Aperion Audio SLIMstage 30
|Price: $800 (SLIMstage 30/ Bravus 8A subwoofer bundle); $599 (SLIMstage 30 only) Aperionaudio.com|
|• (4) 2-in tweeters; (2) 3-in woofers; (4) 3-in passive radiators; 80 watts (satellites), 60 watts (woofers)
• Bravus 8A subwoofer: 8-in woofer; 100-watt amplifier
• Dimensions + Weight Soundbar: 31 x 3½ x 3¾ in; 16½ lb
• Subwoofer: 13½ x 16¾ x 13½ in; 36 lb
More than “just” a soundbar, Aperion Audio’s SLIMstage 30 is a playback system with decoders, amplifiers, and speakers rolled into one. For this test, the company also sent its Bravus 8A powered subwoofer, which is included in the $800 bundle option.
The SLIMstage 30 is small and heavy, and it exudes high tech. A gloss-black punched-metal grille covers most of its surfaces, and signs of intelligent life are everywhere. For example, in order to fit six drivers and four passive radiators inside, and to keep the tweeters as separated as possible (for better channel separation), the woofer arrays are smartly placed on the bottom of the bar, firing downward. Another neat touch: The plastic cover over the cable connections is removable, which makes it easy to hook up cables and then cover them up. I also appreciated that the bar comes with a super-beefy metal wall mount that even has adjustable brackets to better line up with your wall’s studs. Last but not least, the full-size remote has glow-in-the-dark buttons. Smart.
There’s a lot to like about this bar. The front panel contains essential control buttons as well as an LCD display. The display isn’t overly attractive, but its backlight blanks shortly after you’re done pressing buttons. I liked the MP3 player input jack, although the headphone output jack mystified me a little. (Is that really useful on a soundbar?) As with many soundbars, this one decodes both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. Also onboard is Euphony HD processing, which is used to synthesize a surround sound field with a center-channel image. Its four modes are Stereo/Bypass, Wide Stereo, Games, and Movie. The bar also offers a Night mode (which compresses dynamic range) and a dialogue clarity mode.
Around back, the bar has a variety of inputs and outputs, and Aperion includes a nice selection of spiffy white cables for analog and digital audio connections and power. I took advantage of the rounded, rubberized pads on each end and nifty feet that let me dial in exactly the right amount of vertical tilt. As with all the soundbars in this test, the SLIMstage 30 was placed on a shelf just below my Samsung TV’s screen. Although I didn’t use them, Aperion also provides spacers that let you raise the height of the bar above its feet, to make sure the woofers have good bottom clearance when placed on a flat surface. Did I mention that this unit has lots of smart features?
Before my audition, I called up the setup menu on the SLIMstage 30’s display to adjust a few basic parameters, such as seating distance and channel balance. These menus provide surprisingly flexible setup control.
The sound quality of the SLIMstage 30 itself when in stereo playback mode is quite satisfactory: ultra-warm, with a surprising amount of upper bass. Seriously, at moderate levels, this bar is perfectly usable without a subwoofer. The technosounding mix on Duffy’s “Mercy,” from Rockferry, has a hard-as-glass snare and sassy female vocals. In the SLIMstage 30’s default mode, these were a little too tame for my taste, and at loud levels the kick drum overdrove the bar, adding the telltale "tupping" sound. By using the built-in graphic equalizer, I was able to solve both problems: I attenuated the upper bass to avoid the overload and made some minor, judicious boosts in the upper midrange. Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," from Only by the Night, has a mix of upfront, enunciated vocals and distant backup vocals. After my equalization adjustments, the SLIMstage 30 blended these perfectly.
The Bravus 8A powered subwoofer that Aperion also sent along for my listening pleasure sports a down-firing 8-inch driver with an aluminum cone backed by a 100-watt analog amplifier. It is a full-featured sub with a high-cut filter to efficiently match its output with the soundbar. As expected, the 8A added a whole new listening dimension — specifically, a whole new bottom octave. It provided plenty of punch to the explosive toms on "Use Somebody," and its upper- frequency extension was sufficient to blend with the soundbar's lower response. This is a good pairing.
When watching movies, I found that applying equalization to tweak music playback also helped to scale back some dialogue muddiness. For example, in 3:10 to Yuma's outdoor scenes, wind and other background noise compete heavily with some dialogue, but my changes to the SLIMstage 30's default equalization improved intelligibility.
When I tried the Euphony HD surround modes (conveniently, you can select surround modes and independently adjust bass and surround levels from the remote), the bar responded with much wider and bigger sound fields. Action films like The Dark Knight benefited tremendously from these modes. (When the Batpod roars through those Gotham City streets, you need all the ambience and spaciousness you can get.) On the downside, the surround modes introduced undesirable coloration in orchestral scores on movie soundtracks, especially if the mode levels were set too high.
There's a lot to like about the Aperion Audio SLIMstage 30¨MBravus 8A. Their compact sizes and beefy build quality, along with the bar's plethora of features, make the combination a spectacular value. And all the posi. tive attributes I just listed are reinforced here by solid sound quality. This package, which looks like it costs a lot more than it actually does, is a good, utilitarian choice for a midprice soundbar system.
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