Outlaw 950 experiences (interesting hiss issue)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dzung Pham, Jun 20, 2002.

  1. Dzung Pham

    Dzung Pham Second Unit

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    I picked up one of the show demo 950's at the Home Entertainment Expo in NYC a couple of weeks ago. I actually signed up on the reservation list in mid January, so I thought I would be getting the 950 soon anyway, but now I'm very glad I got the 950 when I did since they do not seem to have resumed shipping yet. Plus, I received a show discount and did not have to pay shipping, making it a real bargain.

    Anyway, my experiences so far have been mostly positive. My previous pre/pro was a Sunfire Theater Grand II. So I am actually upgrading from a far more expensive processor. My setup consists of the following:

    Main speakers - MBL 111A
    Center speakers (front and rear) - Mirage OM-C2
    Rear speakers - Mirage OM-9
    Subwoofer - dual SVS 20-39PC
    Amplifier - Sunfire Cinema Grand passively biamping mains
    Parasound HCA-855 for rears and centers
    Sources - Pioneer DV-47A, HTPC, Skyworth 1050P, RCA
    DTC-100 (Satellite), Comcast Cable

    The addition of the Parasound amp was made after I switched to the 950, so any differences in sound compared to the Sunfire TG2 might also be attributed to the biamping of my mains and the separate amp.

    So far, I've been happy with the unit with just a few complaints. People have found the 950 bright, I do not. If anything I find it to be a bit warmer and more laid back than my Sunfire. Both movies and music through analog bypass or through the DACS sound very good. I hesitate to say that the 950 is definitely better than the Sunfire because I had no opportunity to A/B the two but suffice it to say that I've been quite pleased after the changes. The addition of the sixth channel for surround tracks has really made a nice improvement in providing an enveloping sound and the Cirrus surround modes work well. The analog bypass is quieter than the Sunfire's (with a caveat described below). The tuner seems to pull in stations with less interference than the Sunfire, although I believe the sound quality does not seem quite as good on strong stations.

    As for complaints, the looks are very plain. When my friend first saw the unit, he had a sort of puzzled look. Basically, he wondered why I had upgraded to something that looked so much cheaper than the Sunfire. I don't really mind the looks since for music, I'm listening, and for movies, the lights are off and no one sees it anyway. The remote is poorly laid out in my opinion but I have an HTM MX-500 which I used to learn all the remote commands and that has worked well. Another oddity I experienced was that when I used my Monarchy DIP 24/96 jitter filter through one of the coax digital inputs, it disabled the other coax digital input. This is probably related to the fact that the Monarchy outputs a higher voltage SPDIF signal than normal.

    The main complaint I have is related to the hiss issue, which turns out to be rather interesting. Some have said that the hiss is related to the amp and speakers that you are using. This has been definitely true in my case. I get a faint hiss and even a little buzzing through all my Mirage speakers audible from a few feet away. It is loudest from the OM-C2's and is unrelated to the volume setting. From my MBL speakers, I get nothing. They are quiet unless I put my ear right up to them. The Mirage's have an efficiency of 89dB, while my MBL's are 82dB. I'm not quite sure how this would effect the hissing, however. The Mirage's are also on a different amplifier. I will try to do some experimenting to try to isolate what combination is actually causing the problem. Nevertheless, I can now see though why some people are getting the hiss, and some are not. It might be interesting to hear about what combinations are yielding hiss, and which ones are not. Perhaps a pattern will emerge.

    Another experiment I am hoping to do is to compare the multichannel bypass to a stereo analog preamp. I am thinking about getting a Sony TA-P9000ES at some point but am not sure how much of an improvement I would get (trading transparency for bass management).
     
  2. Sankar

    Sankar Second Unit

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    Very nice review Dzung!

    Would you happen to know if the unit you picked up was from an old batch or a new one (where the hiss is supposed to have been eliminated)?

    Another interesting experiment would be to try the 2 speaker sets on the same main channel (and see if the hiss level changes). I wonder if the hiss you are experiencing is also dependent on whether you are listening to the main channel or surround channel.
     
  3. Dzung Pham

    Dzung Pham Second Unit

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    Sankar, thanks. I don't know if I have one of the newer units or not. I did some more testing and switched some of the channels to the Sunfire amp. There is still some noise on the Mirage speakers but it's lower. So then I decided to play with the gain control knob on the Parasound. This did in fact, lower the hiss, even after I recalibrated the sound level. I don't really like this option however because I don't like having an extra potentiometer within the signal path that I don't need. The hiss is not really that bothersome under normal conditions but it is something that I would rather not have.

    I am going to try to contact Outlaw to see if they can figure out whether I have one of the older or newer units.
     

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