Outlaw Audio Model 970 Preamp/Processor A/V Preamplifier

2/5 (1 Reviews) MSRP : $599.00

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User Reviews

Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:3
Submitted by CC a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: July 4, 2016

Bottom Line:   
I read the reviews here at audio review for the Outlaw Audio 950, a preamp/processor that is one step lower than my Model 970. After reading those mostly positive reviews of the 950, I felt it necessary that I should report my experience with the 970. Quite frankly, I don't believe that the 950 is any better than the 970, I just wonder how many times that many of the posters to that forum have ever actually heard really incredible sound.
First, lets talk about my equipment:

My amplifiers consist of a 2 channel Rotel RB-991 (200 watts) and a multichannel RMB-1066 (60 watts in 5 channel mode, 150 in 2 channel). My old Preamp/Processor was a model sold by Adcom (I had picked it up at a local store with an 'as is' sticker, a mismatched remote, and no power cord for cheap). The preamp was an older model, and did not have all of what at that time, were the latest surround settings. Speakers: I have a variety. 2 Klipsch Heresy. 2 Klipsch Rp-3s, 2 B&W 602s. 2 Infinity RS2.5s. 2 Klipsch RS-3 surround speakers. When running in multichannel mode, I use the Klipsch RP3 and RS3s, sometimes adding the Heresy's and the B&Ws in various locations (The infinities I usually connect to a NAD system in a different room).

Now, let's talk about 2 channel through the Model 970 vs through the Adcom. Now the Adcom that I had was extremely cheaply built, and has some performance that very few submitting public reviews enjoyed. I concur with most of this. Yet the 2 channel sound of this preamp was on a par with many very highly priced preamps. Imaging for the adcom in 2 channel mode was probably better than what it could offer in multichannel mode. The Adcom did not color the sound, and allowed the acoustic properties of the recording to pass through without restriction. The same cannot be said for the Model 970 from Outlaw. The audio spectrum is clipped on the upper end. All of the sound is darker with emphasis on the lower midrange. It is not a quiet preamp either. OFTEN I found that 2 channel audio sources when used with the Outlaw, was much closer to acceptable in combination with a multi-channel setting on the Outlaw. Even with that, the audio output through the speakers sounded confused. Left channel was no longer left channel, etc. Even my old Denon multichannel receiver was better at 2 channel sound.

Multichannel modes; The number of modes offered by the Outlaw was dizzying. I also found the variability of the individual channel setups (ability to control how much volume was being dispersed to more or less efficient speakers) quite handy. Also, since I usually don't use a center channel speaker (and do not own one speaker especially designed for this purpose), I found the ability to tell the system that there was or was not a speaker in a certain position (no center channel.. or perhaps shutting off one or both of the surrounds) and having this information simulated throuh the remaining speakers, to be very interesting (and sometimes preferable). The Adcom had none of this. Sometimes I would find an older source that the Adcom could translate and create a very good soundstage in multichannel mode. The Outlaw too would sometimes find the proper source information and be able to reproduce a very enveloping soundstage. While I expected the Adcom to not be able to deal with some of the newer formats, I did not expect that the Outlaw would also struggle with formats. And often, when the Outlaw was on the proper decode mode for the source, the sound would still be confused (where sounds that eminate from the left, right or back... or even from the front would instead come from some area that was imprecisely defined as left, right, front, back, etc). Still present, were the unpleasant characteristics discussed in my paragraph about 2 channel sound.

Finally, let's talk about 'Outlaw Audio' itself. My understanding is that Outlaw is a re-branding of Sherwood Audio. Sherwood is a brand that I've NEVER found to create a pleasing sound. It also is a brand that has been producing extremely inexpensive equipment for years. The Outlaw Model 970 presents all the characteristics that I would expect of any equipment produced by Sherwood. If I would have known this before my purchase, I would not have bought the product. Having said all of this, I still must say that when I purchased this unit, it was perhaps the least expensive Preamp/Processor on the market.... so by the ideal that 'you get what you pay for', this unit gets its 3 star rating for Value.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2007

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