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Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Serge Breton, Apr 28, 2002.
The gods have awakened
Bass management and the Outlaw 950
In the past week or so there has been a great deal of comment in the various on-line forums, as well is in our own Outlaw Saloon about bass management in general, and about how it is implemented in our Model 950 in particular. In order to set this matter straight, it is appropriate for us to answer your questions as to how – and why – we designed the Model 950 the way we did.
First, a few words of introduction. Bass management is one of the most complex parts of a multi-channel surround product. The enormous number of variables caused by different speaker types, different speaker configurations within a system and different personal preferences means that the number of possible options is mind-boggling. Indeed, Dolby itself has specified close to ten different configurations as to how bass management should be implemented. Add to that the fact that multi-channel systems are used at different times for “traditional” two channel listening, while at other times they are used in conjunction with the latest 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 digital systems. Finally, there is the issue of customer preferences: some consumers want every possible option, while others need the simplest possible configuration that fits the vast majority of “sub/sat” speaker systems used for home theater.
Our object here is not to debate, but to explain.
That being said, let’s start with our first product designed to provide an extended level of bass management, the ICBM. As you know, it was designed to overcome the bass response shortcomings in DVD-Audio and SACD players for listeners who do not have full range (20 Hz -20kHz) speakers, or for use in systems with inadequate or limited bass management circuitry in their preamps or receivers. Though it looks simple, the ICBM took months to develop due to all the things we had to consider: speaker types and driver sizes, and the decisions of the mixers creating the program material.
When the ICBM was released there were some purists who suggested that complex time delay issues would theoretically render the ICBM inaccurate and provide poor performance. However, our experience, backed by real world tests and opinions from knowledgeable industry experts and consultants told us otherwise. Though some would have had us post a lengthy explanation, we held back the urge to post a defense and waited for customers and reviewers to validate our product in real world applications. That proved to be the right move, as the ICBM is now the industry’s reference standard for flawless bass management. This was underscored most recently by a review of the ICBM in the current issue of Widescreen Review. Bottom line: the product performed just as we said it would, and the pre-release predictions of problems simply didn’t come to pass.
We now move forward to the Model 950. We designed the Model 950 so that it would provide enough bass management capability that most users would not need an ICBM, but note that we never designed it to BE an ICBM. Thanks to the use of both the new Cirrus Triple Crossover and an analog 80 Hz. cutoff for the 5.1 analog inputs, the Model 950’s bass management system is arguably one of the best in the world with accuracy and flexibility equaled by very few other products
Despite that, we now find ourselves confronted with reports of theoretical “double bass mistakes” when the Model 950’s 5.1 inputs are used. To some extent we could classify them in the same vein as the theoretical issues raised prior to the ICBM’s release, which as noted above, proved to be without merit. However, given the Model 950’s high profile and the fact that only a select few beta testers have had the opportunity to actually use a Model 950 to date, we do feel some responsibility to the Outlaw community to provide additional details, “straight from the Outlaw’s Hideout”.
First, the facts:
1. The Model 950’s “5.1 direct” inputs are a 100% analog, “straight wire with gain” type design with a permanent bass summing and filtering system.
2. If the rear panel bass management switch for the 5.1 inputs is “on” nothing below 80 Hz will be sent to the L/C/R/LS/RS (“Main”) speakers, while the subwoofer channel gets the dedicated LFE signal, as well as summed bass at 80 Hz and below from the main channels.
3. If the rear panel bass management switch for the 5.1 inputs is “off”, the “Main” speakers are sent a full range signal while the subwoofer channel continues to receive dedicated LFE signal, as well as summed bass at 80 Hz and below from the main channels.
For the vast majority of systems where “sub/sat” speaker systems are in use there is no problem. Simply turn the switch “on” and you get the advantage of analog bass management when using external sources such as a DVD-Audio or SACD player that does not have built-in bass management. No, not as good as a full ICBM, but more than enough to do the job for most people and certainly more than is provided for in 99% of the AV receivers or preamp/processors in the marketplace.
Where the great debate and confusion arises is when a system contains full range (or “large”) speakers and the user does want bass management. The Model 950 provides bass summing, which cannot be sidestepped, but it also provides a pass-through of the LFE channel, which is both desirable and essential. In fact, this is exactly what the ICBM does, although the ICBM adds the additional flexibility of individually selectable crossover points for each channel, as opposed to the fixed 80Hz crossover in the Model 950.
Given the almost universal praise for the ICBM, including a number of awards from the most critical home theater publications, we must presume that the design is correct. Otherwise, we most certainly would have had user concerns. Suffice it to say, we’ve had none, and the ICBM continues to serve as a reference standard. That leads us to ask an interesting question: If the design used in the ICBM, combines both summed bass and the LFE channel at the subwoofer output, is praised, why is the same design, when applied in the Model 950 being damned? It just doesn’t make sense.
The fact is that there is no standard for use of the LFE channel. There is no accepted injection level of bass or no frequency response cutoff. (Some mixers actually use the LFE channel as a collector for summed bass from the other channels because they realize that with today’s small systems there is no other way to deliver low frequencies).
The design choice we made for the Model 950’ 5.1 bass management system fits the real world needs of all but a few consumers. We recognize that there will always be customers who do not want bass summing, and there are a number of workarounds for them. One is to reduce the subwoofer output, although we never recommend fully turning it off. A second approach is to use the crossover frequency adjustment on the subwoofer and to as low as it will go. This would address the theoretical issue of double bass since the LFE is typically extreme bass when it is appropriately mixed in.
We have seen statements claiming that some recordings have LFE with wider ranges, and that further blurs this entire illusive area. An example: If a recording or sound track injects LFE all the way to 400Hz, or as in the case of the full bandwidth claims in some Chesky recordings, where should you send the LFE? Certainly, not a subwoofer. Our approach has been to identify the vast majority of DVD-Audio and SACD recordings, and most of them (and certainly the best), have delivered LFE in a frequency range below 50 Hz. The Model 950 beta testers have a wide variety of speaker systems including “full range” systems with subs. They have reported fabulous results with no detectable double bass problems. Their reports are posted in this forum and others, and we invite you to read them for yourself.
We realize that there are some of you who simply will not accept this explanation, but that reminds us of another hotly debated topic about the Model 950 that appears to have run its course, the discussion about a combined delay time setting for the rear and side surround speakers. Many complained that there would be improper imaging or a breakdown of the surround field. Yes, a theory. However, in practice the internal and external beta testers ran tests that confirmed what we knew all along: there were no differences detected. Even the strongest critics, who swore it would sound terrible, reported that the imaging and sound fields were properly reproduced.
The reality is that the bass management system in the Model 950 offers flexibility not found in any comparably priced processor or receiver, not to mention most others with significantly higher price tags. However, we also realize that there are some who would remain skeptical and take shelter in theoretical debates. Our suggestion is that you put theory aside and take the logical, practical approach: listen to the Model 950 in your own home, with your own system. Try it for 30 days and if you are satisfied with the complete bass performance in all modes of this unit, then of course you are free to return it for a full refund.
Yes, there will always be a very small (though perhaps vocal in a manner that is out of proportion to their size) number of users to whom the approach we took is not acceptable. That’s fine, and we are investigating a number of different bass management approaches for future products. However, most of these will involve higher cost, and thus they are probably more appropriate for our future products that aimed at a more “ ‘phile” audience. For the overwhelming majority of our customers we are confident that the path we took is correct.
We welcome the debate, but the proof is in the listening. We suggest you that you listen to a 950 as it is presently configured and we believe that you will be pleasantly surprised. You’ll have the opportunity to do that soon, as we intend to resume shipments of the Model 950 on April 29th.
Great news on the ship date, and once again, great communication from the Outlaws.
You know - this is kind of like a buzzkill though. Outlaw sits back silently, composes a great message that is simple, clear, and coherent, and with one shot makes the incredible amount of white noise that has been going on for the last two weeks look like one big waste of time.
All the speculation. Killed.
All the innuendo. Killed.
All the 'proper engineering' drivel. Killed.
Pray tell: What will there be to argue about now? Never fear - maybe we will just go back to the 'delays' theme that has run for months.
One thing I like about these Outlaws; They're nightowls as well. My kind of breathren and a simple message: listen to the damn thing before your 'theories' convince you some 'spec' alone determines the quality of the listening experience.
I'm not sure I understand. Here's a scenario...
Suppose I have full range mains and therefore don't want my subwoofer to handle their low bass content--but I *do* want it to handle my LFE and perhaps the low bass from the small center and surround channels. I can do that with a $400 Denon receiver no problem. Am I to understand that I will not be able to do that with the 950?
A simple yes or no will do. Please don't call me an idiot for asking the question.
Well in my mind, "all the proper engineering drivel" is not drivel and is not killed. I will tell you why I believe the analog bypass is not designed properly. If someone is using a sub/sat system, without question, you should flip the 80 Hz crossover switch to on. This will reduce the load on both the amplifier and the speaker since it will no longer need to drive the frequencies it wasn't meant to.
On the other hand, if you have full range speakers and flip the switch to off, why would you continue to send less than 80Hz signals to your subwoofer? It makes no sense to do that. There is no question that it will make an audible difference. The fact that Outlaw says that it will not make an objectionable difference does not change the fact that it should not have been designed this way.
And by the way, for me this isn't a deal killer. I understand that there are some constraints for a $900 pre/pro. I think Outlaw found that at that pricepoint, they could either have no bass management on the bypass, or have bass management but lose true bypass. I think they made the right decision in the end. However, I think people should understand that this could be a potential problem if they want to run full-range.
Furthermore, many people who have only "near full-range" speakers would not want to run a filter on an SACD or DVD-A signal just because of the potential for degrading the sound quality. I do agree that a majority people will want to use the crossover though.
Steve, the information above is only relevant to the analog 5.1 bypass input. So to answer your question, you will be fine for all sources except those going through the 5.1 bypass input. For the 5.1 bypass input, you will basically run all your speakers as small.
So from my understanding here, if I wanted the flexibility of an ICBM between my SACD player and the 950 I would be wasting my money? The message did nothing to clear this question up for me.
Jim, you would not want to use the ICBM and 950 together. If you need to use both, you will need a switch of some sort that could bypasss the 950.
the only problem i see with the multi channel input is when listening to recordings with over emphasized bass frequencies.
On good no nonsense audiophile recordings i can't see any major issue and if there is hopefully a macro can be set to automatically lower/mute the subs output when using the multichannel analog passthrough via remote control. The ability to do this will solve any issues that anyone may have. This would be essentially the same as if one was to turn the subwoofer off.
Outlaw April Newsletter
OK, we'll admit it. Quite a few of the Outlaws consider themselves pranksters, and we would have liked nothing better than to put out an "April Fool's" version of our monthly newsletter at the beginning of the month. In fact, we had just such a Newsletter all ready to go, but as you may have heard, we've been rather occupied for the past few weeks dealing with issues involving the Model 950. That's too bad, as the cancelled Newsletter had some fairly outrageous things we were going to send out as a bit of a prank.
What's that? Some of you already think that some of our past Newsletters, not to mention the events of the past few weeks, have been pranks in another form and that there is no need to exaggerate any further? OK, we'll play it straight for now even though it is against our inner sense of fun.
Besides, some of your fellow Outlaws beat us to the punch with some wonderful April Fool's postings on one of the on-line forums devoted to Home Theater that were as good as some of the things we were planning. In the mean time, a bit of not so controlled insanity has reigned recently both in the public forums and in our own Saloon as you all wait for the arrival of the Model 950. We have to admit, these have been tense times for the Outlaws, but humor is the best medicine and we're pleased to see that most of you haven't lost your sense of humor. That is a trait we greatly admire. (And some of you seem to have even found your ponies!)
Obviously, there IS some big news for us to report at this time, and it brings to fruition a process that began quite a while ago. Here's the biggest news bulletin: Depending on when you read this, we are just about to, or have already resumed shipments of the long awaited Model 950 Preamp/Processor/Tuner, and additional shipments will continue throughout the weeks ahead. With that as the tease, here are the details:
MODEL 950 NEWS
The full story of the Model 950 would take more room than we have here, but the abbreviated version is that after we shipped the first production units to customers on April 4th it became apparent despite the intensive test process the entire design and each unit was subjected to, there were two problems that escaped detection by internal and external testers alike. We judged these issues to be serious enough to stop shipments and production while we determined the cause of the problems, found the solutions, and re-verified the entire product.
With the resumption of shipments, we have obviously addressed all the problems. As a side benefit to the delay, the down time gave us an opportunity to update the DSP code so that the product that is shipping has the latest version of the Cirrus code for our DSP engine. (Those updates involve minor code tweaks by Cirrus to improve overall performance, though they do not add any specific new features.) We are confident that the units now on the way to those who have placed their reservations for a Model 950 represent the best balance of sonic accuracy and transparency, operated by a flexible and easy to use interface. Despite the two problems, even those who received the initial units back us up on this, as have reports from the testers who assisted with the interim models while we finalized the fixes. We are confident that you will shortly see numerous on-line reviews from Model 950 owners attesting to the impeccable performance of this product.
Of the two problems encountered, one was in the audio section and one in the video. The audio problem involved random dropouts and it was cured by a combination of software changes and a part change. In fact, thanks to the change needed to solve the problem we were able to make a slight improvement to the acquisition time during which the Cirrus processor reads the incoming digital audio data stream to determine which type of bit stream is present so that the proper decoding may be applied. This is a touchy area, and regardless of what we do there will some who say the acquisition time is too long or too short, but are confident that the current design is the best possible compromise.
The video problem was a bit more complex in that the number of variables involved made it a bit harder to solve to our satisfaction. The basic problem, involving the quality of the S-Video signal path has been cured. However, in working on that problem we re-evaluated the composite-to-S-Video up-conversion circuit. To be honest, we are less than satisfied with the performance of this circuit, but to remove it at this time would disrupt other aspects of the Model 950's control system. Thus, we found ourselves in a position where we could leave it in with less than optimal results, or remove it, but at the price of eliminating other, more critical functions.
After examining the alternatives, we have decided to leave it in, but we strongly recommend that native format switching always be used if at all possible. Again, we're a bit embarrassed to say that we are not able to bring it up to the quality level we would have liked, but to do so would have required the use of components that would raise the price above our target level. Since a small portion of the user population will use this feature, we decided on the compromise that would leave it there for those who wanted it while not cost-penalizing those who take the preferred route of direct, high-quality component, S-Video or composite switching.
Now that everything is resolved, the obvious question most of you will have is "When do I get mine?" We realize that many of you have been waiting quite a few months for your Model 950, and to keep things moving as quickly as possible we will continue to use airfreight between the factory and the US until the orders on the reservation list have all been filled. This is a considerable added cost, but we don't want to keep anyone waiting longer than necessary, and we will absorb it internally. Of course, this is an internal cost to us and it will not impact the 950's pricing.
We're doing everything we work through the reservations list as quickly as possible, but please keep in mind that the list is quite long and it may still be another 30 to 60 days before everyone gets their unit. For those who are asking where we are in terms of the actual list, one indicator for you is that the confirmation letter with ordering instructions has gone out to about 15% of the number of names on the total list, and that at this point we are still working on reservations taken in December. However, as more units arrive from the factory and we automate and adapt additional aspects of the order process, the number of daily shipments should increase dramatically.
To give you a clearer idea of where your individual status stands, we will release a schedule within the next two weeks that should give you a better idea of when you may expect to receive your Model 950 based on the date you placed your reservation.
In the mean time, those awaiting a Model 950 may get some insight into the way it works and the connections needed for installation by downloading the Owner's Manual from our web site. We encourage you to take a look.
Not to toot our own horn, but we're very proud of the way the manual looks and reads, thanks in no small part to the tireless work of the manual's graphic designer and a team of half a dozen Outlaws who participated in the writing and editing of the document. At the same time, it is also no secret that last minute changes to the unit had us working on the manual right up until the initial shipments began, and the early version of the manual contained more typos than we would have liked to see. Our thanks to the many volunteer proofreaders who posted their comments and corrections. Their suggestions have been incorporated into the "Version 1.25" edition of the manual that accompanies the product and which is posted on the web site. Please feel free to continue to send us your comments and suggestions by placing a post in the appropriate thread in the Saloon. As time permits, we'll add those to the manual and post updated versions on the web site.
(Special not to conspiracy theorists: There were NO interim versions between 1.0 and 1.25. We simply like reasonably spaced numerical increments between revision numbers.)
We also want to note at this point that a flaw in our reservation system made it difficult to enter the proper data for Canadian provinces on the reservation list. No disrespect meant, and we thank those who figured out that all you need to do is put in a valid Canadian address along with a comment showing your correct Province and Postal Code while checking the US state of your choice. We WILL ship Canadian orders for the Model 950 in the same fashion as we have for Model 1050 and amplifier orders, or for any Outlaw products. If you have any questions about orders to our great neighbor to the North, please e-mail us. After all, Canada did win that hockey gold medal, not to mention the pairs figure skating, so how could we give Canadians anything other than Gold Medal service!
For those who have asked about reviews, it will probably be some time before any appear in print publications. To be honest, we are devoting all available stock to you, our customers. At this point it is more important that we get products into the hands of those who have patiently (ok, and in some cases NOT so patiently) waited for a 950 before we get some to the literally dozens of requests we have had for review units from print and on-line publications. The reviewers will get their samples in May, which means that it will probably be some time in July or August before you see reviews in any of the magazines. However, we have no doubt that there will be personal reviews galore spread throughout the on-line forums, and we also invite Model 950 owners to post their reviews to sites that specialize in reviews so that others may benefit from the (hopefully) unbiased reports from actual owners.
We recognize that a product as complex as the Model 950 will raise some questions from owners. In particular, there have been a number of questions raised concerning the issue of bass management for the "5.1 direct" inputs. That is a complex issue that does not affect most customers, which includes anyone with a typical "satellite/subwoofer" type speaker system. Rather than take the space here to delve into that, please see the note from the Outlaws on this subject that is posted in our Outlaw Saloon.
Indeed, we encourage you all to take advantage of the discussions in our Saloon where your fellow Outlaws will no doubt be able to help even when the Outlaws are taking a brief snooze in our sleeping bags. Of course, we also welcome your questions via e-mail (preferably) or phone. Anticipating the increase in customer inquiries we've initiated another Outlaw staff member (see Housekeeping Notes, below), but there is still the possibility that the phones may be busy or that the delay in answering e-mails may be a bit longer than we like or you are used to. If that occurs, please be patient with us knowing that the delays are due to the time we are spending with your fellow Outlaws.
Now that the 950 is shipping, we would once again like to thank everyone who has hung in there with us through the past few months. Yes, there were delays, and yes we'll try to do a better job of managing them in the future. However, the end result is what matters, and we know that the advancements we have been able to bring you by delivering a high-quality processor/preamp at a breakthrough price is what matters. We trust you agree.
In addition to beginning shipments of the Model 950, we are also pleased to announce that both the Model 770 and Model 755 are both shipping as well. In fact, the amplifiers were available shortly before the 950, but we were holding back on some "amp only" orders until amplifiers were allocated to meet up with 950 "Combo" orders.
Since the batch production rate for amplifiers is slower than for the processors we wanted to build some inventory, and that is now in place. "Amp only" orders should now be shipping on an "as received" basis, and all "950/amplifier" combo orders are also shipping. Again, please keep in mind that even though the amp and processor may ship on the same day, they come from different warehouse locations and it is possible that they not arrive on the same day. Check your tracking numbers if you have any questions on that score.
Finally, if you have ordered an amplifier along with your Model 950 we would prefer to ship both at the same time. However, if your order for a "combo" was placed after January 1, 2002, it may be a few weeks before your complete order ships. If you would like to receive amplifier in advance of the Model 950, please e-mail us and we'll work out the details. Keep in mind, however, that when a shipment is split you will initially be billed the full price for the amplifier and the discount applicable to the "combo" pricing will appear on your billing when the 950 ships. In addition, you must take delivery of the 950 when your name comes up on the list in order to qualify for the combo price. If you cancel the 950 part of a combo order after receiving an amplifier, only "family" pricing, if applicable, will apply.
Amplifiers gave the Outlaws their start, and we remain very committed to the category. If you are looking for a high quality companion to your Model 950, or to any processor or AV receiver, we are confident that the Model 770 and Model 755 will more than fill the bill for you.
Like "Old Man River", the Model 1005 has become a classic that "just keeps rolling along". Sales continue to exceed our expectations, and we have stepped up production to make certain that the brief "out of stock" situation we encountered in March does not occur again. With six channels of high quality amplification and our Surround 6.1 processing, the Model 1050 continues to be recognized as one of the best values in the market today.
The ICBM is in stock for immediate delivery in both the standard and "Magenpan Special Edition" versions. That's a good thing, as a fabulous review of the ICBM appears in the latest edition of Widescreen Review, further confirming what we have known all along: If you have a DVD-Audio or SACD player that does not have proper bass management on the analog 5.1 outputs, the ICBM is the best way to take advantage of the sonic fidelity those formats offer.
Our previews of fall products from many of the manufacturers also indicate that it will still be rare for either DVD-Audio or SACD players on one side, or AV Receivers or Surround Processors on the other side to include even rudimentary bass management for analog 5.1 inputs. If you own. Or plan to purchase a DVD-Audio or SACD player and do not have a means of properly directing bass in conformity with the crossover points in your speaker system, you will not know what you are missing until you try an ICBM.
OUTLAW CABLE NEWS
Our PCA and PDO interconnects are fast becoming recognized as the standard for intelligently priced, high quality cables. To assure that there are no shortages we have ordered additional quantities from the factory, and all PCA and PDO orders are shipping as received.
The factory informs us that the PSC "Pure Silver Coax" cables will be on the way to us in early May and we will ship them as soon as we receive them. Our tests of the pre-production samples indicate that the performance is excellent, thanks to the UP-OCC solid silver center conductor and the "true 75O" connectors. Particularly for those who have made the investment in HDTV and progressive scan DVD, the PSC will quickly become an important link in maintaining the quality of your video signal path.
For those who have been asking, the 1.2 meter versions of our PCA interconnects will arrive in the same shipment as the PSC, so look for them to also begin shipping in early May.
IR 1000 News
Now that the Model 950 is in production, we are able to return to finalizing the hardware and software for our Internet Radio, the IR 1000. We have samples in hand, and one or two are already out for beta testing. The initial reports from the beta testers are excellent, and we are very pleased with the audio performance. However, this is an intensely software driven product, so we will most likely spin one more version of the main operating system before launch. That, in turn, will require a re-test with the beta participants.
Based on the outcome of the first round of beta testing, a determination will be made as to which features will be added for the initial product shipments and which will be delivered via a free software update later on. We'll also make a decision on when to freeze the final software, we are looking towards a ship date before the All Star Game. Hopefully a bit sooner, perhaps a bit later, but we'll keep you posted. Remember, there are a number of significant forces at work in the internet radio world, particularly with regard to the royalties broadcasters pay for content, digital rights management issues, "player" and codec revisions and other things that are much more outside our control than are the DSP formats used in home theater. We're doing our best to keep on top of this so that the IR 1000 delivers the value you expect from an Outlaw product.
NEW PRODUCT NEWS
As mentioned in our previous newsletters, we are committed to at least two additional new products this year, one to be announced no later than the All-Star Game and one that will be announced no later than the World Series. We're more than on track for both of those, and maybe one or two additional surprises along the way. We could tell you more, but with the Model 950 now out in the marketplace, we wondered "What will everyone have to talk about in the forums without the 950 grousing?" For that reason and other more serious issues having to do with non-disclosure agreements we're sorry, but you'll have to keep guessing for now.
Over the past year our sales have increased dramatically, and with that there has been a parallel increase in the number of e-mails, calls, faxes, forum postings, courier pigeon message drops and other forms of communications from the public in general and our Outlaw family members in particular. While there are many Outlaws behind the scenes, Jamen Towle and Scott Jackson are the public faces of Outlaw, and nowhere in the our industry - or in any other - are there two people who work harder or with more devotion to customers than Jamen and Scott.
However, the sheer number of incoming messages, particularly for Customer Service has grown to the point where even the best in the business have only so many hours in the day. Seeing the need, we have initiated a new member of the Outlaw Band, Mike Sandock, who is working with Scott to continue our tradition of world-class customer service. Mike has an extensive background in customer service, and some of you may have already seen his name on replies from Outlaw. Please join us in welcoming Mike to the Outlaw family.
A FEW WORDS FROM THE EDITORIAL OUTLAW
And, to be honest, only a few words this month. As part of the team that worked day and night on the Model 950 he's a bit tired this month. However, as you would expect, he's never at a loss for at least a word or two and there is usually something he needs to get off his chest, even as the rest of the Outlaws scowl at him:
If the famous desk plaque on President Truman's desk read "The Buck Stops Here", we want the one on our desks to read "Damned if you DO, Damned if you DON'T". Due to the Internet-based business model of our company, that's the problem we face daily, particularly where new product introductions are concerned. Those with long memories may remember that we were well on our way to the market two years ago with a product that was much different from the Model 950. We had to cancel the project due to our lack of confidence in the supplier's ability to deliver the product we designed, and in 20/20 hindsight we're VERY glad we did. As evidenced by the other industry players who kept with that supplier, the problems we have encountered with the Model 950 pale by comparison to what we would have had with the original product. We kept no secrets about the problems encountered there, and we tried to do the same with the trials and tribulations of the Model 950.
Now, in retrospect, we can now look back and say, "Did we do the right thing? Did we provide too much information or too little? Should we have sent out more newsletters and e-mails, or should we have simply left everything alone until the day before we were ready to ship?" Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion on this one, and living in the glass house of the Internet we've heard more than a few of those opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on deciding if the path we took was right or wrong, but at the end of the day the truth, as always, probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Rather than over analyze what has gone in the past, we will stand by what has been guiding us all along: it is the product and the value it represents that tells the story. We'll do our best to keep you informed, but if we need to delay something to make certain that the product we ship is the product we WANT to ship, we'll delay and take the resulting flames any day of the week. Let those who do case studies in business schools evaluate the rest, or wait for the Editorial Outlaw's "The Outlaw Story" to hit the bookstore shelves with the "tell-all" inside scoop.
As you form your own opinion on this subject, keep in mind that we do take all of your comments to heart. We read and respect all the comments sent our way or directed towards us in the forums. Quite frankly, we can't think of any other company in our industry that allows as much participation in the planning of our products and the conduct of our business through the solicitation and consideration of public comment as does Outlaw. We conduct beta tests with real (and uncompensated) home theater enthusiasts, we take note of the comments in all the major forums, and we even provide our own Saloon as a place for you to let us know what you think. And, remember that as harsh as some of the comments in the Saloon have been, we've never deleted an unfavorable one from our own web site. Can you think of any other company that allows that?
At the end of the day, the past few months have been interesting, to say the least. We've learned more than we thought we would, and we hope that both our supporters as well as the doubters and conspiracy theorists will also sit back, evaluate the total picture, and then let it be and move forward in a positive direction.
One more thought on some comments we've seen from time to time over the past few months. While as a private company we do not reveal our financial or sales records, we also feel that it is worth taking a moment to squelch any speculation (or, perhaps wishful thinking from the competition?) about the health of Outlaw. Contrary that the fate that has befallen all too many of the on-line ventures that came and went over the past twenty-four months, we're profitable and very able to support the growth of our business. Any rumors you hear or postings you see that suggest anything to the contrary are misleading and false. When we are temporarily out of stock on any product it is not because we can't buy more, but rather because sales out ran our suppliers' ability to make things as fast as the orders come in while maintaining a JIT style inventory.
There are enough things in this world to worry about. The financial stability of Outlaw is one less thing you need to concern yourself with. We have no plans or no need to sell shares or go public and we intend to be around for a very long time.
Some final thoughts and passings:
We were so involved in getting the Model 950 ready for market last month that we failed to acknowledge the passing of one of the true pioneers in our industry, Henry Kloss. Virtually all of the Outlaws had met Henry at one time or another, many of us worked for him and some of us were privileged to be able to call him a personal friend. In fact, Henry and his wife Jackie were frequent guests at one of the Outlaw's annual New Year's Day industry brunches. At those parties, you could always tell where Henry was standing. There would be a small crowd of admirers (and competitors) gathered around him debating what would be the industry's next "big product" Be it speakers, audio electronics or video, the genius of Henry Kloss influenced the look, feel and sound of the audio/video industry in a way that few others have. From the many homes still using AR 3 speakers, original Advent speakers, and even a Novabeam or two; to the Advent Model 300 receiver in one Outlaw's bedroom or the Model 88 table radio in another Outlaw's kitchen Henry's influence and guiding spirit continues to felt around the world on a daily basis.
There is an even closer connection between Henry Kloss and the Outlaws that we've never spoken about. While Henry was developing his famous new table radio, we were developing the Model 750 power amplifier and formulating our business approach for Outlaw. Henry and one of the founding Outlaws spent an afternoon together discussing marketing strategies. At one point, both actually considered the possibility of offering the radio as an Outlaw product. Unfortunately, the production numbers that he needed to justify tooling and development were way beyond what the Outlaws were capable of executing as a start-up company. After we started Outlaw, Henry always stayed in touch to see how things were going. (After all, we were executing an updated approach to what he had originally done when he started Cambridge Soundworks).
We will miss the ability to bounce ideas off a master designer, engineer and marketer, and we'll miss the value of a friend in the truest sense. They simply don't make 'em like Henry Kloss anymore. The Outlaws can only aspire to continue the work of Henry Kloss in their own way.
One other sad passing last month was Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver, Jr. While Henry Kloss was developing products to receive audio and video programming, Pat Weaver was developing that programming you used watched and listed to. You no doubt heard about his genius in crystallizing the idea for shows such as Today, Tonight and Wide, Wide, World, but he was also a key player in the move from agency or company sponsorship of programs to the "spot" based model in use around the world today and the development of talk and news radio.
While the Outlaw's book recommendations might not generate the sales of Oprah's book club, with its demise we will continue to feature a book or two to serve as a diversion from home theater. In memory of Pat Weaver we particularly suggest his incisive memoir "The Best Seat in the House" (ISBN 0-679-40835-5). It may be hard to locate, but if you see a copy grab it. (Sorry, we're not giving up ours. This is a classic.) This compelling work provides a first hand account of the both the "Golden Years" of radio and television as well as a look into how today's broadcasting business was formed.
If you can't find that book, an interesting and more readily available diversion is "Morning", by W.D. Wetherell (ISBN 0-375-42088-6). Where last month's suggestion (Blackout) is a murder mystery playing off today's HDTV developments, Morning is set in the time when Today was first aired. A work of fiction, it never the less correctly mirrors the times and personalities that Pat Weaver must have dealt with when launching new programming concepts. Morning isn't as much of a "who done it" as it is a "why did they do it?" A great read.
Forget about surround modes, delay times, or amplifier power for a minute and remember why you bought the damn stuff in the first place: to enjoy the movies and music. Light up that Model 1050 or Model 950/Model 770 combo, put on some great music, curl up with one of our book selections or another of your choice (or, even better, with your significant other), and lift a glass of your favorite beverage to honor those such as Henry Kloss and Pat Weaver who have come before us to make possible the things we should simply sit back and enjoy!
Thanks and regards
Does this mean that when using 2 channel stereo and the speakers set to large, all the bass signal is sent to the mains and there is no information being sent to the sub?
So, how many of you used receivers that had a Mains+sub sub-out option? This is the infamous "double-bass" just like the Outlaws Always-On implementation for 2-channel analog-bypass.
Who tried it and liked it? I know the two receivers I tried with that option just produced too much bass with that setup option (and it was boomy).
So why would the Outlaws design sound any different?
Just looking for others experiences with these setup options.
In the final version of the 950, how do you easily switch between normal 7.1 with a sub, on one hand, and analog pass-through with no sub, on the other?
I have a situation that I hope the ICBM would help out. My pre/pro has limited bass management in that it doesn't allow the sub to play while the speakers are set to large in stereo mode. It'll allow sub+large in digital mode but not in 2-channel analog. What configuration could I use to allow me to play my sub during 2-channel playback in analog(direct)mode.
Does this answer the question on bass management when using the two-channel CD player input? Hmmm.
I've merged two threads - one regarding the Outlaw April Newsletter and another regarding Outlaw's official response on the Bass Management into this one area to avoid the inevitable duplication and confusion.
If you feel that there is some topic that would really be better served by starting its own thread then feel free to do so. But let's not have a plethora of "Outlaw" threads which essentially cover the same ground here.
Thank you for understanding.
(There have been enough claims of duplicity here. We don't want to add "duplication" to the charges as well).