|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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Earlier this year, I raved about the Outlaw 970 processor and matching 7075 multi-channel amplifier. Together, the 970 and 7075 not only redefined bang-for-your-buck performance, they also set a benchmark in its price class by which all other products, both separates and receivers, will be judged. I liked the combo so much that I kept them. Beyond the sonic attributes of the subject matter, that review was special to me because it was my first introduction to Outlaw Audio. An introduction, I must say, that has been both eye-opening and frustrating. I say frustrating, because once you’ve crossed over and become an Outlaw yourself, it’s exceedingly tough to justify anything else. The only saving grace for me is that Outlaw doesn’t make speakers (with the exception of their subwoofers) or source components. Sure, I’ve heard a barrage of products that do one thing or another that the Outlaws cannot, but at the end of the day, their price-to-performance ratio is so spectacular that it makes persuading myself to purchase anything else, well, rather difficult.
So I’m going to part ways with my usual review format and kick off with this: Outlaw’s new seven-channel amplifier, the 7200, is astonishing. I’ve already contacted Outlaw to inform them that I will not be sending the 7200 back and here’s why …
The Outlaw 7200 is like most amplifiers in that it’s rather large, 17 inches wide by eight inches tall and 18 inches deep, and very heavy at a backbreaking 90 pounds. The 7200 comes in every color, so long as it’s black and has rounded edges and an embossed set of graphic lines that help shake up its otherwise monolithic look. Now I’m not saying the 7200 is ugly; it’s not. In fact, I fancy it. It’s just the engineers over at Outlaw have put their budget to good use where it counts most: performance. When I talk about Outlaw’s budget, I don’t want you to think this is just another overpriced piece of hardware. On the contrary, it’s very affordable, with a retail price of $1,849, and comes with Outlaw’s 30-day money back guarantee, which allows you to essentially test drive it in your own home for a month. Personally, I think Outlaw offers this program as a sort of middle finger to its competition, because I’ve never come across or heard of anyone sending an Outlaw product back. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the competition. Moving on, I focused my attention to the rear of the 7200, for there’s only so long a guy can stare at a single power button and ponder the whys and hows before just looking silly. The rear of the 7200 is about as complicated as peanut butter and jelly. Across the top of the amplifier are seven gold-plated RCA-style inputs. The inputs are evenly spaced and neatly laid out, which doesn’t surprise me, given the massive amount of real estate on the 7200’s rear panel. If you’ve got massive interconnects, like I do, making the proper connections isn’t going to be much of an issue. Below the 7200’s inputs are the corresponding five-way binding posts. Again, the binding posts are neatly and spaciously laid out and can accommodate every possible termination, from bare wire to spade lugs. To the right of the binding posts are the 7200’s detachable power cord and master power switch. There is also a 12-volt trigger to make life easier for those who may be housing their gear in a dedicated rack away from the primary listening space.
Turning my attention inward, I quickly discover why the 7200 is so large and heavy. It has to be, for its transformer is one of the largest I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to miss, for half of the 7200’s top mounted vents are over the transformer. The 7200’s massive power supply helps it to churn out a staggering 200 watts per channel into eight ohms. The 7200’s power output increases to 300 watts per channel at four ohms, making it pretty much impervious to anything even the most inefficient loudspeaker can throw at it. Keep in mind that the 7200’s power rating isn’t based on a test featuring only a single channel going for broke – no, its power rating is based on all seven channels operating simultaneously from 20Hz to 20kHz with less than .05 percent distortion. Basically, it’s the real deal in there, and with all that power, you aren’t going to miss a beat, regardless of how loud or soft you like to listen to your music or movies.
I lugged the 7200 up the stairs into my reference room by myself, which was stupid, because I spent the next hour lying on my couch, trying to identify which muscle I pulled. A word for those of you considering the 7200 for your own system: dolly. Once the pain subsided, I continued with the installation. I unpacked the 7200, which I must say bordered on the insane as far as product safety goes. Clearly, the folks over at Outlaw don’t put a lot of faith in the hands of delivery personnel. Once I had it out of the box, I slid the 7200 onto the bottom shelf of my rack and prepared to make the requisite connections. I connected the 7200 to my Outlaw 970 processor via Monster M Series interconnects. I then connected the 7200 to my reference speakers, the Definitive Technology 7000 series, with Monster M series speaker cable. The rest of my system was comprised of my Toshiba XA-1 HD DVD player, Denon 3910 Universal player, Mac Mini music server and Outlaw LFM-1 Plus subwoofer (review forthcoming), with all power filtration coming by way of my Monster HTPS 7000 MKII. All in all, minus the temporary setback spent on my couch, I was up and running in less than 15 minutes.
Now, I’m not one of those guys who swears by a great deal of “break-in” and I’m not going to lie to you and say that I put a good 200 hours on the 7200 before sitting down for a listen. Who does that? It’s new, it’s in my room, and it’s plugged in. Let’s hear it. Out of the box, the 7200 sounds good – good enough to listen to all night long – but I will tell you this: the 7200 gets better with age. However, unlike some components out there, the 7200 is a product you can enjoy along the way.