Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.
Outlaw Audio may be better known for their amplifiers than for anything else, but they're pretty much a full-service brand, offering loudspeakers, subwoofers and even home theater-related accessories, and they've been at it longer than anyone. While I've been a fan of Outlaw's amplifiers since their inception, it's their subwoofers that have always really excited me. For the better part of five years, I called their wonderful LFM-1 Plus one of my reference subwoofers, pairing it with a Meridian loudspeaker system. A good sub is a good sub, so I didn't give a lot of thought to the price discrepancy between the LFM-1 Plus and its counterparts, I just enjoyed it. Outlaw's newest subwoofer, the M8 reviewed here, isn't a house shaker in quite the same way as the LFM-1 Plus, but then again, at $249, it's an even greater bargain.
The M8 was sent to me by Outlaw as a sort of accompaniment to their newly released OSB-1 Soundbar with H-PAS. Outlaw sent the M8 as a precaution, just in case I preferred to add a little more bass to the OSB-1 equation. I ultimately didn't, but that didn't stop me from putting the M8 through its paces. On the surface, the M8 is simple is as simple does. It's small, modest-looking and matte black - not a lot to write home about in terms of visual stimuli. It measures a manageable 14.5 inches high by nearly 11 inches wide and 14 inches deep. It weighs an easy-to-move 28 pounds, which isn't heavy as far as subwoofers are concerned, but the M8 doesn't feel cheap, either. In truth, after you've lugged around as many 100-plus-pound subwoofers as I have, you welcome the odd 30-pound sub that comes your way. The M8 features a single eight-inch downward firing long-throw driver, powered by a 125-watt internal Class A/B amplifier. The single downward-firing port also helps to give the M8 its reported frequency response of 29Hz to 250Hz. While 29Hz isn't the be all, end all in terms of low-end grunt, it will be sufficient for most users with smaller rooms and modest setups.
Inputs on the rear panel of the M8 include a single pair of stereo RCA inputs, with the left input also serving as the sub's LFE/mono input. There is a full complement of push-pin-style binding posts for speaker output and inputs, too. Adjustment options include variable level control and crossover frequency. There are two switches located on the rear of the unit, one for phase (180 and 0 degrees) and the other for power (on/off/auto). A detachable power cord rounds out the M8's list of features.
In terms of performance, the M8 is quite surprising. No, it's is not going to unseat subwoofers possessing more power or drivers capable of tearing a house from its foundations but, like I said earlier, for the vast majority of folks looking to add a little grunt to their soundbar or modest home theater setup, the M8 is a great starting point. I went ahead and took my M8 demo to 11 by throwing a bit of parametric EQ its way, courtesy of Room EQ Wizard and my trusty Behringer Feedback Destroyer Pro. This allowed me to really see what the M8 had to offer, for I was able to tailor its performance almost perfectly to my room. The M8 played low and with surprising authority. It was quick enough on the draw, though you can find faster subs, albeit maybe not at this price point. I was able to bottom it out during my demo of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, but again, that was pushing the M8 much harder than I believe it ever would normally be pushed. Bringing things back to reality a bit, pairing instead with Outlaw's soundbar and doing simple level matching and crossover adjustments, proved my earlier point, which is that the M8 is aimed at the entry-level enthusiast with modest tastes. In this respect, the M8 shines, is very fulfilling (not that it wasn't in my all-out tests, either) and frankly will be enough for most listeners. While I maintain that the OSB-1 soundbar from Outlaw doesn't need a subwoofer, there are a number of systems that do, specifically bookshelf speakers, with which the M8 would be a fantastic fit. Additionally, the M8's diminutive size makes it easy to integrate and place properly within a room.
Read about the high points and low points of the M8 subwoofer on Page 2.
The M8 may not be a stunner in terms of visual appeal, but its build quality is topnotch and every bit what you'd expect from an Outlaw product.
The M8 is simple to place, simple to connect and simple to set up, which is a great thing for novices to the hobby and/or those looking to add a bit of trouble-free bass to their favorite music and/or movies.
The M8 may not be capable of shaking your rafters, but that doesn't mean it doesn't possess a fair amount of grunt. More importantly, its bass is rather speedy and textural, two things you often want more than sheer punch.
If you're willing to spend the extra $100 for an outboard parametric EQ like the Behringer Feedback Destroyer, and utilize a free program like Room EQ Wizard, it is possible to get the M8 to perform at an even higher level than its basic controls will otherwise allow.
There are subwoofers available direct that cost a little more (say $50), which offer more in terms of looks than the M8 does.
Those with large rooms and/or a tendency to want to overdo it when it comes to bass may want to look elsewhere in Outlaw's stable of subwoofers, specifically at either the LFM-1 Plus or LFM-1 EX.
I kind of wish the M8 had cheap five-way binding posts, as opposed to push-pin-style posts, as I feel the latter are somewhat limiting for those who may have to rely on them.
Competition and Comparisons
There is no shortage of affordable subwoofer options available to consumers today. While I consider Outlaw to be a leader in the marketplace, the company does have some competition. Some notable competitors off the top of my head include Aperion Audio's Bravus 8A subwoofer ($349), HSU Research's STF-1 ($299) and Episode's CUB8 subwoofer ($399). All are solid performers and great value for your money, though the M8 is the least expensive of the bunch and manages to post similar, if not identical, specs as the aforementioned subs. It just isn't as pretty, in my humble opinion, as either the Aperion or Episode offering, which may or may not be a factor in your ultimate decision. For more on these subwoofers and others like them, please visit Home Theater Review's Subwoofer page.
There's little fault with the M8 subwoofer's performance, provided you go into your demo of it with an open mind and realistic expectations. If you're looking to add a little low-end thump that is more than just the kind of one-note droning you hear from most poorly-designed affordable subwoofers, then the M8 is for you. If you're looking to shake your fillings from your molars, then the M8 isn't going to be for you. What the M8 has going for it is simplicity; it's simple to integrate, simple to dial in and easy to enjoy. For those with modest systems or spaces, the M8 is a great place to start your subwoofer journey and, for many, it may be the last stop, too. It's a fun little sub and definitely worth your attention.