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Outlaw Audio BLSv2 and LCRv2 Loudspeaker Measurements and Analysis

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BLS outdoor testing2.jpg

The Outlaw Audio BLSv2 and LCRv2 speakers were measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 1 meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at a 8.5 millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.

BLS response curves.jpg 

Outlaw Audio BLSv2 (left) response curves

The above graph shows the direct-axis frequency response and other curves that describe the speaker’s amplitude response in a number of ways. For more information about the meaning of these curves, please refer to our article Objective Loudspeaker Measurements to Predict Subjective Preferences. These are a very good set of measurements, and they explain why these speakers sounded so natural in my listening experiences. The BLSv2 speaker looks to have a slight overall downward tilt, so some listeners might find that a tad warmer than totally neutral, but, aside from some small bumps, this is a very neutral speaker. The small bumps at 800 Hz and 4 kHz are likely too narrow to be of any real consequence. The curves involving off-axis measurements correlate very nicely with the direct axis, so the BLSv2 should carry the same sound signature anywhere over a broad angle in front of it. As with many other speakers of this type, directivity does increase in upper treble frequencies, in other words, the high-frequencies get progressively shaded as the listener moves away from the direct axis of the speaker. Those very few who find this speaker bright can simply adjust the toe-in angle for a warmer sound, and, since the mid-range frequencies are so stable off-axis, adjusting the angle of listening will not affect any other band of frequency.

 LCR response curves horizontal.jpg     LCR response curves vertical.jpg

Outlaw Audio LCRv2 response curves, horizontally oriented (left) and vertically oriented (right)

The above graphs are the various response curves for the LCRv2 speaker for its horizontal and vertical orientations. Readers may be asking: why post two different response curves for the same speaker when all that has changed is a 90 degree rotation? The answer is that the speaker behaves very differently depending on how it is oriented. It’s essentially a different speaker. The reason for that is that the plane on which the drivers are aligned matters; when the LCRv2 is stood upright, the woofers and tweeter are aligned vertically, and, of course, when the speaker is laid flat on its side, the drivers are aligned horizontally. This has a major change on the horizontal and vertical dispersion of the speaker, and the issue here is that the speaker’s horizontal behavior is much more important than its vertical behavior. When the drivers in a speaker’s enclosure are separated by a distance, and when they try to reproduce the same signal, the difference in distance can cause the output of the drivers to interfere with each other where the wavelength of the frequencies are not much greater than the distance of separation between the drivers. So if the listener is situated at an angle with respect to a speaker that places the drivers at unequal distances, they can interfere with each other when they play the same thing.

Vertical vs Horizontal Placement of an MTM Speaker

What does that have to do with the LCRv2 and driver alignment? When the LCRv2 is laid on its long side for a flat placement, if the listener is positioned at any angle except directly in front of the speaker, there will be a difference in distance between the woofers. The woofers are tasked with played the same frequencies, but if they are at unequal distances from the listener, the sound generated from the respective cones will arrive ‘out of phase;’ in other words, there is a time delay of sound between the woofers due to the greater distance that the sound from one of the woofers has to travel. So, at off-axis angles, the timing difference of the sound from the woofers causes them to interfere with each other in what is called a ‘lobing pattern’ This lobing pattern is characterized by dips in the frequency response where pressure waves in opposite phase of each other cancel out their energy. The effect can be seen in the difference between the ‘Listening Window’ and ‘First Reflection’ curves from the two graphs, because those curves put more weight in horizontal off-axis angles than vertical off-axis versus the direct axis response. There is a major drop in output in midrange frequencies where the woofers attempt to play the same signal, as opposed to the vertically oriented LCRv2 where those curves have a much greater correlation to the direct axis curve in both shape and amplitude, since the woofers are equidistant from the microphone at all horizontal angles and thus do not exhibit a lobing pattern. The audible consequence of this lobing may not be as severe as is shown on these curves, and we will discuss why that is when we get to the waterfall graphs.

For more information to determine how this will affect your situation, see: Vertical vs Horizontal Center Channel - Alternative Perspective

Of course, when the LCRv2 is stood upright, this lobing pattern shifts to the vertical plane, however, on the vertical axis, it will be far less audibly consequential, because human hearing isn’t as sensitive to reflections coming in from the floor and ceiling as it is to lateral reflections from side-walls. Furthermore, most people tend to listen at around the same height, unlike horizontal angles in which listening positions can be spread over a wide area.

..this is a very good set of measurements which indicates top-notch audio engineering from Outlaw Audio.

I don’t bring all of this up to pick on the LCRv2 specifically, in fact, the LCRv2 is a bit better behaved than most MTM speakers in this regard, since it has a relatively low crossover point, so the woofers do not share as great of a range. I am only explaining all of this to emphasize the point that MTM styled speakers such as the LVRv2 take on very different acoustic behavior when laid on their side versus standing upright, so much so that they might as well be considered an entirely different speaker. The Outlaw Audio LCRv2 is a great speaker to use to explain this point, since Outlaw Audio is stressing its dual use as an upright main speaker or horizontal center speaker. This, in effect, makes it two different speakers, and a full evaluation of the LCRv2 should examine both of the ways in which it can be used.

With that commentary out of the way, let’s talk about the LCRv2’s actual performance in these graphs. Overall, it’s quite good. The curve is a bit wrinkly, but the ripples hover pretty closely around a flat line with nothing in the way of broad dips or peaks. The only exception is a broad but shallow valley that centers around 8 kHz that may be audible consequential, but it is not likely to be heard as objectionable; it may give the speakers a warmer quality than if they were neutral in this range. Of course, the speaker measures significantly better in its vertical orientation than in the horizontal orientation, and virtually all MTM designs would, for the reasons outlined in the above paragraphs. The LCRv2 appears to have a good tonal balance overall, and excellent off-axis performance in its vertical orientation. The measurements indicate that, some shifts in the treble range notwithstanding, this speaker should provide an honest reportage of the content that it is given. While I only had one LCRv2 and so was only able to listen to it in content that had surround sound mixes that use a center channel, I do think a stereo pair should make for a fine music system.

One more thing I will add here is that I measured these speakers with grille on and off, and the grilles do cause some rockiness from comb-filtering in the response at 6 kHz and above although not to a major degree. For the best sound, use these speakers without the grille, although if you need to have the grille on, there won’t be a severe decline in sound quality, if any difference can even be heard at all.

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Outlaw Audio BLSv2 Horizontal Response +/- 100 degrees 

The above graphs depict the Outlaw Audio BLSv2 speaker’s lateral responses out to 100 degrees in ten-degree increments. In this graph we get a closer look at the BLSv2’s lateral behavior, and, as suggested by the ‘Listening Window’ and ‘First Reflection’ curves, its horizontal response has very good correlation to its direct response. Most of what is occurring at horizontal angles is related to the direct axis response, and that is good thing since the direct axis response is so neutral and even. One advantage to this is that lateral reflections will not be significantly different from the direct sound, so the speaker will have the same sonic signature regardless of where the listener is on a horizontal plane. Another feature we see in these graphs is how rapidly high treble rolls off outside of a 30 degree angle from direct axis. The dispersion of this speaker is quite wide, except for high treble above 10 kHz where listeners will want to be sitting within a 60-degree angle in front of the speaker. Even so, there aren’t that many people who would miss the content above 10 kHz, since that is mostly ‘air,’ and the ultra high harmonic components of certain instruments. It isn’t a critical frequency band, musically speaking.

One aspect I want to call attention to the how beautifully the tweeter blends in with the woofer. I can see very little evidence of a crossover, and that means the crossover is doing its job well. If I wasn’t told what the crossover frequency is, I would not be able to guess where it occurs from looking at these curves. All in all, this is a very good set of measurements which indicates top-notch audio engineering.

LCR waterfall horizontal.jpg      LCR waterfall vertical.jpg

Outlaw Audio LCRv2 Responses per orientation +/- 100 degrees 

The above waterfall graphs depict the lateral responses of the LCRv2 per orientation. The left graph is the lateral response when the LCRv2 is used horizontally where it rests in the long side for a low-profile. The right graph shows the lateral response of the LCRv2 when it is standing vertically upright. Of course, these graphs also show the vertical dispersion of the speaker depending on what side it is resting on, so if the speaker is laying flat like a typical center speaker, the ‘upright orientation’ graph will actually be its behavior on a vertical axis, and vice-versa.

One aspect about the low-profile orientation which was alluded to in the ‘Listening Window’ and ‘First Reflection’ curves but can be seen here vividly is the effects of the interference between the woofers at off-axis angles. Those ‘valleys’  that occur off-axis in the midrange band change frequency depending on distance, and these are the lobing patterns that occur at a 1 meter distance where the mic was situated with respect to the speaker. So the distance-invariant effect is that output is depressed over the entire band where woofers are reproducing frequencies of wavelengths within the same distance as the distance between the woofers themselves, and that is what is shown in the ‘Listening Window’ and ‘First Reflection’ curves. The lobing really start to take a toll at 20-degrees and outward. When the LCRv2 is situated horizontally as is custom for many center speakers, the best sound will occur within 20 degrees of the direct axis. That might sound like a narrow listening window, but it would cover a broader area the further back the listener is, so it isn’t really that constricting in normal listening situations. To use examples of common listening distances, that would give the listener a smooth response over a seven-foot wide area at a ten-foot distance, and a ten-foot wide area at a fifteen-foot distance.

Again, as I mentioned above, all MTM style center speakers will have this problem- ALL of them. It can’t be avoided in this type of design. Audioholics has published multiple articles about this effect in center speakers such as Pros and Cons of Various Center Channel Designs, Vertical vs Horizontal Center Speaker Designs, and Center Channel Speaker Design Additional Considerations.

In the LCRv2’s upright, vertical orientation, its response is hugely improved. Simply put, it turns into a much better speaker. The direct axis response remains the same, of course, but the horizontal dispersion is much broader and far more uniform. As with the BLSv2, we see a wide, smooth dispersion pattern. Tweeter behavior is largely the same as the BLSv2 which is no surprise, since they use the same tweeter. Like the BLSv2, the tweeter blends in extremely well with the woofers here. We can see where the crossover occurs in the low-profile axis because we can see where the woofers stop fighting with each other off axis, but in the upright axis, there wouldn’t be much of a way to know from just looking at the graph. As with the BLSv2, this is a superb measurement set.

When used in this upright orientation, the left graph with the lobing artifacts become this speaker’s vertical dispersion pattern, and like that graph would indicate, the LCRv2 should be listened to with tweeter at the listener’s ear height. As we discussed before, uniformity in the speaker’s vertical dispersion isn’t nearly as critical as it is with the speaker’s lateral dispersion, so the lobing patterns should not be problematic so long as the listening occurs within a 20 degree angle of the tweeter’s vector. 

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Outlaw Audio BLSv2 Horizontal Response +/- 100 degrees: Polar Map 

The above graph show the same information that the preceding graphs do but depict it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s behavior more easily. This polar map of the BLSv2's horizontal response better shows how the sound grows ‘darker’ as the listener moves further off direct axis. The high frequencies roll off at such a steady rate that simply angling the speaker away from the listener acts as a fairly predictable tone control. In-room, this speaker is likely to take on a warm signature, even for direct axis listeners, since very high frequencies won’t be reflected as much as the wider dispersion of the upper midrange and lower treble.

     LCR horizontal polar map.jpg LCR vertical polar map.jpg

Outlaw Audio LCRv2 Responses per orientation +/- 100 degrees: Polar Map 

With the polar maps for the LCRv2, we get a better look at the radically different lateral dispersion patterns that occur from laying it down or standing it upright. We can see how much midrange output is lost at off-axis angles when it is laid flat on its side versus it upright orientation. This reinforces the need to listen at or near direct axis when using it as a low-profile horizontal center speaker to get the best sound. While the irregularities of these lobing patterns can average out by the various acoustic reflections that ultimately combines at the listening position, there will still be lessened amplitude overall for that frequency band. In other words, the audibility of the in-room effects of lobing will not likely be as stark as what is seen on this graph, although it still may be perceived as a reduction in midrange energy when compared to its upright orientation.

The graph for the upright orientation is a thing of beauty; dispersion remains at a very consistent level from 1 kHz to 5 kHz before it begins to tighten up to the direct axis. This is marvelously controlled dispersion and a tad more constant than the BLSv2. As with the BLSv2, the off-axis rolloff of high frequencies is so steady it could act as a tone control by merely adjusting the angle, although the high frequencies on the LCRv2 don’t start rolling off till a bit higher in frequency. I don’t think this speaker or the BLSv2 are particularly ‘bright,’ so I think most people would prefer the sound of of them within a 30-degree angle of direct axis where the high frequency energy stays steady. 

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Outlaw Audio BLSv2 Vertical Response +/- 100 degrees 

The above graph shows the BLSv2’s response behavior along its vertical axis where zero degrees is directly in front of the tweeter, negative degree values are below the tweeter, and positive degree values are above the tweeter. As we mentioned before, the vertical response isn’t nearly as critical as the horizontal response. The valleys just below the 2.5 kHz frequency are lobing effects of the tweeter and woofer playing the same frequency but are not in phase because of the distance difference that occurs on the vertical axis when not directly in front of the speaker. Relative to many other speakers of this type, the lobing effects here are pretty mild. This is overall good behavior for this measurement. One attribute we can make out here is the steep slope of the crossover. We can see this because the ‘valleys’ of the lobing effects are relatively narrow. The bottom line here is that listeners will want to be within a 20-degree angle of direct axis on a vertical plane. This is very likely where most, if not all, users will listen to these speakers unless they mount them very high or very low (these mounting heights are not recommended). As with most other speakers, the ideal listening height is to have the tweeters be at the same height as the listener’s ears.

 BLS low frequency.jpg     LCR low frequency.jpg

Outlaw Audio BLSv2 and LCRv2 groundplane bass responses

The above graphs show the Outlaw Audio BLSv2 and LCRv2’s low-frequency responses that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground in a wide open area). These graphs also show the difference the Boundary Compensation Switch makes. Curiously, the effect of the Boundary Compensation Switch does not seem to be very similar between the two speakers. It works pretty much as expected in the BLSv2, but it only seems to flatten out the low-frequency response in the LCRv2 as opposed to a shallow dip in the response centered around 200 Hz that is left when it is not engaged. The BLSv2 extends flat down to a lower frequency than the LCRv2, but the BLSv2 rolls off at a steeper slope, which would be expected given that it is ported and the LCRv2 is sealed. The LCRv2 has the characteristic 12dB/octave rolloff below resonant frequency of its sealed design. The LCRv2 looks to have about an 80 Hz low-end resonant frequency and the BLSv2 looks to be about 60 Hz. Regarding the effectiveness of the Boundary Compensation Switch, it’s easy to see how it affects the response in a groundplane measurement such as these, but in-room would be another question, since it only changes the response up to 500 Hz or so, and most of that frequency band lay beneath most room’s transition frequencies where room modes start to become the dominant factor in bass quality. I would advise owners to try the switch both ways and just keep the setting that they enjoy the most, regardless of whether there is a nearby surface boundary or not.

With a 60 Hz extension, the BLSv2 doesn’t really need a subwoofer for most music recordings, but if you enjoy bass heavy hip-hop or electronic music or deep pipe organ music, a subwoofer will be a necessity. Of course, for home theater use, a subwoofer will be a necessity as well. The LCRv2 rolloff happens at a higher frequency but more shallow slope. The shallow slope of the rolloff will likely yield more room gain, but I think users will get a fuller overall sound with the inclusion of a subwoofer.

BLS impedance.jpg      BLS impedance BCS on.jpg

LCR impedance.jpg     LCR impedance BCS on.jpg

Outlaw Audio BLSv2 (top graphs) and LCRv2 (bottom graphs) Impedance and Phase Response for Boundary Compensation Switch Change 

The above graphs show the electrical behavior of the BLSv2 and LCRv2 speakers. I have included measurements for both settings of the compensation switch, since there is a pretty significant change in the LCRv2’s impedance. The impedance and phase for the BLSv2 is fairly tame for the most part. There is a steep phase angle at the impedance minima around 3 kHz, but at 6.6 ohms, it isn’t a very low resistance load and should not be too difficult to drive by almost any amplifier. The Boundary Compensation Switch doesn’t change much except to move the port-resonance saddle down by 10 Hz or so. Outlaw Audio specifies the BLSv2 as a 8 ohm speaker, and this is a fair rating.

...there just isn’t much to complain about with these loudspeakers..they are superb.

On the LCRv2, the Boundary Compensation Switch adds between 2 to 3 ohms of impedance in the mid-bass band below 500 Hz. It makes it an easier speaker to drive, and if the user likes to play their music loud and doesn’t have a great amplifier, they might want to run the LCRv2 with the Boundary Compensation Switch on, because it is a significantly more benign load with the switch engaged. It’s not a very challenging electrical load with the switch off, but the mid-bass frequencies hover around 5 ohms in that setting, which might be a bit taxing for cheaper amplification like is seen on entry-level AVRs. With the switch on, it becomes a very easy load that any amplifier should be able to handle without problem.   

I measured the sensitivity of the BLSv2 to be approximately 84 dB and the LCRv2 at 86 dB. These are very typical sensitivities for speakers of this type and is not surprising. These are not particularly high numbers nor are they low. They won’t need a beastly kilowatt amp to get loud but would need something more powerful than a 5-watt microamp for typical listening. Most AVRs would have adequate power to achieve louder levels than most people would ever listen at with these speakers. As was mentioned before, the LCRv2 will be able to tackle some hefty amplification if it is available, so you can rock’em if you got’em.

Conclusion

In summing up my experiencesLCR upright.jpg with Outlaw Audio’s new speakers, I want to briefly go over a few of their strengths and weaknesses as I normally do in most of my reviews. As usual, I will start with the weaknesses, but a list of the BLSv2 and LCRv2’s weaknesses is going to be short, because there just isn’t much to complain about with these loudspeakers. My only gripes are minor quibbles at worst.

One thing that doesn’t seem like it was worth the inclusion is the Boundary Compensation Switch, especially in the LCRv2. The reality is, for better or worse, many people who purchase these speakers will probably be using some kind of room correction equalization or tone control that which will negate whatever benefit that switch has. The nice thing about the Boundary Compensation Switch is that it does allow the user to tone down the bass without the phase shifts that occur with equalization. However, there is no way to know how much boundary gain will occur in each individual situation, so the switch is kind of a ‘one size fits all’ solution that will have varying effectiveness. Most of the change within frequency range of the switch will be subject to room modes which will inevitably wreak havoc on the bass response anyway. I think the Boundary Compensation Switch isn’t worth the added manufacturing expense if it adds significantly to the price at all. To be sure, I am not complaining about the switch’s inclusion; after all, it doesn’t hurt anything, but these speakers don’t need it, and it is an expense that could have been saved, in my opinion.

AnotBLS Emblem.jpgher very minor nitpick is that I think these speakers look a bit plain for their price point. They don’t look bad at all, but you can find slicker-looking speakers at lower prices than these. The Outlaw Audio speakers are very conservatively styled, so this is an entirely subjective complaint, and doubtlessly there will be those who prefer their aesthetic. Also, the grilles are rather difficult to remove and reattach. They are tough grilles and really do protect the front baffle though, and their method of attachment looks to be cost-effective, so this isn’t really much to complain about. Outlaw could have used magnets to attach the grille without marring the front baffle with grille guides, but to have as firm of a hold would have necessitated some powerful magnets, and that would have likely raised the cost. 

With those petty complaints out of the way, let’s go over some of the BLSv2 and LCRv2’s strong points. First and foremost is their audio performance. These speakers sound great. They have a very neutral response, so everything sounds natural. If there is anything non-neutral about these, it would be that the upper treble is just a tad shy with respect to the rest of the response on the BLSv2, and that, combined with the rising directivity of the upper treble, means these could have a slightly warm sonic character. That makes these speakers very easy to listen to without giving up much in the way of high frequency detail. Those who find excess treble fatiguing ought to give these speakers a very close look. They present a distinct soundstage with very good imaging. They manage to get loud without running into significant distortion. The dispersion is wide and well-controlled so that they will sound good at off-axis angles and the acoustic reflection will not tell a different story than the direct axis sound. And this exceptional sound quality comes in a speaker set that has a relatively benign electrical load for amplifiers. They are all around great performers, and Outlaw Audio has certainly chosen the right design team in making these speakers.

No doubt the build qualBLS pair3.jpgity is partly responsible for such excellent performance, since the components are all of good quality. Outlaw Audio set their performance goals for the BLSv2 and LCRv2 and did what it took to meet those goals which meant using high-quality drivers and a heavy-duty, complex crossover. They are not the cheapest bookshelf speakers on the market, but it is clear where their manufacturing cost was spent: premium components.

Now that I have spent some time with the BLSv2 and LCRv2, I can see why they were so highly regarded in their original release a decade ago. In a highly crowded market of bookshelf speakers at this price point, these are a standout choice. These are a speaker set where high fidelity was the highest priority as a design goal, and nearly everything in these speakers serve that goal. For those who want a no-nonsense, great-sounding speaker set in this price range, this is an easy recommend. I am reminded of the Outlaw Audio Ultra-X13 subwoofer that I reviewed last year in that it isn’t the flashiest product at its price-point, but its performance is exceptional. In fact, a set of these speakers along with the Ultra-X13 would make for a killer sound system. If these speakers sound like something you want to try out, Outlaw does offer a 30-day audition period where the buyer can return the speakers for a full refund if they are not happy. My guess is that Outlaw will see few returns of these superb speakers.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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