Outlaw Audio LFM-1 Subwoofer 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Subwoofers
Written by Brian Kahn   
Monday, 01 November 2004

Introduction
Outlaw Audio has very quickly earned a fantastic reputation for selling high-quality electronics at a high value price by bypassing the retailer and using the Internet to sell factory direct. This is hardly a new business model, but the highly successful implementation and consumer appeal of their model in the audio-video industry make Outlaw unique. Outlaw Audio sells various audio electronics, including a critically acclaimed under $1,000 AV preamp and a host of power amps for music and home theater. The company has just now released their first speaker, a powered subwoofer.

The Outlaw LFM-1 Subwoofer, which stands for Low Frequency Module 1, is a 12-inch down-firing dual-ported sub that retails for a competitively priced $579 for a single sub and a discounted $999 for two. The LFM-1’s enclosure measures 21.75 inches in height by 15 inches wide and 22 inches in depth. At a beefy 58 pounds, this sub has the heft you expect from the big boys in a box that is only slightly larger than more expensive offerings from Sunfire, Velodyne and others. The LFM-1 has a clean low gloss back finish with a high-gloss Plexiglas top. There are no optional finishes, which is just fine, because at its price, the LFM-1 is beautiful without an expensive dress.

At the heart of this subwoofer is a 325-watt amplifier that uses BASH technology, which produces 1300-watt peaks that are more than enough to power audiophile music sessions or the deepest bass in movies without a hiccup. The LFM-1 sports common features, including a two-position phase adjustment switch and a variable level crossover ranging from 40 to 180 Hz with a bypass switch for systems with bass management. Your input connection choices include a mono single-ended LFE and a pair of speaker level inputs/outputs. The LFM-1 also includes an automatic on/off option that worked flawlessly on my review model.

Set-up
The LFM-1 subwoofer came very nicely packed, wrapped in a protective cloth cover. Outlaw provided machined aluminum cone feet that threaded into each corner. When I turned the subwoofer over, I found that four machined discs had been included along with the feet to go under them in order to protect wood flooring. The LFM-1 is a downward-firing subwoofer, with downward-firing ports, so placement can be slightly easier, depending on your room. At a minimum, it can reduce annoying phase issues. The owner’s manual is very well written and gives a lot of good advice on how to set up a subwoofer. Each of the controls is well explained, as is speaker placement and the use of multiple subwoofers.

I had no problems making a line-level connection between my Krell AV preamp’s LFE output and the LFM-1’s input. The crossover was set to bypass, relying upon the Krell’s internal crossover. The phase switch only had two positions, zero or 180 degrees, but the continuously variable volume made it easy to dial in the proper relative level.

Without EQ and set-up software of the type you’d expect in subwoofers costing 10 times more than the Outlaw, you can get down (and I mean down) to business very quickly.

Music and Movies
I let the LFM-1 break in over several days before doing any serious listening. This gave the drivers and crossovers a chance to loosen up and settle in to their optimal performance. Starting out with “Finding Nemo” (Pixar/Disney), I listened closely to the beginning of Chapter 11 when Darla taps on the fish tank. I noted that the Outlaw LFM-1 subwoofer was able to fill my listening space with low-frequency energy at high enough volumes to be felt in the depths of my chest. When evaluating subwoofers, it is important to both be able to feel and hear the sub and have the impact be coincident in timing with what you hear. This means a couple of things: you have set up the sub in proper phase and, equally, the subwoofer is reaching the lowest depths on its own and not from resonant backwash in your room. The LFM-1 was clearly supplying solid and accurate bottom-end support without assistance from the room.

In the scene where Nemo’s father Marlin meets the sharks and then sets off the mines, the LFM-1 had no problems reproducing all the necessary effects at volume. I compared the LFM-1 with the Canton Ergo RC-A and Martin Logan Descent, both of which cost several times what the LFM-1 does. The LFM-1 clearly kept up with sheer output and energy. The other two aforementioned speakers were incrementally tighter and able to articulate slightly more detail, yet the differences were only minor. This is a gigantic compliment, considering the Canton and Martin Logan cost more than double the LFM-1’s svelte price tag.

I then played “Black Hawk Down” (Columbia/TriStar). The scene where the choppers are warming up contains some extremely low frequencies that the other two speakers were able to reproduce with greater strength than the LFM-1. The battle scenes had lots of low-frequency information with the explosions and gun blasts, which the LFM-1 did a great job of reproducing. Throughout this movie, I was able to get lost in the war and the mission at hand and often didn’t focus on the LFM-1. This means that the sub was performing as it should and was providing solid enjoyable bass support, rather than drawing my attention to poor or overbearing performance.

I continued with another war-themed movie, “U-571” (Universal), and cued up the mine scene. Again, the Outlaw subwoofer proved itself to be very capable in reproducing bombastic explosions, a common low-frequency test. I listened to the scene several times at different volumes. The Outlaw remained stable without noticeable dynamic compression, as one might expect to hear from an under-$600 subwoofer under AV siege.

Moving on with some music, I played the bass-heavy Insane Clown Posse’s The Wraith: Shangri-La (DVD-Audio, Riviera Entertainment). I focused on a track I used during my review of the Canton Ergo, “Ain’t Yo Bidness.” The Outlaw, like the Ergo, reproduced deep and powerful bass. Each had a sound of its own, yet I was very impressed with the way the LFM-1 was performing for its price. As audio/video gear comes in and out of my home, I can become a bit unenthused when high-priced manufacturers provide average performance at a huge price. When a product like the LFM-1 comes along and provides high-end performance at a price most often seen at your local appliance retailer, then I get excited. The Outlaw Audio LFM-1 took me there.

The Downside
Subwoofers are never easy to hide. They are most often cubes that occupy valuable floor space. Over the years, subs have gotten smaller and smaller; some are no larger than a basketball (still in the box). The LFM-1 is physically on the larger side of its performance class. Depending on your room, this is something that you might want to consider. Most good systems have the room for a good-sized sub, which would make this a non-issue.

The LFM-1 comes with a two-position phase switch, rather than a variable potentiometer. This makes exact phase tuning a tough job and prevents you from finding a perfect blend. Subwoofers can be difficult to match to your other speakers and variable phase often helps immensely. On the other side, it takes a highly trained ear (or a professional room tuner) to tweak a variable phase knob correctly; this is something that would in most cases take a professional to perform properly. In my case, I was able to blend the Outlaw LFM-1 with numerous sets of speakers in two different rooms without a problem. Most high-end speakers like Revel, Sunfire and Velodyne have set-up software and increase parts costs that explain why their price is many, many times more expensive than the LFM-1. It is important to remember that this sub costs about as a much as a really bad speeding ticket – not the actual sports car.

Conclusion
You don’t have to sell movie nuts on why they need a good sub. Deep bass is an essential element of the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. In fact, the sub is the “.1,” allowing a dedicated track for the low-frequency information on almost every DVD we all own. Audiophiles for some reason traditionally fight the idea of subwoofers, mainly because they are mostly snobs who wouldn’t know really great sound if they were in the studio sitting next to Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Kramer. Music enthusiasts, on the other hand, know that bass is an important part of enjoying the emotional power of music. While your front speakers will take center stage in your system, the idea of backing them up with some bass reinforcement is truly a smart idea. With Outlaw’s aggressive pricing, you can add real bass at a very affordable price. In fact, for less than what the better competitors charge, you can splurge for two Outlaw LFM-1s, thus creating a potentially louder, deeper and more even low-end sound in your music and movie playback system.

I have heard a lot of subs in my time, some impressive, some mediocre and others like the Outlaw LFM-1 - an unquestioned bargain of epic proportion.
Manufacturer Outlaw Audio
Model LFM-1 Subwoofer
Reviewer Brian Kahn





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