Review of new Aperion VAC vs the original 522D-C center channel

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by BrianAe, Sep 10, 2004.

  1. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    I recently tested the new Aperion Audio VAC center channel and thought I would share my thoughts.

    I have been an owner of an Aperion 5.1 system for about 1 1/2 years before trying the new VAC center. Rather than return the original center right away (like most people seem to do), I kept it and spent a few days comparing the two. In audio I have found that you shouldn't assume that newer, bigger and more expensive is necessarily better (which actually explains Aperion's success!).

    I broke the VAC in for about 10 hours (then more later) before doing my real comparisons. The VAC and 522D-C were both calibrated, though it turns out only a 1 db adjustment was needed in my setup. I tested using tests on the AVIA calibration disk, DVD tracks and some music using DPLII (though I don't usually listen to music with DPLII).

    Results: Bass sweep from 200hz to 20hz with the subwoofer disengaged showed that the VACs bass extension is as good or better then speced. The VAC played flat down below 70hz which is very good for a sealed design of its size. The original center played flat a little lower which is to be expected. As for how flat is flat? The original center was a good deal flatter in my tests (at +-5db) compared to the VAC which had some larger but still acceptable bumps and dips. Remember though that this is an in-room response using a sweep and not discrete test tones. I don't consider this part of my tests very valuable in itself.

    The AVIA tap and ball around the room tests which are used to test integration and timbre matching showed that while the original center integrates and timbre matches with the 522d-LRs perfectly (as expected), the VAC exhibited a surprisingly large difference in its voicing. I was curious to see what how this would translate with "real" listening.

    I played the beginning of several DVDs for my DVD test. I find that opening scenes are a good place to start in evaluating speakers because you get a good score integrating with dialog and effects. I listened to (and watched) Usual Suspects, Ice Age, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Time Machine. I watched the first 5 minutes or so of each at both -30db and -15db volume levels with each speaker. Always swapping back and forth after each listen.

    Here is what I heard: I did not really notice any improvement in dialog clarity, detail, or accuracy with the VAC. I did notice a large drop in general detail with the VAC as compared to the original center. I suspect that this is mainly on the high end but think it probably extends down throughout the mid range as well. This was especially noticeable at lower volumes (-30db). Here is one example: In the beginning of Midnight, the scene opens with some soft music as the camera zooms in on Savanna from the ocean. At -30db, with the original center I could here the sound of the wind blowing through the willow trees. With the VAC, I could not here the wind at all. At -15db you could hear the wind through the VAC but just barely. That is just one example, there are numerous other examples I could give about the difference in detail. One other was the sound of a suitcase being dropped on the pavement, just a passing piece of ambient noise in a scene. With the original center I could hear it. With the VAC I could not.

    As for timbre matching, the different voicing of the VAC was far less apparent in real listening but was still there.

    As for my music test: I listened to Dianna Krall's new CD using DPLII music mode. As stated above, I would not normally do this but thought it might be a good way of testing the centers. Here I did notice that her voice sounded a little richer and thicker coming through the VAC. However, the percussion coming through the center channel sounded much more real and clear with more detail when coming from the original center.

    Conclusion: I greatly preferred the original center to the new VAC. I would even if they cost the same, which they don't. I will give Aperion the benefit of the doubt about the superior off axis response of the VAC, I did not test it. I will not outright dispute the idea that the VAC delivers better clearer dialog, but did not find that to be the case. However, I did find that the VAC revealed a loss of clarity, timbre matching, and the light airy sound that is Aperion when compared to the original center. These findings were pretty clear/definitive to my ears and those of my testing partners (wife and friend). However, keep in mind that this was all in my room on my setup and results may vary.

    I think my findings are more a testament to the original Aperion 522D monitors (since the center is really just one on its side) rather than a critique of the VAC. They are amazing speakers that deliver an amazing sound, especially considering their price and size. I should also mention that customer support was great throughout. The Aperion guys double checked the test results for my VAC to be sure that it was not defective and when I did return it, the RMA went without incident.

    Still, I recommend that people really consider what is important to them when choosing between the centers and that they do not discount the original 522D-C. If you do buy a new system with the VAC, compare it to one of the 522D-LRs turned on the side. If you decide to upgrade, compare with the original before sending it back.
     
  2. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    Brian,

    Great write-up.

    Have you talked to Aperion about your thoughts? If so, what was their response?

    Also, I understand that Aperion made a change to the crossover in the 522D. Do you have that change?
     
  3. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    Hi Curtis,

    Aperion said that they did tone down the high end as part of filling out the mid-range with the new VAC. Before I received the VAC they said that the timbre was "very close" but have since backed off a little bit on that after I and a few other people commented. I think that the exact timbe matching of the original Aperion setup is one of its biggest strengths, so the change is a big detraction. I understand that there are tradeoffs in speaker design but I still didn't see much benefit to the VAC over the original center.

    As I said, they were good in checking to make sure that I didn't receive a defective speaker and did provide good support throughout.

    My personal thoughts are that they maybe failed to integrate the durial cross-over technology into the more complicated setup they have going with the VACC.
    I would be willing to leave open the idea that it could be some sort of baffle interaction in my setup with my TV and entertainment center, but I doubt that it is.

    I don't know anything about a crossover change in the 522D and haven't seen anything about it on their forum. Where did you hear that?
     
  4. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    Ben, their support, guy said that within the last year....since I have heard the 522D, they changed the crossover. He posted that in AVS.

    The VACC is still just a two-way design...right? Nope...I was wrong...just checked it. The Di-aural crossover, to my understanding, is just another way of saying "parallel" crossover.
     
  5. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    I found the post on avs you referred to. Doesn't sound like things changed too much but I still have the original crossover. While I think in most of these cases, the new crossover is usually an improvement. I wouldn't be surprised if I prefer the original based upon the description that the new one has toned down the high end.

    The new center is still a 2-way as I understand it. However, there are now 3 types of drivers. So, maybe that is the issue.

    I'm very happy with the original setup, but I am currently searching for different speakers for a 2-channel setup in my office. I wouldn't mind finding some good used Ascends actually...
     
  6. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    Ahh...you did the searching....I was lazy.

    Three different drivers and it is a 2-way? That does not seem right.

    A couple of pairs of Ascend CBM-170's were for sale in the last couple of months on the Ascend forum/eBay....they both sold for $250/pr or less. I am actually thinking about putting together a 2.1 system in my bedroom and/or office. I would like to know what you thought of them.
     
  7. Rory Buszka

    Rory Buszka Supporting Actor

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    The DiAural crossover actually uses an inductor and a resistor in the tweeter's crossover instead of a capacitor, which lets the tweeter have a clearer sound or something.
     
  8. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    yeah...but other crossovers that use inductors and resistors too...but do not use the DiAural name. Maybe it is a trademark/patent/marketing thing.
     
  9. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    I think it is more than just marketing. They do license the technology and it definitly does create a unique sound. The company that licenses DiAural has a web site:
    http://www.diaural.com/

    Yeah, the VAC has a 4" midwoofer in addition to 2 5 1/4" woofers and the tweeter. I did hear that it was a 2 way, at least I think I did. I guess that means they are counting on the midwoofer and woofers to blend on their own. I'm trying to study more about crossovers but don't know too much yet...

    Curtis, what speakers are you looking at for your 2-channel setup? Looks aside, I did slightly prefer the Ascend 170s to the Aperion's for 2 channel listening when I compared them. I'm still trying to decide though if I want to go exteme (3 feet) near field or not for the office setup.
     
  10. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    According to their website, one of those "woofers" is a passive radiator....so it is actually just a woofer, mid, and tweeter.

    IF I do a 2.1 setup, it would be with a pair of CBM-170's and probably and a STF-2 I got used(which is currently on loan to my Parents).
     
  11. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    Ahhh, you are correct, but that still is 3 drivers...
     
  12. CurtisSC

    CurtisSC Screenwriter

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    Yeah....I don't count well. [​IMG]
     
  13. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    Brian,

    I just wanted to point out that this is not a "sealed" speaker per se. A PR based design falls under the bass reflex category along with any vented speaker. A "sealed" speaker is actually an acoustic suspension design.

    Oh, and it definitely looks to be a 3-way design to me![​IMG]
     

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