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  1. #1
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Fun with New Toy

    On a frivolous whim I put a low eBay bid on an Outlaw 990 prepro -- and won. This was a unit I admired when it was newer. The thing has arrived and I've installed in my stereo system for the sake of fun & experimentation.

    Understand that the Outlaw 990 is a multi-channel, AV processor. Not of the last technological wave, e.g. it doesn't have HDMI, but does have 7.1 output, automatic set up, and balanced outputs. So what's it doing in my stereo system?

    Well it's a replacement for my AM/FM tuner, DAC, passive preamp, and (effectively) the crossover and level control of my subwoofer. Currently I'm using it in DSP mode, meaning the signal is digitally processed. This processing occurs before the built-in DAC, but after the ADC that would be applied to any analog input. As input I've hooked up my usual SP/DIF link to my music computer and an optical link to my CDP (which I rarely use nowadays).

    The Outlaw does have a 'Bypass' mode that skips the DSP. Using it would mean that I'd have to used the subwoofer's own crossover control and level setting, and would forfeit the Outlaw's high-pass filter for the main speakers. I'm not using 'Bypass' at the moment but will try it.

    The sound is very good, with fine tonal balance, soundstage, and resolution. Maybe the resolution is just a tad less good than my outboard DAC and passive preamp, but very close. The bass might be better after I've good the level just right on account of having a lower crossover point, (40 Hz instead of 50 Hz), and complementary high- and low-pass filters.

    BTW, the unit is HUGE. It's 17.5" wide, 18" deep, and about 10" high. This might be the ultimate drawback since my shelves will barely accommodate if at all.

    I will apprise you of any interesting further developments.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Fun with New Toy-outlaw990_front-right-2-700.jpg  

  2. #2
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    Wow, that machine looks humongous. Have fun with the new machine.
    My audio lab:
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  3. #3
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    Wow Feanor...Thats a great AVR! And Outlaw is a very good product. Its made by ATI. and all Outlaw Audio amps are pretty much the same as the ATI amps but with not as much sheet metal and not as heavy. You have a good system there....Congrats! ATI also owns B&K and Theta Digital.
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  4. #4
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchmon View Post
    Wow Feanor...Thats a great AVR! And Outlaw is a very good product. Its made by ATI. and all Outlaw Audio amps are pretty much the same as the ATI amps but with not as much sheet metal and not as heavy. You have a good system there....Congrats! ATI also owns B&K and Theta Digital.
    Interesting, frenchmon. I didn't know that Outlaw stuff (or some of it) was made by ATI, a brand with a very good rep.

  5. #5
    RGA
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    Personally I think it's a good idea to stay one technology behind everyone else - usually get stuff at a fraction of the price it originally sold for.

    Take computers - the buzz is windows 8 so all the windows 7 based machines will drop like a stone. And Windows 8 will probably suck because all the alternating platforms suck until they get it fixed.

    I know it's not the same with receivers totally but in some ways it is. A new can't live without it feature makes them obsolete but you can usually buy a more significant amplifier than some lesser machine that happens to have that one feature. Besides you can connect the HDMI from the blu-ray directly to the TV so I am not sure why it is necessary to buy two cables - one into the amp and another from the amp to the TV. TV's usually have 2 to 4 of these inputs anyway.

    Here in HK with a small apartment I can't do home theater the way that I would want. I would arguably need those Home theater in a box solutions - thin floorstanders and hang on the wall behind my head (my couch is right against the wall) or right beside the arm rests of the couch pointed in - eesh something like this BCS-414 5.1 Blu-ray Home Cinema System (BD-Live) with HD Audio, DLNA, USB and Tall Speakers - Pioneer Home Cinema System

    I mean I suppose there could be a "good" version of this on the market somewhere and I suppose it's better than the TV speakers.

    I'm seriously contemplating something like this which might be rather good for not too high a price Paradigm Cinema 330 On-Wall Speaker Reviewed

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    Personally I think it's a good idea to stay one technology behind everyone else - usually get stuff at a fraction of the price it originally sold for.
    ...
    I know it's not the same with receivers totally but in some ways it is. A new can't live without it feature makes them obsolete but you can usually buy a more significant amplifier than some lesser machine that happens to have that one feature. Besides you can connect the HDMI from the blu-ray directly to the TV so I am not sure why it is necessary to buy two cables - one into the amp and another from the amp to the TV. TV's usually have 2 to 4 of these inputs anyway.

    Here in HK with a small apartment I can't do home theater the way that I would want. I would arguably need those Home theater in a box solutions - thin floorstanders and hang on the wall behind my head (my couch is right against the wall) or right beside the arm rests of the couch pointed in - eesh something like this BCS-414 5.1 Blu-ray Home Cinema System (BD-Live) with HD Audio, DLNA, USB and Tall Speakers - Pioneer Home Cinema System

    I mean I suppose there could be a "good" version of this on the market somewhere and I suppose it's better than the TV speakers.

    I'm seriously contemplating something like this which might be rather good for not too high a price Paradigm Cinema 330 On-Wall Speaker Reviewed
    Of course this thread is just about my fooling around with an AV prepro as a stereo preamp. The M/C questions is something else.

    But even if you only watch movies or HDTV, M/C is a startlingly different & better experience than stereo.

    No, I don't think it's a good idea to stay a step behind with AVRs or prepros. The latest is greatest as long as it is standard technology and not just some proprietary gimick.

    It's interesting about the on-wall speakers like the Paradigm. They certainly look like a viable alternative for a person with space constraints. FWIW, if I got the Paradigm Cinema 330's for LCR, I get maybe the Cinema 200 or 220 for rears, not any of the surrounds that Paradigm sells.

  7. #7
    RGA
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    Looking at it a bit more I might consider the Anthony Gallo 5.1 Nucleus - Kind of like those Bose satellites but done properly (apparently).

    What I like is that the stand appears bendable and you can get wall or even ceiling mounts as well as table stands. The difficulty here in HK is that the walls are made of solid concrete so I can't drill holes in studs. It has to be light enough for those "glues" to hold a loudspeaker (which never seem to hold much IME and always fall down).

    But the stands are nice cause they're very unobtrusive. best thing is if I do go back to Canada it looks small enough to stick in a suitcase.

    Anthony Gallo Acoustics Micro Ti 5.1-Channel Speaker System | AVguide

    Anthony Gallo at Audio Affair

  8. #8
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA View Post
    Besides you can connect the HDMI from the blu-ray directly to the TV so I am not sure why it is necessary to buy two cables - one into the amp and another from the amp to the TV.
    Only if sound quality matters. Old processors cannot play the HD layer found on BR discs.

  9. #9
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    Only if sound quality matters. Old processors cannot play the HD layer found on BR discs.
    Man I completely forgot about HDMI carrying sound. I was thinking just about the picture.

  10. #10
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    The Outlaw does have a 'Bypass' mode that skips the DSP. Using it would mean that I'd have to used the subwoofer's own crossover control and level setting, and would forfeit the Outlaw's high-pass filter for the main speakers. I'm not using 'Bypass' at the moment but will try it.

    The sound is very good, with fine tonal balance, soundstage, and resolution. Maybe the resolution is just a tad less good than my outboard DAC and passive preamp, but very close. The bass might be better after I've good the level just right on account of having a lower crossover point, (40 Hz instead of 50 Hz), and complementary high- and low-pass filters..
    When I saw what you'd purchased---and, btw, congrats on the pickup---I immediately thought of what kind of improvement you might be hearing due to the Bass Management system. I'd love to read your impressions.
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  11. #11
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsticks View Post
    When I saw what you'd purchased---and, btw, congrats on the pickup---I immediately thought of what kind of improvement you might be hearing due to the Bass Management system. I'd love to read your impressions.
    The Outlaw 990 has an automated set up mode that uses a microphone and test signals to determined optimal bass management, crossovers, and time delays. (My seller lost the original microphone but I used the one from my Onkyo receiver.)

    Disappointingly, the Outlaw refused to deal with my stereo only configuration consisting of L&R and sub. Instead, I had to set the crossover and level manually. However it probably would have worked pretty well if I'd actually had surrounds or surrounds+back surrounds. In this case it would have determined the crossover points all speakers and passed all bass below the crossovers to the subwoofer using DSP.

    Presently I've defined my L&R mains as "small" in order to force a high-pass instead of full range, and have set the crossover to 60 Hz. The results are actually very good, preferable to my former full range plus 50 Hz low pass setup. On the other hand I think my arrangement was better for transparency and freedom from grunge, if only slightly so.

  12. #12
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Playtime is over. I've decided to revert to my old configuration with passive preamp and standalone DAC and tuner. (See stereo system under my signature). The Outlaw 990 was a kick but just couldn't equal the grunge-free performance of the old setup whose sound is just cleaner, less etch, less grain.

    I was forced to use the Outlaw's DSP given with a digital input, so I couldn't come to any conclusion about whether the problem as DSP or the active amplification chain. If I had to guess, it would be the latter. Maybe E-Stat is right that too many opamps is a bad thing.

    A possible area of strength for the Outlaw was the bass. It seemed just a bit more dynamic and articulate. This was possibly due to the 60 Hz, complementary high- and low-pass filters. My standard setup runs the mains full range and the sub below 50 Hz.

    Also, the Outlaw's tuner was complete crap, no stereo separation at all. Listening to FM isn't top priority for me, but my old, early '80s Denon TU-787 is far, far better

  13. #13
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    The Outlaw 990 was a kick but just couldn't equal the grunge-free performance of the old setup whose sound is just cleaner, less etch, less grain....
    If I had to guess, it would be the latter. Maybe E-Stat is right that too many opamps is a bad thing.
    Even additional good tube or FET stages involve audible compromises as well. The garage system's DAC can almost drive the Stasis to full power. That really isn't an issue since it gets louder than need be. When I run it through the NAD C-160 preamp, I can get full gain but with a loss of resolution. No edge as it was when I had the Behringer EQ, but a touch dark and less defined.

    Use the Outlaw in a bedroom system! That's what I did with my trusty NAD AVR when I got the Emotiva stuff.

  14. #14
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    Even additional good tube or FET stages involve audible compromises as well. The garage system's DAC can almost drive the Stasis to full power. That really isn't an issue since it gets louder than need be. When I run it through the NAD C-160 preamp, I can get full gain but with a loss of resolution. No edge as it was when I had the Behringer EQ, but a touch dark and less defined.

    Use the Outlaw in a bedroom system! That's what I did with my trusty NAD AVR when I got the Emotiva stuff.
    I wonder, though, how much active circuitry I had with the Outlaw. I presume the signal path would look like this: (1) the digital input goes directly to the DSP that does the crossover, the bass level that I set to -15 dB and maybe overall volume control; (2) the digital goes through the DAC; (3) the analog signal receives active amplification, (I/V & buffer or whatever), and be goes to the outputs.

    In the case of my stand alone DAC, (1) the digital input is converted; (2) the decoded signal goes through active stages, i.e. I/V, (OPA2134 opamp), and buffer, (OPA2604), stages. The analog signal then (3) only goes through the preamp's potentiometer.

    So it questionable how much more active, analog amplification happens in the Outlaw. Maybe my DAC is just better; in any case it's amazing for a $60 device.

  15. #15
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    ...; (3) the analog signal receives active amplification, (I/V & buffer or whatever), and be goes to the outputs.
    Which is most likely two different stages. One to provide a line level output like most any source and a separate line stage designed to drive a power amp including stuff like tone controls, mono/stereo switching, etc.

  16. #16
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    I tried an older top of the line Marantz pre-pro awhile back that a friend bought at an estate sale thinking he could turn a profit. It sounded really bad as a preamp and it's tuner was nothing to write home about. On ebay it fetched all of $40.

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