|Outlaw Audio Model 1070 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Yoshi Carroll|
|Sunday, 01 October 2006|
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In a market increasingly dominated by receivers competing over the number of flashy features they can squeeze into a black or silver box, Outlaw Audio stands apart by competing on the good old values of high-quality audio and solid video switching at a relatively low price. The Model 1070 A/V Receiver is their newest example of this philosophy, a 7.1 channel, full-featured item that foregoes bleeding edge technological gizmos in favor of an $899 sticker price, which falls well below its class average, and performance that rises way above the norm. Not to suggest that the 1070 is in any way sparse on features or that it feels cheap; on the contrary, the flexibility of its bass management system, for example, puts many cost no object receivers to shame. There’s plenty here to get excited about, but let’s start at the beginning.
The 1070 is available for sale direct from Outlaw’s own website (outlawaudio.com) and comes with a generous 30-day trial period so that you have the opportunity to get to know the 1070 in your own system.
Out of the box, the 1070 is 17 inches wide by six inches tall by 15.5 inches deep, which makes it just slightly bigger than your average DVD player. What isn’t average is the 1070’s weight, which is a hefty 40 pounds, due in part to its substantial power supply. The finish is an elegant matte black that disappears well in a darkened room, and the rounded corners go a long way to softening the heavy black box appearance of this A/V component. The light silver finish of the front controls matches well with the black and furthers the impression of quality.
The faceplate is cleanly laid out, with a glossy black panel housing the blue LED display, five-way control wheel, six-button function control and a large, smooth-turning volume control knob. There’s just the right combination of independent button-controlled functions and menu controls, leading me to believe that whoever designed this interface was charged with actually having to use it.
Below the display are a standby button and a headphone jack with its own level control. On the right side of the panel, hidden behind well-fitting, easily removable plastic covers, is a pair of digital audio inputs both optical and coaxial, a set of S-Video and composite video inputs and standard RCA analog audio inputs.
The rear panel is equally thoughtful in its design and layout. In the top left section, there are AM/FM antenna inputs. Below are the component video connections with three inputs and one output, giving the user a total of four. Below the component video inputs are the analog RCA connections, one for a CD player, two for a tape deck and analog recording, and an extra auxiliary. To the right are the DVD inputs, grouped together with the front left and right audio channels on the bottom, RCA and S-Video above, and the center, subwoofer and surround inputs slightly above. I initially found the separation of the main audio inputs from the rest of the inputs a little confusing, but a quick look at the labels cleared up all confusion; it makes sense when you see it. The seven-channel analog inputs make the 1070 ready for DVD-Audio and SACD players, as well as the next generation of high-definition audio formats found on most HD DVD and Blu-Ray players. Moving further right, there are three more analog video connections supporting both composite and S-Video, along with their respective RCA analog audio connections. Video input 1, like the tape deck input, also features an additional output for recordings. There’s also a set of analog video outputs for connecting a monitor. For bypassing the internal amplifier and using the 1070 as a processor, a full set of 7.1 analog outputs, or a pre-amp out, are available. Still to the right but above the pre-amp outs, there are three pairs of optical/coaxial digital inputs and a pair of outputs. Further up is an RS-232 port for custom installations and software upgrades. To the left of the RS-232 port is the 1070’s 12-volt trigger for controlling an attached amplifier and two IR connections for providing remote control accessibility if it is installed in a cabinet or out of plain sight.
Further to left is another pleasant surprise, an interesting little toggle switch that controls how bass is managed for the DVD 7.1 analog inputs. The three settings are “digital,” which applies the set-up menu settings chosen for the digital inputs, “bypass,” which doesn’t touch the incoming signal at all, and “HPF/LPF,” which sets a fixed analog crossover to all channels. The effect of this option is that by cutting off the lower power-sucking frequencies from the speakers, which can’t reproduce them anyway, there’s more power available for dynamic swings at high volumes. It also protects speakers from distorting when trying to play back frequencies beyond their capabilities. So, when you want to rock out on high-definition sources, the 1070 lets you rock harder than you would otherwise. The digital setting offers the most control, but it does ever so slightly degrade sound quality. Chances are, the sonic degradation is so slight that unless the 1070 is powering very high-resolution speakers in an acoustically treated room, you’d be hard-pressed to notice. The “HPF/LPF” option offers less control, providing only a single crossover point for all speakers, but since it keeps the signal in the analog domain, it doesn’t inflict any degradation of the signal. This really is a very useful and advanced feature, especially considering the 1070’s price point.
The top right half of the rear panel is taken up by seven well-spaced, very solid gold-plated five-way binding posts. I’m happy to say they’re a pleasure to connect wire to, whether banana plugs or bare wire. There are plenty of receivers costing four times the price of the 1070 that don’t have binding posts this nice. Below these is a detachable power cord input, which is non-grounded to prevent hum, and its somewhat controversial DVI inputs. I say “controversial” only because Outlaw’s decision to go with DVI flies in the face of today’s HDMI-crazed marketplace. Most manufacturers are dumping DVI for HDMI and, in light of this, I initially frowned upon the 1070’s apparent anachronism. As it turns out, however, holding off on HDMI was a conscious decision by Outlaw. The industry standards defining what HDMI is and what it’s supposed to do are still changing, with the latest release being only a few months old. With different manufacturers supporting different standards, there’s a high potential for frustration because connections across devices end up not working as they should. My DVD player, for example, passes video and DVD standard audio just fine, but my HD satellite box only managed to pass stereo signals, not Dolby Digital 5.1. To avoid this kind of confusion, Outlaw’s engineers decided to stick with what works and wait for the dust to settle before supporting HDMI. According to AVRev.com’s publisher, Jerry Del Colliano, HDMI connectivity issues are, at this point in the history of the HD disc war, a major problem facing today’s consumer. It sure looks at if Outlaw bet right at this stage of the game.
The other question on the subject of video sources is video conversion. The 1070 will happily convert all analog video sources, (composite, S-Video and component video) to its component video output, but it will not convert analog video signals to digital for DVI/HDMI output. This means two separate connections are required from the 1070 to its monitor, one component video and one DVI/HDMI. For some, this redundancy is a deal breaker. While I understand this sentiment, I don’t personally agree. The technology required to convert analog video to digital video is still evolving and currently very expensive. If Outlaw were to include such a feature in the 1070, the price would rise dramatically, quality would have to be sacrificed somewhere else and in a year it would still be obsolete. I would rather pay less, run the extra cable and have my display handle the video.
Moving on to the innards of this little beast, the 1070’s power rating is 65 watts per channel into eight ohms, with all channels driven across the entire frequency spectrum. This might not seem very impressive when you consider that there are $300 receivers claiming 100 watts per channel. The truth of the matter is that there are many ways to test the power rating of an amplifier and some of those tests produce high scores that don’t translate to high performance. I’ve heard 100-watt receivers sonically break apart at normal listening levels, and three-watt amplifiers that have no trouble filling a moderately-sized room with wonderfully engaging music. The point is, don’t trust the numbers until you’ve heard the sound. In the 1070’s case, 65 watts should be more than enough power for most rooms and speaker combinations.
The 1070 features the usual array of decoding options: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby ProLogic IIx in 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 varieties, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone, DTS, DTS-ES Discrete and Matrix, as well as DTS NEO-6 and DTS 96/24. Thankfully absent are the kitschy processing modes, like “Church” and “Hall” that take the precise sound-mixing work of very talented, highly trained sound producers and smear it around the room with the accuracy and care of a baby with crayons. There is none of that silliness for the Outlaws. In their place, the 1070 has some more pleasant surprises, like a setting called “two-channel subwoofer offset,” which automatically changes the subwoofer volume to a predetermined setting when the two-channel analog mode is activated. This is in response to users’ complaints that subwoofer settings that work for movies are too loud for music. Another surprise is the Dolby Digital Center Width setting, my personal favorite, which feeds a chosen amount of the center channel into the left and right channels, creating a smoother, deeper, more harmonious soundstage when listening to five- or seven-channel music.
Lastly there’s the remote, which doesn’t suck. In fact, I quite liked it. It fits well in hand, the buttons are large enough, well grouped and well delineated, and its backlighting feature kicks in as soon as you press a button. Way cool. Some of the labels are still hard to see in the dark, but after a few days’ use, everything is familiar and commands become intuitive.