Pro Amp vs. Outlaw Blocks

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Patrick D, Jul 11, 2005.

  1. Patrick D

    Patrick D Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2001
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm looking at picking up some amps for a new HT setup, with 7 channels. It seems like the following combinations are within $100 of each other, more or less, for B-stock:

    - 4 Crown CE1000 amps
    - 4 Crest CPX1400 amps
    - 7 Outlaw M200 monoblocks

    I've heard good things and bad things about all of the above. I'm not concerned about modding the pro amps to use a quieter fan, but I don't know how sound quality will hold up for any of these. These are for a new large home theater, so all the watts will probably get used at some point.

    Are there any other amps to look at in the same price range (~$1600), with >= 200W/chan. and good sound quality? I'm steering away from the huge boat-anchor 7 channel units (all-in-one-chassis) because I tend to swap components around all the time among different systems.
     
  2. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 1997
    Messages:
    7,061
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm not familiar with the quiet fan mod for the pro amps but two things that comes to mind are the effect on the cooling of the amp with the modification and the effect on any warranty once you do the mod. Usually very little goes wrong with modern amps and the only thing that can really hurt them (other than dropping them off a rooftop [​IMG] ) is insufficient cooling.

    I have one of those "boat anchor" amps (an Outlaw 755) and I agree that it does make for a large and heavy piece of equipment that is hard to move about if you do a lot of trading in and out. But it performs very well and has so from Day 1. I also have 3 Marantz MA-700 monoblocks (in fact they are older than the 755 since they were left over from the days that I beefed up my old Denon 5700 receiver amplification for the front channels - for more details visit my HT website) and they are still chugging along admirably (with one being a spare.) Sonically and specification-wise they are very close to the amps in the 755.

    The nice thing about monoblocks is the total flexibility of installation. Also, there is something to be said for total isolation between each of your channels rather than having any power supply sharing at all. The (slight) downside is having to rig everything so that the individual channels are switched on from a single source with some small amount of delay to prevent an initial surge on powerup.

    If all things are equal (sound is so subjective) my tendency would be to go with the monoblocks. They should perform well and you are poised for 10.1 or whatever else the industry throws at us down the road by being able to use a building block philosophy for your components, present and future.
     
  3. Andy_A

    Andy_A Second Unit

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2001
    Messages:
    477
    Likes Received:
    0
    the pro amps would be a good choice if you are somehow able to run them from another room. I wpersonally would not modify the fans in the pro amps. Another good set of ampss to look at would be the Audiosource 5.3 monoblock or 7 audiosource amp one/a running in bridged mode for 200 watts per channel. Depending on the type of speakers you are using, this would probably not bee a problem at all. You can pick up the amp one/a for arround $100 used a piece. I like the monoblocks from Outlaw but I think they are probably slightly overpriced for what you get. Good luck with your search
     
  4. Patrick D

    Patrick D Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2001
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0
    I suppose what it boils down to is the question of, "are all amps the same?"

    Watts being watts, the choice is made reasonably clear. Buy the watts you need in the form factor of your choice. That may involve something small (class D), it may involve something with fans (cheap class AB pro amp), and it may involve something inbetween (a traditional HT amp with a thermal-controlled "safety" fan).

    Having picked up a Nady pro amp for subwoofer duty, and subsquently putting some 23db fans in it (which helped the fan noise a good deal), made me realize just how beefy these things are. Huge heat sinks, the biggest toroidal transformer I've ever seen in a consumer product, and what to me seems to be a well thought-out layout. And yet, the bashing of this unit (for anything above subwoofer duty) is nearly universal, second only to the sniping reserved for Samson amps.

    I thought the Crown CE's would be usable, since Crown recommends them for 'cinema' use, and I would suppose the local cineplex probably wouldn't buy garbage (they reserve the ineptitude for setting up their expensive equipment, apparently).

    Then yesterday I saw some pictures of the innards of the Crown XLS amps and the Crown CE amps. Now, I wouldn't use the term 'Chinese sourced garbage' for the Nady, in terms of build quality, but the Crown amps looked downright cheap. Cardboard air guides, thin aluminum cooling fins, smaller transformers, and curious fan-mounting solutions (CE) seem to rule the day. Thus, I am now thoroughly confused.

    People with jobs in the (audio) industry all say amps sound different. ABX testing says comparably structured amps sound the same. The MSRPs of various units say amps are vastly different from one another. If amps are amps, then I would grab a few more Nady's. They are cheap, stack well, and I can run balanced cables to them and hide them somewhere away from where I intend to sit. If amps are not amps, then the Outlaw M200 seems to be the mere starting point for quality at an affordable price, and the prices thrown around in the classifieds at Audiogon (which resemble Autogon for some of the dealer-demo amp sales) are going to start seeming reasonable.

    Personally, I've only compared two amps head to head: an Adcom 545mkII unit picked up used, and the amps in my trusty old H/K AVR8000. I really wanted it to be different, but unfortunately, the Adcom pulled away with some more 'openness' (more of that dreaded audiophile lingo, I know) even on dirty old Dolby Digital sources (Lord of the Rings). The difference was not miraculous however, and I'd really have to do hard A/B testing to know the difference. And in a true ABX, maybe not even that would be enough.

    Nonetheless, with crap source equipment right now, I am not in a position to demo stuff myself. And I can only afford to buy these amps once. Choices, choices. I'll probably go for the Outlaws, as the 'safe' bet. And then when I get my good source equipment set up, do a reasonable test between those and the Nady. I'll have my thesaurus at the ready to chose new words for the awfulness of this amp, unless as I suspect, I'd probably not be able to tell the difference.
     
  5. EvanW

    EvanW Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2005
    Messages:
    233
    Likes Received:
    0
    ive never used a nady amp, but there speakers break like thin glass, though ive heard some better things about the amps, i have never looked at the insides of alot of these, though a large tarus ring transformer and heatsink look nice that dosent really mean alot, take car audio for example alot of subs like audiobahn have hughg 1.5inch wide high roll surrounds and only use about 1/10 of the surround vs. image dynamics(dunno if many of u have heard of them) have average size surrounds but use almost all of it.Or concerning cars u see alot of them, all chromed engine's ground effects, led's, all show and no go....
     
  6. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 1999
    Messages:
    6,098
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Katy, TX
    Real Name:
    Wayne
    Not necessarily. The Crown CE- and Crest CPX-series amps are rated using the EIA method (i.e., maximum power @1kHz, one channel driven), which inflates power ratings by as much as 20% compared to the more strenuous RMS method (broadband, both channels driven) that Outlaw uses.

    I generally believe that most good-quality amps sound the same – at least, good-quality home amps. I’m not so sure about pro amps, especially lower end models like these. I’m leary of using budget pro audio gear for any hi-fi application, since I’ve had some bad experiences there. I’ve also heard complaints from people on this Forum that the low-end Samson amps SVS sells for their subs sound “gritty” when used full-range.

    The Outlaw has far better THD and S/N ratio specs than the Crown or Crest; furthermore the Crest’s frequency response is given as having a +0, -3 dB window.

    Overall I think the Outlaws would be the better choice from a hi-fi standpoint.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  7. Patrick D

    Patrick D Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2001
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0
    Cool... thanks guys. One last Q. Would the Carvin DCM series be considered 'lower end'? I guess I'd just feel comfortable with more than 200W for future-proofing, but still stay under $400 an amp (2ch). The DCM1500 looks like a good potential fit.

    I suppose for future reference, just what would be the sonic quality equivilent of the Outlaw amps and their bretheren, in the pro amp sector? Crown Microtechs? Of course, I could be barking up the wrong tree here. There seemed to be a lot of excitement a year ago or so about how the pro-amps were fantastic deals and sounded the same as reasonably decent 'hi-fi' oriented amps.
     
  8. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 1999
    Messages:
    6,098
    Likes Received:
    33
    Location:
    Katy, TX
    Real Name:
    Wayne
    I’d consider Behringer, Samson, and DJ brands like Pyle and Gemini, etc. low end. I’d consider Carvin much better than those. Carvin does promote their amps as having top-notch specs, as you can see from their website, but as far as hi-fi use I can’t say ‘cause I haven’t used them. I will say, however, that the piece of pro-audio gear I had the bad experience with was a Carvin electronic crossover. Very gritty, added lots of coloration.

    I’m sure there are some low or mid-line pro amps out there suitable for hi-fi use – maybe even the Crown and Crest lines you’re looking at. But you’ll never know until you hear them. Just be sure and give them a careful audition before you give them the thumbs-up. It would be good to have a good home stereo amp on hand that you know and trust, for a reference.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     

Share This Page