Processor Shootout...Anthem AVM-20 vs. Outlaw 950

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Evan S, May 11, 2002.

  1. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    OK, I told you guys I would post my findings here on the HTF when I got a chance to audition the new Outlaw 950 vs. my present pre/pro...the Anthem AVM-20.
    First off, I want to thank fellow HTF member Patrick Sklenar for his assistance in the demo. We had a great chat about gear and HT in general and it was an extremely enjoyable 4 hours.
    For starters, here is my gear...
    Anthem MCA-5II amp
    Sony SCD-555ES SACD/CD player
    Sony DVD-330 DVD player
    Mirage BPS-100 subwoofer
    Paradigm Reference 40's (front L/R), Reference 20's (surround) and Reference CC.
    Anthem AVM-20 and Outlaw Audio 950 processors.
    Material used for the test was Moulin Rouge on DTS for movies, Stevie Ray Vaughn "Couldn't Stand the Weather", Alison Krauss "Forget About it" and Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" for SACD as well as Craig David's "Born To Do It" on Redbook CD as well as a GRP jazz sampler "Happy Anniversary Charlie Brown". Patrick brought his own material and will have to chime in on what he brought. I'm pretty unfamiliar with most of his stuff I must say. I know we listened to a little bit of the Corrs "In Blue"
    Gonna make this short and sweet. We spent about an hour with each unit...and the time in between was spent swapping cables and the like. I am not going to comment on multichannel DSP modes, or remote controls or asthetics or features. These have been beaten to death. I'm simply going to comment on bare bones sound...basically Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS for movies and pure stereo for CD's (using my CD player as a transport for both processors).
    I'm going to get this right out of the way first. People were a little dubious when the Outlaw was compared to the Lexicon MC-12 and they wanted a more relative sample. Most specifically to the Rotel 1066 and the Anthem (the two units the closest in price and most talked about on this board). I must say that anyone getting the Outlaw 950 in the near future is in for one hell of a HT bargain. This baby is a great processor. Not a great processor for the money...simply a great processor. It sounds amazingly like my AVM-20. In fact, there is no way I could tell the difference if blindfolded between the two units. If there was any difference at all, I told Patrick I felt the Anthem had a slightly warmer presentation...a little more full bodied. Take these comments with a grain of salt as there was no double blind testing done here and it really could be my imagination playing tricks on me. My girlfriend came in at the end of the demo and said she felt the Anthem was slightly clearer and more detailed, but that was something I could not dissern. Females have better hearing than males, but if there was a difference, we are talking percentage points here folks. The Outlaw sounded great for both movies and music. Simple as that. It was easily the equal of my AVM-20 in music and movie soundtrack reproduction and is a great buy in HT gear. Everyone on this board has known for two months that I rave about my AVM-20 and love it beyond belief. For me to concede the Outlaw sounds very similar to the Anthem is something I never really doubted, but am still slightly surprised by (I know that's kind of an oxymoron).
    So you are probably wondering after all that why I have decided to keep the Anthem, huh? Well, there are a number of reasons including balanced connections, easier multizone capability, time alignment for all speakers, adjustable crossover for SACD, better looks, increased bandwidth for Hi-def video switching, etc. I truly love my Anthem and after two months of having it cannot see myself with any other unit. With that being said, if the Outlaw had been released on schedule, I would have bought that unit and never looked back. It truly is that good, and I have no qualms saying as such.
    I got plenty of generous offers to purchase my 950 after this demo and will be going down the line in order to see if those who had interest still do. If I had a second home, I would keep this baby in a New York Minute as the heart of a second system with pleasure.
    Enjoy!!![​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. Vishwa Somayaji

    Vishwa Somayaji Stunt Coordinator

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    Nice and sweet review, Evan and thank you very much for that. You made a lot of outlaw owners and prospective owners very happy(including me--I am waiting for mine). It is natural to have that "what if" scenario and it is not easy for a lot of people to do this. You did a great service. Knowing how much you love your AVM-20, it is indeed a great testimonial to the Outlaw prepro.

    Thanks again.
     
  3. Robert Elliott

    Robert Elliott Stunt Coordinator

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    Fantastic review Evan and I am happy to hear it from you. You have now officially joined the Outlaw's side and can expect to be labeled 'an advertisement for Outlaw." Welcome to the club.

    Or maybe those who have belittled Outlaw will find the increasily pro-Outlaw comments from reviewers who are listening just to listen will take heart and decide there is no point in trying to smear its capabilities.

    It would appear all the theoretical arguments are falling by the wayside.
     
  4. Michael Mohrmann

    Michael Mohrmann Screenwriter

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    Evan,

    When I heard that one of the early testers (or owners, I am not sure which) commented that the Outlaw 950 had a better sound quality than the B&K Ref 30, I was a bit skeptical, having auditioned the Ref 30 in my system and finding it to be a very nice sounding prepro.

    Despite that, I found that the Anthem AVM-20 was noticably better in our system than the Ref 30. So, when you state that the 950 is similar in sound quality to the AVM-20, that seems to be consistant with what others have heard with the 950.

    Michael
     
  5. Patrick R. Sklenar

    Patrick R. Sklenar Second Unit

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    Evan,
    Again, thank you very much for having me over. It was a real pleasure meeting you and your girlfriend.
    The three discs that I contributed were:
    The Corrs - In Blue, 2 CD Special Edition - redbook CD
    - Somebody for Someone (CD2, acoustic version)
    - Haste To The Wedding (CD2, live version)
    Blackmore's Night - Shadow of the Moon - redbook CD
    - The Clock Ticks On (lots of brass along with the acoustic guitars)
    - Renaissance Faire (acoustic guitar, mandolin)
    - Mond Tanz (brass and acoustics again [​IMG] )
    George Szell & The Cleveland Orchestra - Mahler, Walton & Stravinsky - Stereo SACD
    - Finale (from The Firebird 1919 Version).
    I've listened to the tracks from the first two discs (redbook CD) on my Outlaw 1050 Receiver, on the 1050 in conjunction with the 750 Amp and on the 950 with the 750 Amp. I've also listened to these tracks in the car (Clarion dashboard CD player) & on two different PC's. Of these combinations, I find the 950/750 to be the most enjoyable (very enjoyable, actually) combination to listen to these redbook CDs. Listening to these tracks on Evan's AVM-20 & Paradigms ... very enjoyable! In fact, just as wonderful as when I was finally heard them on my new 950. [​IMG]
    I just bought the SACD player and disk last night. It's hooked up to my 1050 receiver upstairs where I will listen to music the most now that I have two systems (the 950 is in a dedicated HT). So I hadn't heard The Firebird finale on the SACD on a 950 until we tested in on Evan's. And since his AVM-20 was hooked up when I got there, I heard it first on the Anthem.
    As Evan has described, the two units sounds darn near the same. I honestly don't think that I would be able to differentiate them in a blind listening test. As he mentioned, his girlfriend did hear something. She arrived just as I was getting ready to leave and he put in a CD that she is very well acquainted with. She immediately said that "Yes, it is different." with a very solid conviction. [​IMG] I don't doubt her. I couldn't detect any obvious difference from when Evan and I had listened to it before swapping out the units, but it was a CD that I don't have and haven't listened to previously.
    I won't say catigorically that there was no difference. But what I can honestly say is that of the songs that we listened to on my CD's, which I have listened to hundreds of times, I was unable to detect any distinct audible difference between listening to them on the Anthem vs on the Outlaw. {shrug}
    In terms of DVD ... the only difference I could detect on the Moulin Rouge DVD was on the DTS track ... it seems that the DTS track of this movie is prone to going slightly out of sync with the image on the screen. The Anthem has the ability to delay the audio slightly (Evan explained that this was intented to all for delays in image processing when using an FPTV & external scaler). Thus the Anthem was able to keep the audio & video more in sync than the Outlaw. However, as I understand it, this is DVD is unique in this problem ... soooo ... is this delay ability a big deal? Not to me, but maybe to you. {shrug} Audibly, the sound was just clear and clean and enjoyable on both processors.
    I've had my 950 for nearly 48 hours now and like it. I've now seen and heard it back to back with a processor with more features that costs more than twice as much (nearly three times as much if you get stuck with list price). I've heard with my own ears that they sounded so much alike that I doubt I could tell them apart if I were blindfolded. While I really like Evan's AVM-20 ... I'm very happy with my 950 and don't feel any "processor envy" at all. [​IMG]
    Again, thank you for letting me come over Evan!
     
  6. Jed M

    Jed M Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review Evan. You have always been a class act even when you decided to get the Anthem. If I were in your shoes I would keep the Anthem as well just for all the features and on a more shallow side, how purty it is [​IMG] I am glad to at least know I am actually hearing how good it is and not being run by some Bose style brainwashing thing Outlaw may have going on. After the fervor of the Outlaws followers (which I now am) it can make you wonder [​IMG]
     
  7. Scott-C

    Scott-C Supporting Actor

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    Great review Evan. You've undoubtedly given some good perspective to those who are still considering the 950. And geez it does sound like the 950 is one heckuva bargain. Still, I don't blame you for wanting to keep the AVM-20. Despite similar sound quality, as you've pointed out there are feature differences between the two units. I don't think either one is a bad choice; it simply comes down to what is important to you.

    And, I'll bet you feel better knowing you A/B'd them!
     
  8. Jeff Keene

    Jeff Keene Supporting Actor

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    Thanks a lot Evan and Patrick!
    I truly appreciate your even-handedness and honesty, and the results amount to very good news for our hobby and for individuals alike.
    I too decided on the Anthem, for a lot of the same reasons you did, Evan. However, I am glad to know that I can recommend the Outlaw to my friends without reservation. [​IMG]
    NP: Norah Jones - Come Away With Me
     
  9. Steven Simon

    Steven Simon Producer

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    Well that's some excellent news Evan. I'm sure you love your Anthem, and it does all the things you need it to do, but the Outlaw is also a terrific piece as well, and at the price point, it's a no brainer.....

    Thanks for doing the compare!!!
     
  10. AVspec

    AVspec Supporting Actor

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    Yes, Thank you very much Evan! I almost bought a AVM-20 as I also really like the balanced outputs as my QSC amps have balanced inputs.... but like so many others here at HTF, I am always looking for "the best bang for the buck". My 950 should be hear any day now and your review just helps make it all the more easy to know the 950 will be spending a long time in my HT.

    And thank you also Pat for you comments on the comparison.

    Good stuff to read!
     
  11. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    Evan,
    Let me add my thanks for taking the time to do the comparison that so many asked for. That is a very classy act and you are to be commended for it. As a Beta Tester for the Outlaw I could only speak for its ability to compete with the Mega Receivers like my Denon and my opinions are well known here. Some of my fellow beta testers, whose credentials are very good, told us all that the 950 was stacking up very favorably with the higher priced spreads, yet some doubted that this was possible.
    Your test results show that the vanguard wasn't talking through their collective hats.
    And, for the record, I would still be grateful for your contributions even if it turned out that your results had shown that the Anthem was definitively better than the 950 because the goal here is to inform our members, not to snow them. I fully understand what you have to invest in time and inconvenience to set up such a test and run it.
    We all benefit by such efforts.
    And I fully understand your decision to stay with the Anthem. Given the circumstances I would have probably done exactly the same thing. And testing out the 950 was painless because it is a hot commodity and easy to sell from all indications.
    To all who can't make up their minds on this, remember you can do exactly what Evan did, if you have the time and the patience. If not, there are many fine pre/pros and receivers out there to choose from and nobody is twisting your arm here. But the more you know, the better you are able to make an informed decision.
    Naturally, I feel good that what I've been saying is being validated by others, but I'm not gloating, I'm just pleased. There is a strong parallel between this 950 experience and the experience I had as one of the early owners (not a Beta tester, unfortunately, because "SONY don't play that game") of their VW10HT projector. When I told people how good it was the general reaction was, "No Way! An LCD projector, especially at that price, cannot provide an excellent HT picture." Just as this time, as more of they projectors came into the hands of users they began to say, "Hey, maybe the old guy is on to something."
    History repeating itself?
    [​IMG]
    For those who, like me, rely on price/performance to make our common affliction somewhat affordable, products like the VW10HT and the 950, among others, are essential. To those with much deeper pockets the choices are much broader.
     
  12. Will

    Will Guest

    The Anthem doesn't have DPL II (or so I hear) but at least for me, I am finding the DTS NEO-M (on the 950) is the multichannel sound processing I prefer, for most 2 channel music. In other words, I usually prefer NEO-M over PL II-M. This applies to a 5.1 setup. I don't have 7.1.
     
  13. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    Actually, I was unimpressed by DPL-II based on what was very favorable word of mouth. It was OK, but nothing ground breaking and definately not worth the $300 upgrade that Anthem is charging. Now I am glad I got the Anthem when I did because I will only need to get the upgrade if and when I ever go to 7.1 so I can get DTS-ES. But until then I am very happy with what I have.
     
  14. Michael Mohrmann

    Michael Mohrmann Screenwriter

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    Evan,

    Have you (or anyone else with a 950) had a chance to try DPL II with VHS sources? I figure this would be the main reason why I would go with the AVM-20 upgrade. My wife and I still have around 150+ VHS tapes, some which will be slowly replaced, and some which may never be replaced. The one feature I really liked on the Lexicon MC-1 I owned, Logic 7, made 2 channel movie sources so much better than plain DPL.

    Michael
     
  15. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    Michael, I don't even have a VCR hooked up to my home theater anymore, so the answer to your question is NO. I was only testing it using regular digital cable audio, so I am not much of a reference point for you.
     
  16. Will

    Will Guest

    I opened up another thread here to see how others like to process 2 channel sources on their 5.1 or 6.1 or 7.1 channel home theater.
     
  17. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    The only thing I've really used DPL2 for with my 950 so far is when using my DPL LDs. I feel it improves the sound. However, this is a personal preference (as most of these mode enhancements are) so your mileage may vary.

    And, to be honest, with so many DVDs on my table, most of my viewing of LDs recently was to check out the performance of the 950 during the beta test, so I'm not a big user of DPL2 yet.

    And, the more I've used the 950 (over three months now) the more I'm finding that for what I call "no brainer situations" I prefer the mode that the source was originally in (DTS in DTS, DD5.1 in DD5.1, DTS-ES in DTS-ES, etc.) rather than trying to enhance the modern formats with other processing. The only obvious (to me) exception is listening to DPL in DPL2. The 950 offers a quick A/B comparison. When I listen to a DPL disc in DPL and then switch to DPL2 it opens up considerably.

    Also, as more and more people start using the 950 there is a much wider user base to formulate opinions as to personal preferences. With so many source modes and so many processing modes the number of combinations possible makes it difficult for one person to spend significant time listening to everything in every possible combination. That's where suggestions such as, "Hey, have you tried listening to X in Y mode" can be helpful in sorting things out to some extent. You may find a combination that you haven't tried that you prefer.

    My 2 cents.
     
  18. Michael Mohrmann

    Michael Mohrmann Screenwriter

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    RAF,

    "The only obvious (to me) exception is listening to DPL in DPL2. The 950 offers a quick A/B comparison. When I listen to a DPL disc in DPL and then switch to DPL2 it opens up considerably."

    This is good to know. As I stated before, my wife and I still have 150+ VHS tapes, several of which are still in "action". I liked how Logic 7 improved upon DPL, and I was hoping that DPL II would do something similar. I don't have any plans to use DPL II for music, but most certainly for movies. For me, the DPL II (and ??) upgrade for the Anthem AVM-20, while not a "must-have", is certainly something I will purchase when it is available.

    Michael
     
  19. RAF

    RAF Lead Actor

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    Remember, Michael, that all of this is highly subjective and since not all people have the same idea of what sounds "best" to them your mileage, as they say, may differ.
    At least the ideas presented here give you a starting point. Where you end up is entirely your choice, guided by your audio preferences and your other equipment.
    So many variables, so little time.
    [​IMG]
     
  20. Mary M S

    Mary M S Screenwriter

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    Evan,

    Just wanted to tell you thanks for "Open, Open, Opening" the 950. It was gracious of you (...and Pat) to take the time to run the comparison.

    Did not check this thread till today, very informative.

    Thanks again to both you guys for your time and efforts for the benefit of the rest of us!
     

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