B series), you can take advantage of their extremely generous Trade Up program. Just give their Customer Service Department a call. As long as you bought your speakers within the last twelve months, you can get a full price credit for the speakers you just purchased on an upgrade to any model further up the product line. If your budget can handle it, the 6T's are an upgrade worth every penny. If you already own a pair of the older 633T's, you may want to think about eBay, AudioGon or even selling them to a friend. The new 6T's are a very worthy upgrade. Lord knows that's what I'm thinking.
For those that might be considering a pair of Aperion speakers, they offer a 30 day in-home audition. They are so confident that you will keep the speakers, they offer free shipping both ways. It doesn't get any more risk free than that. Bottom line, I like the 6T's a lot and I'm definitely going to miss them when I send them back….if I send them back.