|Outlaw Audio Model 970 AV Preamplifier/Processor|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Sunday, 01 January 2006|
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Comedian Dane Cook recently said, “More than sex, every man would rather be part of a heist.” While many of us will opt not to knock off our local Wells Fargo, we do still take a little pleasure in sticking it to the Man. Well, the folks over at Outlaw Audio wouldn’t want it any other way. For years, the men and women at Outlaw Audio have been designing and manufacturing world class home theater electronics and offering them direct to the consumer at low prices by selling them exclusively through their website. Don’t let the “Internet business” moniker fool you; they’ve earned countless awards, as well as a very loyal following from budget-minded consumers worldwide. Even though their products may cost less than the competition, don’t call them “budget” when it comes to performance. Now, with the release of their new 970 7.1 Pre/Processor and 7075 multi-channel amp, Outlaw is poised and ready to steal another piece of the pie from what has become an all-too-corporate marketplace.
The Outlaw 970 Preamp/Processor is, for the most part, the Outlaw 1070 receiver sans the seven-channel amplifier. Retailing for a cool $699 and sold exclusively through Outlaw’s own website, the 970 is a serious taste of high end at an Everyman price. Out of the box, the 970 comes in at a little over 17 inches wide by a little under six inches high and 15-and-three-quarter inches deep, which makes it roughly the size of your typical home theater receiver, coming in at just over 19 pounds. Those of you familiar with past Outlaw gear know that they’ve never been known for overblown looks; in fact, it’s become somewhat part of their charm. Featuring a matte black finish with a large LCD display that stretches the length of the faceplate, the 970, like all of Outlaw’s newer products, brandishes the sort of industrial design usually found in higher-ticket items.
The front panel features navigational controls to be used with the 970’s set-up menus, as well as a variety of buttons that control menu options, input selection, surround sound modes, menu presets, tuner controls and mute. Departing from the largely push-button theme, the 970 has a traditional volume dial, as well as standby power switches that flank either side of the faceplate. For convenience’s sake, the 970 features both S-video and component video inputs, as well as composite, optical and coaxial audio inputs on the front panel. Small plastic caps hide the front panel inputs to help keep the 970’s façade free of clutter, yet they are easy to remove. Lastly, the 970 has a headphone jack with its own output level control.
Turning my attention to the rear of the 970, I found plenty of inputs, all clearly labeled and neatly laid out to boot. Moving from left to right, I first came across the 970’s AM and FM antenna inputs. Directly below are the 970’s three component inputs and single component monitor output. All of the component inputs are capable of passing a high-definition signal. Also, the 970 will convert all composite and/or S-video signals to the component monitor out; however, it will not up-convert component signals to its digital DVI output. This was a conscious decision by the folks at Outlaw to keep production costs down, and with the exception of my reference Denon 4806, I have yet to come across a receiver or processor that will up-convert any signal standard or otherwise to a DVI or HDMI output. Below the component inputs rest the eight RCA audio inputs, including CD, Video 1, Video 2, etc. Each of these are mated with their composite and S-Video counterparts. There is also a 5.1 RCA audio input for multi-channel listening, as well as three pairs of coaxial and optical audio inputs. The 970 does feature a pair of coaxial and optical audio outputs, as well as a composite and S-video monitor out. Below all of this rests the 970’s 7.1 preamp outputs. Since there is no amplifier section built into the 970, you will need a separate five- or seven-channel amplifier to bring your system to life. This is nothing new. However, the separate amplifier comes with more cables, five to seven to be exact, and the 970 allows enough room for you to easily connect them all without having to become a freakin’ magician. Next to the preamp outs are the 970’s DVI inputs and output. If you have a DVD player that will up-sample your DVD’s to, say, 720p or even 1080i, chances are you’re using or will need to use a DVI or HDMI connection. Since HDMI is a little newer to the scene, Outlaw chose to stick with DVI as their digital connection of choice, which should serve everyone just fine. There are adapters available for those of you with HDMI-only DVD players or satellite boxes. The 970 comes equipped with two DVI inputs and a single DVI monitor out. Again, the 970 will switch between its DVI inputs. However, it will not convert analog signals to digital. Lastly, you’ll find the 970’s master power switch, 12-volt trigger, RS 232 port for custom installations and a detachable power cord rounding out its list of features.
In terms of performance, the 970 features a variety of surround sound decoding options, as well as more traditional two-channel ones as well. For movies, the 970 can decode Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby ProLogic IIx, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone, DTS, DTS-ES Discrete and Matrix, as well as DTS NEO-6. The 970 also features 192 kHz 24-bit DACs for all of its seven channels, as well as an analogue bypass mode for all of its inputs for you purists out there.
After the “oohs” and “ahhs” about the 970’s looks had passed, I turned my attention to its matching seven-channel amplifier, the 7075. Almost identical to Outlaw’s own 7125 amplifier in terms of style, the 7075 boast a hefty 75 watts per channel and retails for $699. It measures in at a little over four inches tall by 17 inches wide, 15-3/4 inches deep and tips the scales at a respectable 41 pounds. The front panel is sparse, with only a single power button on its face. Spinning the 7075 around to the back, I found seven clearly labeled RCA inputs that correspond with a set of five-way binding posts that will accept bare wire, banana plugs or spade lug terminated speaker cables. Throw in a 12-volt trigger and a hardwired power cord and you’ve got the 7075 in a nutshell.
Finally I turned my attention to the 970’s universal remote. I found the remote to be the only indicator of the combo’s price tag. It resembles the kind of universal remote found at most large-scale electronics stores that can be had for more or less 20 bucks. It’s a pleasing shape that fits relatively nicely in the hand and has some of the largest buttons I’ve seen in a while, all of which can be illuminated via the remote’s backlighting option. I applaud Outlaw for making the remote easy to read and navigate, which goes a long way in allowing even the most novice user feel a touch in control of the big bad system. While it may lack the coolness factor of my Harmony 880, the 970’s remote is the only one that I’d give to my mother without prefacing it with a lesson in Home Theater 101.