Test one conducted just this afternoon at 12:30
Using a burned (CDA) copy of both In Rainbows and its Disc 2 counterpart, my NAD 521BEE and Outlaw 2150, my wife sat blindfolded (though she knew which receiver she was hearing first because she knows the distinct sound of how the powering on of the Outlaw sounds... and said it didn't matter to her because she's not biased in the least and has musician's ears and all that crap)
I played a few tracks, and she said ok, enough...switch.
On went the Onkyo, and after only about one minute through the first track she had first heard through the 2150, she said " Ok..Ok... I don't need to hear anything more !" I was actually pretty surprised to be honest. Though, she was sitting in the best listening position compared to me, and her hearing is definitely better than mine so..
With a smile on her face, she said that it was hard for her to describe in terms that I would understand, because she knows I like to use a lot of stupid technical terms for how things sound, so she started to get out her pastels and paper and said she'd draw a picture of what she wanted to say.. I replied that I'd ask if what I was going to say fit the bill..
More detail ? Better spatial imaging ? Immediately she realized that she could now relate to those terms and proceeded to tell me that with the Outlaw, she could better place where each instrument was coming from up until it reached her ears, whereas with the Onkyo, things were more mushed in together, and there was no real beginning or ending to the notes or instruments.
To be honest, I felt slightly the same way, but apparently not nearly as set on the point as she was. Guess my 2 years of age on her are a discredit to my ears ? But yeah, I could tell that the imaging on the Outlaw is certainly more distinct and the bass is more natural sounding, as opposed to a bit of the bloat that the Onkyo showed in comparison. But..not that bad.
Now... there's something else I have to note, and feel that it's rather crucial to this test. During the Onkyo's time, I didn't use the "selective tone" feature at all. Left it flat, and even had to tone down the bass a bit because it was pretty heavy and wanted to match the Outlaw's bass response as best I could.
Why I think this is important is because I now have my Rega P2 hooked up to the Outlaw's phono section, and ya know what ? It's nice. However, it's "nice" when I put the selective tone feature into effect. With it off, everything is dull, flat and lifeless. With it on, there's life and it really does drastically increase the lower and upper frequency response to give the sound a more full and lush quality.
So now, when she gets home, I'm going to ask her to sit down once again, and test some music with the Selective tone feature enabled, just to see if that has any impact on her previous opinion.
Gotta say though, I feel that both these receivers make a damned great budget package, especially with the turntable. I could relegate the Onkyo to the current set up I have, and definitely see it going to my kid (should I ever have one) and having the 2150 serving as a second budget system, and using better speakers.
Now, I just need a decent sized house for 3 separate systems.
Nah.. but I really like the idea that the Onkyo can handle a MM phono cart quite well. More tests later.