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August 2007
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Outlaw Audio RR2150 Stereo Receiver
Performance well beyond its $649 price.
Review By Ron Nagle
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Outlaw Audio RR2150 Stereo Receiver  Obvious first question, what's so retro about the Outlaw Receiver? Well for starters hardly anybody is making quality receivers anymore and secondly it's the cool looks bunky. By that I mean the two-tone Art Deco theme of the front panel and the blast from the past control functions. I have to admit I was attracted by the design of this receiver even before I knew what it could do. It reminds me vaguely of one of the most sought after collectable radios of all time. And by that I refer to the ultra deco Sparton model 557 table radio. This beautiful blue glass mirrored Sleigh radio with its horizontal chrome fins circa 1936 is almost impossible to find. The last one I saw sold on an E-Bay auction for $4,425 Dollars. However if your curious enough you can find a Sparton 557 radio on display in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. Well enough of my wish list fantasy, let's get back to the story. Obvious second question why do they call it Outlaw Audio? On their web site the Outlaw people spin a tale that goes something like this, old friends and friendly rivals meeting a few years ago at a breakfast during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The conversation turns to compromises imposed on them by corporate bean counters. On that day these Outlaw designers and engineers decide to form their own (gang) company. They resolve to design and manufacture without any corporate interference. Now if you look at their web site I believe Outlaw Audio places greater emphasis on A/V systems. More importantly Outlaw is a web based direct to buyer value oriented sales and distribution concern. Not incidentally the RR2150 RetroReceiver is a flexible multifunction control center that sells for $649 Dollars and this is where I come in. I would much rather write and tell you about quality affordable audio for guys who are like me, we have pockets lined with far more lint than glint.

 

Functionally Speaking
The Outlaw RR 2150 Receiver has provisions for presetting the AM and FM stereo tuner stations using the programmable function and enter buttons on the front panel or with the remote. Around back I counted a total of 12 RCA female plugs not including the USB-b streaming audio connection. It has a separate record output bus along with a loop select button for the processor equalizer loop and a Phono input switchable for either moving magnet or moving coil cartridges. There is a separate RCA output for a subwoofer and next to that is a four position bass management slide switch marked for 60, 80, 100 Hz and bypass. There are two U shaped jumpers on the back and if you remove them you can use the receiver either as a separate power amp or preamp.  Keep reading it gets better. This is the only stereo receiver with front panel speaker equalization that selects a half octave of bass boost at 3 frequencies and additionally has a separate selectable subwoofer output that includes analogue bass management.  Wait there is more, the front panel has a speaker selector for two separate sets of speakers you can select A, B or A+B and off, a headphone jack with volume control knob and a mini jack input for your i-Pod. On the front panel there are three knobs for tone control treble balance and bass and a push button for tone control defeat. There are separate signal paths for source and recording selection. Of course there is a source selector knob for AM, FM, CD/DVD, Video, Phono, USB, Tape and the front panel Aux input. Also a detented source select knob to record from one of six inputs including USB through the tape loop. The receiver has a motorized remote controlled volume control knob and a mute button, and a master standby power button.

Wait! I thought I was finished, I forgot about the main power switch in back and a mini jack connection for a 12volt trigger output that can turn on /off external devices, connections for AM and FM antennas and a Phono sensitivity selector switch labeled programmable MM/MC as well as a connection for an infrared amplified range extending remote control transceiver. And last but not least the front panel has a large blue backlit florescent readout displaying selected functions.   I think that about covers it, Oops! One more thing did I tell you the receiver can be controlled by a system programmable hand held remote control?

Remember I mentioned getting affordable bang for your buck or words to that effect well Bunky this looks like it.

 

Under the Hood
Outlaw Audio RR2150 Stereo Receiver InsideThat word would be Bonnet in the U.K., so let's take a peek inside at the works. Six chrome-plated screws hold the impressive heavy gauge vented steel top cover in place. Inside the chassis you will find a very respectably large toroidal transformer for the conventional power supply and right next to that a separate board containing a switching power supply. The switching power supply is used separately for low power circuit components. The conventional analog power supply feeds a bridge rectifier and uses two 10k microfarad capacitors one for the B+ rail and one for the B- rail. This is the supply for the eight bi-polar transistors, four per channel that power the speakers. All The printed circuit boards are of a nice glass epoxy material and the FM radio receiver is housed in it's own shielded metal box. The front panel components are in a separate metal enclosure behind the faceplate. All the wire runs are neatly bundled and the layout clean and logical I don't see any junk in this trunk, It is a very nice piece of work.

 

Stereo Sound
After delivery the Outlaw RR2150 played stereo radio for a day or two. I cannot critically comment on the radio sensitivity or selectivity of the tuner section because in my neck of the woods the many radio stations come in loud and clear. That leaves my time proven Hi-End CD section and my vinyl record collection as my critical references. Lets take the same reference CD I streamed into the RR2150, Time And Tide by Basia. With my Marantz player spinning this disc the sound through my StrataMini speakers was Clean clear and dynamic but the bass was a little to prominent. Repeating this same little experiment with an audiophile friend of mine he came to approximately the same conclusion. I have to admit I had a bit of fun playing around with the front panel bass EQ selector for a short time had it set to a 3dB boost at 55Hz. I could have adjusted the front panel bass control but of course this would not be accurate. The StrataMini speaker has a built in bass amplifier and bass control so I readjusted the volume down to equalize. I couldn't just let this go I needed much more information. The Aurum Cantus Leisure 2 SE speaker is a highly revealing two-way monitor with a lightening fast 70 mm ribbon tweeter and response down to 60Hz. I purchased them primarily to review cables. The same reference Basia disc still sounds by the slightest margin elevated in the bass. But given the flexibility of this device with tone controls this can't be a problem to anyone but an audiophile purest.

Also when listening to the first cut "Promises"; the stage is just by the slightest margin less deep and wide than I have heard with some other far more expensive amplifiers. I have heard this same track more expansive but I deem this performance far better than I expected from a $650 Dollar Receiver. If I had to pick nits with the performance it would have to be the smaller nits that live on the larger nits. There are sibilant words that I key on, the S sound in the word "Promises" are slightly less focused within the sound space than the very best. But if I were asked the question would I like to hear more sibilant sounds on my CDs, I would have to answer well not really, that is not at the top of my list.

 

Streaming Digital
Outlaw Audio RR2150 Stereo Receiver Computer HookupApplying a Toshiba laptop to the Outlaw USB connection I gained a CD player and music server and a choice of programs I could use to control the process. The Microsoft XP software, plug and play found the USB Audio device with no problem. Two applications I-Tunes and Windows Media Player worked flawlessly. When using the computer to function as a CD transport the sound was comparable to an expensive CD player. The screen brings up the audio CD like a music file showing all the tracks and playing time for each track. My long time reference CD is BASIA - Time And Tide Epic (EK 40767). Listening to the title track I swear the overall performance nearly equaled my reference Marantz DV8400 Universal player. A short spin of a DVD video demo disc came out in clean clear dynamic sound track style. The USB connection from the laptop works like a digital SPDIF connection into the Outlaw DAC. Listening to an audio file stored on the hard drive I was rewarded with excellent two-channel sound mostly dependent on the quality of the original disc. I just might be the only reviewer at least in these United States that evaluated music files through the Outlaw USB high-speed DAC and reported the results. According to the Consumer Electronics Association 72 percent of adult's on line listen to audio on their home computer. Outlaw Audio has met a need with an important feature that allows the audiophile to expand a stereo system with the additional prospect of multi room connectivity.

 

The Spiral Path
Extracting the information stored in the grooves of a vinyl disc caused me to re-evaluate the time I spent on digital dalliances as "digital down time." Before I ramble further, consider that a turntable is far and away the most difficult component in all of audio to judge properly. Absolutely everything, all the interlocking parts have more or less of an effect on the sonic outcome, and a few of these things might have to be measured in thousandths or ten-thousandths of an inch or in tenths or hundredths of a gram.

Having considered all that, and having rechecked the set-up as carefully as I could I installed my old faithful Sumiko Bluepoint Special cartridge. The Bluepoint is a moving coil with a rather high output and a good match for the moving coil Phono stage of the Outlaw Receiver. I spent an additional 20 minutes adjusting the arm height until the VTA was spot on judging by my ears.

My reward was a lovely spacious soundstage that spanned the space between my speakers. But more than just that, in addition the sound was dynamic and defined. I listened with a tinge of surprise as fond recollections returned to me; the center image was comprised of distinct layers that receded into the distance. And there were instruments, which seemed to approximate and inhabit the same space in the soundstage and yet they did not overlap or obscure one another as they usually do with a CD recording. With edge resolution, the individual location of each musical element was outlined within its own acoustic envelope; this space was filled by the instruments' identifying tonal signature. No it is not as detailed nor is it as free of artifact as my Audio Research SP9 Mk3 Preamplifier Phono stage, but that costs almost four times the price of the RR 2150 receiver. The effects I describe here were consistent and obviously varied in their degree upon the content and quality of the recordings I played.

 

When All Is Said And Done
Happily my conclusions support my expectations. I was hoping for something to feed the soul of poor music loving 'philes. Judging by what I have experienced this is certainly not a first step on a quest for the reality of a musical moment in time. But then neither is it the last plateau you must reach to achieve the sense of being transported to the living event. After all if you stop and think about it that's what this is all about, our audio system is in fact a time machine that moves us nearer our aural desires. No it's not the Alpha nor the Omega but all this enjoyment can be brought surprisingly close by a $650 Outlaw receiver delivering performance well beyond its price. Those Outlaw guys are not going to get this thing back I am going to buy the review sample. I don't see how can you go wrong, buy it build a system around it then sit back and relax.

Semper Hi-Fi.

 

Source Components
SOTA turntable with Grado Signature tone arm and Bluepoint special moving coil cartridge, Marantz DV 8400 Universal CD player, Cambridge Audio Discmagic-1 CD transport, Cambridge S-700 Isomagic HDCD D/A Converter, ART Audio DI/O upsampling D/A and A/D converter/processor.

System Connections
Kimber Kable- 8TC Speaker Cables
All Interconnect Cables Unbalanced RCA 
Audio Research Litzlink - 2 pairs, 1.5 meter
Wire World Eclipse - 3 meter
Chord Silver Siren, 1 meter
Home made Teflon, 1 meter
Audiobhan digital - 0.5 meter
AC Power 
Wire World power cord 10 gauge IEC
Home made AC power - 3 pairs, 12 gauge IEC
Islatrol Industrial 20amp ac line conditioner
Richard Gray Sub Station - 20amp
Alpha Core Balanced Transformer Power Supply
Audio Power PE-1 power enhancer
Triad - 2 Ampere isolation transformer

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High-frequencies (3,000Hz on up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape width front

Soundscape width rear  
Soundscape depth behind speakers

Soundscape extension into the room

Imaging

Microdynamics

Fit And Finish

Enjoyment

Value for the Money

 

Specifications
Type: Stereo receiver

Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz (+0db/-0.5dB)

Output Power: 100 Watts @ 8 Ohms from 20Hz to 20kHz (<.03% THD)

Input Sensitivity/Impedance
High Level - 200mV into 47k Ohms
MM Phono - 3.3mV 47k Ohms
MC Phono - 0.6mV 47k Ohms

Bass Management
High- Pass Slope Adjustable - 12dB / octave 2nd order 
Low- Pass Slope 12dB / octave 2nd order @ 60, 80, 100 Hz and Bypass

Tone Controls
Bass Center Frequency / Range - 50Hz + - 6.5dB
Treble Center Frequency / Range- 1 KHz +- 6.5dB

S/N Ratio (IHF-A) 96db 
Transient IMD, Immeasurable
FM Tuner Section
Frequency Range - 87.5 - 108MHz
Usable Sensitivity (IHF) 12dBf
S / N - Mono 75dB Stereo 70dB
Distortion Stereo - 0.24% Separation - @19kHz 37dB 
Selectivity - 70dB + - 10kHz
AM Tuner Section
Frequency Range - 530 to 171kHz
Usable Sensitivity - 500uV/M
Selectivity - >25 dB + - 10kHz S/N Ratio > 54dB
Power Consumption 
Idle - 5 Watts @ Full Load 400 Watts max.
Trigger Volts - 50mA @ 12VDC
Weight - 27 Lbs.
Dimensions (W x H x D) 17.1 x 5.75 x 15.0 inches

Price: $649

 

Company Information
Outlaw Audio
P.O. Box 975
Easton, MA 02334

Voice: (866) 688-5297
E-mail: information@outlawaudio.com
Website: www.outlawaudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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