Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2 ($2,995)
Recommended Amp Power: 20-150W/4Ω
Lowest Frequency: 26Hz
Highest Frequency: 30kHz
What We Like: Stunning highs, customisable sound, speakers are built like tanks.
What We Don't: Really needs a subwoofer to shine, design is hit and miss.
See the Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2
It’s tough to make a mark as an independent home theater company. When the big players have a stranglehold on the industry, getting in can be tricky. Oregon’s Aperion Audio are one of the few to have done it successfully, creating some genuinely superior surround sound systems. We got a chance to test their latest, the Novus 5.0.2. In this review, we break down the sound, design, packaging and accessories, specs, and more of the Novus 5.0.2. To see how it stacks up, check out our list of the best home theater systems.
Overall Sound Quality
The Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2 is, as you can probably tell from the name, a seven speaker system. It has five surround speakers, including two floorstanding speakers, two bookshelf surrounds, and a center channel, as well as two upward-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos, and no subwoofer. A complete home theater package without a sub is quite unusual, and we will go into this in a bit more detail below, but it’s worth talking about the overall sound quality. Aperion certainly didn’t get here by being a slouch in this department.
The Novus speakers are more affordable than the company’s usual offerings – the $2,995 price tag is a significant step down from the mighty Verus III Grand Tower Hybrid 10D, which costs $4,695 and has a name to match. But in listening to the Novus surround sound setup, there’s a real sense that Aperion didn’t compromise on sound quality. It’s simply terrific. All the speakers performed exceptionally well, no matter what we threw at them. The overall audio quality felt rich and detailed, with a genuine sense of excitement and liveliness. Many home theater systems feel as if they’ve been created by computer, rigidly tuned to match a neutral sound quality. With the Novus system, it’s clear that human beings have taken part. That means a lot to us, and you can really hear the results.
Much of this is thanks to the new tweeter design that Aperion have incorporated in all of their speakers – a “high-end natural fiber dome membrane” with a “neodymium motor and ferrofluid cooled voice coil”. Even if the science means very little to you – and we confess, sometimes it means very little to us – the results are clear. The high-end in the Novus 5.0.2 system is just outstanding. It offers exquisite detail and depth. Dialogue came out crisp and bright, and the upper reaches of the sound – rifle cracks, monster hisses, soundtrack strings – all but leapt around the room. We also found that the redesigned center channel, which is significantly smaller than other center speakers Aperion produce, managed to push out some seriously brilliant sound, enhancing the dialogue like you wouldn't believe.
We wish we could say the same for the bass performance. It’s not that it was bad – the tower speakers and bookshelf surrounds have dedicated front facing slots designed to help control the bass. But if there was ever a system crying out for an additional subwoofer, it was this one. As we’ve mentioned, a 5.0.2 system is quite unusual. When we tested ours naked – as in, with no added subwoofer – we found we really missed out on the bass. Fortunately, the guys at Aperion had provided a Bravus II 12D subwoofer, as part of a full Verus III Grand Tower Hybrid 10D, for comparison purposes. We can confirm that the Novus and the Bravus make for an excellent pair. On a related note: having a 300lb pallet of speakers arrive for testing is no joke. The Master Switch: risking back muscles for honest reviews since 2014.
We asked Aperion’s Dallas Ybarra why they decided not to offer a subwoofer in this package. According to him, it’s for a variety of reasons – many of Aperion’s customers, he says, already own a subwoofer, and don’t mind a slight mismatch in brands. It’s also somewhat of an experiment to see how customers respond to a package of this nature. Either way, it’s clearly a deliberate choice and it’s up to you whether or not to buy an additional subwoofer. We totally think you should.
Aperion Audio advise a burn in period of between 20 and 40 hours to get the full effect of the speakers. Although we only started formally evaluating after this period had passed, we didn’t notice a significant lapse in quality during the burn-in. We believe you can start using these speakers right away, and you can be confident that the quality will only improve with time.
Surround Sound and Dolby Atmos
It doesn’t matter how good the sound quality of a particular home theater system is if it doesn’t perform well in surround sound. Fortunately, the Novus system excels in this department. The soundstage was wide and yet still quite precise, allowing us to get a real picture of what was going on, placing us directly in the center of the sound. We love doing movie nights in the office, and we tested the Novus with several flicks, ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to independent art films. Whenever there was a surround mix, the Novus system sounded assured and capable. We found that the bookshelf speakers performed better when placed behind the listening position, rather than out to the sides, but this was a minor issue – the differences in the sound were very subtle.
We were particularly interested to test the two A5 height speakers – which, by the way, you can buy separately on Amazon for $499. You can also do the same for both the floorstanding and bookshelf speakers (no word on a full package for Amazon yet – right now you have to go direct). We tested them using a Dolby Atmos movie, in the upward-firing position – as in, placed on top of the floorstanding speakers and pointed at the ceiling, which is arguably the most common position for upward-firing speakers. They got the job done without any issue, delivering the same crisp sound quality and providing good height information.
However, we don’t think they are the best Dolby Atmos speakers around. We put them up against the Klipsch RP-500SA Reference Premiere Atmos speakers (full review here), and they came off second best. That surprised us, especially given that the Klipsch speakers are cheaper by about $100.
All the same, we had no complaints about the surround sound from this package. With the exception of the bass, which we’ve already talked about, the audio quality was precise, clear, and engaging. We do have to say that there are slightly less expensive systems that perform even better, including the $1,830 ELAC Debut 2.0 5.1, which is an absolutely outstanding surround sound system (albeit one without height speakers). But the Novus system still manages to give a good account of itself, and it has at least one feature that no other speakers have…
Take a peek around the back of the Novus bookshelf and tower speakers, and you’ll see something interesting. Above the standard binding posts on each speaker, there’s a separate set of ports connected by a removable jumper - a tiny plug with two jacks. You can use this jumper to play with the top-end even further. Leaving it in is the standard setting, resulting in the crisp, bright sound we’ve already described. Remove the jumper, and it dampens the upper frequencies by around three decibels, resulting in a much mellower and smoother result that is less fatiguing over time. This is ideal if you happen to have a problem with high frequencies.
It’s an interesting and clever way of letting the listener customize the sound quality, and is clear evidence that Aperion know what makes these speakers special. They want to give you not just the experience they think is best, but the experience that suits you. We had a lot of fun playing with the system – in particular, we had a lot of fun trying out different combinations. In general, we found that leaving the jumpers in for the floorstanding speakers and taking them out for the bookshelves was our preference, as it gave the rear surround sound a little extra lift. It’s not something we’ve seen in other home theater systems, and although it’s not a revolutionary idea, we think it’s a very good one.
Music vs. Movies
Although surround sound systems are not typically designed for music, we decided to test the Aperion Novus 5.0.2 system for it anyway. We were curious to see if the enhanced high-end and the level of detail would translate to two-channel music recordings like it did for full surround sound. We are pleased to report that the answer is a big yes. Even when playing purely out of the front left and front right channels, the detail and clarity were excellent.
Admittedly, this is a system clearly designed for movies and series, and you won’t get nearly the same effect listening to music as you would for a full surround sound mix. However, services like Tidal are now offering surround sound mixes for classic albums, like Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. Listening to an album like this with a full surround sound system is exquisite, and although we can’t say that the Novus is the pinnacle of this – we get the sense that any high-end surround sound system would respond just as well – we loved the effect.
Looks and Build Quality
The design of the Novus 5.0.2 system is, if we’re honest, a bit of a Marmite choice. As in, you either love it or hate it. Sadly, we come down on the latter side. As good as the technology in the Novus system is, and as good as the sound quality might be, we just couldn’t get behind the looks. They felt industrial and a little cold. The system is clearly trying to look futuristic, but it’s trying way too hard. This is surprising, because the one thing that Aperion truly excel at is sumptuous home theater design. The Verus III Grand Tower Hybrid 10D speakers, for example, feel genuinely luxurious, with rich tones and glorious woodgrain. We recognize that something like the aesthetics is a personal choice, and you might find that our pictures hit all the right buttons for you. But we can only evaluate on our terms, and we genuinely couldn’t get behind the looks of the Novus system.
However, there’s no question that the cabinets are built like tanks. Even without hearing them, we could tell that the resonance was going to be very low, thanks to superior build. Assembled in China they may be, but the quality control here is second to none. The speakers are robust and solid, made of tough plastic, and the floorstanders come with a great set of outriggers for isolation. Speaking of floorstanders, we were surprised at how small they were – compared to other floorstanding speakers in our testing room, they were positively diminutive. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to impact the sound quality, which produces excellent volume and clarity. You can have your Novus system, by the way, in black or white. Them’s your options.
You’ll be connecting these speakers as you would any other wired system: using speaker wire attached to binding posts on the rear of each speaker. The binding posts are solid, and simple to use, whether you’re relying on banana plugs or bare wire. We would be curious, by the way, to see what would happen if Aperion tackled a fully wireless home theater system. Judging by their current track record, they would knock it out of the park. If you want to avoid the hassle of wires, we suggest trying out something like the Sonos 5.1 Surround Set. No speaker wire needed.
Aperion take great care with their packaging. While it’s not particularly beautiful or exceptional, it does ensure that the speakers arrive undamaged. Thanks to an internal bracing system of rigid foam supports, the speakers can take some seriously bad bumps before any damage occurs. That’s a big plus. One of the most annoying things in audio is purchasing a multi-speaker system only for one or two of them to be damaged in transit. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem here.
There are almost no accessories included with the package – just a manual with each speaker, a grille, and a set of stick-on feet. While it would have been nice to have the white cotton gloves that were included with the Verus system, they certainly aren’t needed.
What We Like
- The Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2 boasts stunning, high-end sound, particularly in the highs.
- The Novus 5.0.2 allows you to customize the sound.
- The speakers are built like tanks.
What We Don’t
- The Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2 is a system that is crying out for a subwoofer.
- The design of the Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2 is hit or miss.
- The height speakers could be better.
|System||Price||Rec. Amp Power||Lowest Freq.||Highest Freq.|
|Aperion Audio Novus 5.0.2||$2,995||20-150W/4Ω||36Hz||30kHz|
|ELAC Debut 2.0 5.1||$1,830||10-160W/6Ω||35Hz||30kHz|
|Paradigm Premier Series||$5,500||15-120W/8Ω||43Hz||20kHz|
|Sonos 5.1 Surround Set||$1,856||N/A||25Hz||20kHz|
|Aperion Verus III GBH 12D||$3,446||20-200W/6Ω||26Hz||35kHz|
There are very few 5.0.2 systems to compare the Novus to, but it still exists in a crowded home theater marketplace. In our opinion, there are several less expensive systems that may be a better choice. The first one we can think of is the ELAC Debut 2.0 5.1. It’s an absolutely stunning system that costs just over half the price of the Novus. While it doesn’t have the same customization options, and the design is a little more traditional, the sound quality is simply superb – easily some of the best we’ve heard. ELAC Have a long tradition of making great home theater, and if you want something that won’t break the bank but still sounds terrific, we’d suggest the Debut 2.0 package.
If you’re looking to spend more money, we advise going for something like the Paradigm Premier Series. At $5,500, it’s only for those with deep pockets, but you’ll be rewarded with sound quality that puts the Novus to shame. The audio, design, and finish are all second to none. However, you will have to be careful to pair the Premier speakers with the right receiver, as they need a lot of power, and benefit from the careful choice. For this, we prefer the Marantz SR8012.
If you want to go for a wireless option, why not try the Sonos 5.1 Surround Set? You’ll miss out on the height speakers, but you still get a very capable surround sound set, consisting of a sub, a soundbar, and two smart speakers for the rears. The convenience is unbeatable, and while the sound quality isn’t close to that offered by the Novus system, it’s still quite good. You won’t be able to add additional speakers at a later date, thanks to the closed Sonos ecosystem, but this home theater package still has a lot to about recommend it.
Aperion were kind enough to ship us a full Verus III Grand Bookshelf Harmony 12D, so we could compare it directly with the Novus. This particular system consists of four bookshelf speakers, a center channel, and a subwoofer, and is around $400 more expensive than the Novus, at $3,446. Comparing them is actually quite tricky, as they sound different, but without one necessarily being better than the other. The Verus lacks the brightness of the Novus, but makes up for it with rich warmth and a superb low-end. It must be said that we much prefer the design of the Verus, which is outstanding – just check out that crimson finish. Ultimately, the package you go for will depend on how much you value the high-end of the sound, and your choice of design. Either way, both packages confirm just how good Aperion Audio are at this whole home theater thing.