Is it just me or does the Outlaw 950 perform modestly on 2 ch playback?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Serge Breton, Jun 10, 2002.

  1. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    Don't get me wrong, this is a great processor for the $ no question.

    But in phase two of my testing based on 2 channel listening tests, the 950 sounded good in 2 channel cd reproduction via it's onboard DAC's using the analog and digital inputs but i was expecting more or the Outlaw was missing something.

    I hooked up my Arcam 8SE cd player (which is an excellent player) for these tests, used the straight 2 channel bypass of the 950 and i was amazed at the differences sonically when using the player's onboard DAC's in comparison with the Outlaws. I know it's not really fair to compare a cd player that costs more than the 950 itself but since comparisons have been made between the 950 and the much higher priced processors i think the evaluation is fair. Using the cd players DAC's with the passthrough on the Outlaw, i first noticed a 2-3db gain in the overall volume vs the analog/digital input so i compensated for this when doing the A-B. The sense of depth, width, tonal balance, resolution, etc just sounded WAY better through the players DAC's. The best way to describe the sound with the 950's DAC's is extremely flat and sometimes even lifeless in comparison. Maybe the 950's DAC's don't come alive until higher resolution recordings are played through the unit, this is a definite possiblity. Either way, being that this is an extremely smooth and neutral sounding cd player, whatever edge, shrillness or "brightness" that was evident before from the 950 was now completely gone. I knew i made a perfect choice for the 950 in choosing this player, even when using the cd player as a transport, the sound was smooth and the edginess was gone. Mixing and matching electronics in one's system can be a daunting task but was easy this time around(and i got lucky). There is no question that the differences were not subtle. I won't go into too much detail but for straight 2 channel cd playback, the 950 could be better. Then again, the 950 could be worse too...

    It seems that EVERY processor whether inexpensive or pricey, they come up somewhat short in 2 channel music reproduction, the Outlaw is no different. Sure the Proceed and the Classe do 2 channel very well in their processors but then their surround sound isen't as good as the best processors either. Either way, no processor i know of EXCELS and offers state of the art sound for both music and movies in the SAME unit USING THE UNITS ONBOARD DAC's. No i haven't heard the MC-12 or even the Integra or the Tag for that matter but i think most people would agree that a great seperate 2 channel system will outperform all of today's processors.

    The key now lies in the ANALOG PASSTHROUGH. Now it is possible to have the processor do all the surround decoding and allow the source in question perform duties for 2 channel, multichannel SACD/DVD-audio or what have you. The Outlaws did a great job on the passthrough i have to admit. I guess my findings are like this, 2 channel "audiophile" sound IS possible with todays surround processors thanks to the simplicity and effectiveness of a "true" analog passthrough. I am now one step closer to the "holy grail" without breaking the bank account at the same time.

    Just to comment on surround recordings with the 950, let me tell you that when i first heard Jurassic Park III in Dolby EX i was AMAZED! I have never heard surround sound like this, period. For the very first time ever i felt like i was part of the movie and not just watching it or enjoying watching it. I swear the room almost disappeared (as well as the equipment) and i was on that island amidst all the chaos. The Haunting in DTS ES was spine tingling to say the least, never have i felt an EERY feeling until i watched this disk. I'm a person that usually laughs things off but i can honestly say that after this movie i can still hear the footsteps behind me....
     
  2. Michael Mohrmann

    Michael Mohrmann Screenwriter

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    Deleted due to not reading the entire post.

    Michael
     
  3. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    How the 950 sounds on 2 channel sound compared to what you are either used to or expecting would, I believe, depend on what you are using as a source. If you are, for example, using some high end equipment with DACs that you prefer then you might not like the DACs of the Outlaw by comparison. But if your playback equipment is less capable then the DAC's on the Outlaw would be a step up.

    I happen to like what the 950 sounds like in 2 channel mode and the nice thing about it is that you have an analog bypass option for each mode input so that the pre/pro can be transparent. Then everything depends on the quality of your player, your amps and your speakers (and, of course, how you have set up your listening environment.)

    My 2 cents.
     
  4. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Serge:
     
  5. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    RAF:
     
  6. Bob_L

    Bob_L Supporting Actor

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    Larry:

    IMO, you're absolutely right. "Straight wire with gain" is a design concept that doesn't really exist in the real world. Every circuit contributes something to the signal.

    To split hairs on semantics, I would say the 950 -- and many other excellent pre/pros -- is "transparent" but NOT "invisible."

    My understanding is that bypass mode on the 950 passes the full frequency signal directly to the volume control. No other processing. However, it does "split off" part of the signal as a separate process and runs it through the lowpass filter to provide a sub-80Hz frequency signal to the subwoofer
     
  7. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Bob:

    Funny you should bring up "straight wire with gain," as my original post included the following:

    "Just last Friday I auditioned three world-class preamps (Levinson 380S, NAIM 52, and BAT VK 50SE), and each one had it's own distinctive sound. I will go so far as to say that no active preamp is absolutely transparent, and most don't even come close. (This, despite the fact that I would be a millionaire if I had a nickel for each time a preamp was described as "a straight wire with gain.")"

    The reason I deleted this is that arguably, it is not relevant (or at least, less relevant) to a preamp being used in bypass mode.

    Larry
     
  8. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    Yep,

    straight wire with gain for an untarnished analog passthrough. Basically what i'm saying is that the analog passthrough on the 950 is a clear winner. The DAC's in straight cd playback are good but not exceptional by any means. Again, i don't know how these 24/192 DAC's perform on higher resolution recordings such as SACD or DVD-Audio but i'm very anxious to find out.

    Raf,

    yes i agree, these DAC's would be a step up for many. However, when listening to the cd player, the pure sonics improved dramatically. This is not a matter of preference at all, the DAC's in the player were clearly superior, period. This is what is acheivable with a good bypass, you can transform your system from acceptable 2 channel sound to something exceptional depending on the source equipment. I already know the 950 is a winner for movies but now with it's transparent bypass mode(s) i will have a very hard time returning my unit or selling it to get the Rotel 1066. My system sounds silky smooth while having perfect detail on the top end, adding a warm component to the chain like the 1066 may in fact hinder performance. Decisions, decisions.
     
  9. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Serge:
    Doesn't the Rotel also have analogue pass through?
     
  10. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    yes the Rotel has a passthrough as well but ihave a very good thing with this setup and i don't wish to compromise this by changing prepros.
    i know, i know. Everybody has their own preferences. Like i said though, the edginess of the Outlaw is absent, i can/have listened to various recordings over several hours and the sound is completely non fatiguing. I'm very satisfied that i can acheive this level of performance with an $899 prepro. This is the bottom line, more $ usually proves to be better but not in this case[​IMG]
     
  11. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Serge:

    Am I correct in assuming that you're using a separate stereo preamp? May I ask which one?

    Larry
     
  12. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    According to the Outlaws, the only thing in the path is the volume control. There is also a split of the lower frequencies off to the SW, but this is not part of the main path which receives the full frequency signal as well.

    Of course, this is based on what I was told not on looking at schematics but I don't see any reason why they would not tell the truth on this.

    And, even though I'm not into 2 channel music as seriously as some others, wouldn't it be possible to set up your system so your 2 channel source passes through the pre-amp of your choice and then directly through the 950 bypassing its circuits if you so desire? That way the 950 (or any other pre/pro with analog bypass in all modes) could act as your command center for every source in your listening/viewing room, and you could apply or ignore the 950's processing as you saw fit.

    I'm toying with that idea for my vinyl once my phono-preamp arrives since no ADC or DAC is needed.

    Just curious.
     
  13. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    RAF,

    From some preliminary investigations I have done recently looking into 2ch tube preamps, the preferred architecture has the 2 main channels of a HT controller going to the stereo preamp in order to get out to the main speakers (via the amp). Thus, the 2ch music sources, which are connected to the stereo preamp, do not go through another preamp, even in bypass mode.

    Doug
     
  14. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Doug:
     
  15. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    RAF:

     
  16. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    I wish some of you could have a chance to hear what a passive transformer (or autoformer) based attenuator can do as a linestage. If the rest of your equipment can handle it (source output impedance, amp input impedance, cable length and capacitance, etc.), this is miles better than any active preamp I've heard (a sentiment echoed by some people whose opinion I respect a lot, including a dealer or two). It's certainly better than my fully tricked out Bottlehead Foreplay tube preamp, which people say can hang with $3K solid state active preamps. And all that for $250.

     
  17. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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  18. Serge Breton

    Serge Breton Supporting Actor

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    Larry,
    i'm using an ATI 1502 stereo amplifier with Monitor Audio Silver 5i's up front.I'm using the provided Outlaw interconnects for the main 2 channels going from the Outlaw to the amp and built my own custom biwire Jon Risch 89259 speaker cables. The cd player is an Arcam 8SE (newest addition)[​IMG]
     
  19. Martice

    Martice Screenwriter

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    I am using the Sony TA-P900es preamp/audio switcher for my system. This unit has allowed me to get back on the path to rebuilding my 2-channel system with my HT system (which I enjoy but not as much as 2-channel) not coming into play unless it's time to play a movie. What I love most about the unit is that it allows use of the 2-channel and 5-channel bypass while the power of the TAP is turned off. The TAP itself is no slouch in active 2-channel mode either but I am going with the Creek OB-12 passive preamp for 2-channel with 'hopes' of retaining as much sonic purity as possible. The best thing about the TA-P9000es is that it can remain as the center piece of your system without affecting it sonically. Not to mention that it allows you to hookup(2)high resolution multi-channel players as well.
     
  20. Joe Wong

    Joe Wong Second Unit

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    Sorry for what may be a silly question:

    Does a stereo-preamp do digital-analog conversion for CD sources? As in CD digital out to pre-amp digital in? And then pre-amp analog out to power amplifier?

    What are some good stereo pre-amps for about $300? I'm looking at the Onix P-3000 on av123.com.

    Thanks!

    Joe
     

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