|Outlaw Audio Model 750 Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Wednesday, 01 December 1999|
The Outlaw Audio Model 750 is the first product from a new and different audio company. Outlaw Audio products can only be bought from the manufacturer, eliminating distributors, dealers and their associated mark-ups. This allows the Model 750 to sell for the competitive price of $1,099.
With the Model 750, you get a lot for your money. The 750 provides 165 watts in each of its five channels. A 1.5kVA toroidal transformer feeds the individual channel power supplies. The power supplies for each channel are isolated and contain two secondary windings, 20,000 microfarads capacitance, six discrete output devices and large heatsinks, eliminating the need for a noisy fan.
The front panel has a button for power and the Outlaw Audio logo. The rear panel has five sets of inputs of unbalanced inputs and five-way binding posts, a captive power cord and a 12-volt trigger input to automatically power up the unit.
The Model 750 did not disappoint with either movies or music. My theater includes a B & K Reference 20, Outlaw 750 and Vandersteen speakers. After letting the 750 break in for about 200 hours with a feed from my FM tuner, I cued up the `Up and at em Machine' from Casper (DTS Laserdisc) which provides a great workout for all 5.1 loudspeakers in a theater system. The Outlaw 750 provided a coherent and enveloping sound field, placing me right in the middle of the action. The panning and spatial cues were all taken care of well. You could clearly hear effects move from right to left, as well as front to back, as if there were many more speakers in the system then the primary five transducers with their accompanying sub.
Watching Last Man Standing (DTS Laserdisc) also proved to be quite rewarding. When I put the disc in, I had no intention of watching the whole thing, but the 750 truly captured my attention. During the multiple gunfight scenes, in which a variety of sounds come from all channels, the Outlaw 750 really delivers. The fight scenes provide some complex sound passages that were handled distinctly, without the audible congestion you'll hear from a lesser (but in this case possibly more expensive) five-channel power amp.
The reason The Fifth Element (Columbia Pictures - DVD) is repeating at practically every AV store in the nation is that there are few demo scenes in modern filmmaking like these, blending exciting musical content with dialogue, as well as visually stunning effects, not to mention eye-popping haute couture wardrobe. During one scene at very high levels, I found the Outlaw 750 slightly thin-sounding in the mid-bass and there was a small trace of harshness. I listened to the same scene again using an Adcom 5503 ($1,300) for the front channels. The Adcom's additional power allowed it to play much louder without the strain or harshness I heard with the Outlaw 750. The difference was small, but clearly noticeable. Compared to my Denon AVR 2500 receiver's power amplifiers, the Outlaw is far superior. If you invest more money in amplification, you will hear the differences.
Thanks to the good folks at DTS, I had some great multi-channel music to run through the 750. While listening to "Get Over It" on the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over (DTS CD), the 750 remained neutral as it was with soundtracks but the thinness was more notable, especially with the guitar tracks. The low noise floor, ability to remain neutral and clearly present the details in clean recordings such as this one go a long way towards presenting a convincing sonic image, but the absence of that last bit of presence prevents it from being absolutely convincing. Listening to a variety of two-channel recordings, including Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever (Mobile Fidelity), confirmed my earlier findings. Petty sounds as good, if not better than ever, on this disc. The 750 allows this album to shine, accurately reproducing both Petty's voice and instrumentals, as well as providing a solid image. The only thing missing here, as before, was some of the presence that can be found (often with other tradeoffs) on a few other amplifiers.
The Model 750 is a great amplifier, but it has its limits. If you have inefficient speakers, a large room or just like to turn it up extremely loud, the Model 750 may not have enough muscle for you. The thinness in the mid-bass is slight and a matter of personal preference and the slight harshness is only evident on demanding material at very loud playback levels. However, while the thinness is most evident in the mid-bass, there are other signs of it. The 750, when compared to much more expensive amplifiers, has a bit less presence and weight at all frequencies, which allows it to approach without quite achieving a completely convincing experience.
One additional possible downside, for some, is direct marketing. If you have a relationship with a local AV dealer or custom installer, Outlaw's direct approach could get in the way what can be a pleasurable shopping experience. Or maybe eliminating the AV store could eliminate interaction with a less-than-useful salesperson only interested in selling you another black box. To help combat the lack of retail locations, Outlaw offers an 800 number and a very informative website, coupled with its five-year warranty and a 30-day money back guarantee. Just a note on the guarantee: return shipping is on your dime.
The Model 750 is a great introduction piece for Outlaw Audio. This amplifier is a solid performer at a bargain price. Its performance on movies was much better than average and will keep you right in the middle of the action. With music, the detail, neutrality and soundstage makes this amplifier a serious contender. At $1,099 (plus $55 shipping), the Outlaw Audio Model 750 is an incredible value and deserves serious consideration.