Having moved through the Labor Day weekend, we've marked the unofficial end of summer in spirit, if not by the literal letter of the calendar. That means you'll begin to find a chill in the air more often, and time spent all summer in the back yard will now be spent in the home theater. The Outlaws are ready to help you get the most enjoyment from that time with a wide range of home theater products. That includes the Model 950, which is now back in full production. We have all sorts of things in store for you as the season moves forward, so let's get on with the news. MODEL 950 NEWS We are very pleased to say that the Model 950 is once again in production and shipments are resuming. As most of you know, we decided to halt production to resolve a noise problem that was reported by some of the early owners. Although the problem was reported by a relatively small percentage of the units shipped, we felt that it was important enough to temporarily pull the unit from the market. As those who are still waiting for a 950 will attest, it took much longer than we anticipated to find a solution that did not, in turn, cause other problems. However, thanks to the hard work of our engineering teams in the US and Asia, and thanks to devotion of many members of the Outlaw community that were pressed into service to help us test some of the interim solutions, we have cleared this issue. The resulting product truly delivers on our promise to bring you the best value for a full-featured processor-tuner anywhere in the market. Since our first obligation is to those who already have a Model 950, we are now in the process of working with those Model 950 owners who have reported the problems to get them updated units. For those who are interested, they have been given the option of receiving a refurbished unit with the current specifications or having their unit repaired. The Outlaws are paying the freight both ways and re-starting the warranty to align with the receipt of a corrected unit. The corrected units have already begun to ship and we hope to have all the current owners taken care of this week. At the same time as we work with the current owners, we are also re-starting the process of notifying those on the 950 reservation list. We have already begun contacting the "reservationists" and as you read this some have already received their unit. Depending on how quickly the factory can provide us with new stock we estimate that it will take up to ten weeks to get through the entire list. Of course, those who put their reservations in towards the beginning of 2002 will get their units first, others will be at the end of the process. In summary, if you already own a Model 950, you already have the data you need to correct any problems you might have encountered. If you have been waiting for one, a unit built to the new standards is currently in production with your name on it. Of course, if you have been waiting for all of this to settle down before ordering, now is the time! For all the attention to the Model 950 over the past few months, the story this month is actually rather short. In summary: any previous problems have been corrected, those with units exhibiting the problems have an opportunity to have their unit replaced with an updated one, and those who have been waiting will soon have a new unit built with the updates shortly. However, we realize that there may be some unanswered questions in all of this, so we'll take a bit of space here to answer some of the issues under discussion in our Saloon and the various forums in the past week or so with the following "mini-FAQ" Q. What was cause of the problem that started all of the delays? A. The problem was caused by a combination of component value issues. Each was minor when viewed by itself, but the combination of otherwise insignificant issues occasionally stacked up to cause the problem of excessive noise on the analog channels when the volume was raised to the absolute maximum with no input source. When you combine the minor nature of each of the individual problems with the many variables in everyone's individual system, you end up with something that is very hard to track down. No, there wasn't one single root cause. Unfortunately, tracking everything down, validating the fixes and making sure that the fix didn't take break anything else was obviously a lengthy process, but we needed to take the time to do it right and test the fix both internally and externally. Q. How did you solve the problem? A. Given the fact that there were a variety of minor issues contributing to the cause, the fix was a number of adjustments. In broad strokes, some component values were changed slightly and other adjustments were made to avoid the introduction of noise. Q. Were there any other changes made to the product? A. Nothing major that alters its performance. As we've said all along, if a unit sounds good, it IS good. If it was in a system where there was a hiss issue, the changes will fix that. Some very minor upgrades were made as maintenance issues that all manufacturers make as running changes during a product's life cycle, as well as to allow for the integration of the fixes to the hiss problem. Q. How do I know that the unit I receive has been updated? A. The units sent to existing Model 950 owners as replacements will have a red dot on the label to indicate that the unit has been brought up to current design specs. ALL units shipped to new customers are new units and as such they are in full compliance with the new spec. They were built that way from the start Q. I've been on the reservation waiting list for a long time. Can you tell me where I am on the list and when I might expect to receive the notification that my unit is available? A. We'd love to give you a delivery date estimate, but since the list is lengthy and some of the items involved in predicting your place in line are out of our control. For example, we have no way of knowing how many of those on the list will convert their reservation to a purchase, though the initial results are that the conversion rate is very high. The combination of that figure and the rate at which new units are shipped to us will influence things greatly, and we'd rather be conservative and not predict a date than offer one and risk disappointing you. Q. What happens to all the units the original owners are sending back? What will you do with them? A. That's a good question. Despite all the rumors, the number of units involved is actually rather small. We will re-build those units and hold them in reserve for service replacements, review units and other internal purposes. Of course, they cannot, and WILL NOT be sold as new. Besides, we need them for other purposes (like a birthday present for the Outlaw's brother-in-law!) and have no plans to offer them as "B" stock at this time. Q. If I own a Model 950 from the original production and did not return it for a replacement, what will happen if something develops in the future? A. That is precisely what the FIVE YEAR warranty is for. We stand behind that warranty and will honor it as stated with any problem unit being repaired or replaced at our option. However, the current replacement program with pre-paid inbound freight is a limited offer and will not be available for units that have not had a problem with hiss. As we have said on numerous occasions, if your unit has the "hiss problem", we presume that you would know by now. Yes, it's been a long road, but we trust you will find the end result to be worth the wait. In fact, many happy Model 950 owners are already enjoying the best value processor preamp in the market today. We understand the frustration this has caused some of you, and for that we apologize. At the same time, we also appreciate the support of the loyal Outlaws who have contributed in many ways to bring the Model 950 to market. Both the Model 950 and the Outlaw organization in general are better today in many ways for all the comments and concerns you have expressed. For that, you have our sincere thanks. CURRENT PRODUCT NEWS The Outlaw product line is more than just the Model 950, although all the attention it gets may make it seem that way. Both of our power amplifiers, the Model 770 and Model 755, are in stock and available for immediate shipment. Our innovative bass management system, the ICBM continues as an important product, for as we survey the new fall model lines for DVD and AV receivers, we see that many players and most receivers lack the bass management and re-direction needed when using "Analog Direct" inputs. We pleased to see that some have even suggested using it in combination with products that are otherwise competitive to our Model 950! Helping to link everything together are our line of PCA, PSC and PDO interconnect cables. They are ready to ship to connect your system together! Indeed, As to the Model 1050, it is also in stock for immediate delivery. Thanks to its advanced design it remains a sonic benchmark for 6.1 products. In fact, it was just named a Recommend Component by The Perfect Vision for the second year in a row. Who are we to argue with that? New Product News Although the Model 950 has obviously consumed more of our engineering time than we would have liked, we are closing in on some new products to be released during the next six to eight months. As previously announced, the Model 7100 amplifier will be the first out of the gate, and it is proceeding on schedule. Custom designed for the Outlaws, it will deliver 7x100 watts (8 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz, less than 0.07% THD, all channels driven) with the remainder of its specs very much in line with the sonic performance of the 770 and 750. The initial samples are now being built, and we hope to have the complete spec listing along with pricing, packages and a release date in our next newsletter. Beyond that we have other products in various stages of concept and design, but it is a bit too early to say anything more than that at this point. We'll let you know what we're working on when we get a bit closer to the real thing. As a note on future product development, we are changing the way we recruit beta testers. To date we have publicly recruited testers on a product specific basis, but that required that we reveal a bit too much product information too far in advance of the release date. Thus, to make it easier on all concerned, at some point in the next two months we will begin the process of establishing a confidential database of those interested in beta testing. All interested Outlaws will be invited to fill out a Beta Tester Profile outlining the components in their system and their special interests so that when a product is ready for test we will be able to select testers without having to go through the entire data gathering process. This is a much more efficient way of managing tests, and it will help us from having to spill the beans off the Outlaw's chuck wagon about new products before it is appropriate. Yes, we know this will keep you all guessing, but let it not be said that we didn't learn anything from the Model 950 experience. Not having to constantly recruit testers will enable all interested Outlaws, while at the same time leaving the beta test roster open at all times will give everyone the opportunity to put their name in our Outlaw hat without having to worry about submission deadlines. It will also allow us to test products in advance of their release date without building anticipation too far in advance. A FEW WORDS FROM THE EDITORIAL OUTLAW The Editorial Outlaw's comments this month are a by-product of all the discussion about the Model 950 over the past few months. Like the rest of us, he has seen all the discussion about the various artifacts attributed to one product or another. Some might call it "wine word audio", as the issues involved in describing the way sound is heard are sometimes as subjective as the way in which wine or other types of food are compared. First, it is worth reminding everyone that the evaluation of an audio product is a combination of ingredients, with things such as system components, room acoustics, listening levels, speaker placement and other variables each having the capability to make an individual component sound one way in "Installation A" and another way in "Installation B". Add to the mix the variations in each person's hearing and then factor that what sounds good to some people doesn't sound good to others. Perhaps you might call the latter the "different strokes for different folks" factor. Yes, at a certain level you can bypass all of this by just looking at measurements, but even that has its pitfalls. For example, some testers and magazines utilize different test protocols than others, and that may explain why the same component sometimes tests differently with different reviewers. There are some situations, such as those used by some speaker manufacturers, where a carefully calibrated room and test scheme is used with carefully trained listeners in a "blind" environment to attempt to remove all the variables. That is probably the best way to compare audio products, but even then the results that are compiled are themselves open to speculation. We've seen (and heard) processes such as that at work, and it is a very interesting process totally unlike the reviews of casual listeners. But, at the end of the day, that doesn't mean that any one, single test routine is better than others. You have to use a combination of reviews when evaluating a product, but then you have to go one or two final steps further to make certain that everyone is speaking the same language and to do the best you can to remove bias of the reviewer once the product's identity is revealed. After all, when you know the brand and price of a product under discussion it is sometimes very hard to be totally objective. The reason for talking about this? We've had to do a great deal of critical listening to create the Model 950 and our other products. (Not to mention what all the Outlaws do on their "day jobs".) At the same time, a quality listening experience is what we hope to deliver in all our products and we recognize that particularly for an internet-only company such as ours, you have to depend on reviews not only from the magazines, but from your fellow audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts. That's fine, and we encourage consumer reviews not only in outside forums, but also here in our own Saloon. All we urge is a word of caution. Everyone is clearly entitled to their own opinion, and that is one of the things that makes this the fun hobby it is. However, we also want to make certain that you understand the variables involved when reading someone else's opinion. At the end of the day, the one opinion that matters is YOURS. It's good to hear how something sounds to someone else, in that person's room, with that person's equipment and through that person's ears. Is it valuable to get someone's opinion? Sure. But remember, as our automotive friends may say, "Your mileage may vary". Before making an equipment choice, try the subject component out in your own system, in your own room and apply the criteria that are important to YOU. After all, you are the one that has listen to it! That brings us to this month's book suggestion. It's not a pot-boiler that will keep you up all night or one of the historic works that we favor. Rather, it's a tried and true classic that is very much to the point of this month's essay. As we've said, one of the important things about evaluating audio products is that everyone uses terms that are readily understandable. When you describe a component as sounding one way, it is helpful for the person reading the post or review to understand what you mean. One of the original developers of the lexography of audio is the legendary J. Gordon Holt, the founder of Stereophile Magazine. His "The Audio Glossary" (ISBN #0962419141) stands the test of time in establishing a common language for those describing the way things sound. We can think of no better baseline, and every audiophile should have a copy on the shelf. That's it for this month. It's nice to have some good news and we hope that you all enjoy the fall season. Don't forget to step outside the home theater once in a while to catch a last few days of Indian Summer or to watch the leaves begin to change. However, the Outlaws do allow you to avoid the outdoors and lock yourself in the home theater for critical things such as the outcome of the Wild Card races and the start of football ! Thanks and regards The Outlaws The contents of this Newsletter Update are copyright © 2002 by Outlaw Audio, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution or reproduction is prohibited. Outlaw Audio and the Outlaw Audio logo trademarks of Outlaw Audio, Inc.