Hopefully I'm the first to post this this time ... --------------------- Latest News From The Outlaws: February, 2002 Edition This being about the middle of the month, it means that we're right about on time for another edition of our Outlaw Newsletter. Only two weeks late? Hey, that's right on time! At the moment, the tempo has picked up considerably at the Outlaw's Hideout, and try as we might, it has been difficult to get these bulletins out to you at the start of every month However, we do want to keep in touch with the Outlaw community and if you'll pardon us for the delay, here goes… MODEL 950 NEWS Yes, at the end of last month's Newsletter we said that "…the next time you hear from us will be confirming the 950's ship date…" Well, we're not quite there yet, but rather than wait any longer it seems as though this is a good time to bring you up to date on our progress. Rather than hold off until the Model 950 is shipping, we thought you might be interested in its current status. If we held to that previous commitment of no new Newsletter until the 950 begins shipping you probably wouldn't be reading this at the end of February or in the first week of March, as that looks like the time frame for our initial shipments. Remember, as we've said all along, something might crop up to change the date, but at this point we really don't see that much is left in the way of meeting that schedule. The beta test is basically complete, but there are still a few items remaining that need to be wrapped up. First and foremost, one or two licensing and regulatory approvals need to be finalized. These are things we simply can't ship without. As noted in previous Newsletters, during the admittedly extended alpha and beta test process a number of things were uncovered that required changes to the hardware and software. Once those items were taken care of, we still needed to get final approvals using a production version of the product. This is an interactive process that takes time and often there is nothing we can do to speed it up. However, we are hopeful that we can push the 950 through so that there is no delay to our schedule. At the same time, we need to incorporate the changes (once tested and approved) into the Owner's Manual. That process is underway now, as well. We'll post the manual on the web site concurrent with the first shipments. Finally, we are experiencing a minor delay due to the observance of the Lunar New Year in most counties in Asia. In particular, our ability to receive the final version of the remote is impacted by the week to ten-day plant closures during the holiday period. However, we're optimistic that everything will come together so that all the speculation about "when" will turn to observations about how the 950 sounds. No one wants that to happen quickly more than we do, and we're doing our best to make it happen. All the major barriers and problems have hopefully been removed and as soon as our production plant starts up after the Lunar New Year break we see clear sailing ahead. A word of caution: We're going to produce the initial runs in very modest quantities so that we can be extra careful about monitoring production quality. In addition, while some units will be flown over so that we can get units into the hands of those who have waited the longest as quickly as possible, we'll eventually switch over to "fast" ocean freight. That means that while those at the top of the reservation list will start to receive their units within a few weeks, those who placed their reservations within the last four weeks may not get their 950 until some time in April. We'd love to get units to everyone at the same time, but just as we said we were not going to rush into production, we are not going to rush the production process itself. We realize that there is speculation galore out there about whether or not the 950 is for real. We also know that everyone is wondering how it "sounds". Given all the talk about the 950 over the past few months this is understandable. In the long term the answer to that will come from reviewers, and more importantly, from YOU, the Outlaw community. For that reason, we are about to release the beta testers from part of their confidentiality agreement so that they may comment publicly on their evaluation of the installation process, menu operation, and most importantly, on the sound. At their option, the testers will be able to comment on these matters so that a measure of balanced opinion is available until more of you are able to experience the 950 in your own system. Over time, the opinions of the beta testers will undoubtedly be supplemented by additional on-line reviews and comments. Given the incredible flexibility of the Model 950 we encourage all Outlaws to post their experiences in the "Tips and Tricks" section of our Outlaw Saloon so that everyone may develop a broader common knowledge base. As long as we have your attention, perhaps this is a good time for a few comments in response to some of the more frequent inquiries we've received over the last few weeks via the various on-line forums, in our Saloon and via individual e-mails: · The remote that will ship with the Model 950 is a modified version of the popular Home Theater Master SL-9000. It will NOT have the LCD display you are familiar with, but it WILL have all the other features including both an internal library of IR codes and learning capabilities, backlighting and the ability to create four custom macros. This remote is very popular and we thought that it would be the perfect match for the 950. We've taken some quick photos and will post them as time permits. High quality professional photos will follow later. · The 950 uses a TOTALLY different design than the Model 1050 and the circuits for the video switching and processing are completely new. The component section is fully capable of handling HDTV signals without degradation and the composite and S-Video switching is up to the level of performance expected in this type of product. As an added bonus, there is format conversion between S and composite so that installation is simplified for many users. · We're music lovers at heart, and listened to (and designed, manufactured and sold) "hifi" gear long before "home theater" was even possible. We know that you will be very pleased with the two-channel performance, particularly with the bypass option on all analog inputs. · Once again, we need to state that while we would have loved to include provisions for 1394 or direct connection DVD-Audio or SACD, that simply isn't possible for the Model 950. At this point in time there is no universally agreed to standard for that type of connection, and no decision has been reached on the means that will be used for content protection and copy control. We invite those looking for a more comprehensive treatise on that subject to read last month's version of this newsletter as posted on our web site. · We've tested the 950 to make certain that it is not afflicted with the bug that appears to be causing problems for some products using new DVD releases and Dolby Digital playback. Rest easy, that's not a problem here, although finding the correct software solution was partially responsible for some of the slippage in the 950's ship date. However, we felt that it was better to take the heat for a delivery postponement now than to find out later that the unit was not compatible with many popular DVD's. · Yes, there will be a "package" price for the Model 950 and Model 770. We're finalizing that now and will let each of you know when you get your confirmation call in the next few weeks. Of course, the "package" and "family" pricing will be posted on the web site, as well. · PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't e-mail or call to ask what your "place on the reservations list" is. To give you an actual number would also give our competitors an idea of the number of reservations that we have. Let's just say that the total number is well in excess of our wildest expectations, and we don't want to tip our hand as to what that number is. Once we start shipping and people begin to tell when they placed their reservation in relation to when they got their unit you should be able to gauge when your 950 will arrive. · Those who placed a reservation before the December 25th deadline will receive the "bonus" PCA interconnects with their Model 950. However, as clearly stated at the time, that was a limited offer and we cannot make any exceptions for those who missed the cut-off date. That ought to do it for now, so all we can say in closing is to hang in there. The wait is almost over and we thing that you'll be very pleased with the results. MODEL 770 NEWS Not much to say here except that the Model 770 is slated to go into mass production within the next ten days. We expect that it will ship concurrently with the 950, but please be aware that the two products will be shipped from different locations so that there may be a day or two delay between the time you receive one and the time you receive the other. We'll try to keep everyone posted on the timing once shipments begin. As with the Model 950, the demand for the Model 770 is much greater than we could have possibly imagined. For that reason we may temporarily be out of stock in the initial weeks of availability. We have increased the production quantities, but they may not match up with the requirements for shipment. Rest assured that we'll do our best to speed things up. In the mean time, remember to reinforce those shelves for this heavyweight, and be sure to secure all movable objects in the room, as this amp will rock! MODEL 1050 NEWS We've got an embarrassment of riches where the Model 1050 is concerned. Thanks to five consecutive months of record sales, it is possible that we may go in an out-of-stock condition for the Model 1050 at some point in the next few weeks. We do have new units available now for immediate shipment, and there is a production order in place for additional stock. We're hopeful that there will not be any problem, but the Lunar New Year plant closures may cause a delay in getting the units through final testing and over to our warehouse. Please bear with us if we temporarily run out of Model 1050s, more are on the way. In the mean time, if we do run out and if you can't wait for a new unit, there is availability of "B-Stock" inventory. If we so go out of stock we will be happy to offer one of these discount priced, fully tested units with a full Outlaw warranty as an alternative to the wait for a brand new unit. We apologize in advance if this inconveniences anyone, but the continued popularity of the Model 1050 is testament to its value. We are grateful to the Outlaw community for their continued support of the Model 1050. IR 1000 NEWS As soon as the Model 950 is in the air and on the waters we will return to work on our Internet radio, the IR 1000. It is close to complete, and we'll conduct a quick beta test before releasing it for production. We can't provide a ship date at this time, but we're looking towards some time in late spring. A few brief comments are probably in order about the IR 1000, also answering the majority of inquiries we have received: · Some of you have asked why there is no digital audio output on the IR 1000, and the answer is a complex one, having to do with a variety of issues. Some are related to copyright issues, others are related to hardware considerations. If it were as simple as adding a jack or two we'd do it. Regrettably, it isn't that simple. In brief, we would need to transcode the WMA or MP3 streams to a different format so that a typical receiver or processor would handle them. Simply porting the streams out to a coax or optical jack would not help 99% of the products used in home theater applications. · We're looking at a "thin client" version of the product that is capable of streaming files from computers for the future, but the current product simply wasn't designed to do that. · We chose to simplify the product by using a standard hard-wired RJ-45 connection and Ethernet for the IR 1000's broadband connectivity. It just didn't make sense to build-in anything else, as Ethernet is the lowest common denominator. For those who want to use HomePNA, 802.11b, HomeRF or any of the various Power Line connective solutions, the RJ-45 jack is your bridge to all of the different networking topologies. This way, we keep the cost of the basic product down and then allow each Outlaw to use the networking technique that is best suited to their specific installation. OTHER OUTLAW PRODUCT NEWS Our cable manufacturer advises us that the PSC cables will go into production when they return from their New Year break. Depending on their schedule that means we'll be able to start shipping them some time in mid-April. We've also ordered additional supplies of the PCA interconnects to assure that they remain in stock. We hear from more Outlaws every day who have discovered the incredible value of our interconnect products. Nothing new to report on the ICBM at this time other than that we are now shipping the Magnapan version of the ICBM for those with "Maggies" NEW PRODUCT NEWS In our last Newsletter we said that there would be at least three new products from the Outlaws before the end of the year, and that one of them will ship before the first pitch of this year's Major League Baseball season. That schedule remains validand we plan to announce one of those products before the end of February. Stay tuned, but remember no complaining about lack of advance notice. This one is going to ship quickly, and those of you who may have just bought a product in this category from another brand may wish that you DID know what we were planning. (Do you get the feeling that there are some baseball fans amongst the Outlaws?) A FEW WORDS FROM THE EDITORIAL OUTLAW Time is very tight this month, so we've asked the Editorial Outlaw to keep it to a minimum this month, but he won't let a Newsletter go by without a few comments. Here he goes: Anyone out there remember "New Coke"? The marketing geniuses at Coca-Cola thought that they could keep Pepsi at bay by changing the time honored formula for their core product and re-invigorate the brand.Oops!! It didn't work and they quickly had to re-introduce "Coke Classic" to go along with the "New" Coke. It wasn't too long before there was only one Coke again, with the "new" formulation fading away to oblivion. (Though it is actually the basis for Diet Coke!) Depending on how you viewed the situation it was simply an accident, outright stupidity or brilliant marketing. Many of those who suggest the latter went so far as to suggest that the whole thing was planned and that it was part of a greater conspiracy. Did someone say CONSPIRACY? Hmm, you mean just like the Outlaws announcing a product and intentionally delaying it to tie up the market and stall everyone from buying anything else? That's what we've read and been told. Oh, that we were that smart! Sorry to be blunt, but the Model 950's delay is the result of a combination of things. Some were within our control, some beyond our control. However, as has been noted here and in the forums, this delay has cost us an enormous amount of money and will inevitably have lost us a sale or two. Suffice it to say, neither of those things were in our plans. The most important single asset of Outlaw is our loyal customer base. Why would we intentionally take any action to upset that? Call it what you will, but we simply wanted to keep you informed as to what we were doing. Yes, we missed some dates. However, at the end of the day we will STILL be the first brand to offer a breakthrough product that has state of the art performance and features at a price under $1,000. If it were SO easy, where is all the competition? In addition, we do want to clarify the time line. Yes, we have been talkingabout an Outlaw Processor/Preamp for quite some time, but as we wrote more than a year ago, our initial plans were for a totally different product than the Model 950. They were cancelled due to one supplier's problems. In retrospect we're very happy with the way that things turned out as that original supplier continues to have cause delivery problems for their customers and they are a little behind the curve of leading edge technology. We -- YOU -- now have a much better unit at a lower price that we planned on two years ago. In a few weeks Outlaws will be able to hear for themselves how good the Model 950 is. We are confident once that happens, all the bandwidth devoted to the delivery schedule delays will be forgotten. Two final notes on this subject, after which we hope to put it to rest once and for all. First: Keep in mind that as was the case prior to the initial shipments of the 1050 we have established an advance reservation list. However, just as for the 1050 we have not accepted any deposits or taken credit card numbers and will not do so until the product is within ten days of shipment. We are Outlaws, not thieves. While the Model 950 was delayed we did not take money from anyone, leaving those who couldn't wait any longer free to purchase anything they want, from anyone they want. Freedom of choice is yet another of those things that makes this country great. We hope that choice will include the Outlaws when it comes to home theater products, but understand that we can't be all things to all people. Come to think of it, we don't intend to be. When you are contacted to confirm your reservation you will have the option to purchase or to pass. The Outlaws are very comfortable with this approach, and we believe that it is fair to all. Second: If you REALLY want to find out about conspiracies, the Outlaws recommend you read Richard Belzer's book "UFOs, JFK and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Believe" (Ballentine Books, ISBN #0-345-42917-6). We've read it from cover to cover and the Model 950 isn't mentioned anywhere! Otherwise, it's great reading even if you haven't seen Elvis at the 7-11 or been abducted by aliens. A brief Newsletter this month, but hopefully we've filled our promise of keeping you up to date. Look for a longer Newsletter next month, and perhaps some "News Bulletins" along the way. Regards, and good listening! The Outlaws --------------------- Sounds interesting. Let the debating begin!