Outlaw Audio is an aptly named American consumer electronics company based in Easton, MA. Their products have a solid reputation in the audiophile community for providing high-end performance at real world prices and based on my experience with the 7900 and a handful of their other products - their renegade name is warranted. The company operates a bit like an audiophile cult. People who buy into the Outlaw concept believe. When you plug in the two (not one - two) AC power cords on the Model 7900 power amp, you know you are in for something special from this American made massive power amp.
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The Model 7900 is the flagship in Outlaw Audio's line of amplifiers, though instead of labeling it flagship I might have gone with battleship, for it somehow seems more appropriate. The 7900 retails for $3,499 and like all of Outlaw's products, is only available through their website. The amp weighs a stout - no, a robust - oh hell, let's just call it a colossal 145 pounds and measures nine and a half inches high by 17.2 inches wide by 19.5 inches deep. The 7900 is a fully balanced amp, capable of driving 300 Watts per channel into eight Ohms or an astounding 450-Watts per channel into four Ohms. Its differential design and impressive slew rate of 50V/µs ensure exemplary transient performance. According to Outlaw, the slew rate of the 7900 is nearly double that of comparable single-ended (non differential) amps. Another notable feature, especially at this price point, is automatic input selection, allowing you to use the balanced or semi-balanced RCA inputs without having to worry about flipping a switch. Also worth noting, especially for those of you whose processors don't include balanced outputs, is the semi-balanced design of the 7900's RCA inputs, which according to the manual provide a cleaner signal path. The 7900 also features an improved power controller, which delays start-up. No big deal you say? Ever turn on a power-hungry device and your lights dim? This technology eliminates that annoying problem.
When my managing editor, Andrew Robinson, first suggested this amp to me for review, I bristled a bit, wondering if maybe it wasn't overkill at 300 Watts per channel with two power cords. Now that it's connected and effortlessly running my 7.1 system, I've realized that my hesitancy was unwarranted and I'll explain why.
One thing I've noticed about the audiophile community, it doesn't matter if you have to install your amp with a crane and plug it into a dedicated generator to run the sucker; if it sounds good we'll jump through those hoops and be thankful for it. As such, I had my electrician come out and split a four-way outlet so that each outlet was on a different circuit, to ensure the highest level of performance from the amp. But don't let that scare you away, as an extension cord can also be used if you don't have a second outlet near your rack. Just be sure to use a 12-gauge cord for a run of more than 10 feet, per the instruction manual. For runs of less than 10 feet, a 14-gauge power cord will suffice. A word of caution when moving this beast: if you've been spending more time at Krispy Kreme's than the gym lately, have a friend help you pull it out of the box as this will insure a safe and easy installation.
Outlaw Audio carries a strong reputation for quality, value and performance, not to mention the fact that their multi-channel amps are designed and built in the United States. While the trend is to outsource every possible manufacturing job we once had in this country to places like China, Outlaw Audio does what others in their Internet-direct class can't do, which is deliver meaningful performance from an amp built right here in Los Angeles while being competitive with amps from other online brands that come from factories far away. All things being equal - wouldn't you rather have a badass amp made in the U.S. versus one sold online at the same price that costs this country jobs?
The Outlaw packaging was more than adequate, especially for something this heavy and unwieldy. Oftentimes with affordable audio gear, packaging is inadequate and it's a bit of a crapshoot as to whether or not it will show up intact; this is certainly not the case with the 7900. While I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, I was so excited to fire up the amp I had my wife help me hoist it onto my amp stand. After hearing fellow Home Theater Review writer Brian Kahn's story of his wife dropping an amp and shearing off the rear feet, you'd think I'd know better. Thankfully my wife was able to work it out; I guess she's stronger than Brian's wife. Anyway, once on the stand and after wiping the sweat from my brow, I proceeded to connect the 7900 to my current reference system, which consists of the stunning new Cary Cinema 12 Processor, an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player, a Cambridge Audio DACMagic DAC, and an Apple TV. For the connection between the processor and amp I used Oasis 6 balanced audio cables from WireWorld. In terms of speakers, I used my Bowers & Wilkins 685s for two-channel listening and my Episode 700 Series in-walls for Blu-rays and multi-channel audio. Burning in an amp is the subject of some debate, but the safe bet with any high-end audio gear is to give it at least 24 hours of burn-in before doing any critical listening. As such, I popped in one of my trusty DTS demo discs and set it to "Loop All." This was a trying time as I was dying to get my ears on this thing, hoping to glean new heights of performance from my system.
I began with some two-channel music and popped Paul McCartney's Good Evening New York City (Hear Music) into the Oppo. On the track "Let Me Roll It," I was immediately struck by the massive soundstage exhibited by the 7900. Paul's vocals were rich and highly detailed, without being overly bright. The low frequency material in the track played with authority and right out of the gate I was starting to understand what my managing editor meant when he said of the 7900 "Brace yourself, for the control and texture you're about to hear will blow your mind." It didn't take a 7.1 lossless Blu-ray for me to realize that 300 Watts per channel will give you a true assessment of your speaker's potential.
Read more about the Outlaw Audio 7900 multi-channel amp's performance on Page 2.