Outlaw Audio home shop products hideout news support shop
• BLS product page


Click images for a larger view.

The Outlaw Bookshelf Loudspeaker's Beginnings

For those who aren't familiar with the roots, or history of Outlaw loudspeakers, we will start at beginning:

Until about a decade ago, the Outlaws' product line had been limited to electronics, related products such as cables, and, of course, our subwoofers. In spite of that line-up, hardly a day went by when we're not asked why we didn't offer loudspeakers. It was a good question, given that we had a great deal of experience in the world of speakers. The answer then was quite simple. There were (and are today) many fine speaker companies with great products and reputations, and unless we could offer something truly special, we would not consider entering the category. Things began to change when we first announced the RR 2150 Retro Receiver. Our customers increasingly asked for speakers that matched the RR 2150's sonic performance and unique industrial design. At the same time, we started receiving numerous inquiries from manufacturers here and in Europe after these companies read about the RR 2150. Unfortunately, none of their proposed products held up to our standards, and we turned them all down. The increased demand did do one thing: it convinced us that the time had come for us to offer a true high-performance loudspeaker designed and manufactured to our own high standards.

We began to examine design concepts and interview potential manufacturers using the strong working knowledge of our Outlaw team about loudspeakers. The process was a long one, as we knew that we could only do this once and due to competition that it had to be done right the first time.
At the time, our goal was to offer the speakers for approximately $1,000 -$1500 per pair, with performance that would far exceed anything at that price. This price target gave us the ability to create and build speakers we would want to own ourselves, without the "If only we had." decisions that typically come with budget models which always had compromises.


As part of the design process we studied the high-performance speaker market, starting with a list of the brands the Outlaws admired. At that time among the many fine speaker companies in the market, certain names kept coming to the top of the list including (in alphabetical order) Aerial, Dynaudio, Revel, Snell, and Vandersteen. While their design approaches differed, they all had one thing in common: Each of these companies had design engineers who were fanatical about getting everything right. Their attention to detail in acoustics, aesthetics and manufacturing consistency was first rate. We knew that an Outlaw loudspeaker would have to meet those same high standards. As we began our own product definition we also had set some strict parameters:

  • The loudspeaker would be designed here in the U.S. and manufactured in relatively small quantities in a quality factory.
  • All components in the crossover would be "audiophile grade".
  • The transducers would come from a world class vendor with a reputation for precision and consistency.
  • In the manufacturing process, each loudspeaker would be built, tested and matched to within a ˝ dB of our reference standard. This would ensure that each speaker would sound virtually identical to any other. This may appear obvious, but it requires a high level of commitment and attention to detail. Only a handful of companies take the time and effort to truly manufacture to this tight tolerance.

To refine and execute our ideas, we decided to approach Snell who was based here in Massachusetts. We met with them for a very long lunch and shared our ideas. They were excited by what they heard and offered us a team of their best speaker engineers led by the legendary Joe D'appolito.

We worked together with them for more than a year to create a product that would be uniquely Outlaw. The end result of this effort was a product that had no model number, but rather a simple name:

The Outlaw Bookshelf Loudspeaker

Its many features included:

  • A custom designed 25mm soft dome tweeter utilizing precision parts
  • A long throw 5 1/4" seas woofer for deep, controlled bass extension.
  • Identically sized internal and external port baffle areas for equalization of air pressures, therefore providing fully symmetrical woofer excursion.
  • Internal and external matching port flares for virtually inaudible air turbulence.
  • Furniture grade cabinetry
  • True Bi-amp/Bi-wire design using precision five-way binding posts with separate crossovers for woofer and tweeter.
  • A proprietary Boundary Compensation switch for addressing challenges near walls and corners

The original Outlaw Bookshelf Loudspeakers were the recipients of numerous rave reviews and awards and we sold thousands of them. To say the least, we were bummed when the decision was made by the new owners of Snell ,Bain Capital (who had purchased both Snell and Boston Acoustics a few years before) to shutter that smaller division. The Outlaw BLS' immediately went from a great selling product to a sought after collector's item.

Fast forward 10 years:

When we decided it was time to upgrade the RR 2150 to the RR 2160 we started thinking about whether we could round up the "usual suspects" from Snell to see if it was possible to bring back our successful loudspeaker. Fortunately, the original team still resided in the New England area. We met with one of the principals of the Snell team and discussed what we wanted to do. We did however, add three "minor" requirements to re-launch this product:

  1. We wanted "improved versions" of the already excellent drivers and crossovers that were in the original speakers. With recent advances in materials and CAD design, the original Snell team felt that they could exceed what they had delivered over a decade earlier.
  2. We wanted a higher end, more “contemporary” cabinet finish (a real tough requirement due to the excellent cosmetics of the original speakers). In particular, we wanted a new semi-gloss finish to the cabinet.
  3. Finally, we told the team that we wanted to offer these speakers for about half the price of the originals! We made the case that since there was now no corporate overhead, and no need for their own machinery (since we had found a cooperative off- shore facility that builds in moderate quantities for some of the world's best brands), the cost of these speakers could come way down.

The team accepted our challenge provided they, in turn, could make two changes in the internal crossover:

  1. Eliminate the treble switch on the rear panel (we had no objection because the overwhelming majority of our customers preferred to use our speakers in the neutral or flat position and make any tone adjustments on their electronics).
  2. Combining the boundary compensation control to a single switch that would average the differences between corner and on-wall placement of the speakers.

These two changes afforded the team the economic freedom to optimize the crucially important crossover with new, higher performance components. With those agreement in place, the Snell team began their re-design of the speakers. over the last several months both they and our staff diligently collaborated on tweaks and modifications to their newly designed working samples. We firmly believe that we achieved our goals.

Introducing the BLSv2

With some minor cabinet changes and a newly, custom designed version of the original woofer, we were able to achieve an improvement in the bass response, which now rolls off at 50Hz (-3dB). Not only did we work on the woofer, but also the tweeter. By employing a neo magnet silk dome tweeter, we were able to utilize a slightly lower crossover. This provides an improvement of the on-axis horizontal response by eliminating a very small portion of the downward lobing you can experience with a conventional TM design. Just like the original bookshelf loudspeakers, we maintained independent circuit boards for our crossovers to allow for lower crosstalk.

The BLSv2 still retains that neutral, balanced sound you would expect from Outlaw Audio, and while a perfect match for our RR2160, the Outlaw BLS's are suited for any electronics in moderate sized listening environments.

Finally, whereas the original Outlaw Bookshelf Speakers retailed for nearly $1000 a pair, the new version will enter the market at $599.00 a pair! We are proud to offer a speaker that any Outlaw would be happy to own! We invite you to audition these speakers where it counts the most - in your own home.

Outlaw Products: Amplifiers Receivers/Processors Cables Speakers/Subs Outlaw Gear