Outlaw Audio 975, the insanely expensive entry level processor


This review is going to be a very short one. Straight to the point, no sugarcoat without one iota of political correctness.

My client bought this unit because of the cheap introductory price of $499 and the high recommendation from Home Theater magazine… Sadly the review was utterly wrong and can only be construed as public relation service done by the magazine to maintain sponsorship or whatnot.

First of all, the unit is not only cheap, but it feels and built cheaply too. Not that I don’t condone entry level pricing.  If you get what you pay for, I’m all for it. The problem, however, is that you don’t even get what you pay for. The measly number of HDMI input with questionable video processor, the utter lack of calibration system (no auto anything, no EQ, absolutely nothing), no dynamic range control, single HDMI output, no fromt HDMI input, no phono pre-amp, makes this pre-pro at the current price of $549 to be no better than any $549 receiver of any brand.

Worse, actually, because at $549 usually we get a semi-decent 5-channel amplification, some form of automatic calibration WITH equalization albeit usually only 5-band graphic. Still, it’s better than nothing.

So, if you actually want to buy this pre-pro with a semi-decent amp and five 5-band graphic EQ, your total bill will be in the $1,200 range!

Guess what?  For that kind of money you can easily get a Pioneer Elite SC-63 with 7-channels of very good amplifications, a whole lot more HDMI input, a kick-ass Marvell QDEO K2 scaling chip, automatic calibration with manual override that includes 9-band EQ, iPod direct-digital compatibility and a 3-year warranty.

you might say that value is subjective. Yes, it’s true…but not when an advertised $549 unit is actually a $1,200 unit after all said and done AND performs and still have worse measurable performance than its $1,200 counterpart and with worse warranty too.

And as sound quality goes, honestly I have no preference between using this pre-pro or using a $500 Pioneer Elite receiver’s pre-out (let’s not even go with the fact that the Pioneer comes with room correction and the Outlaw doesn’t come with any)

You don’t need to know my verdict, but if youreally want me to jot it down, here you go: DON’T BUY THIS UNIT. It’s cheap and you don’t even get what you paid for.

Why my view is very different than most magazines? Because I have zero financial need from all the review I write here.  I write things the way I see fit. No advertising, no payment from anybody, just the truth.

11 responses to “Outlaw Audio 975, the insanely expensive entry level processor

  1. Boy do I like your style !! Very different kind of reviews from all the bullshit we get serve from audio/video mags and E-zine. Thanks for the nice write up. 2 thumbs up!! keep them coming….

  2. Pingback: Marantz acting up; help me choose a processor·

    • Why not just buy Pioneer Elite SC-75 receiver and use it in pre-pro mode (the amplifier section will be shut off in that mode)? It has a much better DAC, room correction and video processing too.

      David Susilo; PhD

  3. Thank you so much for your honest review, I had short listed the Outlaw and Emotiva processor’s because I do not want to spend $1000 on a pre/pro. Due to your review, I am de-listing them, and now turning my head back to the SHERWOOD R-972 Newcastle, back to my dithering over this one

  4. I just purchased the 975 based solely on the 30 day free trial because I had collected several older, well respected preamps and planned to have a shootout, concentrating on audio quality.

    It was a fun but exhausting comparison of a Marantz AV9000, B&K Reference 30, Rotel 1068, Denon 2805 (ya, I know), and this Outlaw 975, all paired with an older Carver AV-705x and Focal 826v (listening to mostly 96/24 HDTracks).

    In summary, the Outlaw not only had the most detail, but was also the most fun to listen to. The separation of the instruments was by far the best (the B&K the worst), and the sound stage was always more engaging than any of the others. The only negative was that the vocals were marginally less natural than the Marantz which had the best vocals (but was the most fatiguing).

    This likely comes as no surprise, given the assumed progression of technology. But that was kind of the point of the test for me. And at $475 with the holiday deal (and not planning to update my amp or go back to a receiver) this was by far the most inexpensive way I could benefit from the improved sound of new tech. I don’t use equalization or room calibration, and have no real use for fancy video features or networking, so the simplicity of this unit is perfect for me.

    It’s entirely possible that the Pioneer mentioned above sounds even better (or 1000’s of units I will never hear could be for that matter), but I thought I would share my opinion, because for me, this little sub $500 prepro is not a piece of junk, but decidedly better than a lot of other options (even with an original MSRP of nearly $3000). I will be keeping it 🙂

  5. Yikes. I am looking for something to control a 2.1 stereo system with powered Adam Audio monitors and a powered sub. The sub maker suggests that my preamp should highpass the signal to the mains, so I was looking for a pre/pro and got here when searching Outlaw 975 reviews.

    Sounds like I should just use the pre outs of a quality receiver and make use of the built in room correction. Is there a unit you would recommend for a 2.1 music only system, that has a HPF for the mains, a LPG for the sub and room correction?


  6. Bemoaning the lack of inputs or other functions is absurd, as there are many of us to don’t want all these features. Pre/PRo’s today have way too many options, thankfully we are finally rid of the Progressive inputs, now lets get rid of the tuners and sat radio inputs. I even saw one with its own Ethernet switch. WHO WANTS THAT? I want less, not more RF noise. If your looking for a product that does JUST decoding, then its exactly what you want. Dozens use the Oppo BR players for a similar purpose, and it only have one extra input… My biggest complaint is that it doesn’t have XLR outputs. If this unit has XLR outputs that could be run into a stand along room correction device, it would sell well.

  7. An objective review would not complain about the amenities it does not have, but the sweet sound it does. For me, I own a fantastic 5 channel amp that I love. It weighs 85 lbs. I wanted to replace my 10 year old processer with one that has HDMI and a sweet Analog sound. My Oppo has a great DAC, and my Music server has internet, two TB’s of storage and killer DAC. So why would I want to duplicate all of that? As For room correction, I do own a Velodyne SMS-1 which balances my subs. Many new Subs have room correction software now. Again, why duplicate the technology. For sum, a tape measure will work fine and a $50 sound meter can balance the volume.
    The new 975 improves my sound and add’s HDMI convenience. The unit is not for beginners but for a mature system that has most pieces in place already.
    The 975 is not for everyone but its exactly want I needed and at a price that was a no brainer. There is a market for this.

  8. Well I’m w/those that like Outlaw’s “entry level pre-pro.”

    The 975 replaced a non-HDMI Rotel that sold for $1600 new about 5 years earlier. SQ wise I’ll take the Outlaw any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    Yes I preferred the look and feel of the Rotel* but the Outlaw SQ kept it in my rack. I’ve since upgraded to the 976. I like this Outlaw even more, lovin’ it’s XLR outputs, newer decoding firmware, and even better SQ!
    *Rotel’s remote would not remember user defined Settings very well and the slightly better replacement was well up in the triple digits

    The review is half right right – the Outlaw is LESS expensive than most but it’s the heart of BEST HT I’ve owned to date.

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