Dennis Burger is a native Alabamian whose passion for AV began sometime before the age of seven, when he dismantled his parents' brand new 25-inch solid-state Zenith console TV and exclaimed--to the amusement of no one except the delivery guy--that it was missing all of its vacuum tubes. He has since contributed to Home Theater Magazine, Wirecutter, Cineluxe, Electronic House, and more. His specialties include high-end audio, home theater receivers, advanced home automation, and video codecs.
A few days into my evaluation of Aperion's Verus II Grand bookshelves, I sent one crashing to the floor. I was barely recovering from major surgery and pretty loaded up on elephant narcotics, and when I walked into my two-channel listening room I collapsed, reaching out on my way to the floor to grab what I could for support. What my hand happened to hit was one of the Verus II Grand speakers, and I watched it tumble almost as if in slow motion, off of its stand, bounce off the corner of my gear table with a thud, and plummet to the floor, careening off the shelves behind it one-by-one on the way down, like Yosemite Sam in the cartoon where he has to not cuss at Bugs Bunny if he wants his one million pounds sterling.
I mention that merely because I would have expected the speaker to chip or nick or scratch or scuff or even dent after such a spill. Despite their hefty weight (fourteen pounds packed into a cabinet measuring just 13 by 7.5 by 9 inches), the Verus II Grand cabinets come across as a bit... delicate? Is that the word I'm searching for? They're certainly graceful, what with their elegantly curved side panels. And the glossy cherry finish on these things is at least three steps up from anything you'd expect on a speaker that sells for $799 per pair.
At any rate, it's certainly not the sort of finish that you would expect to take such a violent fall and come through it without a blemish. And yet, once I managed to pick it back up and plop it on its pedestal, that speaker looked no worse for wear than it did when I pulled it out of the satin-lined velvet bag in which it shipped.
If you've ever put hands on Aperion's original Verus Grand bookshelf, perhaps that's not much of a surprise to you, because the Verus II Grand, introduced in 2017, borrows much from its forebear. It relies on the same 5.25-inch Kevlar woofer, and when seen from the front with the grille intact it looks virtually identical. Under the hood, though, you'll find a newly patented one-inch axially stabilized V2 silk dome tweeter, upgraded internal crossover components, thicker internal wiring, and upgraded 12-gauge jumper wires between its bi-wirable binding posts in lieu of rigid metal jumpers.
Rated frequency response of the Verus II Grand bookshelf is 59-20,000 Hz (±3dB); 54-22,000 Hz (±6dB). Nominal impedance is rated at 6Ω, with 87dB sensitivity and recommended power input of 30 to 200 Watts.
That brings us up to date with the 2017 launch of the Verus II Grand, but Aperion Audio recently made another tweak right before sending my review samples: the addition of a Treble Mod, which consists of a jumper giving you a choice between standard voicing and a 3dB roll-off of higher frequencies, with the attenuation starting at 3.5 kHz. This rolling change is so new that it doesn't appear in the Verus II Grand's instruction manual, and only as I was wrapping up my review did it appear in photos on Aperion's website.
We'll dig into the Treble Mod more deeply in the performance section.
Just beneath it you'll find the Verus II Grand's gorgeous five-way binding posts, which might give you a bit of a fuss if you're using a bare-wire connection, since the jumper wires that bridge the high- and low-frequency speaker level connections are held in place with spades. So, if you're going the bareback route you'll need to be careful to not let those slip out as you're making your connections. Come on, though. A speaker this fancy-pantsed deserves a good set of banana plugs.
Above all of the above, you'll find the speaker's tuned port, which in typical Aperion fashion (even for their more affordable and less fancy-pantsed Intimus line of speakers) is flawlessly tapered into the finish of the speakers, with a smooth transition and a carefully engineered flute to minimize turbulence. The port is also constructed from a really nice soft-touch material whose effect on airflow is a complete mystery to me, but whose effect on the fit and finish of the speaker is undeniable (I mean, assuming you spend any appreciable time at all 'round the back of your speakers).
For the bulk of my evaluation, I drove the Verus II Grands with Micromega's M-150 Integrated Amplifier, eschewing that unit's excellent room correction entirely. For a brief spell near the end of my evaluation, I moved the bookshelves into my bedroom home theater system, running them sans center speaker or surrounds, but with an RSL Speedwoofer 10S, to get a sense of their performance in a 2.1-channel AV setup.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competion, and Conclusion...
Before we dig into the goodies, let's talk about that Treble Mod mentioned above. The Verus II Grands came to me with their jumpers in both speakers set to the -3dB position, but Aperion informed me that they should ship with the jumper in the 0dB position, which makes sense if you think about it; 0dB, as best as I can figure, represents the performance of the Verus II Grands as they've existed in the wild since last year. The 3dB-down setting represents an alteration of their sonic profile.
So, I started my listening with the jumper set to 0dB and queued up Mozart's "Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major, K. 314: III. Rondo. Allegretto," from the Mozart & Myslive?ek: Flute Concertos album featuring Ana De La Vega (Pentatone). If I had to describe the performance of the Verus II Grands with this track in a word, that solitary unit of speech would be "sweet." In a few extra words: there's an undeniable liquidity to De La Vega's flute here. An airiness and slipperiness that never shied in the direction of edginess or harshness.
What impressed me more was the smooth and even off-axis roll-off of the speakers as I moved around the room. Dispersion was wonderfully wide and imaging was delightfully precise.
Of course, flute concertos are not my usual jam. I'm more of a rock/pop/jam-band/old-school hip hop kind of fellow. So, while I can tell you that the above word-salad sounded delightful through the Verus II Grands, I cannot tell you if it sounded correct. For that, I turned to "Second Hand News" from the Deluxe Edition of Rumours release a while back.
What I heard was... well, just as sweet, just as detailed, just as wonderfully wide and deliciously layered. But also, a bit on the bright side. I hesitate to use that word, as it connotes a certain harshness that I never heard from the Verus II Grands, but with the Treble Mod jumper in the 0dB position, "Second Hand News" just leaned on the upper frequencies a little too hard, especially in that region between, say, 10kHz and the point where my hearing starts to drop off around 17kHz. The result? The recording, which sounds rough even in the kindest light, sounded rougher.
A quick swap of the Treble Mod jumper to the -3dB position and bam! This is the Rumours I know and love, sounding every bit as Rumours-y as one could hope for. Those faint "aaaaahhh"s that layer under the end of the second verse? Right before the, "Bam bam bam bam buh-da-bam bam bam bam..." bit? Through the Aperions, those wispy accoutrements fell right in place in the soundstage, depth-wise. And Lindsey's acoustic riffs during the chorus rang through the room with exactly the right amount of sparkly sizzle.
Childish Gambino's smash hit "This is America" provided a somewhat surprising opportunity for the Verus II Grand bookshelves to shine, and I say "surprising," because it's not normally a track I would throw at speakers this small without a sub. What can I say? I was jut in the mood to spin it via Spotify at the time, and these were the speakers connected to my system.
The thing is, there's really no need to throw charitable statements at the speakers' handling of this cut's throbbing bassline. It didn't merely deliver the song well "for a bookshelf speaker," it delivered it well, full stop. What I couldn't help but notice is the way that the Verus II Grands push the vocals to the forefront of the ridiculously dense mix, perhaps even slightly better than my Paradigm Studio 100 v5 towers. The Paradigm's may have an edge in terms of overall tonal neutrality, but the Aperions definitely won by a whisker when it came to making the lyrics more discernable.
Another surprising thing about the Aperions is that they did a fantastic job of cranking out the song's bottom end without any audible chuffing until very late in the track, when a series of deep, descending drum beats (starting at 3:11 in the studio version of the song and at 3:32 in the music video version below) did create some port noise at high listening levels.
It was at this point when I moved the Aperions into the bedroom and added a sub, which, as you might imagine, eased a little of the heavy lifting from the bottom end and also nipped that port noise in the bud. Since 2.1 home theater setups are becoming more of a thing, I also cued up several movies and watched them from beginning to end.
The one that stood out was Dunkirk on UHD Blu-ray, which--as with most Chris Nolan films--is packed with borderline indecipherable dialogue due to its wonky mix. In this film in particular, actor Mark Rylance may as well be speaking Swahili in Pig Latin form. I was pleasantly shocked to hear that I actually understood a line or two of his dialogue through the Verus II Grand bookshelves. Quite frankly, they fared better than most dedicated center speakers I've auditioned as of late in that regard. Moreover, they handled the dynamics of the film's bombastic action superbly.
(Major spoiler warning for those of you who haven't seen the film.)
If I had auditioned the Verus II Grand bookshelves before the addition of the new Treble Mod, I would no doubt be using this space to point out that, while the default voicing is certainly one that will appeal to many an audiophile, it isn't one for those of us who prefer more neutral, truer-to-life sound. With that mod in the -3dB position, though, this is no longer a concern.
That leaves me with nothing to complain about, really. Although, it's worth stating that as with any rear-ported speaker, the Verus II Grand bookshelf does need a little room to breathe. When I moved the pair into my bedroom home theater system, they did want to sit a few inches forward from where I normally position my front left and right speakers. Again, though, that's not so much a downside as it is a thing you simply need to be aware of.
Comparison and Competition
Off the top of my head, I'd say that of the speakers I've auditioned in the past few years, the PSB Imagine Mini bookshelf probably comes as close to parity with the Aperion Verus II Grand as any other. The PSBs are a good bit smaller--four-ish inches shorter and a little over an inch-and-a-half narrower--and their bass extension isn't quite as good. But to the best of my recollection, their midrange was a little more neutral, despite having much the same sweet high-end that the Aperions do with their Treble Mod in the 0dB position.
Now, here's a comparison that's sure to get me in trouble. In terms of fit and finish, I really kinda want to put the Verus II Grand into the same category as something like the Paradigm Persona B, a $3,500 bookshelf speaker that has a significant size and materials advantage over the Aperion. There just isn't much that can compete with the Persona line's Beryllium drivers. But ignoring their grilles, in terms of the shape of the cabinet, the finish thereof, the quality of the connectors and the overall precision in crafting and bottom-line aesthetic appeal? Yeah, I'd say the Aperions can definitely hang.
In terms of performance, I'd put the Aperions much closer to the Paradigm Prestige line, whose bookshelves sell for $799 each, although, again, if memory serves me, I recall the 15B having somewhat more neutral midrange than the Verus II Grand.
Aperion is pretty much legendary in the realm of direct Internet marketing, a sales model the company had down pat long before it was a thing. And there's a reason for that. If you're looking for bang-for-your-buck, the list of companies that can compete with Aperion is pretty small. Of course, if price is your first, last, and only consideration, the company's Intimus line may be more your speed. But if you're looking for something a little nicer, especially in terms of styling and build quality, the Verus II Grand builds on the reputation of its ancestors quite nicely.
I always try to imagine exactly who a product is for when I'm reviewing it, and if I had to describe the ideal customer for the Verus II Grand bookshelves, I'd paint a picture of someone who prefers a bit of richness in their midrange and--depending on how you configure the Treble Mod--someone who likes their audio slightly sweetened. It would also be a great speaker for someone setting up a 2.1 home theater system, especially for those who struggle slightly when it comes to dialogue intelligibility. Given the wide, even dispersion, it would also be a great speaker for families in which not everyone can sit right in the sweet spot.
Pair it with one of Aperion's excellent center speakers, another pair of Verus II Grand bookshelves, and a good sub, and you've got the making of a really rocking 5.1-channel bookshelf home theater system that punches way above its weight class and that looks smokin' hot while doing so. Whichever way you configure it, though, this is one hell of a speaker for the money.
• Visit the Aperion Audio website for more information and complete specs.
•The Last Days of THIEL Audio at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Visit our Bookshelf Speakers category page to read similar reviews.