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Stotty (Bolton, England)

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Ex-Pro® AV-Pro Analogue Stereo Audio to SPDIF Digital Converter [Stereo Left/Right RCA Phono to SPDIF TOSlink/Coaxial]
Ex-Pro® AV-Pro Analogue Stereo Audio to SPDIF Digital Converter [Stereo Left/Right RCA Phono to SPDIF TOSlink/Coaxial]
Offered by ExpressPro
Price: £16.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did Exactly What I Wanted!, 7 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought one of these out of pure laziness. I have a Maxell 252 soundbase that goes great with my TV, which has all the necessary inputs required. However, the remote on the Maxell is one of those horrible credit card sized, blister button affairs, which I'm not a fan of. The only way I could control the soundbase with my TV remote was to connect it via the headphone socket, thus only getting analogue stereo sound.
I bought one of these converters, connected it to the TV through the headphone socket and ran an optical lead from the converter to the soundbase. Voila! I'm now enjoying gorgeous, room-filling, neighbour-bothering digital sound and the Maxell's remote has been tossed in a drawer.
This converter arrived in good time and was a doddle to connect. I was so thrilled, that I bought another one to deal with the same issue in another room. Brilliant!

Price: £3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Bloomin' Marvellous!, 27 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Greenslade (MP3 Download)
This is great. Dave Greenslade and co ditch the idea of having a guitar player and instead, opt for a twin keyboard attack consisting of dovetailing electric pianos and hammond organs, with added mellotron for texture and Chris Squire-esque bass playing, all hammered home with tight drumming.
Highlights are the opening track, 'Feathered Friends' and the more instrumental based tracks, such as 'An English Western', 'Melange' and the stunning closing track, 'Sundance'.
The music here is so uptempo and colourful, you don't really notice, let alone care about the absence of a guitar player; but if you're a prog fan why would you? Emerson, Lake and Palmer nevered bothered too much with guitar, nor did Van Der Graaf Generator or Rick Wakeman. In fact, the musical approach on 'Greenslade' has much in common with Wakeman's 'Six Wives of Henry VIII' album. It's a good slice of direct, keyboard driven rock. Ok, the vocal passages, which are dotted throughout the album aren't particularly inspired, but to be fair, this album isn't about vocals. What we have here, is a band of gifted musicians having an absolute blast in the studio and delivering some entertaining, unfussy, unpretentious progressive music that really puts a smile on the face. Throw in an awesome Roger Dean sleeve for good measure and you're good to go.
This is bloomin' marvellous stuff. Give it a whirl.

Maxell MXSB 252 Digital SoundBase TV Speaker
Maxell MXSB 252 Digital SoundBase TV Speaker
Offered by D&A TRADING
Price: £63.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Audio Hub!, 28 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought one of these based on various reviews I'd read and I have to say that I'm thrilled with the Maxell 252. First off, I was concerned as to how my 40" Sony Bravia would look perched on top of it. However, the machine is somehow larger than I expected and sturdy enough to take it quite comfortably whilst remaining aesthetically pleasing, which is quite a feat.
Connections-wise, the Maxell is well stocked. Some may bemoan the lack of Bluetooth, which would certainly make this soundbase the finished article, but having owned a Roth Sub Zero II and never really bothered with the Bluetooth on that, it's no big deal for me. What the Maxell does have is optical, RCA and 3.5mm line connections, along with 4 HDMI inputs incorporating ARC capability, which means that you can connect 3 HDMI devices directly to the soundbase and run another HDMI cable from it to your TV provided it's ARC compatible, thus the Maxell becomes the 'switcher' for everything connected. I tried all variations in terms of connectivity and surprisingly, found very little difference in terms of the sound quality. That being the case, I kept all my devices connected to the TV and connected the 3.5mm line in to the headphone socket of the television. This means that the Maxell switches on automatically when I turn on the TV and I can control the sound with the TV remote. Alternatively, the Maxell's remote has a learning facility whereby once you've followed the enclosed instructions, you can control your TV with the Maxell remote. Inside the box, you'll also find optical, analogue and 3.5mm cables.
Performance-wise, the Maxell is more than up to snuff. However, it's vital that your other equipment is set up properly and you need to give the speakers a bit of time to 'wear in'. The sound settings on TVs, Blu-Ray players and games consoles must be set to stereo/PCM in order to get the best experience. I read many reviews from people complaining about poor sound quality or that the volume is too low and I wonder how many of them have set things up properly. The Maxell boasts of having SRS-WOW surround sound technology, designed to widen the stereo sound field and provide the 'illusion' of surround, but in reality, achieving 'surround sound' from any soundbase or soundbar is like finding the holy grail. You would have to spend a small fortune to come even remotely close and anyone buying the Maxell in order to have the full 'cinema' experience is likely to be disappointed. That being said, I watched the opening battle sequences from 'Thor: The Dark World' in SRS mode and it delivered a nice, wide soundstage with an impressive, room-filling sound and plenty of 'oomph' where necessary, which made me feel very much part of the action. Dialogue remained crisp and clear, holding its own amid the carnage of the battles, although it did get a bit harsh at high volume.
In standard mode, the Maxell sounds terrific and is perfect for everyday viewing. I let the kids watch 'Shaun the Sheep: The Movie' and the sound was tight and powerful with dialogue remaining stable and clear. What really impressed me is how much the soundbase mines into the soundtrack for little details in the mix. This was even more noticeable watching a crowd sequence during an episode of 'Homeland: Season 4', which picked up just about every chant and shout in the Islamabad demonstration scene. The machine had managed to dig out just about every nuance in the demonstration/protest scene.
In both sound settings, I'd recommend using the maximum bass. It really does elevate movie soundtracks to almost cinema level.
Aside from the lack of Bluetooth and a digital display, which I think the Maxell 252 could have done with ideally, this soundbase is as close to perfection as you can get at this price. The various connections, including HDMI/ARC make it virtually future-proof and the sound is excellent. If you don't have room for a full 5.1 rig or like me, have too many young children running around to risk damage to a full surround set-up with wires trailing everywhere, the Maxell is an ideal compromise, which will hold its own in any decent sized living room.
I can't speak highly enough of this soundbase, and at under £100, you'll struggle to top it.

Calling All Stations
Calling All Stations
Price: £12.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Criminally Underrated. It's Their Best Album Since Duke!, 29 Sept. 2015
This review is from: Calling All Stations (Audio CD)
I actually wasn't too disappointed when Phil Collins left Genesis after the 'We Can't Dance' tour in the early 1990s. I loved the first two post-Gabriel albums that he sang on ('A Trick of The Tail' and 'Wind and Wuthering'), as well as 'Duke', but everything else was patchy at best. Since Steve Hackett's departure from the band in 1977, Tony Banks had dominated the song-writing and saturated everything in keyboards, with guitar playing taking a backseat and offering nothing much more than a bit of texture. Collins' ego was also front and centre with a number of his Genesis songs becoming indistinguishable from his solo offerings. The band needed a reboot, and 'Calling All Stations' was a step in the right direction.
The band recruited Stiltskin singer, Ray Wilson whose huskier vocal style leaned more towards Peter Gabriel and Paul Carrack than Phil Collins. The resulting album, although not without fault was a joy to these ears. The opening title track was as dark and rocky as anything the band had done to that point with some jagged guitar driving the song on, which made for a nice change. Genesis still hadn't lost their ability to write accessible, shorter tracks, but they're more mature and bleeding-hearted on this record. The superb 'Congo', along with the catchy 'Small Track' are good examples of radio-friendly, keyboard-driven rock songs, while 'Not About Us' is a beautiful, bitter-sweet acoustic guitar based ballad.
However, it's the meatier tracks that really deliver. 'Alien Afternoon' is initially forgettable, but becomes more absorbing with repeated plays. 'The Dividing Line' and 'There Must Be Some Other Way' are vintage Genesis; epic tracks with superb musicianship and nice instrumental breaks.
My personal favourite is 'Uncertain Weather'. Vaguely reminiscent of 'Man on the Corner' from 'Abacab', it tells the story of a lonely war veteran and is beautifully sung by Wilson, who performs admirably throughout the album.
As refreshing and satisfying as 'Calling All Stations' is, it was still a wasted opportunity in many respects. Rutherford and Banks, along with the band's management didn't plan things through properly. Rather than use two drummers, I think they should have recruited a full-time drummer (Chester Thompson?) and I think with Steve Hackett already working on his first Genesis Revisited project at that time, I think he could have been persuaded to rejoin the band and give the whole thing a lift, as if there's one thing 'Calling All Stations' is crying out for, it's some top end guitarwork.
They should have then booked smaller venues for the tour and built things up slowly, rather than book arena shows, many of which had to be cancelled due to a lack of interest.
This was an opportunity to re-invent the band and steer it towards the 21st century. A previous reviewer mentions how Marillion have evolved over the years with Steve Hogarth at the helm. I agree with that. There was massive potential for Genesis with Ray Wilson at the helm, as 'Calling All Stations' demonstrates. It's a crying shame that Rutherford and Banks didn't have the bottle or the will to follow it through, because this album remains the best thing that Genesis have released since 1980.

Nintendo Wii U 32GB Premium Pack - Black
Nintendo Wii U 32GB Premium Pack - Black
Offered by Medialand4you
Price: £244.49

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore The Naysayers!!!, 15 July 2015
I got hold of one of these not long after they came out, and I have to say it's a hell of a machine. For starters, it's well stocked; the gamepad is a great idea that allows someone to play on the system without hogging the TV and the quality of the image/sound is terrific. In terms of apps, you can access things like Amazon Prime/Lovefilm, Netflix, YouTube and BBC I-Player as well as download demos and buy games from a good selection on the online Nintendo store. The unit is also small and sturdy, very much like the original Wii.
In terms of games, a lot has been said about various designers choosing not to support the Wii U, due to slow sales of the unit, but the Wii U boasts a satisfying library of great games that cover most ages. Titles such as 'Wii U Party' and the 'Mario Party' entries are great for families, there's a raft of Lego games available from 'Lego: City' and the 'Lego DC/Marvel' series up to 'Lego: The Hobbit' and the latest 'Lego: Jurassic Park' to keep both young and old happy and the more hardened gamer will love 'Zombie U', 'Bayonetta 1 & 2' and 'DC Injustice' among others. It's worth noting that 'Mariokart 8' also happens to be arguably the most entertaining and fun game on the market. What makes the Wii U extra special is that you can still play all the old Wii games on the Wii U, as well as download retro games that used to feature on the old Gameboy and SNES etc from the Nintendo online shop. The Wii U also has downloadable games from independent designers, which is refreshing. Whereas the Xbox and PlayStation units offer variations on similar themes game-wise, Nintendo still take the crown when it comes to imagination, creativity and all round fun, which is what it's all about for me. There's something for everyone.
In terms of everything else, the picture and sound quality are superb and the machine is easy to use and powerful. The Wii U is also cheaper than it's rivals and I think offers better value.
Yes, it's disappointing that some designers are staying away from the Wii U and scandalous that some supermarkets are only stocking a limited number of titles, but that shouldn't deter people from buying the Wii U. It's brilliant and given a fair wind, should really come into it's own over the next year or so.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2015 6:07 PM BST

Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two
Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two
Price: £10.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yessongs With a Bit of Spit and Polish!, 30 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As much as I love 1973's 'Yessongs', and its packaging, the rather muddy sound of the live recordings has always irked me a bit. These recordings from 1972 have addressed that problem at long last.
Other fans may well have parted with their hard-earned cash on the full box-set that this album is based on, but this live set does for me very nicely.
Basically, other than the omissions of 'Perpetual Change' and 'The Fish' (which were taken from earlier recordings), along with 'Starship Trooper' this is pretty much the same running order as 'Yessongs', but taken from newly discovered recordings of other shows that took place across the USA.
There's nothing new song-wise as far as Yes fans are concerned. 'Yours Is No Disgrace', 'I've Seen All Good People', 'Roundabout', 'Heart Of The Sunrise', 'Close To The Edge', 'And You, And I' and 'Siberian Khatru' are all present and correct, along with solo spots from Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. It's the quality of the recordings that are the selling point here; the mixing/mastering process has mined very deeply for little nuances, textures and twinkles that were lost in the original 'Yessongs' recordings. You even get to hear the band tinkering with their instruments during the 'Firebird Suite' intro. The raw power and energy of the live music has been preserved, but the sound is clearer and somehow more vibrant. It captures the Yes live experience perfectly and shows just what an unbelievably gifted group of young, exciting, innovative and creative musicians Yes were during this period.
In addition to that, there are some nice sleeve-notes and Roger Dean has contributed some stunning new artwork that gives a tip of the hat to his 'Yessongs' paintings from 1973. It makes for a superb little package, although as mentioned earlier, many people may want to go the whole hog and splash out on the full, indulgent and immersive box-set.
As I type this, the unbearable loss of Chris Squire is still very raw, but this live collection simply reinforces not only his genius in terms of re-defining bass-playing in modern rock, but also highlights his wonderful showmanship and incredible legacy of quite superb music. RIP Chris, and thanks.

Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bliss!, 20 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Erpland (Audio CD)
I remember first listening to Ozric Tentacles in the early 90s whilst at college doing my A-Levels. A fellow student recommended them to me after I'd told him of my love of prog rock and other groups, such as Tangerine Dream. 'Erpland' was the first album I bought and I was mesmirised. I ended up investing in 'Pungent Effulgent', 'Stangeitude' and the successful 'Jurassic Shift' after that, before somehow losing touch with the band. However, thanks to YouTube and 'Prog' magazine, I've rediscovered the Ozrics again, and am delving into the discography, which includes this beautifully presented special edition with bonus live DVD. I'm happy to say that 'Erpland' has lost none of its lustre.
Purely instrumental, the album is soaked in numerous influences. At times, the swirling, spacey keyboard effects call Hawkwind to mind, the attack of some of the rockier instrumental runs are reminiscent of Yes and there are South American and North African flavours thrown in for good measure. All that being said, Ozric Tentacles are a pretty hard band to pigeonhole which, along with the lack of vocals/lyrics, perhaps explains their lack of real, major mainstream success. That's fine with me. It's the cult, independent nature of the group which makes them what they are and as a result, they've never sold out.
This a great album to lose yourself in. It really is an audio journey of discovery. Track to track, the bubbling synths, flutes and effects wash over you, supplemented every now and again by some storming guitar breaks, all pinned down by a rhythm section that's tighter than the treasury.
Highlights for me are the stunning opening track, 'Eternal Wheel', the beautiful 'Sunscape', the pulsating 'the Throbbe' and the propulsive title track. Saying all of that, there isn't a dull moment on this album. Fans of Tangerine Dream, Yes, Hawkwind, Gong and Porcupine Tree will delight in this.
It's wonderful.

Fire TV Stick Streaming Media Player
Fire TV Stick Streaming Media Player
Price: £34.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Is It!!!, 17 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a wonderful little device. Prior to investing in one of these, I was having to turn on the Wii U and load up 'LoveFilm' in order to watch Amazon Prime TV and movies. It was the same with 'Netflix', although I preferred to use the app on my Blu-Ray player to access that, so it was all a bit faffy. With the Fire Stick, I've been able to bring Amazon Prime, Netflix and BBC I-Player together with a load of other apps onto one, single, unobtrusive gizmo. What I would say, is that if you're NOT an Amazon Prime member, there's not going to be much joy in this device. If you are, it's just terrific.
First off, to those who say it's an easy, plug in and play gadget, I'd say it isn't all that simple, if you want to get the optimum experience. For starters, in order for it to work properly, you need an HDMI connection on your TV and decent Wi-Fi. When you plug it in, you have to synch it to your Wi-Fi and enter your Wi-Fi code before having to watch an introductory video. You then have to download the majority of the apps manually, which takes a bit of time. Once that's done, it's best to make sure that your Fire Stick and TV settings are right. For instance, my HD TV is 720p resolution, so using the 'settings' feature on the stick, I changed the default resolution setting accordingly, so that I can get the best quality picture possible.
In addition to that, it's a good idea to get into the sound settings on the stick and make sure it's set up correctly. For example, I use a 2.1 soundbar that doesn't support 'Dolby', so I ensured that the Dolby surround sound feature was switched off, leaving me with really good quality stereo coming through the soundbar. One thing I would advise is not to bother with the parental settings, unless you really don't trust your children. I turned the settings on initially, but eventually switched them off as the stick wouldn't let me go to the toilet without making me enter my pin/security number. It was really frustrating. I'd also advise against having too many devices connected to your Wi-Fi at the same time. I already have a Freeview box, a Wii U, two NOW TV boxes and a smart TV in the bedroom connected to my Wi-Fi, not to mention mobile phones and tablets. I noticed one or two buffering issues if a number of devices were running at the same time, so unless you have a superfast broadband or whatever, I'd keep an eye on how much is pulling at the bandwidth.
However, once you're finally up and running, the Fire Stick will ensure that you never leave the house. The Amazon Prime has a superb selection of TV series and movies, along with a good variety of stuff for family and kids. There's also a few decent games (including Lego Star Wars, which my 8 year-old son loves) and you have access to MP3 versions of albums and songs that you've ordered through Amazon in the past. I was amazed at the amount of music that was stored on it. What I really like about watching TV shows and films via Amazon Prime is that it solves the issue of wasting valuable time trying to remember what other TV shows and films certain members of the cast might have been in. All you need to do is pause what you're watching and it will show you the names of the actors in that particular scene. Once you click on them, it will give you a short biography, with a list of their acting credits, with a bit of trivia thrown in. It's a great idea. The Fire Stick is capable of other little clever things as well. I downloaded the free Fire Stick TV app that allows me to use my tablet as remote control, with the voice recognition facility. I speak the name of the TV show or film into the tablet's microphone and up it pops on the screen. I also downloaded the Amazon Cloud app and synched it to the Fire Stick, which means I can bore the pants off friends and family by beaming my photos onto the TV via the device.
On top of that, the picture and sound quality is fantastic and the interface is simple and easy to navigate around, and the fact that the stick is so portable, means that you can unplug it from the lounge TV and plug it into a bedroom TV without any fuss. You could also take it with you on a holiday for example and use it on another TV, providing there's decent Wi-Fi available.
Again, if you're an Amazon Prime member, there's pretty much no excuse for not having one of these. It's brilliant.

Men of War [DVD]
Men of War [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dolph Lundgren
Price: £5.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good Army Mercenary Flick, 14 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Men of War [DVD] (DVD)
On the face of it, 'Men of War' looks like just another testosterone fuelled Lundgren actioner. This time, Dolph plays a down and out mercenary, who's asked by some yuppie-types to recruit a band of soldiers, head to South-East Asia and lean on some island dwellers to sign over the mineral rights on their land. Dolph's character desperately needs the cash, so off he goes, only to find himself warming to the locals and ultimately turning against his corporate employers and dividing his merry band of military psychos. What adds to Lundgren's character's ire is that the businessmen aren't looking for valuable deposits of jade. They want to mine and gut the island for prehistoric bird muck.
What's surprising about 'Men of War' is that there's a bit more to it than you'd expect. Lundgren plays the troubled, disillusioned mercenary leader really well and as ever, delivers the goods in the action scenes. The dialogue isn't anywhere near as cliched as you might expect from an action movie like this and the Thailand locations are stunning. The supporting cast are also very good, providing characters that you can root for and villains that you can boo and hiss at. Special mention has to go to the late, great Trevor Goddard for his portrayal as the villainous nutcase, Keefer. He plays it up to the maximum and he steals every scene he's in.
What really makes this film though, is its last half hour or so. It's just thirty minutes of relentless Rambo-style gunfire, explosions, punch-ups ad mayhem. It's an action movie fan's wet dream.
Like any Dolph Lundgren movie, you need to leave your brain at the door and just enjoy it, but 'Men of War' has way more depth and is better directed than most other movies in ths genre. It's arguably one of the highlights of the big Swede's movie career.

Red Scorpion
Red Scorpion

3.0 out of 5 stars Typical 80s Actioner, 14 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Red Scorpion (Amazon Video)
'Red Scorpion' was made during a golden era of testosterone fuelled 'one man army' style movies. It was obviously designed as a vehicle to put Dolph Lundgren in the big league of action stars at the time, but it doesn't quite hit the mark.
On the plus side, the film looks good, moves along at a decent pace and has the required amount of gunfire and explosions to satisfy fans of the genre. In terms of the lead actor, Dolph is quite a fearsome, athletic looking specimen who looks terrific in the action sequences. He doesn't have a great deal of dialogue to get through, which suits the robotic, monosyllabic nature of the assassin he's playing.
On the downside, the plot of 'Red Scorpion' amounts to nothing more than the sort of myth-laden Soviet-bashing that was so commonplace in US movies at the time. The attitude was always America = good and USSR = bad. It was a bit laughable back then and it's downright embarrassing now. Here we have a muddled mess of a story, involving persecuted African villagers, sneering Soviet and Cuban villains and a disillusioned, double-crossed Dolph finding the road to redemption via a giggling bushman. Classic 80s B-movie villain Brion James pops up with a dreadful Russian accent and M. Emmett Wash gets to swear a lot.
As a brainless, retro action romp, and showcase of Dolph's action hero credentials, 'Red Scorpion' does a decent job and is pretty typical of the kind of movies served up at the time. It's ok as a bit of late night movie nostalgia, but time hasn't been kind to it I'm afraid.

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