Senior HTF Member
- Jul 3, 1997
O.K. I'll admit it. I'm a gadget freak and have my share of items that I purchase on impulse because they look/sound intriguing. That's why I have an assortment of devices piling up around here (Nintendo DS, Sony PSP - great unit but I actually play the DS!, Microsoft Xbox 360 - coming this week, Sudoku Books, Various iPods, Universal Remotes - my current favorite is the Universal MX-950, Digital Voice recorders, plastic toothpicks, etc. etc.) you get the picture. When I first heard about the Outlaw RR2150 two years ago I thought that this might be a great item to use to resurrect my vinyl collection. A quality two channel receiver with very few digital bells and whistles in a digital world. Intriguing.
As with most things Outlaw, the unit was announced well before the shipping date so I put things on the back burner. I'd had my share of cutting edge Outlaw experiences as a beta tester for their first pre/pro - the Outlaw 950 and I had no desire to go through the growing pains and countless forum exchanges this time, so I'm speaking as a retail customer, not an Outlaw "insider." But my curiosity was piqued.
Several years ago receivers and pre/pros (for the most part) abandoned the vinyl world and phono inputs were removed from most new products. After all. vinyl was dead, right? Except for old time "purists." Those of us who still had our record collections had to resort to outboard phono pre-amps (I use a Parasound connected to my Lexicon MC-8) and, while the results were satisfactory I always thought that using my Home Theater for two channel music was a little bit of overkill. Yes, I could get some interesting effects (Lexicon's Logic7 applied to some records actually produces some interesting sonics) but it wasn't exactly like listening to straight 2 channel sound. Besides, my HT is set up for movies and my vinyl collection had long ago been pushed out and upstairs by my growing videodisc (DVDs and LDs -remember them?) collection and HD product is on the way.) Like I said before, I really wanted a separate two channel system upstairs for listening to vinyl. Ideally I would get a two channel amp and some nice speakers but realistically I didn't want to deal with more large speakers (which is usually the way to go with 2 channel sound.)
As a stopgap my significant other purchased me one of those Crosley "record players" so I could at least audition my vinyl upstairs (and wow the grandkids who had never seen records - they think they are "cool"). But let's face it, a Crosley player doesn't really extract all that vinyl can offer.
A few weeks ago I heard that Outlaw was finally releasing the long awaited "Retro Receiver" Model RR2150 with a couple of interesting features. In a non-related matter (actually it all comes together later on) I won an Infinity satellite/SW system (5 satellite speakers and a powered Subwoofer) at a drawing at CEDIA and was trying to think of ways to use it since I already have two surround systems (main HT and and Energy system in the bedroom that serves me well). Then something about the RR2150's specs caught my eye - the unit has bass management for two channel sound - something unusual for two channel receivers. This meant that I could, potentially, avoid having to purchase (and house) two large full range speakers for my two channel system if the satellites/SW could handle the two channel spectrum. It was worth a try.
A couple of days and $599 later (+$35 shipping) an RR2150 was at my doorstep. This weekend I've had the opportunity to run it through its initial paces and here are some of my first impressions (in no particular order). I present them here as some points of information.
- In the first place I was impressed by the build quality of the RR2150. It has a "retro" look but is completely functional with lots of control, an excellent large(!) display, well laid out back panel, etc. etc. Rather than bore you with the details and pictures I direct you to the Outlaw site here where there is a wealth of information including specs, pictures, owner's manual, etc. Suffice it to say, it looks handsome and even better in person.
- Of course, looks aren't everything, especially in two channel audio. How did it sound? Let me tell you right off the bat that the bass management in two channel mode (the only choice) works as advertised. There are also a variety of configurable crossover points and the ability to bypass it entirely (refer to the Outlaw literature for more on this.) If I closed my eyes I would have sworn that I had two large speakers, not two satellites and a powered subwoofer! The main reason that I purchased the RR2150 was immediately justified.
- Next I decided to try a variety of sources including records, CDs, two channel SACDs, AM, FM and even my iPod. In every case I was extremely pleased with the results. Let me discuss each of these in turn.
- For records I connected a long ago shelved AR manual turntable from the 50's. Those of you old enough to remember this classic may recall that it had two speeds, 33.33 rpm and 45 rpm and that you manually moved the belt to change the speed. It was a great turntable at the time and offers tremendous vibration isolation. I still have a Shure magnetic cartidge in it and it passed the listening test with flying colors. The RR2150 offered absolutely no interference or coloration (no hum, no distortion, etc.) and I was amazed how good vinyl sounded - within the dynamic range limitations of the medium. Jazz, vocals, classical (large and small) - all sounded better than I remembered them. My vinyl lives. I'm now seriously thinking of getting my B&O 4002 linear turntable refurbished to add to the mix.
- I connected Sony's first DVD/CD/2 Channel SACD player - the 9000ES to the Outlaw RR2150 and once again I was amazed at how the $600 receiver performed - this time with the dynamic range that SACD offers. Breathtaking! Jacintha never sounded better.
- A pleasant surprise was the tuner section of this receiver. I was able to pull in more stations and with greater clarity than on any other receiver in recent memory. True, some stations were stronger than others, but I definitely was able to acquire stereo FM signals with more regularity than with any other radio in my home. I'm not quite sure what the reason was for this but I can tell you that it works. If the RR2150 had HD Radio capability I would be in nirvana. (I suspect that the unit was on the drawing board long before HD Radio was ready for prime time and I hope that The Outlaws will be adding it to the "RR2160")
- Now comes a bit of serendipity. On the front of the unit there is a "input" jack (stereo miniplug). Can you say, "iPod?" One quick connection later and my jaw dropped again. I've heard the iPod through some quality earphones and even auditioned some of those iPod accessory boom boxes but why throw away $300 (for the "good" ones) when they can't hold a candle to the RR2150? I realize that the music on my iPod is in AAC format so it isn't exactly "CD quality" but it sounded darn good. I can only imagine that higher bit rate MP3 files will sound even better. And I can't wait to connect my XM radio to the RR2150. Right now the RR2150 is situated in a location in my home that isn't "XM friendly" but I have an XM antenna repeater on order that should solve that problem. I'll let you know.
There's a lot more flexibility and features associated with the RR2150 that I haven't tested yet, partly due to time constraints and partly because I wasn't aware that they were there and I need to learn more. For example, there's a USB (Type "B") port on the back of the unit that can, I imagine, be interfaced with a computer and one of those music distribution systems. I'm not sure how Outlaw resolves the digital input into analog output but over time I'll learn more about this. And the receiver comes with a programmable remote which I've yet to use except for on/off, volume and mode changes. Additionally, there are tuner presets, two sets of speakers (A, B and A+B), recording loop features and some equalization parameters that I have yet to explore. But the bottom line is that the RR2150 is a very impressive piece of hardware and this "retro" two channel receiver may actually be ahead of its time. I'd be willing to bet that it would hold its own when connected to megabuck equipment - which is something that I don't have the resources to do.
I predict that Outlaw will have a hard time keeping this item on the shelves now that the secret's out!