If life were fair, we would all have the same number of personal gifts. One could be beautiful, perhaps, but sharp as a ball. One could be intelligent, but with the social graces of an Asiatic stink badger. One could be creative, but with the common sense of a throw pillow. That is, if life were fair.
Alas, we all know that life is not fair, and there are those among us who have been given many gifts. We all know those people who are those who are beautiful, smart, mannered, cultured, with the voice of an angel. I hate those people.
Fortunately, I’m just fine with all of those attributes in a speaker, like the Aperion Verus Grand Towers. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The speakers arrived at my local FexEx store, in boxes that were taller than my fairly compact sister-in-law, and weighed in at 65 pounds. Naturally, the guy behind the counter was curious. “What are these?” he asked, perhaps inappropriately.
“Speakers,” I said, not knowing how much detail he was after. “And I’m pretty excited about reviewing them.”
“What kind of amp do you need to drive ‘em?” he asked, revealing more than a passing interest.
It was nearly an hour later that they were finally in the car, but in that hour, as we talked about the specifications of the speakers and my hopes for them, I got pretty excited.
Who the heck is Aperion?
The company is based in Portland, Oregon--my old stomping grounds--which is good because you want speakers from people who love granola and who wear wool socks with sandals.
Like the other speakers I’ve sampled recently, Aperion is an Internet-only seller, though with one really, really, REALLY important distinction: they pay the return shipping. Shipping speakers isn’t cheap, especially if you don’t happen to have a corporate account. I can’t tell you how incredibly smart this is, since they are the first Web-only company I’ve worked with yet that really and truly offers a risk-free trial to their customers. Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy a pair of speakers sound unheard if you knew that if you didn’t like them you could get ALL of your money back? Yeah, me too.
Tower speakers are almost always hard to unbox, and Aperion could learn a thing or two from Axiom in that regard. But I did manage to get them out and upright on the floor. They’re remarkably heavy, which is a great sign, and knocking on the cabinets instantly confirms your suspicions that they’re build well and will not easily hum along with the music.
The first thing you’ll notice is that these come in a black velvet bag with a gold braided tie. I didn’t know it yet, but the samples I got were gloss black, and I have no earthly idea if the woodgrain versions get the same treatment. It’s a classy touch, and one that surely helps to protect the delicate finish.
But the work had just begun, as I still had to attach stabilizing feet on the front and rear of each tower, and then spiked feet. I suspect that the speakers I got were samples that had been passed around quite a bit because even though they were in great shape, the spikes didn’t all match and there were a few minor scuffs.
No matter, I then connected speaker wires to the top pair of bi-wireable binding posts and fired up some music.
Nearly everything about these speakers just reeks of quality. Yes, two grand isn’t chump-change, but remember that value isn’t about price, it’s about what you get for that price, and these just look and feel like a bargain.
They look beautiful in the piano black, and I’m sure the wood versions are just as nice. They come with spikes, they have dual sets of binding posts that can take large-gauge wire, and the design is stunning. I even like that the tops of the cabinets are rounded so no one can use them as a display pedestal for knick-knacks.
They feel substantial, foreshadowing the performance they’re capable of, even as they stand there, stoic and silent.
Inside there are five drivers, though it’s a three-way design, and the grill is technically removable, but not easily so. In fact, the speakers come with a little tool that looks to be designed to help you remove the grill, but knowing for sure would require the ultimate sacrifice: reading the instructions.
Describing sound has a lot in common with the language you hear used in wine-lover circles. How do you describe intangible things like sound and taste in a way that helps people understand what you experienced? It’s a challenge, and I found it especially hard with these.
Here are a few notes I wrote as I listened to some of my standard demo tracks:
“Sparkly, but not overly bright.”
“Open but not diffuse.”
“Image is a bit low, but very focused and dimensional.”
“These love female vocals, sound airy but with a palpable presence.”
“Also Sprach Zarathustra,” better known as the theme from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, contains more than a few curve balls. Lots of speakers have trouble playing both the low rumble and the horns without warbling. These had no such trouble, and played the bass and brass beautifully without breaking a sweat.
Same with my low-bass test in my Telarc recording of the theme from Back to the Future. Most people don’t know that bass is there because it’s too low for most systems, but the Grand Towers revealed it just fine. Little wonder, since they play down to a very real 45Hz, +/- 3dB. If you're willing to give them 6dB of slack, they'll give you 35Hz.
Next I put on some Jennifer Warnes, and played a few tracks from her Famous Blue Raincoat CD, at one time one of the best-mastered recordings I’d ever heard. Sure enough, the Grand Towers put an image of Ms. Warnes right smack in the middle, though it did sound like she was sitting. Or maybe she really did record it while standing in a ditch and these are the first speakers to reveal that. Hmmm.
I played all my standards--Bach, David Benoit, Leo Kottke, Pink Floyd, The Dixie Chicks--and they all sounded exceptionally good, with just one complaint: the mid-bass. In this region, things can get a bit muddled, almost confused and inarticulate. It could be because of the dual rear-firing ports, or even that speaker manufacturers are asking smaller drivers (remember that these have 6-inch woofers) to play lower than ever. Regardless, this was one of the few ranges in which I thought these speakers didn’t excel, and remember that it’s my job to be super-picky.
But the true revelation for me was when I popped in a CD from a band my wife introduced me to: The Wailin’ Jennys. Okay, yes, it’s a dumb name, but if you even kind of like bluegrass, you’ve got to pick up an album called 40 Days. The music is beautiful, with exquisite harmonies, but the thing that’ll kill you is the recording. This may be the best-recorded CD I’ve heard to date, and the Aperion Verus Towers absolutely eat it up.
Like all humans, all speakers have their foibles. But every once in a while you find one that does nearly everything well and looks darned good doing it. If you’re looking for a serious relationship with a beautiful, tall, lanky lady with a hell of a voice, I’d like to introduce you. I’ve got a good feeling about you two crazy kids.
 Come on, who reads the instructions for speakers? Really.