Dylan is an expert in audio and video reproduction with a emphasis on home theater projection.
Aperion Audio's new Novus 5.0.2 surround sound system ($2,995) is an interesting departure for the company. Situated between their beloved Intimus and Verus lines, the Novus lineup isn't merely a mid-point between them, at least not in terms of aesthetics and design. Aperion claims thousands of hours of research and development time were used to create the Novus line, and with their 20 years of speaker design experience, the company set out to create a surround sound speaker system that offers incredible performance and value for the money, something Aperion is well known for already.
The first thing that makes Novus an obvious departure from the company's previous efforts, though, is the addition of dedicated height channel speaker. Unlike most height speakers, though, which exist as either built-in up-firing modules or dedicated ceiling speakers, the Novus A5 Height Module can be placed on top of the tower speakers to reflect sound off your ceiling to the listener, on the wall above your screen angled directly towards the listener, or on the ceiling itself, also angled directly towards the listener. The inclusion of these height speakers adds a strong value proposition to this new line of speakers.
Upon unboxing the Novus system, I was pleasantly surprised to see Aperion use high density open cell foam to protect the speakers in shipment. This pliable foam is perfect for shipping large, heavy items. I won't name names, but I've had plenty of speakers, worth quite a bit more money, shipped to me in cheap, rigid, closed cell packing foam. I've had several instances where this type of foam was damaged in shipment, leaving the speakers susceptible to dings and scrapes. So, kudos to Aperion for spending the extra money to package these speakers right. This means fewer potential headaches for buyers.
Although the speakers are made in China, build quality and finish consistency between each speaker was very good on my review samples. The speakers are available in either Stealth Black or Pure White, and the matte finish is home theater friendly, aiding to reduce cabinet reflections that might be distracting in a darkened room. I did the classic knuckle-rap test against the sides of each cabinet and was pleased with the subsequent inert noise, which was far better than some other similarly priced speakers I've recently had here for review.
An important aspect of speaker design for any manufacturer is not just finding the right sound, but also a unique look that makes the speakers distinctly their own. In this regard, I think Aperion has hit the nail on the head. All Novus speakers share the same sloping front-baffle design. Aperion claims this helps to phase align the tweeter with the woofer. The main five-channel speakers all share the same ferrofluid-cooled natural-fiber dome-membrane tweeter. Surrounding the tweeter is an aluminum faceplate, yellow accent ring, and black metal grille, giving the speakers a unique look. Aperion claims this newly developed tweeter has a flat frequency response up to 30kHz, which is impressive for a dome tweeter in this price segment.
For the bookshelf and tower speakers, Aperion have included a jumper on the back of the cabinet that allows you to adjust the signal gain of the tweeter from reference to -3dB, which would give the tweeter a more laid-back sound if that's what you prefer. The 5.25-inch woofer and four-inch midrange used on the center channel are made from an aramid-fiber material, which Aperion claims helps increase dynamic range, reduce distortion, and increase driver excursion capabilities for better bass response. Considering the towers are only a three-driver, two-way design and are rated to go down to 36hz, it seems these performance increases to the woofer design are needed to get this kind of performance out of a speaker this size. I usually prefer ported speakers to be rear-ported, giving the speakers a cleaner look; however, the concave slotted ports on these Novus speakers enhance the design, so, in this case, I didn't mind them being on the front.
The pair of included A5 height speakers have a single coaxial driver that uses a new German natural-fiber, silk-dome, ferrofluid-cooled tweeter that's surrounded by a 5.25-inch aluminum cone woofer. As noted above, because they're completely separate speakers, they can be setup in a number of ways. They're designed in a way that if you choose to place them on top of the tower speakers, for reflective sound, they won't look out of place.
The system doesn't come with a subwoofer, so especially for surround sound use, you'll want to add one, seeing how the center and height channels don't go lower than 70hz and 140hz respectively. All the speakers in the Novus line have a 4-ohm impedance and are reasonably efficient, ranging from 85dB to 88dB.
Setting the speakers up is fairly straightforward. As there isn't anything too unconventional about their design, they don't require anything particularly special in terms of placement. If this is your first time setting up a pair of surround speakers, I'd refer you to the user manual for helpful tips on proper setup. Potential buyers should note that the A5 height and surround bookshelf speakers don't come with wall mount brackets in the box, so be sure to get yourself a couple with rated weight support for these speakers if you need them mounted.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competion, and Conclusion...
Per Aperion's suggestion, I ran the speakers for 40 hours before doing any critical listening. They suggest a minimum 20-hour break in period before the speakers start to sound their best. Prior to setting the speakers up for surround sound use down in the theater, I decided to see how the set of tower speakers handled two-channel audio in my living room. They replaced a pair of Monitor Audio Gold GX50 bookshelves and were mated to an Onkyo A-9010 integrated amplifier. The speakers were placed about six inches from the wall, a little close, but I assume most people are going to set them up similarly in a living room, if not even a little bit closer. I found setting them up like this gave the speakers a bit of boundary gain, aiding in better bass response in my living room.
In general, I find fiber dome tweeters sound a bit more laid back and less exciting on the top end. My time spent with the Novus tower speakers helped reinforce this sentiment. Even without removing the jumper on the back of the speakers, the tweeters took on a more relaxed sound signature than what you'd get from some other tweeter types. That doesn't mean they lack detail and nuance in sound on the top end. It's just that the sound isn't as in-your-face as it can be with other types of tweeters. My preference is actually for this kind of sound signature, because it often leads to less listener fatigue and, in my opinion, a less forced sounding presentation of detail. A good analogy here would be to jack up the sharpness setting on a television to give the impression that there's more detail in the image than what's actually there. Some prefer this, others don't. The same goes for treble on a speaker.
One track I like to use to test out treble performance is "The Sad Skinhead" by Faust. Between the percussive shakers, harsh guitar notes, and synth keyboard samples, a speaker that overemphasizes treble can sound a bit shrill with this song. With the Novus' fiber dome tweeter, I never got a sense of shrillness. Instead, everything sounded nice and smooth, with plenty of detail.
As I listened to these speakers more, I found the most impressive aspect is how they perform in the midrange. As there's no dedicated bass drivers, a simpler crossover design can be used which can have a great effect on how the midrange sounds. And when you're building a speaker to a particular budget, having a simpler crossover means higher quality components can go into it. Clarity in the midrange was very good for speakers in this price range. The spoken word, in particular, sounded tonally correct. For instance, Drake's casual rapping on the track "Money in the Grave" sounded incredibly natural and transparent, a good indication that the speaker itself wasn't adding a whole lot of its own sonic coloration.
The two-way design might give pause to some looking for speakers with excellent bass response; however, over the years, I've learned to stop worrying so much about how many drivers a speaker has, as it isn't always a good indicator for bass response. For instance, I've heard single coaxial driver speakers put out more bass than three-way tower speakers (and vice versa). Just know bass response is excellent for speakers in this price range. As an example, the kick drum on John Mellencamp's "Smalltown" or the heavy bass line in Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" never left me with the feeling these speakers needed help from a subwoofer, at least when listening to two-channel music. In small- to medium-sized rooms, I think most owners can get away using these towers for music without the help of a subwoofer.
I also found that these speakers liked to be turned up loud. With them up as loud as I could bear for a few minutes, I never once heard them straining, clipping, or compressing. In fact, the sound seemed to get exponentially better the more I turned them up. At these high volumes, I was a little worried about the narrow slotted bass ports creating an issue with chuffing. Aperion must have done their due diligence and, despite the narrow gap that the air has to pass through, there must be enough surface area to avoid port noise.
For the few weeks I had the towers set up in my living room, I spent the better part of my Saturday mornings drinking coffee and listening to Spotify playlists and was thoroughly impressed with pretty much everything I listened to. These are the sort of speakers that sound good with just about any kind of music you throw at them.
After I spent time with the towers in my living room it was time to bring them down into the theater to see how the whole system performed. Due to the way my theater is treated, with black velvet fabric on most of the surfaces, setting the Novus height channel speakers to reflect sound off of the ceiling made little sense as most of the sound would be absorbed.
So, I set them up in a more traditional method, mounted flush to the wall above my screen. The rest of the speakers simply replaced the remaining five channels that were already there. I used my Elemental Design's A7s-450 subwoofer for bass duties. After setting up my Denon AVR-X4500 (reviewed here) to adjust the settings for the new speakers and running a pass of Audyssey XT32, I was ready to give the whole system a run.
This was my first introduction to the Novus center channel speaker, a three-way design with the inclusion of a dedicated four-inch midrange woofer, in a tweeter-over-mid design. The purpose of this design is mostly to help with dispersion characteristics, and to avoid the lobing or "picket fence effect" common to many mid-tweeter-mid designs.
The first movie I watched in the theater after the Novus system was setup was the Ultra HD Blu-ray of A Star Is Born (2019). The mix features a great balance of sung vocals and spoken dialogue: a perfect opportunity to hear how the center channel performed. The vocal performance of the Novus center channel speaker was excellent, even better than the tower speakers. Dialogue was clean, crisp, and coherent, with minimal sibilance emphasis.
Because the main channel and A5 height speakers use different drivers, I was a little worried about how the A5s would integrate with the rest of the system. Those fears were quickly put to rest after spending just a few hours with them. Throughout my time listening to surround sound tracks that utilized the height channels, surround effects that panned from channel to channel sounded tonally consistent, providing a seamless sound field in my theater.
The Dolby Atmos track on the Ultra HD Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049 makes great use of the height and surround speakers: For instance, the height channels are used to create sound for pouring rain in some scenes and are used for overhead flying cars in others. The A5s and bookshelf surrounds did a great job rendering these effects convincingly.
As a whole, the Novus system is well suited for surround sound use. Like my experience with the tower speakers on their own, with the volume cranked up, they never showed signs of strain or compression. Pair them with a decent subwoofer and you'll have a surround sound system that offers excellent performance for the price.
While I was seriously impressed with how much bass the Novus speakers deliver on their own, and how deeply that bass extends, I found the bottom end somewhat lacking in detail as compared with other tower speakers in this price range. On occasion, bass had a tendency to sound a bit boomy.
I was also a little disappointed by the lack of mounting hardware for the surround and height channel speakers. This unfortunately raises the cost of the system for anyone looking to mount these speakers, as I assume most people will.
Comparison and Competition
I recently reviewed Paradigm's Premier series surround speakers, which fall right in line pricewise with the Aperion Novus speakers. While I preferred the aesthetic look of the Premier speakers more, the Aperion speakers seem to have even better build quality as the cabinets seemed to resonate less. Obviously, looks are subjective, so I'll leave it to you which one you like better. As far as sound goes, each system had its relative strengths and weaknesses. The Premier speakers sound a bit more dynamic on the top end, with the midrange having a more forward sound signature. The Novus speakers tend to sound a bit more laid back and neutral. The Novus speakers also have deeper bass, but the Premier speakers have more detailed bass.
It's also worth noting, for the same price the Aperion system gives you a few extras the Premier system lacks, such as a pair of height speakers, adjustable feet on the towers, and tweeter gain adjustment.
At this price point, there are also plenty of options out there from the likes of Monitor Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, SVS, MartinLogan, Polk, Definitive Technology, Tekton Designs, and many others that you might also consider.
The Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2 System is up against a lot of competition near its price point. With that said, most other competing systems either don't have or don't include dedicated height channel speakers. What's more, the height speakers offer a lot of versatility in how they can be configured, easily accommodating most room types, whether it be a living room or a dedicated theater space. In my opinion, the inclusion of these height speakers is one of the most compelling parts of this system.
However, it's not just the inclusion of the height speakers that should sway your buying decision. Every Novus speaker is well built, looks great, and offers excellent sound quality, all of which makes them easy to recommend before you even consider the value proposition the height speakers add.
• Visit the Aperion Audio website for more information and complete specs.
• Visit our Floodstanding Speakers category page to read similar reviews.
• Aperion Audio Verus II Grand Bookshelf Speakers Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.