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Outlaw Audio RR2150 Build/Sound Quality and Operation

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One of the main reasons consumers invest in nice gear is because they expect it to be built to a higher standard than entry level gear. Consumers with such expectations will be pleased with the RR2150.

Outlaw RR-2150 Build Quality 

Outlaw Audio RR2150 Top Removed

Even before removing the top panel, the overall feel of the unit is high-end thanks to the milled aluminum face plate and glowing blue LEDs. Even the top cover is sturdier than your general run of the mill AV receiver.

The binding posts are solid, but they look more like the binding posts on a 1970’s H/k receiver than what’s found on modern high-end receivers or amps. In fact, our oversized Monster M2.2s speaker cables wouldn’t fit with the spade lugs we normally use. Luckily, the tips on the M2.2s are swappable, so we traded out the spade lugs for banana plugs. 

Outlaw RR-2150 Caps               Outlaw RR-2150 Power Supply

  Power Capacitors                                             Power Supply        

Inside are two thick heatsinks with 4 output transistors per channel to allow the amp to source more current at lower impedance. A pair 10,000uf, 63v power capacitors are a healthy size for this receiver. 63V rating provides plenty of voltage margin to achieve high enough rail voltage to sustain the 100wpc rating. If you look closely, you will see that the caps are 105 deg C rated. This is great for durability and better than the standard 85 deg C parts most mass marketing companies use.

Operation and Remote Control

You might be wondering why we have a section about operation, “I mean, come on, it’s just a stereo receiver.” While it’s true that most users will just plop down a pair of speakers and call it good, the RR2150 has quite a few features to explore.

Other than a finicky source knob and slightly confusing tuner interface, front panel operation is easy and straight forward. Although, it would have been much more convenient to have the bass management switch located on the front of the receiver rather than the rear. As we played around with integrating our speakers and subwoofer, we had to continually reach over the RR2150 to access the bass management switch on the back. Not only was it a pain to reach, the angle made it difficult to see what crossover frequency we were selecting.  However, I wouldn't let this have any effect on a purchase decision. According to Outlaw, they placed the adjustment on the rear of the unit because it it supposed to be a set it and forget it feature. Once it's set properly for your speakers, the only reason to adjust it would be if you hooked up a different set of speakers.

Outlaw RR2150 Controls

Outlaw Audio RR2150 Controls

The input level coming over USB was also a little lower than we would have liked, which required us to turn the volume control up substantially more than if the same song was playing off our Oppo BDP-93. There were also a few times that the computer and RR2150 didn’t quite sync up over USB, or Spotify would refuse to play when we connected the USB cable, but a simple disconnect/reconnect solved those problems. Granted, these are very minor issues, and something that Outlaw doesn’t have complete control over as the PC is handling the processing.

After messing with the front panel and dialing in things the way we wanted, we sat down at the listening position and grabbed the remote. At first glance, it looked like we had accidentally grabbed a remote from some mystery $50 DVD player. It was light, felt cheap, was made of plastic and had no backlight for ease of use in the dark. And the buttons didn’t look relevant to a stereo receiver either. We thought, “Guide, Menu, Exit, Play/Pause, Progressive Scan? This can’t be the remote for the RR2150.” But there, at the bottom of the remote, was a picture of a cowboy riding a horse and the name “Outlaw” printed beside it.

Outlaw RR-2150 Remote

Outlaw Audio RR2150 Remote 

We are used to poor quality remotes, even from large manufacturers who custom design their own remotes and should know better. Most of the time we write up a paragraph or two about how much they suck, and then move on. We figure that the majority of consumers will invest in a nice universal remote, or simply use their Cable/Sat remote to control everything. Following this logic, we often recommend that manufacturers focus on making a remote that controls a single device well, rather than a slew of devices poorly. Yet again, we must give that same advice to Outlaw. But in the case of the RR2150, the remote is even more important than with a full-fledged AV receiver because we expect that most consumers will actually use the remote that comes with it. Few people would invest in a universal remote for a stereo setup.

The remote has the basic controls you would imagine, power, volume and source. It also has full tuner control, including tuning mode and preset adjustment. And all of these controls worked reliably. But, it’s missing control for all of the niche features associated with the RR2150, or stereo receivers in general. We would have liked to see a “Speaker A/B” function. This makes comparing two sets of speakers much easier by preventing one from having to walk up to the front panel to make the adjustment. The same goes for the speaker EQ, external loop, tone and balance options. However, in Outlaw's defense, they had good reason for not putting all of the a fore mentioned controls onto the remote. It simply comes down to budget. Buying a generic remote and giving it the IR codes for the RR2150 is significantly less expensive than custom designing a remote. Incorporating some of the extra functionality on the remote would also mean modifying the RR2150 itself, even making additional front panel knobs motorized (not cheap). These additional production costs would likely drive up the retail price of the unit, a topic we discussed in our article about the product design process for AV electronics. To be even more forgiving, the remote does control the essentials (volume, power, input) and can operate other sources devices. Still, the remote does not fit with the build quality or feel of the rest of the unit, and we’ve seen other companies manage to produce nice remotes for high performance/low cost products.

Sound Quality

Listening tests were performed using MartinLogan Theos floorstanding speakers, an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player, Panamax M4300-EX Power Conditioner, and Monster M2.2s speaker cables. The speakers were approximately 7’ apart and 8’ from the listening position.                         

CD - Bob Arden: Wires Rosewood & Roots

Bob Arden’s Wires Rosewood & Roots is a purely instrumental score. Arden’s Beneteau acoustic guitar is the anchor on every track and was reproduced with the utmost intricacy. At some times it sounded a little too large, like he was playing a jumbo sized guitar. This was due to improper positioning of the Theos, and with a little work the soundstage was the perfect size. At some points during the CD you could hear Arden’s shallow breathing behind the guitar work (because of close-miked recording), which made us feel like we were sitting at the recording session. An upright bass, bodhran, and cabasa accompany the acoustic guitar on track 7, “Flea’s Reel”. The upright bass sat just to the left of the guitar, and we could hear every shake and hit on the cabasa (a very cool percussion instrument if you’ve never seen/used one). Although each of these instruments was recorded separately and mixed together, we could close our eyes and picture the entire band sitting in front of us. It was a joy to listen to.

Bob Arden - Wires Rosewood and Roots               Royal Philharmonic -Beethoven

           Wires Rosewood & Roots                                                Beethoven                       

SACD - The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Beethoven

In an attempt to push the abilities of the RR2150 harder than Wires Rosewood & Roots is able to, due to its relatively small dynamics, we turned to an SACD of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D major. When speaking of classical music, some reviewers lose themselves in a whirl of overly pedantic and esoteric ramblings in an attempt to sound high-brow and well informed. We shall try to refrain. The exposition starts strong and powerful. The combination of the Theos and the RR2150 proved to be a winning one as the Theos pounded out the large dynamic swings in the exposition and continued to do so in the rich third movement. There was never a hint of distortion or harshness, even as the SPL grew closer and closer to reference levels. Imaging was superb as each section of the orchestra held its own unwavering spot in the soundstage. We couldn’t have wished for more out of the RR2150.

CD/FLAC - Norah Jones: Come Away With MeNorah Jones - Comeaway

After proving its chops when fed an analog signal, we wanted to see what the RR2150 was capable of when using its own DAC. We pulled up a 16bit/44.1kHz FLAC version of the Come Away With Me, which was ripped using Exact Audio Copy. In order to achieve the best sound quality possible from the computer, foobar2000 with WASAPI exclusive mode enabled was used for playback. To facilitate a direct comparison, we tossed the original CD into my Oppo, and performed some A/B testing. At Audioholics, we’ve spent a considerable amount of time discussing the validity and reliability problems with A/B and blind testing methodologies, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. To be honest, we didn’t expect to hear a difference between the DAC in the Oppo vs the RR2150. Although both sounded great, we felt that the Oppo sounded slightly better. There just seemed to be a little more detail. Still, outside of a visible A/B comparison, it would likely be nearly impossible to reliably pick out the two components. Just for a little fun, we also A/B tested the Polk Audio LSiM703 I recently reviewed, against the MartinLogan Theos. The Theos had a significantly smoother and slightly attenuated treble, which led to a more pronounced midrange. They just oozed lush, detailed sound.

All in all, the RR2150 breezed through the listening tests. Close miked tracks with only a few instruments, to a large orchestra, to female vocals, there was no lack of highly detailed, uncolored sound.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

PENG posts on January 07, 2018 10:30
Robertotron, post: 1227607, member: 84553
I'm leaning heavily toward buying this model. Pretty excited about learning about it , as it's the only receiver I can made tolerate looking at or operating in about 25 years.
I favor it over the 2160 because of the knobs.
I'll be using it 80% to play music off my PC and 20% from Phono. (With a pair of 6ohm Polk RT7s if possible)
Can someone please comment more about using the USB-in to play Spotify & Music Files off my PC?
I've never heard of doing this and wonder if it's reliable..
Someone above mentioned a $200 upgrade to add another digital input.
Can I have a link to info on this Please?

If you buying it for the look that's a good reason but may be the only reason. Otherwise, you are much better off getting an AVR-X3300W that often goes on sale for $599 brand new. The output power rating and bench test results (also by Audioholics) are similar between the two. Even if you strictly use the unit for two channel, the AVR still has the edge because of the much richer feature set, and the build in excellent bass management, REQ etc.

The RR2160's USB is limited to 16GB thumb drive, the USB-b can be used with your PC but it appears to play PCM only. The Denon AVR can play DSD up to 5.6 MHz. I have no idea what the $200 to add another digital output is about, why kind of digital input are they referring to?
Robertotron posts on January 06, 2018 15:11
I'm leaning heavily toward buying this model. Pretty excited about learning about it , as it's the only receiver I can made tolerate looking at or operating in about 25 years.
I favor it over the 2160 because of the knobs.
I'll be using it 80% to play music off my PC and 20% from Phono. (With a pair of 6ohm Polk RT7s if possible)
Can someone please comment more about using the USB-in to play Spotify & Music Files off my PC?
I've never heard of doing this and wonder if it's reliable..
Someone above mentioned a $200 upgrade to add another digital input.
Can I have a link to info on this Please?
slipperybidness posts on March 20, 2015 08:48
HK990vxi, post: 1076127, member: 72533
I just purchased the Outlaw 2150 and am disappointed! I have a Harman Kardon 990vxi that I absolutely loved (started having trouble with the right channel cutting out and decided to give the Outlaw a try rather than going through another round of repairs). I have a pair of Dahlquist DQ-12s that provide sound quality that places any instrument right there in the room with you. The HK has a fullness and punch through these speakers that the Outlaw doesn't seem to have. Is there much of a difference after the break-in period? How long?
Why don't you call up Outlaw directly and discuss it with them?
HK990vxi posts on March 19, 2015 22:14
I just purchased the Outlaw 2150 and am disappointed! I have a Harman Kardon 990vxi that I absolutely loved (started having trouble with the right channel cutting out and decided to give the Outlaw a try rather than going through another round of repairs). I have a pair of Dahlquist DQ-12s that provide sound quality that places any instrument right there in the room with you. The HK has a fullness and punch through these speakers that the Outlaw doesn't seem to have. Is there much of a difference after the break-in period? How long?
gfmucci posts on December 18, 2014 21:41
I have a dilemma. I am torn between this amp for $699, versus the new Yamaha A-S801 for $899. This amp has a basic DAC with USB in. The Yamaha has a more sophisticated DAC with all three types of digital ins. For me it boils down to the difference in quality of the audio output. If I needed to upgrade the DAC capability, I could always spend the $200 difference on that upgrade for the Outlaw. My primary sources will be from my desktop computer with its generic sound card and Kindles. The desktop will send via USB cable. The Kindle via Bluetooth. I will be driving a pair of Definitive 8040s that run on 6 ohms.
Your thoughts, please.
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