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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi,

This is something what has been bugging me for some time now: Does the bypass option we find on our AV-recievers/processors really keep the signal analog all the way? Or is it just a "marketing way" to tell us that the digital processing of the analog signal is kept to a minimum, that is "only" a A/D/A conversion.

I own an Outlaw 990 pre-amp/processor, and would not want my beautiful analog signal coming from my Rega Apollo CD player going through a A/D/A conversion. I can hear the difference compared to sending a digital signal from the same player and use the 990's DAC. And I am very pleased with the bypass sound that is produced by the same 990. But, I want to know the truth! :hissyfit:

There has been a lot of discussion with the Outlaw 990 when it comes to its bass management. It turned out that although in bypass mode, there was still cross-over management applied to the signal when the speaker size SMALL was selected. That made me very suspicious since the 990 never had any analog bassmanagement/ crossover possibilities! There has been a recent software update which is supposed to have eliminated this phenomenon. But does that mean there is no A/D/A conversion taking place anymore? :dontknow:

What do you think/ know about it?

Maikel.
 

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Hi there,

Well, I was the guy that originally identified (see also here) that the 990 was applying some type of filtering to the mains in so-called bypass mode. This filtering wasn't following the crossover frequency, though, and (IIRC) appeared to always start around 100 Hz, regardless of crossover frequency as set in the setup menu.

I sold my 990 some time ago because of Outlaw's lack of attention to that particular problem. It took them well over a year to offer a new firmware release. If we assume that that firmware release does indeed fix the problem, it's far too long, in my opinion, to fix that type of problem. Such a lengthy time to resolution concerns me. I can't speculate as to what took Outlaw so long, but the reader can draw his (or her) own conclusions...

Now, the fact that this bug ever got released in the first place is the most concerning thing to me. Outlaw appropriately published their bass management matrix that describes how HPFs and LPFs are handled in each possible case. Since this bug was released, it tells me that they did not bother to test the bass managment features of the product as described in their documentation. I understand very well that esoteric and complex bugs can exist in both firmware and hardware, but this type of utterly deterministic problem is absolutely unacceptable to present itself to the end user.

So, combine a definite lack of testing with an inability to resolve in a timely manner a fully repeatable problem, then consider that the 990 is pretty much the cheapest pre/pro on the market and you come up with that old saying: "you get what you pay for". The whole bass management debacle tells me that the programmers don't know what they're doing.

Now, to answer your question regarding bypass mode, all I can say is "I don't know". It's my belief that they were most likely doing A/D/A in bypass mode, since filtering was applied. It's certainly possible that the filtering was applied in the analog domain, but I kinda doubt that the 990 has analog filters that just pop up like that. If they were doing A/D/A previously and didn't know it (or couldn't avoid it, perhaps because of hardware limitations), then can we really be sure that they are NOT doing A/D/A today? I would have to say "no, we can't be sure".

Now, don't get me wrong. Any device can have bugs. Other, much more expensive, devices have also had problems. Outlaw provides a good product, especially for the price. But they've proven to me that they can't do firmware, and they've proven to me that they didn't test their product. Unfortunately, those are showstoppers for me, and I can't trust that they have it right with this latest firmware release.

Good luck either way!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi there,

Well, I was the guy that originally identified (see also here) that the 990 was applying some type of filtering to the mains in so-called bypass mode. This filtering wasn't following the crossover frequency, though, and (IIRC) appeared to always start around 100 Hz, regardless of crossover frequency as set in the setup menu.

I sold my 990 some time ago because of Outlaw's lack of attention to that particular problem. It took them well over a year to offer a new firmware release. If we assume that that firmware release does indeed fix the problem, it's far too long, in my opinion, to fix that type of problem. Such a lengthy time to resolution concerns me. I can't speculate as to what took Outlaw so long, but the reader can draw his (or her) own conclusions...

Now, the fact that this bug ever got released in the first place is the most concerning thing to me. Outlaw appropriately published their bass management matrix that describes how HPFs and LPFs are handled in each possible case. Since this bug was released, it tells me that they did not bother to test the bass managment features of the product as described in their documentation. I understand very well that esoteric and complex bugs can exist in both firmware and hardware, but this type of utterly deterministic problem is absolutely unacceptable to present itself to the end user.

So, combine a definite lack of testing with an inability to resolve in a timely manner a fully repeatable problem, then consider that the 990 is pretty much the cheapest pre/pro on the market and you come up with that old saying: "you get what you pay for". The whole bass management debacle tells me that the programmers don't know what they're doing.

Now, to answer your question regarding bypass mode, all I can say is "I don't know". It's my belief that they were most likely doing A/D/A in bypass mode, since filtering was applied. It's certainly possible that the filtering was applied in the analog domain, but I kinda doubt that the 990 has analog filters that just pop up like that. If they were doing A/D/A previously and didn't know it (or couldn't avoid it, perhaps because of hardware limitations), then can we really be sure that they are NOT doing A/D/A today? I would have to say "no, we can't be sure".

Now, don't get me wrong. Any device can have bugs. Other, much more expensive, devices have also had problems. Outlaw provides a good product, especially for the price. But they've proven to me that they can't do firmware, and they've proven to me that they didn't test their product. Unfortunately, those are showstoppers for me, and I can't trust that they have it right with this latest firmware release.

Good luck either way!
Thanks Otto, your input and past efforts are highly appreciated! :T

Anybody who can shine some additional light on this matter? :dontknow:
Or knows about ways to determine whether or not a A/D/A conversion is taking place?
 

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If you really want an analog path do what I did, sell your 990 and get a high quality stereo preamp with a HT bypass. Pick up a decent HDMI 1.3 receiver to decode movies and enjoy your source components through an analog pre. Or you could pick up something like a McCormack MAP 1, it's a six channel analog preamp that you can use to have the best of both worlds. All you need is a DVD player with built in Dolby/dts decoding and 5.1 analog outs. Used MAP 1s are around $1000-1200 used.

I got rid of the mediocre HT gear and assembled a killer 2.1 system. It sounds so good compared to mid level HT gear that friends and family have said it's the best "surround sound" they've ever heard, they don't realize they are listening to just a pair bookshelves and a sub. The reason I believe is that all components including my DAC are fully discrete analog paths, no ICs. I am in the process of locating the matching center channel to compliment my mains amd for the time being will use an existing receiver for movies. I'll eventually get a HDMI rec. or pre but since I'm 80% music I'm OK for now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
If you really want an analog path do what I did, sell your 990 and get a high quality stereo preamp with a HT bypass. Pick up a decent HDMI 1.3 receiver to decode movies and enjoy your source components through an analog pre. Or you could pick up something like a McCormack MAP 1, it's a six channel analog preamp that you can use to have the best of both worlds. All you need is a DVD player with built in Dolby/dts decoding and 5.1 analog outs. Used MAP 1s are around $1000-1200 used.

I got rid of the mediocre HT gear and assembled a killer 2.1 system. It sounds so good compared to mid level HT gear that friends and family have said it's the best "surround sound" they've ever heard, they don't realize they are listening to just a pair bookshelves and a sub. The reason I believe is that all components including my DAC are fully discrete analog paths, no ICs. I am in the process of locating the matching center channel to compliment my mains amd for the time being will use an existing receiver for movies. I'll eventually get a HDMI rec. or pre but since I'm 80% music I'm OK for now.
I have been thinking about a stereo pramp with HT bypass, and this may very well be the next step at some point. However, I still like my 990 and also like to think that I can keep using it in such a future set-up.

In the meantime, I will soon add an Outlaw ICBM, and put it before the power-amps to set the right crossover settings for all 4 speakers and sub (I have no center speaker). In this way, I don't need the 990 to to the (digital) bass management, have an analog bass management instead, and can combine a 100% analog stereo amplification (at least, that is want I would like to achieve) with a partly digital surround amplification.

As long as I want the 990 to be the stereo pre-amp as well, I want to now if I can call it 100% analog, as Outlaw seems to be suggesting.

Did you actually compare the sound of the 990 in bypass mode using analog inputs, with the sound using an analog stereo pre-amplifier? I would be very intersted in your description of this difference.

By the way: the McCormack MAP 1 option you mention does appeal to me. I have an upscaling DVD player with analog inputs (Oppo). Still, my PS3 only has digital out...
 

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I believe that almost all home theater processors are performing A/D conversion in every mode with an analog signal. Do you really think that the processor is dealing with signals in the analog domain with any combination of large and small speakers where there is a crossover applied ? Perhaps the Krells and Levinsons are truly analog with an analog source but how can any processor that uses DSP post processing to apply a crossover make this claim ? True analog filtering is possible but it's cost prohibitive, especially in mid level components. It may be "analog" to some degree but if you ask it to apply a crossover there has to be some A/D conversion to accomplish it. I'll stick with an analog pre with HT bypass.
 

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Generally, and this includes Outlaw's case, when using "bypass mode" the product will indicate that it does NOT apply any filtering, crossovers, etc.

Although Outlaw did have a problem with this (accidentally applying some type of filtering (though it didn't follow the crossover settings applied by the user) in Bypass Mode), I would generally believe that processors offering a "bypass mode" (or "pure direct" or whatever they may be calling it) will not do A/D/A on the incoming signal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Is there a way to check whether the hardware inside the 990 offers a 100% analog path to begin with? Regardless of the controlling software making proper use of it or not. I mean, could you just look inside and be able to tell if such a signal path (bypassing the DSP) physically exists? :dunno:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi, guess it is impossible or too complicated to check this yourself....

I also wanted to put my question on the Outlaw Saloon forum, tried to register for that, but got a message that I am banned!!! :unbelievable: ["FYI Sorry, but your IP Number is currently banned in our forums. You may not post or register on our site. Please feel free to email us at [email protected] if you have any questions"] E-mailed them a couple of times the last two weeks but they won't tell me why! :crying:
 

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Yeah, I believe that there's another thread over there that asks the same question. IIRC, someone believed that the 990 is indeed doing A/D/A in bypass mode because he measured a delay between the input signal and the output signal. I don't think that a delay from input to output proves that there is an A/D/A processing going on...

I don't think it's trivial to figure this out, which I'm sure is why you're not getting a lot of good responses. I suppose you could try to trace the board. It should be pretty easy to find the input and output. I'd also look for the volume control section. Trace with a scope and see what type of path it takes. Of course, be careful!

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Yeah, I believe that there's another thread over there that asks the same question. IIRC, someone believed that the 990 is indeed doing A/D/A in bypass mode because he measured a delay between the input signal and the output signal. I don't think that a delay from input to output proves that there is an A/D/A processing going on...

I don't think it's trivial to figure this out, which I'm sure is why you're not getting a lot of good responses. I suppose you could try to trace the board. It should be pretty easy to find the input and output. I'd also look for the volume control section. Trace with a scope and see what type of path it takes. Of course, be careful!

Good luck.

I know a guy who I think is up to such a job and I might ask him to look into this. He's the one I bought the 990 from and he is professionally into electronics, which I am definitely not. Was kind of hoping I could tempt some curious forum member to check this on his own 990....:innocent:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Are you sure you don't remember been banned???? ...:whistling: :bigsmile:
Today I got the following reply from Outlaw:

"Dear Maikel, Because of the fact that we have received an enormous amount of spam postings from people in the Netherlands (among several other countries), we have limited access to posting in the saloon to North American users. At some point in the near future, we will be implementing technologies to combat this spam problem, but for now, since we only sell our products in North America, we chose not to allow users in these countries from posting.Thank you for your understanding.The Outlaw Webmaster"

I guess I will have to wait till "some point in the near future'' (whenever that will be...), to join the Outlaw community :waiting:. On the other hand, makes me appreciate this HTS forum even more: thanks for all your past and future help and assistance guys! :T
 

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That little "ditty" from Outlaw would have exactly one effect on me...I'd dump that 990 quicker than a 100 metre dash at the Olympics.
 

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Today I got the following reply from Outlaw:

"Dear Maikel, Because of the fact that we have received an enormous amount of spam postings from people in the Netherlands (among several other countries), we have limited access to posting in the saloon to North American users. At some point in the near future, we will be implementing technologies to combat this spam problem, but for now, since we only sell our products in North America, we chose not to allow users in these countries from posting.Thank you for your understanding.The Outlaw Webmaster"

I guess I will have to wait till "some point in the near future'' (whenever that will be...), to join the Outlaw community :waiting:. On the other hand, makes me appreciate this HTS forum even more: thanks for all your past and future help and assistance guys! :T
Nice reply... sounds like a crock. Won't their new processors be available in the near future too? :joke: There are so many other forums out there. Check out the Emotiva forum:

http://emotivalounge.proboards54.com/

AV123

http://www.av123.com/

Audiogon

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl


I'm pretty sure they welcome everyone there.

And of course the Shack where obviously everyone is invited.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Update:

I am in the process of updating my setup in order to avoid the previously discussed unnecessary A-D-A conversion, and for this I will implement three additional components into my system:

1) A Musical Fidelity A5cr pre-amplifier for my analog stereo sources
2) A Sony TA-P9000es analog surround pre-amplifier for the "5.1 analog out" from my Oppo DV-981 HD player. The Sony has a switchable bypasses for both a 2.0 source (MF A5cr stereo pre-amplifier) and a 5.1 source (Outlaw 990 surround pre-amplifier).
3) an Outlaw ICBM-1 Bass Manager which is placed between the Sony TA-P9000es and the power amps/ subwoofer and which will provide the bass management for all speakers, and all sources

This will avoid having to use the obscure analog by-pass of the Outlaw 990, and create a 100% analog path for my stereo sources, plus an extra analog path going from the 5.1 analog outputs of my Oppo DVD/SACD player.

I will set the front speakers in the Outlaw 990 to large, since all the bass management is done with the ICBM-1 just before the power amps. The Outlaw 990 will in the end only be used for digital audio sources (PS3, iTunes, digital TV-tuner) and video switching, for which in both cases it does an excellent job IMO.

Still have to hook things up and start listening.... :bigsmile:
 
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