Outlaw Audio receiver must be seriously considered new for 499...used for less than 400.
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I owned the Denon 2801 and was not impressed with the sound in either HT or music. I felt that the ONKYO 434, that I had upgraded from, was superior for both HT and music. I would look at ONKYO's offering in the $500 range, which I believe is the SR600 or SONY's SL-7 at $300, which offers a digital amplifier (check out Audio Asylum for some threads on the SONY). I like ONKYO's, in general, because they are built like battle ships and their WRAT amplifiers sound pretty good. The SONY intrigues me, because it is a digital amp. I have no experience with the OUTLAW ... so I can not comment one way or the other. Regards, Rich
Avoid the digital amps--its Class D and not as good as Class A or B. And the "D" doesn't have anything to do with digital: its just marketing hype. Class D is an analog design (the next after class C) that goes back to 1928--predating digital itself. Spectron and Tact are a little different--but still ultimately Class D too. Now if you're an environmentalist they are more efficient so it'll do the job with less power, but less fidelity.
I agree with either Outlaw or Onkyo. They both offer the best value for the money and sound. I have never had any problems with the Onkyo gear I have owned off an on for the last 25 years.
Remember, there is no gear that is break proof. Pick any brand and put in a post asking if anyone has had problems, and I am sure you will get a reply (or more).
The Class A/B/C/D amplifier design discussion is not one to get too worked up about, when considering an HT receiver. Essentially the designation refers to how the amplifier is "designed and works." What intrigued me about digital amplifiers is that they utilize digital crossovers ... ergo, they should be quieter. Plus they run much cooler ... which should lead to an amplifier that should last longer. This year, for example, Harman Kardon's TOTL HT receiver is a digital amp design. Good luck with whatever you decide. Regards, Rich.
I've had the Outlaw 1050 for well over a year and am still very satisfied. Their website currently shows that they have "B"-stock units available for $439 plus shipping. That would save you $60 off the regular "A"-stock price.
If your budget is really limited and the $500 is seriously stretching, there are other options. Out on ebay and here at Audiogon you can find new, refurbished, or used gear in your price range. Granted, it might not be brand spankin' new gear from Outlaw, Onkyo, or Denon, but you might be satisfied with something else if you're just getting started. Also, you could consider a receiver that is a little older and simply ProLogic (or digital ready) instead of having Dolby Digital or DTS decoding on-board. From just doing a brief scan on the receivers here, I note some receivers from Marantz, Yamaha, Denon, and Onkyo with the most expensive listed at $289.
I still stand by recommending the Outlaw 1050. If however, you could get into serious spousal trouble by spending that much (as I've almost done), then I think that you can still get a good used receiver on this site at a more comfortable price.
I owned a Denon AVR-3300 for about 2 years and sold it about 8 month ago for about the price you are looking to pay. For a receiver, I thought that it was pretty good (especially if you pick one up for $450).
What annoyed me most about the AVR-3300 was that damn fan that I could always hear. Now, my unit wasn't defective - the fan was operating as designed. I'm just hypersensitive to fan / background noise (I live about 8 miles north of the Dallas / Ft. Worth airport and the noise from the planes drives me mad).
Also, although it's rated at 105 watts per channel, you're only going to get about 80 usable before distortion really kicks in. I never really had a issue with that for movies, but if you drive the 5-channel stereo surround mode hard with music (especially with lots of bass), it begins to become more noticable.
I know that this sounds discouraging, but it really isn't meant to be. Like I said, for a $450 receiver, it's not a bad buy.
Would I take it over an Outlaw. Hmmmmmm. I don't know. I've never used the Outlaw, so it wouldn't be fair for me to say.
However, Outlaw has a 30 day money back guarantee. So my advice would be to go with the Outlaw, and if you decide you don't like it, send it back for a refund.