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Product Review
 

Outlaw Audio LFM-1 Subwoofer

April, 2004

Aaron Hodges

 

Specifications:
 

● Driver: One 12" Long-throw Woofer

● Amplifier Power: 325 Watts RMS; 1300W peak

● Frequency Response: 25 Hz - 180 Hz ± 2 dB
● Dimensions: 21.75" H x 15.0" W x 22.0" D
● Weight: 58 Pounds
● MSRP: $579 (2 for $999)

 

Outlaw Audio

 

www.outlawaudio.com

Introduction

There is a market for the guy willing to rebel against the system, as demonstrated by Ralph Nader receiving 2.78 million votes in the 2000 presidential election. The US was founded on this premise. If you don’t like the way things are, all you need to do is go and change them.

Outlaw Audio took this to heart, in name and in business model. By departing from traditional manufacturing, marketing, and sales practices, they have truly bucked the system in the world of audio. In short, they spec the product, the Outlaw engineers design it, they choose the best factory to outsource manufacturing (called OEM), and they sell it to the public exclusively on their website.

The efficiencies are obvious. By cutting the dealer and overhead of a factory out of the equation, they can focus on creating a high end audio product at a lower cost than their competitors.

However, the Outlaw business model does not allow you to readily go to your local hi-fi store and demo the product, so you must place some trust in reviews. Hence, a review of the Outlaw LFM-1 subwoofer here and now.

The Design

Removing the 58 pound cabinet from the box and packing material forecasted that it was well constructed. The subwoofer is heavy and solid as an oak. Outlaw provided instructions for how to unpack the LFM-1 in a conspicuous location under the primary box flaps. Following the directions, I was able to remove it from the box alone with little problem. It is a small detail that is not always present in the packaging of heavy audio equipment. However, carrying the cabinet up the stairs was a challenge. If only Outlaw could supply a dolly in the box as well . . . .

The LFM-1’s frame is outfitted with a black satin finish, rounded corners, and a smoked-Plexiglas top. It is engineered with a 12” inch down-firing long-throw driver with dual down-firing ports and a 325 watt amplifier. The cabinet rests on large screw-in carpet spikes. Outlaw also supplied “dimpled discs” to rest the spikes on when setting up the on a hard surface such as tile or hard wood floors. My parquet floors (and my wife) appreciated this extra touch.

Positioning the LFM-1 on the discs was the only time a second person was required in the setup of the subwoofer. I was immediately struck that it was a professional looking product. Not that I would recommend doing so, but the LFM-1 could pass unnoticed as an end table (assuming the rest of your decor is black satin and glass).

I prefer a port-less (sealed) subwoofer configuration, as it is usually ensures a more flat response with more realistic tone. The drawback is you need a larger cabinet for the same output as a ported subwoofer.

The down firing port design of the LFM-1 has a few benefits. While subwoofer frequency can vary based on room conditions and placement, the down-firing ports eliminate the throaty "whoosh" that you can some times get from side-firing ports. This configuration also allows you to set up the LFM-1 next to a wall or in a corner without consideration of the ports. The result in my listening environment was an impressive, even response with nice tonality. It makes me consider changing my view on ported subwoofers.

The LFM-1 contains a standard set of powered subwoofer connectivity options. There is a single line-level input for connecting to your A/V receiver or preamp. In addition, there are high-level inputs and outputs for pass-through from your amplifier to your speakers. An X-over switch allows for enabling the Linkwitz-Reilly 4th Order Low Pass Variable crossover. Power can be left on or configured to turn on a when an audio signal is sensed. The crossover frequency can be set from 40 Hz to 180 Hz. There also a volume control and a switch to reverse phase.

The Listening

For this review, the LFM-1 was set up with two home theater configurations. The first was with Snell XA 60 Tower speakers with the crossover set to 40 Hz, the second with M&K LCR 750 THX satellite speakers with the crossover set to 80 Hz. After the volume was leveled with frequency sweeps and a sound level meter, the LFM-1 matched both situations very well.

Tonal match with the Snell XA 60’s was transparent. Match with the LCR 750 satellite’s was very good, but the LFM-1 was not quite as detailed as with the sealed M&K V-1250 THX subwoofer which was designed specifically as a compliment for the satellite speakers. In both setups, dance music had a warm thump, classical symphonies had more depth, and fight scenes from the movie Gladiator shook the room.

A good subwoofer should be present but not noticed. The LFM-1 did not draw my attention to it with unnatural sound. Rather, it simply added depth to the listening material.

Outlaw Audio’s LFM-1 Owner’s manual suggests using two LFM-1’s for a scattered subwoofer system. While it is obviously in Outlaw’s interest to sell two subwoofer’s rather than one, the suggestion has merit. Due to the subjective nature of listening areas, a configuration with two subwoofers placed at varying locations will produce a smoother more evenly distributed bass response across your home theater, i.e., with less dips and peaks. Outlaw even gives a discount for this configuration, offering two LFM-1’s for $999.

Secrets recently auditioned the SVS 25-31 PCi Powered Subwoofer, a similarly priced subwoofer with outstanding frequency response. In my opinion the LFM-1 had slightly better detail and a smoother sound (although the SVS' high SPL output is tough to beat). However, the most obvious difference between the two units is the cabinetry. The black satin and smoked Plexiglas finish rivals the look of subwoofers at twice the price. The LFM-1 is guaranteed to pass the wife test.

Conclusions

Outlaw Audio is an exciting company. In terms of performance vs. price, they are competing with equipment that costs twice as much and beyond, yet they do so without cutting corners on the product. During the review, I was continually impressed with small details such as the “dimpled discs” that could have easily been overlooked to save a few dollars in manufacturing. Yet, it is not the “gravy” that wins over this reviewer. The bass that can be felt in the depth of my belly was clearly the substance. Outlaw is certainly setting themselves up for customer retention, and have succeeded in winning at least one over.


- Aaron Hodges -

Equipment used for comparison, reference, and pleasure:

M&K V-1250 THX Powered Subwoofers
M&K LCR-750 THX Loudspeakers
M&K 550 THX Loudspeakers
SVS 25-31 PCi Powered Subwoofer
Aragon 8008x3 Power Amplifier
Yamaha RX-V995 Digital Receiver
Snell XA60 Tower Loudspeakers
Toshiba SD-2109 DVD Player
NEC LT150 DLP Projector

 

    Related to the article above, we recommend the following:

Primer - Speakers

 

 

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