HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Aperion Audio Bravus II 12D
The subject of this review is the Aperion Audio Bravus II 12D subwoofer. As its name implies, the 12D utilizes a 12" [d]own-firing driver. It also employs a pair of 12" passive radiators, both of which are side-firing. Given all that Aperion Audio has stuffed into this cabinet it's actually quite small, measuring just 17"x15.5"x15.5" (HWD) including grills and rubber feet. Weighing in at 49 lbs the Bravus II 12D is solid as well.
The amp is a Class D rated at 650 watts RMS. Frequency response is listed as 23Hz-200Hz on Aperion Audio's website, yet in the owners manual it says 22Hz-350Hz instead. The review unit came in a gorgeous piano black finish, but it's also offered in a gloss cheery veneer.
Aperion Audio is a typical Internet Direct (ID) company, meaning they sell products from their own website. The Bravus II 12D retails for $899, which includes shipping to anywhere in the Continental US. Aperion Audio provides a very generous 10 year warranty on everything except the amplifier, which they cover for 2 years.
The Bravus II 12D comes with the ubiquitous 30 day in-home trial that virtually all ID companies have, but they offer something few others do; free return shipping. If you opt to return the 12D Aperion Audio will pay for the shipping back to them. There's no restocking fee either, provided the equipment isn't damaged of course. That's a generous offer, and certainly implies they don't expect too many people to be dissatisfied with their products.
The Bravus II 12D came single boxed, which I'm not a big fan of generally, but it was at least a very thick box. There were 2" medium density foam blocks cradling the entire top and bottom of the subwoofer, holding it securely in place. The 12D was encased in a velvet drawstring bag, which in turn was inside a plastic bag.
Included accessories consisted of a power cord, adjustable carpet spikes, rubber feet and the owners manual. The manual was in a sealed enveloped and printed on high-quality stock with a large, easy to read font. It contains everything the novice home theater person would need to hook up the unit and get it configured properly. The packaging showed me Aperion Audio takes great pride in the Bravus II 12D, and that ultimately left me with a very positive first impression.
The Aperion Audio Bravus II 12D, while a mouthful to say, is a striking subwoofer to look at. Its beautiful black paint, recessed side grills, rounded edges and discrete yet elegant brushed silver Aperion Audio badge on the front give it a very distinguished look. The diminutive stature, coupled with the stylish appearance, portend a high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor). Yet unlike most subwoofers this small there's little compromise in performance; the 12D can definitely hold its own, making it an ideal combination that is capable of producing deep bass without being physically imposing.
Along with the aforementioned variation in stated frequency response Aperion Audio also publishes some contradictory information regarding the cabinet itself. For example, the weight is listed as 54lbs on the website but 62lbs in the owners manual, neither of which matched what the test unit weighed. They also say the cabinet is made from .75" and 1" HDF (High Density Fiberboard), depending upon where you look on their website. All the areas I was able to access measured 1".
There's no damping material on the inside, although there aren't too many places where it could have been put anyway. Two small "braces" adorn the front and top panels, but I suspect those are more to help minimize panel resonance than to aid rigidity. Overall it does seem rather heavy and robust for such a small enclosure.
The grills that cover the passive radiators are made from .5" MDF that's been sanded smooth and painted. They feel quite sturdy, with no evident flexing. They're held in place with metal pins instead of plastic ones, furthering the hearty theme. The opening to accommodate them in the sides of the cabinet is recessed, so everything ends up being flush once they're installed. The grills deliberately don't extend all the way to the edges of the cabinet, leaving a slight gap all the way around. The material employed is very transparent and was applied to the frame perfectly. The sum of all the various design elements add up to a fairly unique looking subwoofer, one which I found to be stylish.
The driver and passive radiators are pretty classy looking themselves, and from the outside are indistinguishable from each other. Obviously they aren't the same on the inside though; passive radiators don't have a "motor" -- magnet and voice coil -- whereas an active driver does. The cones are made from aluminum and have an inverted dustcap with the Aperion Audio logo emblazoned on it, all of which is held in check by a thick rubber surround. Tapping on the cone reveals a light yet rigid structure, which is ideal for any subwoofer. All of that beauty is housed in a fairly generic looking stamped steel basket though. The magnet appears to be on the small side but there's a substantial rear bump-out for the voice coil. There's also a 1" pole vent. Both passive radiators and the driver are only held in place with wood screws, which doesn't strike me as the appropriate choice for a subwoofer in this price class.
The amp controls are fairly typical, consisting of an on/off/auto power switch, a phase switch with 0 and 180 degree settings, variable crossover (40Hz-120Hz) and volume control, along with LFE, line-level and speaker-level inputs. One unusual sight is a powered USB port which is used for the wireless option. Aperion Audio didn't send one along for review, so I'm unable to comment on how it works, but I do think that's a very handy option to have available. One crucial element to getting the best from any subwoofer is proper placement, which can be difficult when using a wired connection. Wireless gives you complete freedom to experiment and find the ideal location.
My living room is 13x17x8 (1768 CF), so it's not terribly large. The main seating position is approximately 11 feet from the subwoofer. All testing was done after the unit had been broken in for at least 15 hours.
Put simply, the Aperion Audio Bravus II 12D rocks. Whether watching a movie or listening to music it almost always seemed to provide what the situation called for. Dynamics were very good, the bass was deep and it rarely had a problem with volume. It was a faithful companion even when doing nothing more then watching TV; the low frequencies were evident, yet not exaggerated or bloated. Powerful, without being overbearing. There was a slight lose of resolution at lower volumes, but nothing I would consider significant. Evident when looked for, but virtually unnoticed when not.
While going over my review notes I realized there were multiple references that contained words like "clean" and "distinct". For me that's a good thing because I value precision above almost all else, and the 12D seems to be designed with people like myself in mind. Another thing it did expertly was standby mode; not once did it shut off when it shouldn't have nor fail to turn on instantaneously. Although that might be trivial for some, it's not for me. I really appreciate when a manufacturer gets the details right.
I run each test scene twice, once while seated in my normal listening position and then a second time while sitting a few feet from the subwoofer. This allows me to hear it as I normally would, yet also affords me the opportunity to determine if the subwoofer is straining even the slightest bit. Both tests are run at the same volume level, which is slightly above what I would normally use on a day-to-day basis.
Overall I would say the 12D's performance during movies was particularly good, but I did encounter what sounded like the driver bottoming out on a few occasions. There were several instances when a brutally deep bass passage would elicit an audible complaint, and sometimes it wasn't terribly subtle. That's actually my sole real criticism about the Bravus II 12D; Aperion Audio may need to spend a little more time tuning the limiter in order to prevent any untoward sounds. I would much prefer a subwoofer not attempt to produce something it's unable to than give it "the ol' college try" and make an unpleasant noise.
I haven't used this one in a review for a while, so I blew off the dust and gave it a spin. For those unfamiliar with the movie Tom Cruise plays a hitman named Vincent who is hired to assassinate 4 government witnesses and the prosecutor in one evening. His unwitting accomplice is Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx), an LA cab driver who just happens to pick up the wrong fare that night.
As is my wont I queued up the Club Fever scene first, and the 12D did not disappoint. The techno music used as a backdrop pounded away, as one might expect it would in real life. When the hit on Peter Lim inside the club goes awry, and a gun battle erupts because of it, Vincent's over-emphasized pistol blasts were potent, sounding more efficacious then the rest. One of Lim's henchmen gets off a single round from his shotgun as he's being executed, which was produced with a powerful blast. Even though there's chaos all around the Bravus II 12D remained composed, adroitly doing justice to the LFE part of this soundtrack.
As the gunships of the human invaders approach Home Tree the little 12D created a tactile sensation from their engines' roar. You could feel a wave of bass as they got closer and closer, which enhanced the sense of impending doom. When they unleash their arterial assault on Home Tree's roots everything they launched -- gas rounds, incendiaries and missiles -- sounded clean and precise, each individual element maintaining a distinct sound. When Home Tree finally succumbs from the relentless barrage it crashes into the ground with an almost perceptible thud.
During the preamble of the Battle For Pandora Jake Sulley (the hapless human soldier who has been sent to infiltrate the Na'vi clan disguised with an avatar) can be seen riding the most feared beast in the skies, a Toruk. This winged behemoth is far larger and more menacing then the banshees all the rest of the Na'vi tribe have, so when it flaps those massive wings you're supposed to hear a totally different sound. The 12D complied, producing a markedly different sense of depth. The rest of this scene was equally impressive; regardless of whether it was the human ground troops, their huge droid robots or the thundering hooves of the clans as they descend upon the humans while riding their six-legged beasts, the Bravus II 12D had the ability to provide sufficient impact to make it almost palpable.
War Of The Worlds (blu-ray)
So which scene is the first one most people turn to when auditioning/evaluating a subwoofer? With few exceptions it's The Machine Emerges, which is where I started as well. The Bravus II 12D was very well behaved, with solid dynamics. It wasn't quite able to dig deep enough to be totally convincing that the ground beneath me was starting to crumble and disintegrate, but it did remain precise and clean throughout this scene. As crowds of people are trying to jam themselves onto the Hudson Ferry a few of the Machines start to close in from behind them. As if to instill even more fear in the fleeing humans one the Machines lets out some earth-shaking bellows which the 12D rendered with magnificent pitch definition. That became a recurring theme with the Bravus II 12D; excellent clarity and precision was found in abundance.
Tron: Legacy (blu-ray)
Tron unsettled the 12D somewhat and it was here, along with another movie not listed as part of the review, where I heard the driver protest a few times. One of those occasions was at the very beginning of The Grid, when Kevin Flynn first realizes he's been transported to someplace else. At the onset there's a loud bass sweep to emphasize the actual transportation, and it was during that bit where the driver seemingly exceeded the limit of its ability. Ironically, the 12D produced one of the most articulate and coherent renderings of this over the top soundtrack I've heard in a while (so long as the driver wasn't over-extending itself, of course). For example, the fireworks that preceded the Lightcycle Battle were powerful, with realistic definition. The cycle's themselves had a nice deep rumble as they darted across the Grid. The explosions that occurred when a Lightcycle hit the invisible barrier that rings the Grid were never sloppy or imprecise, and were produced with a nice amount of weight. Virtually everything seemed balanced and in proportion, in spite of the turmoil unfolding in the movie itself.
After all the testing had concluded I checked the amp and it felt a little warm to the touch. Not hot, per se, but there was some heat evident.
The Bravus II 12D did quite well with music, providing both good transient response and nice texture. In general it seemed poised, knowing when to lay back and when to come alive. Whether the source material required fast transitions or more sustained notes the 12D was up to the task.
Firehouse - Don't Walk Away (Streaming)
Time for a little bit of 1980's pretentious 'hair metal', just so I could see how the 12D would handle a seriously over-saturated recording. It essentially shrugged it off, producing an excellent rendition of this song by taking the bombast and taming it into something more palatable. Doug Oberkircher -- who did the engineering and mixing for Firehouse's eponymous debut album -- turned up the heat pretty high on this one, so both Perry Richardson's bass guitar and Michael Foster's drums play a very (overly?) prominent role. The 12D maintained the essence of Doug's recording style yet the mid-bass remained crisp without a hint of droning, something fairly typical when this song is played on a lesser subwoofer.
Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing (Streaming)
I'll admit it right up front; I was never a big Dire Straits fan. I thought a lot of their songs had a decent enough rhythm, but for some reason I just never found anything compelling about the music. So why on earth did I choose Sultans Of Swing? Because of the wonderful recording quality; even though this track was laid down over 30 years ago it still sounds fresh today. How often can you say that?
Sultans Of Swing has a fairly simple, yet driving beat. It's a somewhat bottom-heavy song, but thankfully the 12D didn't muddy it up at all. The bass guitar plays an extended role and was easily discernible, while the drums remained clear, nimble and precise. All-in-all, this one was quite enjoyable.
Gary Hoey - Hocus Pocus (CD)
Gary who? Yea, that's what a lot of people say. Shame too, because he's an astonishing guitar player. Hoey has toured with the likes of Jeff Beck, Brian May (Queen), Ted Nugent, Joe Satriani, The Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, Styx, Steve Vai, Peter Frampton and Dick Dale. He knows his way around a guitar, that's for sure. I've been a fan since his Animal Instinct album, which has to be 20 years old by now. Gary is a throwback guitarist, in the sense that he's a straight-ahead rock and roller; he uses few effects for the most part, other than his lightning quick fingers. I would go see him live -- again -- any day of the week.
Hocus Pocus is Gary's purely instrumental cover of the old Focus song of the same name. Anyone who has heard the original, with its goofy yodeling, would not be able to get it out of their head. However, I had to focus (no pun intended) on the lower few octaves because this was a subwoofer review. Not surprisingly, the Aperion Audio Bravus II 12D didn't let me down; whether it was Tony Franklin's bass guitar or Frankie Banali's drums (he of Quiet Riot fame) the 12D just sailed along, providing crisp and detailed bass. I hadn't listened to the Animal Instinct CD in quite a while so I played this song 3 times, enjoying each.
Joe Satriani - Littleworth Lane (CD)
Speaking of Joe Satriani... I decided it was time to pick up something new -- for me anyway -- from this guitar wizard so I bought a copy of Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards (again, no pun intended!). Not his most current work, but widely hailed as one of his better recent offerings. As usual, Joe and his band do not disappoint. What I've never grown accustom to though is the compressed dynamics his recorded songs generally have. See him live and it's nothing short of amazing, but listen to his CD's and something often seems amiss. Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards is no exception I'm afraid, which is all the more confounding when you consider that Joe does a lot of the mixing himself.
Even though Satriani tends towards the 'shredder' end of the guitar player spectrum I chose a blues song instead; Littleworth Lane. I did that so I could evaluate Allen Whitman's bass and the drums of long time Joe Satriani collaborator Jeff Campitelli. Littleworth Lane is a typical blues tune, with a slow and methodical riff. Joe does his thing, of course, while Allen and Jeff keep the beat going. That's precisely what the Bravus II 12D as well, expertly producing what detail there was. I ended up restarting the CD from the beginning and listening to the entire thing while typing this review.
Aperion Audio has a winner on their hands with the Bravus II 12D, a subwoofer that hits virtually all the marks for the person who needs something small in size but large in ability. Its unique appearance and beautiful paint job are perfect compliments to the refined sound quality, yet it can still play deep when called upon. A limiter that slipped up a few times and allowed the occasional distressing noise is about the only real complaint I have. Other than that, I really enjoyed my time with this subwoofer.
Please use the Aperion Audio Bravus II 12D Discussion Thread for questions and comments
Bravus II 12D Pictures
Bravus II 12D Measurements
These measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room with no other speakers running.
This represents the individual performance of the driver (green trace) and passive radiator (blue trace)
This represents the Spectrograph of the driver by itself
This represents the Spectrograph of the passive radiator by itself