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#84159 - 07/01/10 06:56 AM Has Outlaw Lost Its Way?
Ritz2 Offline
Desperado

Registered: 01/27/09
Posts: 414
Loc: Virginia
A friend of mine was at the house today and was remarking on the quality of my HT setup. She asked about Outlaw and I showed her the website and we began a discussion about the various components for sale there.

After 20 minutes or so her comment was "So all this stuff seems to be rebranded equipment from other companies. What original equipment do they manufacture?" I commented that the service was good and that many people are willing to pay a premium for that, but that she was correct in that Outlaw doesn't really create their own product. She followed up with "Isn't most of this stuff pretty much disposable after a few years since the pace of change in the audio world is pretty brisk?" And then she cited the various audio formats for movies which seem to be in a never-ending state of change. I agreed that having the latest HT setup was a quickly moving and somewhat expensive target.

Her take away was that in the absence of anything truly unique, she'd be inclined to just buy based on features and price from a "name brand" online or at a big box store. Based on that, she did a quick comparison shop in front of me at the online shop for a big retailer and concluded that Outlaw was comparatively VERY expensive for similar gear. Other than the "but they're great when you need service" argument, it was hard to disagree.

What would you guys and gals counter that with? If you ran Outlaw, how would you fix this (if indeed you think it needs fixing)?

Best,
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#84161 - 07/01/10 11:38 AM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: Ritz2]
gonk Offline
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Registered: 03/21/01
Posts: 14054
Loc: Memphis, TN USA
Originally Posted By: Ritz2
Her take away was that in the absence of anything truly unique, she'd be inclined to just buy based on features and price from a "name brand" online or at a big box store. Based on that, she did a quick comparison shop in front of me at the online shop for a big retailer and concluded that Outlaw was comparatively VERY expensive for similar gear. Other than the "but they're great when you need service" argument, it was hard to disagree.

What would you guys and gals counter that with? If you ran Outlaw, how would you fix this (if indeed you think it needs fixing)?

This is a very good discussion. I've had some similar conversations with some other OPPO Digital beta testers - after all, even the BDP-80 is more expensive than the typical offerings from companies like Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung. They all play the same discs, so why spend more on a player like the OPPO?

First question: what are we considering "similar gear"? My Model 7500 and any surround processor you might pair it with combine to cost a hell of a lot more than even a really good receiver at Best Buy. I could also find some pretty decent bookshelf speakers for a good bit less than I paid for my BLS's. Neither comparisons are really apples-to-apples, though. What do we look at when we are finding comparable gear? A five-channel 200W amp with RCA and XLR inputs from Rotel, Parasound, Anthem, or somebody else is going to cost more than my 7500 did. My BLS's also compared favorably with more expensive tower speakers from Paradigm - in fact, I had a slight preference in favor of the BLS's. The same would not be true for a $300 pair of speakers from Best Buy.

Second question: does service and support matter? When you have a question about how to set your new product up, do you want to have a phone number for support, web site for support, and company-hosted user forum for support? Or do you want to rely on the sales kid at Best Buy and a tech support call center in India?

The third question isn't really a question. It's a frustrating statement of fact: "boutique" brand surround processors and receivers are a problem right now. Emotiva's long-delayed UMC-1 has been out for six months and is still riddled with bugs, as well as a few problematic design decisions that the company has no plans to change. Parasound cancelled two processors and a receiver earlier this year (all reportedly based on the same basic hardware platform as the UMC-1). Sherwood's R-972 has also struggled with bugs, which led to Outlaw cancelling the Model 997. Anthem has had some success sustaining the AVM platform in the HDMI era, but it's come with a drastically increased price tag - where the AVM20 was only roughly 2x or 2.5x the price of an Outlaw processor ($2000-$2400 vs. $900), the AVM50v is almost $6000 and the Dv2 is almost $7000. Hopefully this situation will improve over the next year or so, but right now it's a very real problem that affects more companies than just Outlaw. This is the area where I hope the Model 998 can mark a turning point - going back to the formula that produced the Model 1050 and Model 950 (products developed from the ground up to Outlaw's specs by design teams that included folks at Outlaw and outside team members). The Model 990 was a huge success and was a great example of pre-HDMI surround processors so I understand why they pursued a similar development cycle on the Model 997, but the last three years or so have been a wasteland for many companies and it's possible that any course they chose would have run into similar problems.

In the end, it's probably relevant to consider something that I have often pointed out to OPPO beta testers who were concerned that their players can't compete on cost with the most widely-used players. There is no single product that is the right fit for everyone. It's true of speakers, TV's, surround processors, amps, subwoofers, cars, houses, and anything else in life. I think it's good to remember that plenty of folks don't want or need as sophisticated a system as many Outlaw customers have. Outlaw can't compete head-to-head with the entry-level receivers offered by Sony or Yamaha or Onkyo any more than OPPO can compete head-to-head with Sony or Panasonic or LG - they don't have the R&D resources or the sales volume to make it cost-effective, so they have to focus on offering some quality benefits and much better customer service at a higher price point. This means that they don't compete against the most prominent products offered by the big retailers, and that there are many customers for whom their offerings aren't the best fit. For the folks who can only afford or only want to afford a $400 or even $700 receiver (which is not a bad thing, by any means), Outlaw will have a hard time filling that niche. Any offering they have in that range will quickly be "outdated" compared to the latest products at Best Buy, even if it sounds better. Companies like Outlaw and OPPO do compete with lesser-known brands and more expensive brands that may be offered by those same dealers, though. I'll briefly pick on Lexicon as an example: they had (may still have) a 7x300W amp that was a close cousin of the Model 7900, and they have a Blu-ray player that is a BDP-83 in a different case. The amp retailed for almost three times as much as the Model 7900 and the player retails for around seven times as much as the BDP-83.
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#84164 - 07/01/10 12:36 PM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: gonk]
Jimna Offline
Gunslinger

Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 236
Loc: Denver, CO
IMO its all about sound quality and build quality. The Outlaw unit will likely out last any given <insert big name brand here> by a mile, all the while sounding way better.

I guess in the end this is really the difference between pedestrian consumer electronics and hi-fi gear....which Outlaw does at a mid-fi price point as Gonk pointed out.

Another simple comparison is a car. If you have a Yugo and a Cadillac as your choices, both get you from point A to point B, but the experience is very different. To some that experience is worth the difference in price others it isnt, its all very subjective.

And lets not forget the fact that Outlaw is a small American company, all of the above are not. I know who I will support if possible.
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#84168 - 07/01/10 02:18 PM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: Jimna]
PodBoy Offline
Gunslinger

Registered: 05/09/05
Posts: 281
On the subject of products that are 100% Outlaw, don’t forget that they continue to sell their stereo receiver, which is a truly unique product. They must have designed it themselves, as they state, as no one else offers it, or anything else like it.

To counter what Ritz’s friend said, the RR 2150 is far from a “disposable” item. It seems that once people get Outlaw products, particularly something like the RR 2150, they keep them for a while. Indeed, the number of people here that say they are still using not only 990’s, but also 950’s, speaks to the value of Outlaw’s products for the price.

While they’ve said that the amps are built by an OEM, the configuration —and the pricing – are certainly unique to Outlaw.

Same for their Outlaw branded subs and speakers: Clearly BUILT by someone else, but they are unique and to what must be an Outlaw generated specifications.

As always, Gonk seems to be right on the money with regard to the trials and tribulations Outlaw AND others have had with processors, but a look at the Outlaws' broader product line would indicate that they still have products no one else offers, and seeing the call for beta testers they put out today one has to wonder what else they have up their sleeves.


Edited by PodBoy (07/01/10 02:22 PM)

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#84170 - 07/01/10 03:25 PM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: PodBoy]
gonk Offline
Desperado

Registered: 03/21/01
Posts: 14054
Loc: Memphis, TN USA
PodBoy makes a good point about some of their unique offerings. The RR2150 continues to be unique. The ICBM-1 was unique, and folks continue to talk about it to this day. The BLS and LCR both were unique designs conceived of by Outlaw that Snell built for them and even asked to copy.

Indeed, one of the original tenets of Outlaw is that they don't have their own factory (or factories). They're hardly unique in that, though. Even the big companies often farm out some (or a lot) of their manufacturing to outside factories. ATI builds Outlaw's multichannel amps and a lot of other people's multichannel amps, but Outlaw's amps tend to be less expensive than many of the alternatives that come from that California location.
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#84181 - 07/01/10 07:47 PM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: gonk]
tru blu Offline
Desperado

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 406
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Yeah, "rebranded equipment from other companies" feels a bit overstated to me, and I dunno, "good service" doesn't seem to be the primary reason many of the folks I've been reading around here chose Outlaw. I certainly didn't, but then, I also own the receiver that is undeniably unique. At this juncture, it may even be a pretty significant part of what's keeping the lights on around here.

I said in another thread that companies interested in hi fi don't have an easy time of it right now, and in an economy that privileges big businesses, being smaller is always a challenge. If it feels like Outlaw's treading water, it seems to me that it's more about the high cost of implementation rather than any lack of ideas.
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#84183 - 07/01/10 10:07 PM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: Ritz2]
fm Offline
Gunslinger

Registered: 04/25/06
Posts: 44
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: Ritz2

What would you guys and gals counter that with? If you ran Outlaw, how would you fix this (if indeed you think it needs fixing)?

Best,


Well, in regards to the amps, Made In America does cost more, but there can be some value in it, given that good amps are pieces that can typically last 20+ years. Just looking at the inside of said amps compared to any typical consumer grade receiver or amp, you can see big differences.

The reality is that the market is somewhat small, and most people don't care much except for price. Of course you probably get what you pay for, and rated power for consumer level products is likely far less than Outlaw products (I can't really think of a "name brand" that makes products with "real output power" at lower prices).

Digital decoding is another story, but it has more to do with the computer market and nearly almost all Asian development work.

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#84187 - 07/02/10 07:28 AM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: fm]
Bob Becker Offline
Gunslinger

Registered: 02/10/07
Posts: 130
Loc: Washington, D.C.
The graf Gonk quoted is the key, of course. People who are satisfied with what they find in big box stores don't hear, see the difference between those products and higher-end equipment, or the differences don't matter to them. As I have said here before, I ventured into this world about 8 years ago when I needed to replace my 25-year-old living room 2-channel system consisting of an Altec Lansing 714 receiver,m a pair of ADC 303ax bookshelf speakers, and an Onkyo cassette player. Those speakers still sound pretty good, although the receiver needs serious work.

I listened to a lot of integrated amps, cd players and speakers from the likes of Rotel, Classe, McIntosh, Arcam, Dynaudio, Mirage, B&W and Canton, as well as what Best Buy had to offer. It was very hard work, months of enjoyable research, to get a system that sounded really good.

A few years ago, when I started building my HT system I started over, although I planned to use my B&W speakers as the mains and to add used matching B&W surrounds and center speakers. The price of my 1070 came in way below what it would have cost for a comparable ht receiver. My wife really couldn't understand why I waited for the BDP-83 to come out when we could have bought another BD player for less. But she was the one who really liked the Classe CDP .3 CD player I bought used for the living room.

The bottom line, I think, is that most people are perfectly happy with what they see and try to listen to over the din in a big box store. They see no difference between the 60 inch LCD TV Best Buy sells for under $1,200 and a 46 inch LED TV that costs twice as much. They will never be convinced to spend more for better quality, better sound and a better picture. There really is no reason to feel bad that they can't understand why we prefer equipment from Outlaw, Oppo, Hsu, ....
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#84197 - 07/02/10 07:40 PM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: Bob Becker]
Bill O Offline
Gunslinger

Registered: 08/14/06
Posts: 164
Loc: Missouri
I bought my 990 a few years back, based on what I read at AVS and Audioholics.
For me customer support was a very important factor in my choice. Setting up a surround sound receiver/processor can make it a bad experence, or good one.I have very little technical skills and need all the help I can get, which is why I spent more time researching before I bought than most people would need too.
Visiting sites like HSU, SVS, AV123, Emotiva etc, I understood why these companies can take a bite of of the market. Customer service and customers who have a desire to help others realize the benifits fully of the product they purchased . Was the Outlaw 990 better than Emotiva 's product, I don't know. What I do know is this site was far more gentle in answereing question, stupid at times to the more knowledgeable folks , than the other sites.

Even though I am not in the market to buy anything else for my HT , I still have that urge, but for the first time in 40 years I am content on what I have........I can not even convince myself I need more........

When friends, or family, ask me advice on what should they buy, I feel good . They are not asking me because I am smarter than they are, they are asking because my current system appeals to them.
It appeals to them in large part because Outlaw Audio appealed to me.

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#84201 - 07/03/10 11:34 AM Re: Has Outlaw Lost Its Way? [Re: Bill O]
AvFan Offline
Desperado

Registered: 09/12/05
Posts: 619
Loc: El Cajon, California
What drew me to Outlaw was they offered products with features I wanted and, just as important, they did not include ones I didn't want, all at a very attractive price. My first purchase was the 990 and I never thought of it as a rebadged Sherwood/Newcastle but as a competitor to the Anthem AVM30. It is a little disheartening to see name brand items on Outlaw's product page but I think it reflects their attempt to keep loyal customers from drifting away. I've found myself looking at the Anthem website and the AVM 50v specs. Hopefully, the 998 will rekindle the interest in equipment unique to Outlaw then myself and others will be doing a side-by-side comparison between the 998/AVM 50v just as I did between the 990 and AVM 30.

Lastly, I would suggest most Outlaw customers have been traveling down the hi-fi/HT road for some length of time. They have gained varying levels of knowledge and experience that exceed that of folks who think of a big box retailer as a consistently credible source of information and HT products. Some big box customers will eventually decide they want better and seek out products such as Outlaw's and maybe find a home in the Saloon. That was my experience and I've enjoyed it!
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