On the outside, the Outlaw Audio RR2160 has the same unique Art Deco facade as its older brother, but under the chassis are some nice modern amenities that today’s audiophile will love.
Outlaw Audio RR2160 Stereo Retro Receiver
- High power stereo receiver, 2 x 110 watts continuous power into 8 ohms
- 7 analog inputs, 2 digital coaxial, and 2 optical inputs
- 3 USB inputs (1 front, 2 back)
- Adjustable speaker EQ adds a half-octave bass boost for bookshelf speakers
- Preamp outs and main amplifier inputs plus dual sub outs with selectable crossover points
- High performance AM/FM stereo tuner with HD radio and 20 presets
When I first decided to ditch my trusty Marantz 2226B stereo receiver from my college days and move up to separate components, Outlaw was near the top of the list of companies I wanted to check out. They are based in my neighborhood (New England) and were starting to gain a good reputation as an inexpensive, yet potent amplifier company. That was over 15 years ago, and I eventually went with a company with a similar business philosophy out of Tennessee.
But even over the years, I would check in on Outlaw Audio to see what the boys there were cooking up. I have always admired the Art Deco design of the Outlaw Audio RR2150 receiver as it reminded me of something you’d see on an old Flash Gordon episode aboard their space ship; “This is Dr. Zarkov, calling Flash…do you read me?”. I liked the lines and curves because it was not just another “black box” design. Indeed, it only comes in silver… but it looks spiffy that way.
When I saw that the gang from Outlaw Audio were about to release an updated version of the well-received RR2150, I decided to ask Chief Outlaw, Peter Tribeman, for a review sample. Peter kindly set one aside for me and when I found out that their “secret hideout” was within driving distance, I offered to come there and pick it up. Of course, once there, I had to spend the afternoon with Peter and listen to their new THX-certified sub and new (soon to be released into the Wild) home theater processor. I brought the music and a pizza and was entertained all afternoon!
OUTLAW AUDIO RECEIVER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Two-channel analog & digital receiver
Continuous Average Power:
110 watts per channel (20Hz-20kHz, <.05%THD @ 8 ohms) / 165 watts per channel @ 4 ohms, both channels driven)
High-level – 200mV/47 kohms, MM Phono-3.3mV/47kohms, MC Phono – .6mV/47 kohms
60/80/100Hz crossover, bypass, High & Low-pass slope-12dB/octave (2nd order)
Bass-center – 50Hz +/-10dB, Treble-center – 10kHz +/-10dB
2 x coax, 2 x optical, 4 x RCA, 1 x phono (MM or MC), USB, RJ-45
2 x subwoofer, 1 x external processor, speakers A/B
2 x 12v trigger out, IR in/out
5.75 H x 17.1 W x 15” D
Outlaw Audio, RR2160 Stereo Retro Receiver, Stereo Receiver, Receiver Reviews 2017
Building on the analog design of the RR2150, the Outlaw Audio RR2160 adds some nifty new features that make it more versatile for today’s audiophile. Starting with the front panel, the LED display window is a new design and is slightly bigger than the RR2150’s VFD display. A quarter-inch headphone jack and volume control are on the left, followed by a 3.5mm auxiliary jack. A selector button allows for A and B speakers to be active or turned off. It is lit when speakers are selected and in fact, all buttons on the RR2160 will light up when engaged.
Next, a new speaker EQ button is included that allows you to select a bass boost frequency (55, 65, or 80Hz). This allows for better blending with bookshelf speakers and is fun to experiment with as I have full range speakers. It is NOT part of the bass control, which affects a wide boost/cut, and it is not part of the bass crossover settings on the back panel. It will just bump up the selected frequency. An external processor loop button (rare these days) allows for the addition of a signal-modifying component, like an equalizer, to the system.
A USB 2.0 input on the front allows for plugging in a thumb drive or other compatible storage device up to 16GB for music file play back. Source, mute, menu, and record buttons surround the volume knob. Balance, treble, bass, and a tone defeat button are located under the display which is dimmable and can be turned off completely if you so choose. When playing music files or streaming, the display scrolls the media data. I found this to be a nice touch and quite useful. So, the front panel has everything you need and is not cluttered with things you don’t. All functions can be controlled from the all-aluminum remote which is also backlit (Hooray!).
I was pleased to see that the remote design includes a door that opens for easy battery replacement. It’s attached to the remote so you can’t lose it. My only quibble is that all the buttons are the same size; I would have preferred the volume and selection buttons to be bigger (by feel) than the rest. After using it for a while though, my fingers remembered their way around the handset without too much trouble.
Now let’s take a look at the back panel. Here is where things really start to look different from the RR2150. On the upper-left side is a USB connection that doubles as service port. An Ethernet jack is provided to get the RR2160 online for Internet radio. There is no Wi-Fi, so keep that in mind. You’ll need to run an Ethernet cable to your rack to get on the network. A PC USB-B port allows you to hook up a computer to the RR2160. Two coaxial and two optical connections bring in your digital devices and allow for direct connection to that new Ultra HD TV you got for your birthday. Two USB ports also provide power for charging a device. They are located next to the two trigger outs and IR in/out jacks. You get two subwoofer outputs, plus main pre-inputs and pre-outs should you want to connect to a more powerful amplifier. Four analog inputs and a phono input (moving magnet or moving coil) are also included. The binding posts are quite nice as they are designed to allow for a better grip to tighten down your speaker wires. I don’t recall ever seeing these specific posts before and I liked them.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the bass management switch which allows you to have the RR2160 control the subwoofer’s crossover point. In the Defeat mode, you will need to set the crossover on your sub, but if you let the receiver manage bass, you get crossover points at 60, 80, and 100Hz. The sub outputs are controlled by the main volume. The power cord is removable should you prefer to replace it with an upgraded one.
At 110 watts-per-channel (all driven) and a Burr-Brown PCM DAC with native 24/192 capability, the Outlaw Audio RR2160 makes a good choice for a music lover that is powerful, clean, and easy to use. The new features allow for high resolution streaming, DLNA play back, and HD Radio/Internet Radio while maintaining the RR2150’s excellent sounding analog section. All in all, it’s a more than worthy successor to that venerable receiver.
Unboxing the Outlaw Audio RR2160, I was immediately impressed by its weight. So many receivers these days are light and mostly empty inside, but not this one. Included in the box was the remote, an FM antenna, a power cord, and a printed manual. It is very well-written and illustrated and I also found it contained some nice audio advice on setup and dialing in optimal sound. I cleared off the center-channel speaker on my audio table and placed the RR2160 just under my wall-mounted flat-panel television. My speakers for this review are the Revel F36 towers I reviewed back in March. I didn’t have any bookshelf speakers on hand during the review period, so my observations about the bass boost will apply to full range towers, as well as with the sub engaged.
The five-way binding posts are nice because of their shape. I originally set 14-gauge bare copper wires into them, but later finished the ends with banana connectors. There are tiny colored caps in the middle of the posts that pop out so a banana plug can be accepted. Either way, the posts really grip bare wire tightly and that’s what you want.
I hooked up my OPPO BDP-103 to the back of the RR2160 via analog connections (Kimber Kable PBJ) and digitally with a coaxial connector (Morrow Audio) so I could compare sound from a single source. I hooked up one of my subwoofers to the sub-out on the back and selected 80Hz for its crossover to start with. My sub is an Earthquake Audio CP-8 which is delightfully easy to move around. I connected the RR2160 to my network via a short CAT6 cable and I was just about ready to go… all in less than 15 minutes!
Since this receiver is not intended for home theater use, I did the bulk of my listening to stereo music on CD, SACD, or high-res files from a thumb drive. For my download samples, I went to the 2L website http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html and downloaded some free music at different sampling rates. The lowest resolution I used was 16-bit CD-quality and up to 24-bit/96kHz for comparisons. The Outlaw Audio RR2160 does not play DSD files, but the OPPO BDP-103 can output them at a sampling rate of 88kHz in PCM, which the Outlaw was able to play.
Using the Internet Radio was fun, but I quickly learned how daunting it could be. You can select regions in the USA, or from around the world. You can select genres both for music and podcasts. Around channel 50, I found an all-Bach station that I listened to for a while. How many stations are out there? I have no idea, but if you can’t find something that you like, you are hopeless. Many of these stations are CD-quality or better; usually sounding much better than local FM stations. For some of you, this feature alone may make the RR2160 a worthwhile upgrade.
The LED panel scrolls a display for the station names and from the remote you can save your favorites. When I put in my 16GB thumb drive, I could play the files I downloaded from 2L. The Outlaw Audio RR2160 plays the files in alphabetical order, so you cannot select them randomly.
Metadata scrolls across the display showing track titles and their sample rates. Sound quality was excellent, and I could hear a clear superiority from the higher sample rate material. I downloaded a free DLNA application and was able to stream music from my iPhone to the RR2160 without any trouble.
The Persuasions “The Persuasions Sing the Beatles”
For music choices, I selected The Persuasions Sing the Beatles from Chesky records. This a Capella quartet sounds fantastic and the stereo imaging of the RR2160 Retro Receiver was impressive. All four voices were in distinct locations on the front stage.
Voices sounded natural, and every breath intake and finger snap was captured. Recorded in a large church in New York City, the acoustical space was also well-preserved by the RR2160. It’s a fresh take on some great tunes by Lennon and McCartney that sound as though they were originally written for these guys.
Steve Wilson “Aqualung”
Aqualung by Jethro Tull has been remastered by Steve Wilson and its new stereo mix is both dynamic and detailed. If your system is finely tuned and set up, you’ll be rewarded with rock tunes that are almost three-dimensional. The grunge has been removed, revealing some pretty nice sonic licks on the guitars and punchy bass beats from the drums.
Turning up Locomotive Breath let me judge the prowess of the RR2160. It easily delivered tight, deep bass while allowing Ian Anderson lots of vocal flexibility. His flute sounded sweet, and of course, breathy. All the nuances in this Tull masterpiece were well handled by the RR2160. I played this stuff loudly too, and felt that the RR2160 had plenty of gas when I called for it. I can’t imagine the average person needing more power than what it can deliver, but you do have the option to use the pre-outs. I felt that it put out a lot of good sound at higher volumes and still had plenty of headroom for the more dynamic passages, but your mileage may vary.
Richard Wagner, Anthony Newman “Organ Orgy”
Organ Orgy is a transcription for organ of some great passages from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. This recording came out in the 70’s while I was in college and really set me on the path to becoming an audiophile. The Aeolian-Skinner organ in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City was unique at the time for its division of pipes called the State Trumpets in the back of the church.
These en chamade pipes are mounted on the back wall near the ceiling in a horizontal position and run at 50psi of air pressure (the average organ pipes run at 4-6psi), so they have a very distinct, piercing sound quality.
The decay time in this cathedral is about five seconds and the sense of space was well-presented by the Outlaw. This recording has lovely soft passages that usually give way to dramatic fanfares and driving bass lines that can be a challenge for any system to handle (it is opera after all). The CD was remastered at 24/96 (Columbia/Sony) which easily bests the sound quality from the original vinyl LP that I owned, especially in the dynamic range department. The RR2160 made it sound the way the live recording would have sounded if you had been there when it was made.
Using the speaker EQ, I noticed that even my F36s sounded good with it set to 65Hz. 80 was bit honky in the vocal range and 55 was a bit too rich in the bass. Though I did not try this with actual bookshelf speakers, I can see how this could be an appealing feature, ripe for experimentation.
THE OUTLAW AUDIO RR2160 STEREO RETRO RECEIVER is a worthy successor to the RR2150. For just $799, it offers great performance from analog and digital sources.
- Powerful, clear sound quality from both digital and analog sources
- Retro style is refreshingly different
- Bass management with dual subwoofer outputs
- Internet Radio is literally a world of music to be discovered
- Headphone jack with independent volume control
Would Like To See
- Larger volume and source buttons on remote
The Outlaw Audio RR2160 Stereo Retro Receiver takes a fresh, new spin on the highly regarded RR2150 by providing the same sound quality and power, but now with digital inputs, bass management, and Internet Radio. If I were starting out again as a stereo-only guy, the Outlaw RR2160 would be a great choice because it will accept almost any device you have; whether it be a turntable, universal disc player, Internet Radio, Bluetooth, or computer with high resolution files. I like the retro look because it is distinctive and doesn’t follow the “me too” look of almost every other black box receiver on the market. The all-aluminum backlit remote is easy to use and once you master it, you may never get out of your seat again (OK, a little hyperbole). It doesn’t do home theater with surround sound, but it sounded fantastic with stereo sources. Make no mistake, the Outlaw Audio RR2160 Stereo Retro Receiver may look old fashioned, but it is ready for the future. You will want to ride off into the sunset with this Outlaw!