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Outlaw Audio Bookshelf Owners' Thread

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
A few weeks ago I received an email from the folks at Outlaw Audio announcing the availability of their new bookshelf. Since I was setting up a new theater, I thought it would be interesting to test a pair (or three) of these out. Since I am partial to wood veneer, I ordered three cherry speakers. They arrived a day later (one of the good things about living near the Outlaws) and were double boxed. They are packaged two to a box (not sure why, as they'd be easier to lug around if packaged singly), so one of the boxes had foam in place of the second speaker.

Workmanship is top-notch: the finish is furniture quality, and the cabinets are finished in what appears to be a matte lacquer. All sides save the front are veneered, while the front baffle is finished in black. The grilles are metal and fit into a groove on the front panel. So as not to scratch the cabinet, the edges of the grill that fit into the groove are covered in felt. This would also appear to stop any potential rattling that a metal grill might cause, while still making the grills easily removable.

Price for the pair is $1099 in cherry and $999 in black (which I haven't seen) or $1649 for three. I am a firm believer in having matching (identical) speakers up front and thus am using them as LCRs. This gives to me a perfect match and panning of action across the screen. Of course, placement will cause response differences (shelf vs freestanding) and Outlaw has tackled this problem with a rather innovative solution. There are two toggle switches on the back: one to adjust the tweeter level (flat, plus and minus 2db) and the other to adjust bass level to tailor the sound to corner, shelf or freestanding placement (flat, minus two and minus four db). This is the first time I've seen this much flexibility in a passive speaker (active speakers such as pro monitors offer these types of adjustments as a matter of course) but the last speaker I can recall that offered low end of this kind was the AR 10pi twenty-five years ago.

The speaker is a two way with 5" woofer and 1" fabric dome tweeter. The drivers appear to be high quality and used with and appropriate crossover (80 hz in my case) can play quite loud with 100 watts per channel. I had no trouble hitting reference level with for instance a Panasonic SA-XR57 and got additional ease using an Outlaw 990 and matching amp all in a 3000 cubic foot room.

Well, how do they sound? I'll post impressions in a bit.
post #2 of 20
I really like the idea of three matching speakers for the front L,R,C. Especially since most two-way horizontal center speakers have problems.

How are you setting up the bookshelf speaker for the center?

Is it the same height as the left and right speakers or is it on a shorter stand or cabinet to accommodate the tv/screen?

I'm curious to hear how they sound. Outlaw seems like a solid company.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
The bookshelf center is on a shelf right below the screen. It is tilting up slightly to be on the same acoustic plane as the left and right speakers. I will upload a couple of photos to show you.
post #4 of 20
They don't sell singles?
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ericgl View Post

They don't sell singles?

They do sell singles, but in a box that holds two speakers. So if you want a single you get a double box but in place of the the second speaker there is foam.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
As promised, some listening impressions:

I set the speakers on 30 Sanus Reference stands. They are about 9 feet apart and 11 feet from the listening chairs. The center is mounted just below my flat panel on the shelf of my Salamander Designs cabinet, which is open in its central position. Here, the bass adjustment switch worked to perfection, allowing me to attenuate the increased low-end response due to the shelf and achieve a seamless match between the left and right speakers. I've logged about 10 hours on them so far and have determined in my slightly live room that the -2db switch on the tweeter works best.

Sonically they are very neutral and transparent with an upfront sound and wide and deep soundstage. Subwoofer blending is excellent: the ported woofer of this speaker appears very well behaved. Without a sub, they sound rather lean and I sure wouldn't want to use them sans sub for movies, but for music you can get by without a sub (bassheads and organ aficionados excepted) but will be missing the bottom octave and half. Outlaw specs them to 54hz (and I have no reason to doubt their claim). Using a subwoofer though, frees up the midrange, makes the sound more fluid and of course adds the missing bottom that makes action movies and bass heavy music so visceral.

Imaging can be downright spooky on the right tracks: I was listening to Herbie Hancock's Possibilities and heard sounds way to the right of the right speaker. In fact, I had to make sure I hadn't accidentally turned on Pro Logic II, but was indeed listening to two channel.

I've run them through the paces using classical, jazz, vocals, opera, some pop and rock and they always sound good: even handed, not emphasizing one frequency range over another. Clarity is excellent and instrumental timbre spot on. Whomever Outlaw hired to design and build these knows speaker design and good sound.

For $1000 they appear expensive for what you get: a pair of small bookshelves, but I consider these to be reference quality with excellent pair matching and sound. They really achieve studio monitor levels of accuracy in a small, beautiful package with wonderful adjustability. I'd be interested in other's thoughts about this new kid on the speaker block.
post #7 of 20
Congrats on your purchase, and thanks for your impressions.

The current 'darlings' of the 5.25" two ways are the CM-1s and Era Design 5s which, IIRC are a tad less, I wonder how they compare?
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ericgl View Post

Congrats on your purchase, and thanks for your impressions.

The current 'darlings' of the 5.25" two ways are the CM-1s and Era Design 5s which, IIRC are a tad less, I wonder how they compare?

I've got a set of Genelec 8030s and Dynaudio BM5as that I'm comparing them to. It's been an interesting weekend to say the least. I don't know why there aren't many active consumer level speakers: it seems like an elegant solution to lots of problems.
post #9 of 20
Thanks for the unsolicited testimonial. I like doing them too.
post #10 of 20
Nice review Tony. Since you had three identical speakers across the front, did you try any multi-channel material (movies or music)?

post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Oh yeah. I watched War of the Worlds on HBO HD, Planet Earth on Discovery HD, and of course a bunch of music using PL 2 as well as Stereo. You know how the purists would react if all you did was listen to MC Music.

Three identical speakers across the front is the way to go IMHO.
post #12 of 20
Adjustable tweeter level and baffle step compensation are cool features!
post #13 of 20
Originally Posted by tonygeno View Post

You know how the purists would react if all you did was listen to MC Music.

Boy do I. The reason I asked about multi-channel is because I was curious about how well your centre bookshelf speaker was reproducing voices. Some multi-channel titles, like James Taylor's 'JT' SACD or The Beatles' recent 'Love' DVD-A, place the lead vocals in the centre channel.

Three identical speakers across the front is the way to go IMHO.

I think it's a good starting point, though the real goal is identical sound across the front. That's not going to happen, even with identical speakers, when the L&R are closer to the front/side boundries of the room and the centre is right next to a large flat surface.

Those toggle switches you described are a step in the right direction to getting consistency across the front soundstage by trying to compensate for what the room and display are adding to the sound from the speakers. Smart of Outlaw to include that feature.

post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
Last night I watched 24 at reference level. Dialog intelligibility was excellent: I was able to make out the various interplay of telephone and regular communication with ease. Compared to several horizontal centers I have had, I definitely felt it was much easier to "decode" what was going on in this complex show. Jack Bauer never sounded better and more there!
post #15 of 20
I received an E mail from Outlaw announcing a sale of their bookshelf speakers with their 8" LFM-2 subwoofer for $1100. That would make a potent 2.1 music system. $200 (66%) off of the subwoofer when one buys the Outlaw bookshelfs.

One wonders how this system would compare with a Dana system comprised of a pair of bookshelf 630's for $350/pair mated with the Sub600 for $650 for a total price of $1000 for a 2.1 system.

I am a fan of the bookshelf speaker based 2.1 systems utilizing a small subwoofer for music. It has many of the attributes that I enjoy in a music system.

-forceful bass
-compact size
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thought I'd revive this thread. The first Outlaw Bookshelf review is out:

post #17 of 20
Hi Tony,

Kind of off-topic, but how did you end up feeling about the Genelec's?

I recently auditioned a few pairs of them (in-store only), and found that they were definitely the "sweetest" sounding speaker I've heard. They have all the things that I like in a speaker purely for music. Prior to hearing the Genelecs, my favorite "music only" speaker was Sonus Faber. I felt the Genelecs did everyhing the Sonus Faber's did, but without being overly laid-back, which is my only criticism against the Sonus Fabers.

To put my comments above in perspective though, I definitely prefer one type of sound for music-only listening, and another flavor for movies. If I were to own Genelec, they'd be strictly used for music playback for their sweet, non-fatiguing sound. For theater use though, I think I'd prefer a speaker with a ribbon tweeter for the upper-frequency effects, to really give action sequences that extra zing and sizzle.
post #18 of 20
Genelecs aren't cheap but neither is good amplification. There's a lot of "pros" to using powered monitors and few "cons" that I can think of.
post #19 of 20
This thread seems to have been quiet for a while, but I thought I'd drop in with some user feedback. I've had a pair of the Outlaw Bookshelves and an Outlaw LCR for a few weeks now. The Bookshelves are not yet at their optimal listening height (still working on the stands), but even while sitting higher than I'd like they've done an excellent job for me. I've got some detailed notes on them here, and will add to it once I have my stands built and have spent some time with the Bookshelves at their proper height...
post #20 of 20
These sound like some great speakers I would be considering 6 of them in 6.1 setup. I would like to use a 70Hz crossover and biamp them using three MA-500 mono amps rated at 125W, stereo POA-5200 amp rated at 120W per channel, a receiver, and probobly not biamp the rear. My room is fairly small at 20 X 13.5 X 8.6 feet. I have four 12" subwoofers already. Does this sound like a good setup?

Do these bookshelves work well as surrounds as well? If placing them near the wall on some sort of wall mount, I could simply dial in the appropriate room boundry compensation?

I'm also considering, but am also not sure would work:

Ascend's CBM-170 SE
Ascend's CMT-340 SE Mains
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