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Stotty (Bolton, England)

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Roth Audio Sub Zero II TV Soundbar with Bluetooth
Roth Audio Sub Zero II TV Soundbar with Bluetooth

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Soundbar!, 23 Nov 2014
I had been the owner of the original Roth Sub Zero, which I thought was a terrific entry level soundbar at a good price. When I saw a second hand Sub Zero II going cheap, it didn't take much for me to give it a go. I'm glad that I did.
Firstly, it's vital to make sure that your equipment is set up properly. I often wonder how many of those who leave negative reviews have done that. Soundbars are mainly stereo devices that are designed to widen and sharpen the poor soundstages delivered by TV speakers and give the whole thing a more cinematic feel thanks to some extra bass. Unless your DVD/Blu-Ray/TV audio settings are set to downmix/stereo and/or PCM, your soundbar won't perform as it should. In terms of connections, I connected the red and white phono cables from the soundbar to the TV and an optical cable from the bar to my Blu-Ray player.
The Roth Sub Zero II is as close to perfection as you can get from a soundbar at this price. There are three audio presets; 'movie', 'music' and 'voice'. I found that the 'movie' setting works well with everything, so I wouldn't bother with the other two. Unlike the original Sub Zero there's no bass control, which concerned me at first, but the built in bass levels are perfectly balanced, delivering a warmth that never threatens to overpower or drown out everything else. Movie-wise, I tested it with the Blu-Ray version of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' and was blown away with the separation. Dialogue is crisp and clear and during action sequences, particularly towards the end of the film, arrows whizz around the soundstage, swords clang and goblin screams echo across the soundbar, whilst the soundtrack helped produce a genuinely immersive and cinematic experience.
Music-wise, I played Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon', which had depth and clarity, with guitars, soaring and chiming in equal measure, crisp hi-hat and snare sounds from the drum kit and keyboards that sounded nicely textured. The original Sub Zero probably just shades it in terms of music, but overall, I was very impressed with the performance. I let my son play 'Injustice' on the Wii U with sound coming from the phono connections and it was surprisingly vibrant, with plenty of beef, crack and snap in the punch-ups.
In terms of the blue-tooth feature, I streamed a couple of full albums from YouTube through it (via an I-Pad) and it performed beautifully, delivering a solid, full sound.
What I like about this soundbar is, unlike the original, there are no gimmicks. The first Sub Zero went for a full-on bass assault, whilst attempting to create an illusion of surround sound, which came close, but no cigar. This time, Roth have focused more on sound, detail and balance and as a result, have come up trumps with an affordable soundbar that makes movies in particular sound superb in a home setting, without unnecessarily squashing your head with bass and drowning out dialogue. If you want a well-priced, home movie experience without speakers and wires trailing about all over the place that looks good and unobtrusive below your TV, this is it.

Tibo PP-100 Sound Bar to Improve TV Sound 30W Up to 30Kgs
Tibo PP-100 Sound Bar to Improve TV Sound 30W Up to 30Kgs
Offered by Jojji
Price: £39.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A good piece of kit!, 31 Oct 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you're looking for something to really unlock the sound in a small TV, this is it. I bought one for the bedroom TV, and it's superb. I placed it underneath my 24 inch TV and Blu-Ray player and it looks sleek and unobtrusive, whilst delivering a great sound.
There have been some gripes about the machine turning itself off regularly. This is down to an automatic function that switches the machine off if it doesn't detect audio signals after a minute or two. I found that by switching the TV's sound up to full and using the Tibo's remote to control the sound thereafter, the only time the auto switch off function kicked in was during the load up time on a blu-ray disc, which isn't that big an issue. Once the disc loaded properly, the machine came on after a few seconds. To eliminate that problem, I found that using the mute button during loading seemed to work, but like I said, it isn't really a big deal.
The Tibo connects to your TV via the headphone socket (there's another jack socket that comes in handy for an I-Pod, MP3 or phone), so make sure your TV has got one before you buy.
To get the best sound, don't bother with the extra bass setting; you don't need it, especially if you're only dealing with a smallish TV in a smallish room. If you're using a DVD/Blu-Ray player, make sure that the audio settings are set to PCM and you'll get a lovely sound with plenty of depth and detail. I also found that using the 'virtual surround' setting on my TV helped the widen the stereo soundstage through the Tibo even further and fill the room nicely.
If you're a fierce audiophile, that demands HDMI surround sound, or want something good for a large lounge, I'd always recommend a nice 5.1 rig or a good soundbar. If, like me, you want something that's going to vastly improve the sound of a small TV in the bedroom or a study for example, you won't find anything better, especially at this price. A good, solid piece of kit.

The Ghosts of Pripyat
The Ghosts of Pripyat
Price: £5.29

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Sublime!, 30 Sep 2014
This is wonderful stuff. Right from the absorbing opening track, 'Morpheus' Steve Rothery and co take the listener on an audio journey through demonic dreams, to an eerie post-Chernobyl ghost town via oceans and icy wastelands. Each track is a mini soundtrack packed with atmosphere, feeling and power.
'The Old Man of the Sea' and the astonishing 'White Pass' are the highlights in what is one of the most downright enjoyable instrumental albums I've heard since Mike Oldfield's 'Songs From Distant Earth'. Think Camel meets Tangerine Dream and you're nearly there.
Rothery previewed the majority of these songs on his superb recent 'Live from Rome' platter, but the studio versions offered here really hit the sweet-spot, due to the superior production (recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World studio) and the addition of keyboards which add an extra dimension. 'The Ghosts of Pripyat' is arguably the most focused and cohesive record that Steve Rothery has ever been involved in.
What I love about this album, is that it's everything I hoped and expected a Steve Rothery solo album would sound like. His Andy Latimer influences are on display throughout the record and you can tell that his friendship with Steve Hackett has had a knock-on effect (he even guests on the album, along with Steven Wilson), with a number of the different styles on display ranging from prog, hard-rock and pastoral English acoustic sounds with some Eastern vibes thrown in for good measure. I also like the fact that Rothery doesn't use the excuse of a solo album to engage in showboating. Sure enough, his playing is sublime throughout, but every member of his band gets to shine and is afforded the space and time to put their mark on the music. As a result, the songs just flow beautifully, with top end musicianship that never once becomes self-indulgent.
In addition to all that, the fact that the album has a fairly standard running time means that it doesn't outstay its welcome. Instead, it leaves you wanting to give it another spin.
Rather than download 'The Ghosts of Pripyat', I'd advise anyone to beg, steal or borrow a copy of the CD version, which comes with some lavish artwork and a bonus DVD, including a making of documentary and a high quality resolution version of the album.
As of writing this, this album is officially the third most successful 'Kickstarter' project ever and the fact that Rothery is already planning a follow up is very welcome news indeed.
Fans of progressive rock and instrumental music will lap this up.
It really is that good.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 8, 2014 8:06 PM GMT

Live In Rome
Live In Rome
Price: £21.56

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Live Package From a Genuine Guitar Hero!, 7 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Live In Rome (Audio CD)
Steve Rothery has always been the soul of Marillion and his forthcoming crowd funded album, 'The Ghosts of Pripyat' is probably one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the progressive rock genre this year (2014). The whole Kickstarter project has been a phenomenal success.
Here we have Rothery and his crack outfit of a backing band captured live at the Crossroads club in Rome. Over the course of two CDs, we're treated to a number of his solo offerings of which 'Morpheus', 'Yesterday's Hero' and the stunning 'White Pass' are highlights. Beautifully constructed long form pieces of instrumental music that are stuffed to the gills with cinematic atmosphere and power. Think Camel meets Tangerine Dream and you're nearly there.
Rothery and co also dust off some Marillion classics and it's interesting to hear some of them with female vocals. I wonder if Steve might consider doing an album similar to what Steve Hackett has done with his 'Genesis Revisited' albums. Ironically, he guested on the second installment. It could make for an interesting project.
If two CDs weren't enough, we also get a bonus DVD of the live show as well, so all in all, it's an impressive package.
Rothery's playing as you'd expect is a joy throughout and it isn't just fans of Marillion that will love this. Fans of the likes of Andy Latimer, David Gilmour, Andy Glass and Nick Barrett will find plenty to enjoy here.
I know most Rothery lovers will be bracing themselves for the studio album, but it'd be foolish to ignore this live platter. It's more than a tongue wetter. It's an essential purchase.

Yesshows/Expanded (Original Recording Re
Yesshows/Expanded (Original Recording Re
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £23.61

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Band In Their Live Pomp!, 31 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I remember when I first got into Yes whilst at secondary school in the late 1980s and my Mum's friend (who also happened to be a Yes fan) loaned me the vinyl version of 'Yesshows'. I remember loving the artwork and the live photos inside the gatefold sleeve as well as the attack of the first few songs. The usual 'Firebird Suite' intro gives way to a storming version of 'Parallels' that knocks spots off its album counterpart. There then comes another superior version of an album track, this time 'Time and a Word' which itself gives way to a rollicking version of 'Going For The One'.
It's absolutely snorting stuff. However, I always remember being mildly irritated by the fact that 'Ritual' was split into two parts on the album version. Since then, we've had Joe Gastwirt's excellent 1994 remaster which gave us 'Ritual' in its full unabridged form and now we have this expanded edition, which includes the live versions of 'I've Seen All Good People' and 'Roundabout' which featured on the 'Classic Yes' compilation from 1981. As a result, there's a genuine 'completeness' about 'Yesshows' which also makes it feel like a full, live show.
Listening to this album now, I can't help but prefer it to the 1973 classic live album, 'Yessongs'. Although that was a groundbreaking live project in many ways (a triple album with sumptuous artwork that told a story and an accompanying live film), the sound on that record is still very muddy. For whatever reason, no-one has ever managed to nail a crisper sound from the original tapes. It's also obvious that the tracks are pulled from different concerts and the material included focuses on only three albums ('The Yes Album', 'Fragile' and 'Close to the Edge').
'Yesshows' provides the 'illusion' of a complete gig and there's a nice balance between epic, large scale tracks (a brilliant version of 'The Gates of Delirium' and the aforementioned 'Ritual') as well as some of Yes's shorter, more accessible tunes ('Wonderous Stories' and 'Don't Kill the Whale') covering six albums. The level of musicianship is on a different planet and the sound is nice and clear. Although the songs are taken from various different gigs, it's obvious that this is Yes in their pomp and on top of their game.
'Yesshows' was always a good live record, but thanks to a decent remaster and a couple of bonus tracks, it's now an outstanding one that provides the perfect document to what this wonderful band were all about in the 1970s.
Absolutely terrific.

Panasonic DMP-BDT130 Smart Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player - Black
Panasonic DMP-BDT130 Smart Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player - Black

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Budget Priced Player!, 28 Aug 2014
I picked up one of these for next to nothing last Christmas (2013), with a view to moving my old Blu-Ray player upstairs into our bedroom. I was a bit concerned that I might be getting what I paid for so to speak, but I have to say that I'm very pleased with it.
I connected a LAN cable from my router into the back and can use the Smart apps like YouTube, BBC I-Player and Netflix, which look and sound great through the player. Some people have complained about the lack of catch-up TV, but I'm not that anal when it comes to that, although an Amazon/Lovefilm app would be nice.
Blu-Ray pictures are beautifully balanced and detailed and the DVD upscale is crisp. I haven't tried the 3D option as yet, but I have it on good authority that it's very good.
Just as a bit of an audio tip; if you're connecting a soundbar to it, use the optical input and change the sound settings on the player to stereo/PCM/downmix. Also turn both the 'dialogue enhancer' and 'dynamic range control' OFF. You'll then get a nice, room-filling sound from your soundbar.
The only downside to the machine is the fact that there's no WI-FI without having a 'dongle' sticking out of the front of it and there doesn't seem to be a way to multi-regionalise this model, which is a pain in the backside for me as I have a number of American Region 1 DVDs.
Other than that, for this price, you won't find a better player.
***Update - You can buy a device from EBay for about £12 that will multi-regionalise the player (DVDs only). It's a miniature remote that you simply point at the player until a light goes out. Hey presto! I bought one and it worked perfectly.

Heaven & Earth
Heaven & Earth
Price: £10.99

20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Set!, 21 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Heaven & Earth (Audio CD)
Some people expect way too much from Yes, given the fact that they have recorded some of the greatest albums in the prog rock genre. However, Yes are as likely to record another 'Fragile', 'Close To The Edge', or 'Relayer' as Genesis are to reform and make another 'Selling England By The Pound'.
Since Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman departed (again), Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White have done a hell of a job in keeping the Yes flame alive. Fair enough, band members coming and going is still a very annoying trait of this band, but fans should be well used to it by now. It's also worth noting that the previous album, 2011's 'Fly From Here' was the best thing Yes had recorded since 1994's 'Talk'.
Now, after the departure of singer Benoit David, the band have recruited Glass Hammer vocalist, Jon Davison and toured very heavily before recording this new album, 'Heaven And Earth' with legendary producer, Roy Thomas Baker. The end result is very satisfying.
Opening track, 'Believe Again' is an upbeat opener, with a great melody, memorable chorus and nice albeit, short instrumental break. 'Light Of The Ages' and album closer 'Subway Walls' are more typical, complex Yes pieces, the latter featuring some nice Hammond organ soloing from Geoff Downes.
Curiously enough, two of my favourite tracks are the more accessible numbers, 'It Was All We Knew' and 'The Game'; two wonderful tracks which show that the band can make immediate, unfussy music, with great harmonies, hooks and effortless musicianship.
The only gripes with 'Heaven And Earth' are 'Step Beyond' which veers too close to being twee for comfort and 'To Ascend', which despite being a beautiful ballad, needs expanding. It's a song that brings 'Turn Of The Century' from 'Going For The One' to mind and is crying out for the symphonic treatment featured on that track. Given the talent on display, it's a shame that Steve Howe and Geoff Downes couldn't deliver something that could really elevate the track to genuine greatness.
My only other complaint is with the album title. 'Heaven And Earth' implies something grandiose and epic and yet we don't really get that on this album.
What we do get is the band in a laid back mood. We get plenty of Howe's signature guitar playing and Downes lays on his trademark lush, retro keyboards sounds by the spadeful. The vocals are excellent, with Jon Davison delivering some genuinely beautiful performances that have a whiff of Jon Anderson about them, but are very much his own. The fact that he has writing credits on every track bar one is also worth noting. Chris Squire and Alan White glide through the album with a silky, smooth rhythm section that really allows the music to breathe.
'Heaven And Hell' may not gain the classic status of albums from Yes's 1970s heyday, but who cares? This record is perfect for a hot summer. It's not a frantic album of swirling prog with dizzying time signatures. It's a well produced, organic sounding set of wonderfully melodic tunes with the odd proggy flourish that's great to chill out to. It might not please some die-hards, but it's absolutely fine with me. Not essential, but good stuff nonetheless.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2014 7:45 PM BST

The Window Of Life
The Window Of Life
Price: £9.65

5.0 out of 5 stars Their Finest Hour!, 17 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Window Of Life (Audio CD)
'The Window of Life' was Pendragon's follow-up to 1991's brilliant 'The World' album, which became the band's biggest selling record to that point.
There's a much more widescreen/epic feel to this album which is highlighted in the opener, 'Walls of Babylon' which has a hell of a build up that seems to take in the intro to Magnum's 'How Far Jerusalem' before segueing into Pink Floyd's 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and Genesis's 'Watcher Of The Skies' before launching into a powerhouse track reminiscent of Fish era Marillion. It's a stunning track to get things underway.
'Ghosts' which follows, begins with a nice piano intro from Clive Nolan, before building once again into another huge symphonic rock piece, which sees the band laying on the drama and emotive power by the wagonload.
'Breaking The Spell' comes next and is one of the strongest tracks in this set. It continues to show how adept Nick Barrett is at conveying spine-tingling emotion through highly melodic, progressive rock with an accessible edge. It's a magical formula, which threatens to overwhelm at times, thanks to Barrett's incredible guitarwork.
The same can be said of 'The Last Man On Earth', which again is stuffed to the gills with raw emotion and a 'singalonga' chorus. It's a real epic that ebbs and flows beautifully with subtle moments, as well as hard rock runs. It's the best track on this record.
'Nostradamus (stargazing)' follows, and is a much less intense slice of crowd pleasing, stadium rock with another memorable chorus. It shows that the band can knock out a radio and chart friendly toe-tapper, as well as sprawling epics.
'Am I Really Losing You' is another more accessible track which sees the band in full-on ballad mode.
This release also features the tracks that made up the 'Fallen Dreams and Angels' EP of which the title track and 'Sister Bluebird' are standouts.
This album has always been the highlight of Pendragon's recorded output as far as I'm concerned. Everything from the individual performances, to the songs, the production and Simon Williams' artwork is just magical.
Anyone who loves quality prog of a Genesis, Camel and Marillion persuasion will just love it. That being said, Pendragon are far from being a tribute act. Their songs are crisp, vibrant, melodic and accessible. 'The Window Of Life' is very much of its time and very, very special.

Starless and Bible Black, 30th Anniversary Edition
Starless and Bible Black, 30th Anniversary Edition
Price: £8.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could 'a Been a Contender!, 19 Jun 2014
'Starless and Bible Black' followed what I consider to be arguably King Crimson's best work, 'Larks Tongues in Aspic', and like 1971's 'Lizard' it's one of those albums that comes close to being great, but never quite gets there.
On the plus side, this record is one of Crimson's rockiest albums and opening track, the entertaining 'The Great Deceiver' is a good slice of meaty, balls out rock that gets things off to a corking start.
'The Night Watch', like 'Book of Saturday' and 'Exiles' from 'Larks Tongues...' shows the band having a good ear for a decent melody and a well-written song. 'Trio' is a dreamy, meditative, mellotron soaked track that sweeps you away.
The rest of the album is a bit hit and miss for me. 'Lament' begins well enough, but loses focus, as does 'The Mincer'. The instrumental tracks are ok, but never seem to get anywhere. There isn't a good enough payoff, particularly with the title track, to justify the intensity and sonic assault of the 'journey', so to speak. That track needs a 'come down', similar to that of the title track from Pink Floyd's 'Saucerful of Secrets' to really round it off and close the album properly.
I like the fact that the songs have a 'live in the studio' sound as it gives the record a unique quality, but a lot of the songs end quite abruptly and sound like they needed a little bit more work in the writing process. Other people will feel that this is intentional, but it's something I find irritating.
As for the individual performances, the nucleus of Fripp, John Wetton and Bill Bruford was coming along nicely by this stage and each member offers something a bit different, whilst maintaining an overall high level of musicianship.
I suppose the problem with 'Starless and Bible Black' is that it's sandwiched between two of the best King Crimson albums in the entire back catalogue; 'Larks Tongues in Aspic' and the next album, 'Red', which would see the band signing off in some style. Taken on it's own, 'Starless...' is a solid enough entry, but doesn't quite hit the sweet spot for me.

Larks' Tongues in Aspic (40th Anniversary)
Larks' Tongues in Aspic (40th Anniversary)
Price: £16.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Yummy!, 19 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After a couple of ho-hum albums and numerous line-up changes, Robert Fripp finally got the ingredients right with this one. John Wetton (Family, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, UK, Asia) comes in on vocals and bass whilst ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford takes over on skins. David Cross adds violin and Jamie Muir throws in some weird and wonderful percussion. The results are terrific.
The album is book-ended by parts 1 and 2 of the title track and it helps give the album a 'complete' feel to it. The first part is a bit 'out there' with the signature improvisation/jamming that we expect from Crimson, punctuated with the odd melody and loads of Muir's percussion. The second part is rockier, more guitar driven and borders on heavy metal. It closes the album superbly.
'Book of Saturday' and 'Exiles' show off the band's songwriting side, with the former, a beautiful and wistful ballad. It makes a nice change to have some more accessible material on a King Crimson album. 'Easy Money' is almost a fusion of rock and reggae, but is classic Crimson: erratic, intense and powerful.
'The Talking Drum' is a nice instrumental precursor to 'Larks Tongues In Aspic Part 2' and segues well into that track.
'Larks Tongues In Aspic' shows King Crimson reaching the heights of their debut album. It's more focused, with a perfect balance of light and shade, improvised moments and genuinely well-crafted tunes. John Wetton is a singer who can actually sing and his bass playing, along with Bruford's drumming, just raises the bar from a musicianship perspective, allowing Fripp space to do his thing on guitar/mellotron. More importantly, unlike the previous three records, this album isn't just Robert Fripp and company. King Crimson actually sound like a band.
'Larks Tongues In Aspic' is the first album of a trilogy of not only their best albums, but a run of albums that held a nucleus of band members together for a change. It might have been short-lived, but it was a highly creative and memorable period in the band's history. This first effort from the 'new' band is a true classic in every sense.
Oh, and the album sleeve is cool as well.

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