Q: Isn't the Model 990 similar to other products in the marketplace?
A: The Model 990 does share the same basic platform as other proven, well-regarded products, but it has been redesigned with the addition of many Outlaw-exclusive features that turn it into a truly unique model. By starting with a proven success we were able to create a high-performance product and deliver it to you at a price that is considerably lower than would be possible if we had to amortize the cost of a totally new hardware and software design. While the basics of the Model 990 were obtained from one of the industry’s most respected OEM manufacturers, the end result is a product that is truly Outlaw. Thanks to our own designers and engineers we have taken the sound, features, connectivity and operation of surround processors to new heights at an incredible price.
Q. Why didn't you design your own product?
A. The reality of the electronics industry today is such that a company of Outlaw's size cannot always support the cost of developing as complex a product as the Model 990 from the "ground-up". By starting with an existing platform we are able to take advantage of the cost savings made possible by sharing costs while at the same time adding our unique features and our value oriented pricing.
Q. Does this mean that all of your products are based on other companies' designs?
A. NO, not at all. Outlaw uses the three different models shown below for product development, and so do all the other specialty brands to one degree or another, regardless of their distribution model. The selection of which development path to use is determined by the specific product, its cost, complexity and its anticipated volume. Going back to our first offering, the Model 750 amplifier, we have never hidden our relationships with some of the industry's leading manufacturers. Remember that out process is not unique, and only a few of the "major" brands actually design and manufacture their own processors from the ground up. We know of no company in the "internet only" market that totally designs and builds all of their processors on their own.
Many of our products are designed by or for us, and are Outlaw exclusives. Our original Model 1050 receiver, the ICBM, our forthcoming Model 1070 A/V Receiver, the RR 2150 stereo receiver, and our interconnect cables all fall into this category. Nobody but the Outlaws has these products in any form. In some cases we work with a supplier to develop a product from the ground up to our specifications. However, to spread the enormous development costs we agree to allow the manufacturer to offer the product in other forms to other brands after a window of exclusivity. The Model 950 has been a good example of that development model. Its hardware and software were designed and engineered by and for the Outlaws. Once we introduced it to the market, the manufacturing company was then permitted to offer it to others. In other cases, such as the Model 990, we find a product that has the potential to become an Outlaw offering. We then work with the manufacturer to adapt it to our specifications and add additional features that are exclusive to Outlaw. This is the reverse of the previous example, as it allows us to take advantage of a complete design "platform" while extensively modifying it to the needs of the Outlaw community. In addition to the Model 990, our LFM-1 is also a good example of this product development model.
Q. What makes the Model 990 different from products that share the same platform?
A. The appearance and front panel design are the obvious changes, but there are some other very major differences “under the hood”:
• Balanced outputs for all channels.
• DVI video switching (two in/one out)
• Improved bass management with Quadruple crossover settings so that the front left/right, center, surround and back surround channel outputs may be set for different crossovers
• A totally different setup and menu system for added flexibility. This includes renamable video inputs, a subwoofer offset for stereo sources, a system lock setting, and other refinements. The front panel operation is also unique, with complete access to the menus.
• Unique industrial design with aluminum front panel and removable front panel input covers.
Q. Is the Model 990's upgradeable for possible future enhancements?
A. Yes. Both the unit's system firmware and the software that drives the surround processor are easily upgradeable by either USB or RS-232 connections.
Q. Why does the Model 990 come with a relatively simple remote control?
A. This was a tough call. We felt that since many Outlaw customers already own a high-end remote such as a Pronto, Harmony or Home Theater Master, including that type of remote would only raise the product cost for all. To keep the price as low as possible we decided to include a basic, backlit remote that offers complete access to the Model 990's features, along with seven-device programmability. Unlike most other processors, a separate, compact remote is also included for the second zone at no additional charge. By the way, the Model 990's remote also features discrete on/off codes.
Q. The 990 has two "subwoofer out" jacks. Are they dual or stereo?
A. The subwoofer outputs are dual mono, since low frequency information is mixed as a non-directional, mono signal.
Q. How does the Model 990 compare to the Model 950?
A. As a newer design, the Model 990 delivers a host of features that we would have loved to include on the Model 950, but simply could not due to the technology limitations when it was designed. Among these are advanced surround modes, Lip Sync Delay, and improved audio performance that makes the Model 990 is significantly quieter than the Model 950.
Q. Why does the Model 990 have DVI switching instead of HDMI?
A. At this time we believe that the more stable DVI format is a more appropriate choice, since it is well established and totally compatible with HDMI from a video standpoint. Unfortunately, HDMI is still a moving target, with the 1.2 specifications still awaiting final release. More importantly, there is a big unknown regarding the specifications of the "next" version of HDMI that will allow transport of Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD data streams. (Indeed, the actual specs for the two codecs, themselves, have not been released either.) At this time it is impossible for the Outlaws or anyone else to know if a hardware, rather than software upgrade will be required to accommodate those two new formats on HDMI and with existing DSP engines. Quite frankly, we preferred to select a viable digital video format that is useable today rather than risk a high-cost solution that appears not to be ready for prime time.
Q. I’m concerned about the compatibility of the DVI switching in the Model 990 with the forthcoming “high definition DVD players” and the new audio formats. What can you tell us about that?
A. While it has been announced that both Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD will be part of HD-DVD, BluRay, or any merged format that might yet be agreed to, the specific means by which those data streams will sent from the player to receivers, processors and video displays is still in development and under discussion. Outlaw is party to those discussions, but unfortunately the very strict Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) that are part of our license agreements with a number of companies restrict our ability to reveal anything at this time. All we can say is that the companies and technologists involved are well aware of the need to accommodate processors without HDMI connections, and that when the players finally arrive there will be a viable way for products such as the Model 990 to connect with the new players. By including DVI we are at least making it possible for your Model 990 to serve as a video control center that seamlessly switches between two high definition sources such as a cable or satellite receiver and future optical player and your display in tandem with switching of incoming PCM and analog audio signals. We’ll tell you more when the NDA restrictions are lifted.
Q. Does the Model 990’s DVI switching interfere with HDCP or any aspects of the digital signal?
A. NO. The DVI switching circuit used on the Model 990 was custom designed for Outlaw by one of our industry research partners who is responsible for the creation of well-known, world-class video projectors. (For competitive reasons, we cannot divulge the engineer’s name, but his projectors, processors, video displays and switchers are among the most innovative available.) The DVI circuits are a pure switch, and are derivative of a design already proven in thousands of projection control units that work with HD signals every day. As a switch, it simply takes the input data, selects one of the two inputs, and passes it through to the output. There is no interference with any part of the signal, including the HDCP keys or other DRM flags, as the signal, itself, is never “touched” by the Model 990, it is only selected.
Q. What about 1394/iLink?
A. While 1394 is available on a small number of current DVD-Audio/SACD players, the best information we have points to some form of HDMI as the carrier of choice for the audio portion of either of the forthcoming high definition optical formats, or any consolidated format that may emerge. To include 1394 on the Model 990 would cost-penalize the vast majority of customers by adding expensive parts that would be used by only a small percentage of users.
Q. What are the key components of the Model 990?
A. The Model 990's design is based on high performance parts such as:
• Cirrus Logic CS 49400 DSP with 32 bit post processor
• Analog Devices 1852 24/192 DAC for all channels
• Analog Devices 1896 Asynchronous Sample Rate Converter for stereo up-conversion
• Torroidal power supply transformer
Q. What does the stereo up-conversion feature do?
A. The Model 990 converts the sample rate of the left/right front channels of digital audio sources from 20 bit/48 kHz to 24 bit/192 KHz. Contrary to some audio myths this does not "increase the resolution" of the recording as you cannot create bits where none existed. However, what it does do is move the audio portion of the signal away form the "brick wall filter" that is usually present at 22 kHz. Without getting too technical, these filters often affect the phase integrity of the audible high frequencies. An up-sampled signal helps to restore the proper phase relationships of these extreme musical highs. This feature is particularly valuable for those with high-resolution loudspeakers, where you will hear a discernable improvement in the top end.
Q. What about video conversion?
A. The Model 990 features high quality video cross-conversion that allows processor to display connections with one set of component video cables. Of course, the on-screen menus are visible on the component video outputs. As with ALL receivers or processors that offer video cross-conversion, the on-screen messages are not available when a progressive scan or high definition source is in use.
Q. What is the bandwidth of the component video outputs?
A. The bandwidth of the Model 990's relay controlled, three input/one output component video switch is in excess of 100MHz. As we have stated in the past, we feel that analog video bandwidth above that level is neither useful or advisable.
Q. What type of automated setup does the Model 990 have?
A. The Model 990 features a highly accurate auto-setup system that checks for speaker presence at each channel while setting output levels and delay times much more precisely than is possible manually using a microphone that plugs into the front panel. The mike is included with the Model 990 at no extra cost.
We are familiar with all of the various "Room EQ" systems currently on the market, and while they are a major step forward, we are not yet ready to put the Outlaw name on any of them. We will continue to examine the field and may offer an upgrade when we feel that the EQ system will benefit your listening environment.
Q. What is the USB jack used for?
A. The USB jack on the rear panel serves two important functions. First, it may be used for connection to compatible computers (Windows 98ME and above) to act as an "audio slave device" so that the playback of audio streams from your computer may be heard through your home theater system.
Second, and equally important, when the rear panel "OPR/SVC" switch is in the "Service" position, the USB port may be used for high speed data transfer when upgrades are available.
Q. Do I need to use an amplifier with balanced inputs?
A. NO. The Model 990 has both standard line level outputs for connection to any power amplifier, such as our own Outlaw products. The balanced outputs are an additional feature for use by those who connect their Model 990 to an amplifier over longer distances, or for those who are simply partial to amplifiers with balanced inputs.
Q. What kind of bass management is available on the direct inputs?
A. The 7.1 direct inputs have digital bass management that may be applied when needed. By activating the bass management you will have access to the same crossover frequencies (and tone controls) you have chosen for all other inputs. If you bypass the bass management the signal travels through the 990 totally unaltered.
Q. Your Newsletters mention that the current price is "introductory". Will it go up after 90 days?
A. At this point we simply do not know. Since we started planning the Model 990, the price of raw materials such as oil, metal and plastics, as well as transportation costs have risen dramatically. We will do our best to hold the price where it is as long as we can, but we can't make any predictions one way or another. As we get closer to the end of the 90-day introductory price period we will make our final decision and provide ample notice should a price increase be required.
Q. What is the warranty on the Model 990 and is it transferable?
A. The Model 990 carries a five year transferable warranty. Details of the warranty will be available on our web site as part of the Owner's Manual.
Q. Do you have other processors in the works, either a less expensive model or a "high-end" step-up model?
A. The Outlaws are always working on new products, but at this time we prefer not to comment on future products. Our current focus is on the introduction of the Model 990 and other previously announced products.
Q. Why don't you offer a trade-in program for owners of current Outlaw products?
A. Over the years, Outlaw products have more than held their own when it comes to their resale value. Rather than get involved as a middle-man that would only add cost by taking trade-ins, we recommend that you maximize the income from sale of your existing gear by using one of the many on-line services specifically organized to handle that type of transaction. For a variety of legal reasons, we cannot allow "for sale" postings of used equipment in our Outlaw Saloon.