Monday, August 17, 2020

Outlaw Audio Model 7000X 7 Channel Home Theater Amplifier Review

When it comes to speakers, they all need power. All power, however, is not created equal. If you’re on a budget, sure you can use an A/V receiver with its built-in amplifier to power your speakers. But if you want the best sound out of your speakers, the best route to go is with a separate, dedicated amplifier. Unfortunately, separate amplifiers can be rather pricy. There are options, though. If you are an audiophile on a budget, one of the best names out there for separate amplifiers is Outlaw Audio. Up for review today is one of their 7 channel home theater amplifiers, the Outlaw Amplifier Model 7000X.

Why the need for a separate amplifier, you may ask, when an A/V receiver already have a built-in amp? It’s all based on quality. A tweeter is fairly easy to drive, and so is a midrange. Woofers, or bass frequencies, are harder to drive. For those, it’s better to have power. Also, the more power you have on tap the better you’re able to control the motor of any particular driver. I like to use the analogy of horsepower and torque. You can have a Honda Civic SI with a 180-horsepower engine tweaked up to over 300 horsepower with a turbo charger. But even though you might have 300 horsepower on tap, you still don’t want to tow an RV with it. For that, you need torque. You need muscle behind the power. To really control your speaker and get the output and dynamics they are capable of you need power, like torque. So sure, you can power a speaker with an A/V receiver, but to get the best sound, a separate amplifier is the way to go.

Another issue is the impedance of your speakers. If you have 4ohm speakers I would be extremely hesitance to power them with an A/V receiver. Some A/V receivers may claim they can handle that low of a load, you would be reducing the lifespan of your receiver because of the strain the amp would be under. It may work short term, but the safer bet would be to get a separate amplifier in short order.

Features and specs:
Crosstalk: Greater than -70dB from 20Hz – 20kHz
Frequency Response: 20Hz -20kHz +/- 0.5 dB at rated output (130W)
Input Impedance: 40KOhms
Input Sensitivity: 1.2 Volts
Intermodulation Distortion: Less than 0.05% from 250mV to full rated output (130W)
Power Bandwidth: 5Hz - 54kHz +0/-3 dB
Power Output: 200 watts RMS x 7 into 4 ohms (from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.06% total harmonic distortion, A-weighted filter)
Power Output: 130 watts RMS x 7 (all channels driven simultaneously into 8 ohms from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.03% total harmonic distortion, A-weighted filter)
Voltage Gain: 28dB

The Outlaw Audio Model 7000X came shipped in a standard cardboard box with image and specs printed on the packaging. In fact, it came double boxed to help protect the amp. Opening the box revealed a well protected amplifier held in place by custom molded Styrofoam.  And make sure you practice safe lifting. Weighing in at more than 60 pounds, this amp is a beast! Materials used in construction was almost all metal, with a little bit of plastic in the speaker wire connectors in the back. Quality of materials used as well as the fit and finish, was very good. While Outlaw Audio has sourced the build to overseas to cut the cost and pass those savings on to you, it’s still proving to be a solid, well built product. The connections appeared to be well put together with really tight tolerances. Terminals at the rear felt very solid and having the option of RCA as well as XLR connectors for your inputs at this price point of under $1000 is phenomenal! And for those who are looking to upgrade their gear, it’s a great amp as you don’t need XLR’s in order to use it. But if you plan to upgrade to a separate preamp in the future, you will be able to utilize the connectors at that time. This means it’s also a great amp to grow with.

In turns of power, Outlaw Audio also provides real world numbers in its power ratings. If you look at the power ratings of an A/V receiver for its built-in amplifier section you’ll see it’s rated at 1 channel driven and at 1 kHz. 1kHz is an easy frequency to drive and driving only one speaker, rather than 5 or 7 at a time, is also easy to do. Any wimpy amp can do that. But Outlaw Audio rates their amps and provides all of the specs for all channels driven and at 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. It also provides true power at this rating not only at 8 ohms but at 4 ohms as well.

I like the design of the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X rated at 130 watts per channel at 8 ohm or 200 watts per channel at 4 ohm. You get enough power that is sufficient to power all but the most power-hungry speakers. 200 watts at 4 ohm will sufficiently power even most tower speakers and will provide very good control over even a large woofer in a tower speaker. The front panel is a clean looking solid brushed black aluminum faceplate with a single LED to indicate power. One thing I would have liked to see different is having a single LED for each channel so you can see at a glance that all channels are functioning. The top and sides have meshed vents for cooling, the rear is for all of the connectors. You have both RCA and XLR for inputs for each channel as well as standard plastic speaker connectors that accept both traditional banana plugs or unscrew to allow for either spade connector or bare wire. On the far right hand side you have the connector for the detachable power cord, as well as the remote turn on cable that attaches to your receiver or preamp. All of the connectors on the rear panel felt really solid and well made. Again, even though this is an overseas product, Outlaw Audio seems to have a good QC on their product as it felt very well made and put together. Inside the amp, a large portion of the weight came from a massive toroidal transformer. Each channel also has its own large heat sink and four large capacitors to provide the instant needed power to provide the dynamics that we look for in home theater. Cooling for all channels is passive through the heat sinks attached to each channel, but the heat sinks do their job sufficiently well as the amp didn’t run too hot. In fact it only got warm to the touch. Connecting the amp to the inputs of my receiver was very easy as well as connecting the banana plugs to the speaker connectors in the back. Now that it’s all wired up, let’s see how it sounds.

For the listening test we’ll use both music and movies with a few samples for each. And we’ll be able to amply test how it handles as the front 3 speakers of our reference speakers are 4 ohm and the surround and back surround channels are 6 ohms each, so based on power rating, we should be getting 200 watts per channel on the front and 165 on the sides and rear.

Rhapsody in Blue- Clarinet had excellent air with excellent texture and woodiness of the reed. Piano sounded dynamic with excellent harmonics and naturalness of the strings. The bassoon had very good texture and depth of tone. Brass was extremely dynamic and silky smooth without being too brassy.

Mayo Nakano Piano Trios “Scabious”- Provided an enjoyment I’m not used to having with speakers and piano. Also saying that it is hard to recreate the full natural sound of a piano from a speaker, is a huge understatement. So, when I was listening to this piano track, my eyes got big and I did a double and triple take! How close did they sound to the real thing? Much better than I was expecting! The richness in the tone of the strings, the depth of resolution in the harmonics, and dynamics, I could actually hear the hammers contact on the strings. It gave me goosebumps!

Junior Wells: Why are People Like That- Vocals were extremely natural with excellent timbre and texture. Bass had very nice low-end extension. Drums had great impact and dynamics. Harmonica was extremely crisp, clean, smooth and dynamic. Cymbals were also crisp and dynamic.

Disturbed: Sound of Silence – vocals were nice and raw with excellent resolution and texture of the timbre. Piano sounded very natural, as did the strings. Acoustic guitar was very crisp and clean, providing stellar resolution being able to actually hear the plucking of the strings. The tympani also had very nice dynamics and impact, hearing the hammer hit the pad.

For you gamers: Sugaan Essena- Jedi Fallen Order- The strings on the lute were extremely crisp and clean, being able to hear the bow run across the individual stings. Drums had amazing dynamics and impact. Vocals were extremely raw with excellent texture. The sound stage was nothing short of holographic, being both wide and deep, I felt like I was right next to the band in the recording studio.

Ready Player One- Race scene- The revving and throttling of the various engines not only had excellent pitch definition of the bass and mid bass.  The stiff aluminum cones provided excellent control, for the necessary output and dynamics for movies. The resolution was phenomenal. Even at loud movie theater reference levels, the sound was excellent when the firework explodes to start the race, I could feel the cushion in my Lazy-Boy resonate! All of the tires screeching, and crashing, all sounded amazingly lifelike with the appropriate dynamics. And when King Kong is running to the finish line, you feel like you’re in the movie!

Spiderman: Far from Home- Ferris Wheel scene- The roars of the fire monster had real power and depth to them. The explosions were life like with dynamics and authority that made me question if I’d need to go to a movie theater again. At least I wouldn’t need to, to get movie theater quality sound. Spiderman shooting his webs, also sounded really crisp and clean. Even the cracking of the flames sounded like a real campfire.  This was also one of the things that I had noticed, the striking resolution.  I had watched this movie at least a dozen times, and the detailed resolution provided was easily noticeable without needing to listen for it.

Greatest Showman- Never Enough Song scene- The silky smooth harmonics of her timbre were masterfully portrayed in layers of texture. And as the passion builds and builds in the song, every note of her voice is remarkably portrayed. Even at loud movie theater volume levels, they shined.

I was very impressed with the performance of the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X 7 channel amplifier. The front speakers being rated to handle 450 watts and the sides and rears being able to handle 250 watts, the 200 to the fronts and 165 to the side and rear did a very capable job of controlling the speakers and made them seem very well controlled. Resolution was quite good and the bass had very good resolution and the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X controlled the motor structure very well for impressive dynamics that wouldn’t be able to be achieved by an A/V receiver. Even though my front speakers had much more headroom to be able to accept more than twice the power they were fed, they didn’t seem thin or strained in any way. In fact, it was just the opposite!  I was used to listening at a certain volume setting, and at the same setting with the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X being used, it was significantly louder by at least 40%!

The extra power however is not the best part.  I had high expectations for Outlaw Audio based on their reputation.  These expectations have been exceeded on all accounts.  Not only did the Outlaw Audio put out a lot of power, it did so with a lot of resolution and true to the source, with plenty of perceived headroom.  The level of transparency was more than I expected at their price point.  But it wasn’t just it’s transparency, it was also its musicality with a neutral sound signature.  The Outlaw Audio Model 7000X was also very musical.  It also proved to be very efficient as well, as even when playing loud for long spans of time, the amp just got warm to the touch.  It’s passive cooling system worked extremely well.  If you’re on a tight budget but still want the performance a separate amp can provide, the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X should be on your short list. At $979 it’s worth every penny and a bang for the buck that is off the charts! Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at Reference gear used: Onkyo TX-RZ920 Receiver, Emotiva BasX A-500 amp, RBH Sound SI-663R fronts, RBH Sound SI-760R surrounds and back surrounds, SI-615 in-ceiling height channels, Oppo Digital BDP-103D transport, Sony Bravia front projector, Elite Screens EZ-Frame screen.