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Yes, we know that it was only a week or so ago that we said that there

wouldn't be a November edition of our newsletter, but consider this as an

"EXTRA" edition. As they are prone to say on TV, we have LATE BREAKING NEWS

just handed to us.


As you may have ready, Dolby Laboratories has announced earlier today that

they will make their new consumer audio format, Dolby Digital EX, available

for inclusion in products such as surround processors, audio/video

receivers, DVD players, set-top boxes and any other device that receives or

plays back a Dolby Digital signal. This new mode has its origins in the

Dolby Surround EX format created for theatrical cinema applications, and

introduced in a modified form two years ago as a part of the Lucasfilm's

THX program. Dolby Digital EX uses information matrixed into the left and

right discrete surround channels to deliver an additional rear surround.

Manufacturers may implement the mode with either a single "center rear"

channel or with two rear channel outputs that take the mono signal and

create identical "Right Back Surround" and "Left Back Surround" channels.

(Note that the latter is identical to the way in which the original Dolby

Pro Logic system provided identical left and right surround channels from a

mono surround signal).


This new mode will be compatible with all Dolby Digital Surround EX

releases, both those that feature an automatic "flag" that indicates the

presence of the matrixed surround channel, as well as with non-flagged 5.1

releases.


The Outlaws welcome this announcement, as it provides yet another way to

precisely recreate the theatrical sound experience in the home. We are

certain that it will quickly become a "must have" feature for home theater

enthusiasts everywhere.


However, the announcement of Dolby Digital EX is great news, but also puts

the Outlaws in a rather awkward position with regard to our forthcoming

Model 950. You may recall from the Outlaw Newsletter sent out just last

weekend, as well as from our newly revised FAQs, the Model 950 is in the

final development and testing stages. The beta units are about to ship to

us from the prototype line in Asia and they should be in the hands of the

testers shortly. Things were looking good for production and initial

shipments later this month.


At the "11th hour" with regard to freezing the product's hardware and

software, we received the news about Dolby Digital EX late last week under

strict embargo until today's public announcement. Suddenly we were faced

with the need to make a decision on how to accommodate Dolby Digital EX.

Our choices were to either continue the 950 project without modification

and ship it without an important feature that will quickly become a "must

have" or to delay it slightly so that we may include the new mode from the

first unit shipped. At the risk of giving the skeptics among you a reason

to say "We told you so", the Outlaws have decided to slip the delivery

schedule by about three weeks so that we may make the required adjustments

that will enable the Model 950 to be one of the very first processors to

offer this exciting new capability.


We also know that some will say that we should release the 950 on schedule

and then offer the new mode as an upgrade, that is not a viable option.

Adding Dolby Digital EX "after the fact" is more than a simple software

upgrade. Next, those with early units would loose bragging rights to the

new mode the future, as their units would not carry the new Dolby Digital

EX logo on their 950's front panel. Finally, and most importantly, a

post-release upgrade would have to carry a price to the end user in the $75

to $100 range. In addition, you would have to remove a unit you had just

installed and calibrated, open it to change the parts, put the unit back

together and reconnect everything and recalibrate your system.


The more we looked at the choices, the more our decision became obvious. We

simply could not justify either the cost of an increase or the

inconvenience it would cause our customers. We'll take a few arrows in the

on-line forums for a slight schedule delay if that would enable us to offer

Dolby Digital EX from the first unit shipped at no additional cost to the

consumer. Taking the upgrade path when a better (and less expensive) answer

is less than a few weeks away would be silly. If you can't wait any longer

we understand, and we invite you to buy any other product that will offer

this mode sooner than the Outlaws will at ANY price, let alone $899.


So, to recap, here's where we are:


-We will include the new Dolby Digital EX capability in the Model 950 as

part of the basic feature package starting with the first unit shipped.

This will eliminate the need for a costly, after-the-fact upgrade and it

will enable all units to carry the new Dolby Digital EX logo on the front

panel.

-We will include Dolby Digital EX in the Model 950 with no increase to the

unit's initial $899 price despite the extra costs incurred by us to add it

at this late date.

-We are already working with Cirrus, Dolby and our software and hardware

engineering teams to integrate the code for the new mode into the 950 as

quickly as possible.

-Based on our current estimate of the time required to complete the

engineering work and submit the final unit for Dolby and other approvals,

we will not be able to ship production units by Thanksgiving. However, we

are committed to volume shipments well in advance of the "Holiday Season".

(OK, we may miss the first night of Hanukkah on Sunday, December 9th, but

we'll be ready in time for you to welcome Santa with a full 7.1 surround

demo on Christmas Eve instead of milk and cookies!)

-The beta test will not be delayed, as those units will test other aspects

of the existing software and the other surround modes. This will enable us

to fast track any needed changes while the testing on Dolby Digital EX

proceeds on a parallel path. The Beta testers will receive an upgrade to EX

capability at the conclusion of the test.

-As a side note to those who are interested, we are in the final process of

contacting test participants. Unless we have someone fall off the list you

will have heard from us by now if you are part of the test. Please remember

that we had more than 300 applications from home theater enthusiasts in six

countries for only five spots. Also, please remember that the beta

participants are bound by a confidentiality agreement and not to discuss

the test until after the 950 ships. There is a very good reason why you

haven't heard anything about the test on the forums: Any tester who

discloses their participation will be removed from the test and subject to

civil litigation for breach of contract. We're REALLY serious about that.

-One final note while we have your attention: Yes, we know we promised to

put some new pictures of the 950 up on the web site this week, but with the

arrival of the cables, a dramatic increase in shipments for all of our

products and the minor issue of the new format mode to take care of we

simply didn't get around to it. The interior of the 950 is complex and

there are three layers of circuit boards making it very difficult to

photograph properly. We're working on it and with any luck we'll sneak the

photos up somewhere on the web site this week, time permitting. Somehow we

think you would rather that we tend to the more important aspects of the

business right now.


Oh, that we had known about this a few weeks ago. No, we didn't plan this

as a crafty way to delay the 950's introduction. Quite honestly, we've had

to scramble and call in all sorts of favors to keep as close to the

original schedule as we can. We are spending considerable sums on overtime

for engineering teams that are working around the clock.


When all is said and done, we trust that you will understand why we have

chosen to delay our previously announced schedule for the Model 950. The

introduction of Dolby Digital EX is something we simply did not plan for.

We ask that you will bear with us as we complete work on what we know will

be the best value processor/preamp/tuner the home theater world has seen -

or heard.



Regards,



The Outlaws
 

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The Outlaws really couldn't resist this upgrade, so I'm willing to wait a little longer. I know there are some who may be fed up, but at this point, it is a little more than vaporware. It feels like it is very close. If I get the 950 in my stocking, I will be happy.
 

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Very cool, thank you for the information. I will gladly wait a few weeks longer and applaud Outlaw for not rushing a product to the market. I sure will feel better about my purchase knowing Outlaw actually cares about its products and its customers.
 

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I think the decision to delay the product is a good one. On a completely separate matter, is Outlaw supposed to be working on a higher end unit (for somewhere around $1,500) that is easy to upgrade in the field? If so, when is this unit due to be released?


Colin
 

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Well, I went to Dolby's site, read the press release, and now I am completely confused.


Basically they appear to be saying that DD Surround EX is a cinema format and DD EX is a home format. Doesn't this contradict everything that has been said about DD Surround EX over the past year or so ??


Maybe they just want THX out of the deal ??
 

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While there is an Outlaw thread going...I have a question. Has anyone bought stuff before from them?


I ordered a ICBM on Oct 18, 2001. Got an email on October 23, 2001 saying it had been shipped etc. Yesterday I called home and it still wasnt there. Looked at UPS tracking site on the web. UPS' site showed...it went from CA to IL then back to CA then back to IL then back to shipper. Last movement on UPS was Nov 3. I called Outlaw, and was told they would look into it. Haven't heard back or received an email. Getting ready to call them now. I will keep you all informed how they handle this.


Ross
 

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From what I gather from Dolby's press release, Dolby Digital EX is not a new technology only a change in their licensing agreement.


You'll notice that the release says you must have either a THX EX or Dolby Digital EX equipped processor to decode such EX movies as Gladiator, etc. This seems to mean that the processing is the same as the THX EX that is already available and that Dolby EX is being used for the same software that has already been released, not some new format.


What Dolby is trying to do is license EX decoding to equipment manufacturers that do not want to pay for a full blown THX license. The Outlaw 950 was probably going to be released with proprietary 6.1 or 7.1 processing, similar to their receiver. However, now that official Dolby EX processing is more affordable, they have chosen to utilize Dolby's algorithms instead of their own.


Whether or not this is a benefit depends on how good you thought Outlaw's own algorithm is.
 

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Well, Outlaws did get back to me. UPS officially lost my ICBM. Outlaws is sending a replacement via FEDEX :) Very easy dealing with them. No hassle at all. Their only stipulation is that if the other one does show up, I send it back.
 
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