|Outlaw Audio Model 7200 Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Friday, 01 December 2006|
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Music and Movies
I started things off with Collective Soul’s greatest hits album, Seven Year Itch (Atlantic), cuing up the song “Run,” which was featured in the late ‘90s film Varsity Blues, which sadly wasn’t as good as the song. But I digress. The first thing that I noticed about the 7200 was its excellent spatial extension and breadth. The soundstage was huge, right to left and front to back. The boundaries of my room seemed to expand more by feet than inches as the sound filled the space. That’s not to say the soundstage was vague. No, sir. While not laser-etched, every element had its place and stuck to it, giving the overall performance a well-balanced feel. Speaking of elements, the treble through the 7200 was rather shocking. It lacked that last ounce of air and ultimate extension that you’ll find in amps costing 10 times the 7200’s asking price, but what it did have was very, very good. It was sweet, round and above all natural. The opening guitars and subsequent string quartet had tremendous texture and presence that seemed to hang effortlessly in space between my speakers. Beyond the treble, the midrange was most impressive. This is clearly what the 7200 is all about. It was so sonically pure that it completely belied the 7200’s seemingly budget status. The vocals had a little added richness to them that was rather inviting, given that lead singer Ed Rolland’s vocals can at times seem a bit over-produced and become harsh or grainy through lesser amps. The 7200 has the type of midrange that you can bask in for hour after hour without fatigue. In terms of bass, the 7200 is solid. The kick drum was taut, and through my full-range Def Techs, the 7200 took full advantage of the built-in subs, punishing my room with epic bass. This wasn’t the kind of bass you hear coming from the trunk of some teenager’s Honda Civic, this was the real deal: full-bodied, full-impact real bass for which the 7200 exhibited remarkable control. Dynamically, I’d put the 7200 up against the likes of Krell or Mark Levinson in terms of sheer acceleration with ample reserves for those really kick-ass moments. Even at insane volumes, I couldn’t detect any signs of strain or graininess that seem about par for the course with budget components. The 7200 just makes music.
Switching tracks to “December,” the vocal track was beautiful with terrific presence and articulation, allowing me to better hear vocalist Ed Rolland’s self-harmony. The kick drum had a great sense of weight and impact, with the snare providing the right amount of snap to the song’s several crescendos. Likewise, the cymbals were airy and sweet, with just a hint of warmth that helped keep them from sounding overly digital or compressed. The soundstage once again was one for the books, with its seemingly endless depth and lateral extension. It made me think at times that my speakers, which are bipolar in design, had a third driver array firing out towards my side walls.
Moving on, I cued up one of my pop rock favorites from Fuel, Something Like Human (Epic). Starting with the track “Hemorrhage,” which I must confess leaves a bit to be desired in terms of recording quality. With the 7200 in my system “Hemorrhage” sounded rather, well … good. The 7200 isn’t super-critical of source material, which is good for me, because audiophilia be damned, I listen to some crap music when I don’t think anyone else is around. It’s nice to know that the 7200 won’t pass judgment on me; instead, it gives me a free pass to be me. For better or worse. Back to the music, the bass once again caught my attention. There really doesn’t seem, at least to me, to be any real limit to the 7200’s depths and control. It just keeps slammin’ all the while, saying, “Hey, look what else I can do.” What else, indeed. The roaring guitars, for instance, were aggressive and somewhat offensive, which is a good thing. That’s right. Sometimes music should be offensive, but don’t confuse this with fatiguing. No. The 7200 was never that. The vocals were dead in the center of the soundstage and retained all of the gritty texture and strain of Brett Scallion’s voice, all the while sounding natural and effortless. There’s just a greater sense of scale and purpose to the music through the 7200, no doubt made possible by its tremendous power and power reserves.
Skipping ahead to the track “Bad Day,” the 7200 proved to be having everything but. Once again, the 7200 proved to be a smooth operator completely unfazed by the dramatic dynamic swings that the song produced. The vocals were appropriately edgy, without a hint of harshness or excess grain. The bass, again, was incredibly deep, with enormous heft and speed. The highs were ever so slightly polite, which lent further richness to the midrange and made the whole presentation a bit more fluid in comparison to other solid-state amps in the 7200’s price class. Overall, I’d have to say the 7200 is ever so slightly forward of neutral in the midrange, which makes for a more energetic presentation, which I tend to like. The 7200 is effortless across the musical spectrum and even more so when it comes to its dynamic prowess. It is, at its core, essentially and musically right, which is more than I can say for a lot of the competition.
Moving on to multi-channel music, I opted for 3 Doors Down’s latest album Seventeen Days on Dual Disc (Universal). Beginning with the song “Landing in London,” which is a duet with legendary rocker Bob Seger, the 7200 dished out more of that Outlaw magic. Starting with the vocals, the 7200’s presence tightened up a bit and picked up a touch of weight in the lower midrange, which filled out the whole presentation nicely. The midrange overall was very fluid and pure with just a hint of added energy which made, the otherwise plodding song, a bit more forward. The 7200’s resolution helped in creating a more natural delineation between 3 Doors Down lead vocalist Brad Arnold and Seger himself, placing them both in their respective spaces with in the soundstage. The high frequencies gained a little of the air I missed when listening to two-channel music. The highs also were a bit smoother and retained their demeanor longer than with two-channel fare. The bass, on the other hand, didn’t seem to change much if at all. It was still as deep, fast and articulate as before. However, it did gain a bit of air and decay, which further rounded out the track’s presence. The soundstage was, again, very good in terms of both depth and width, and became a bit more focused with multi-channel music.
Switching tracks to “Father’s Son,” the 7200 allowed me to rock out with my … well, you know. Brad’s vocals were ever so slightly forward but held their ground within the soundstage with terrific weight and presence. The drums were slammin’ with the sort of bass you can feel later reverberating in your colon. More impressive still was the 7200’s ability to present me with roaring guitars without killing me. The guitar solos proved to be the 7200’s showcase, in that they were blazingly fast, loud and natural but kept completely in check within the musical spectrum regardless of volume, which was quite a feat, given that on several other occasions, with different amps, I’ve been forced to turn the music down or, worse, off. Another thing that impressed me was the 7200’s background noise, or should I say, lack thereof. Budget components often are plagued with noise that becomes more than audible during quiet passages. Well, the 7200 doesn’t fall into this camp with its almost pitch-black background, which only helps aid its overall stellar dynamic prowess.
Next, I cued up the Godsmack documentary Changes (Zoe Records). Technically, it is a film. However, I dispensed with the story and went straight to the concert footage, which is not only beautifully produced with its rich visual pallet but also masterfully mixed in a barrage of surround sound formats, ranging from Dolby Digital to SRS Surround. For the purposes of this review, I set the DVD’s settings to Dolby Digital and left it at that. I skipped ahead to the chapter titled “Batalla De Los Tambores,” which features lead singer Sully Erna in a drumming duet with percussionist Shannon Larkin. If you haven’t seen or heard of this disc, you’re missing out. “Tambores” features what can only be described as one of the single most badass drum solos ever. With dueling trap sets at the ready, the 7200 prepared to battle. The soundstage was immense and felt larger than my room. Each of the drum kits were rock-solid in their space, with zero signs of sonic blurring. The sheer force that the 7200 brought to the performance was epic. The bass was simply knock-down, drag-out, kick-your-teeth-in fun. Having its way with my Definitive Technology powered subs proved to be little issue or feat for the mighty 7200’s awesome power. The bass was simply unreal in its size, scale and weight. The 7200 had the resolving power to clearly delineate both sets’ double kick drum configurations. Getting away from the bass for a moment, the cymbals shimmered with such grace that I was dumbfounded that such performance could resonate from such a modestly-priced component. The ridges on the cymbals could not only be seen on my big screen, but also felt and heard as the solo’s climax raged on. The dynamics were eye-popping in that just when I thought I’d reached the limits, there was always a little more in the wings to surprise me. Most impressive, though, was what happened when I turned the volume down. The track retained all of its musicality, depth and punch at low volumes, which bodes well for those of you unable to take it to 11. However, with this much raw horsepower, why wouldn’t you? The presentation of “Tambores” through the 7200 was magical, further cementing my view that the 7200 isn’t simply a good amp for the money, it’s a great amp, end of argument.
I ended my time with the 7200 with the HD DVD presentation of the Clint Eastwood film Space Cowboys (Warner Bros). Dialogue through the 7200 was extremely natural, free from grain or excess coloration. Eastwood’s trademark raspy delivery was produced faithfully with a bit of inner grunt that placed him squarely in my room with terrific presence and weight. All of the characters vocals were lifelike and clearly distinguishable from one another, even during several scenes where they all jockey for the last word. There is naturalness to the 7200’s midrange that only helps to convey all of the actors’ intentions and emotions in ways that most budget amps miss. Not to be outdone by sheer dialogue, the film’s many action scenes were also magnificent. The rockets of the space shuttle managed to rattle my walls and shake my coffee table, yet remained completely poised and detailed. The 7200 proved as adept with movies as it was with music.