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Reviews Written by
Richard W. Girdwood "b25atron" (Inverness, UK)
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Pioneer VSX-830-K 5.2 Channel Network AV Receiver with Built-In Bluetooth
Pioneer VSX-830-K 5.2 Channel Network AV Receiver with Built-In Bluetooth
Offered by Peter Tyson Online
Price: £279.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Setup a pain, but end result worth the hassle!, 20 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this to replace a 6-year-old Onkyo receiver (607) that had some slight faults. I like my AV equipment and Hi-Fi stuff, but am not one to spend thousands so I went in looking for an AV receiver for under £400, and decided on this one after reading a few good reviews and seeing it come down to £300 as the new 2016 model replaced it. I have it hooked up to four decent Mordaunt Short speakers from the mid 90s – the R and L are MS20i Pearl, and the SR and SL are the smaller MS10i. I am using a Pioneer Subwoofer too.

It looks standard for an AV receiver, is not too fancy and essentially, what I wanted – out of sight out of mind. The display is clear, the buttons solid and the dials nice and heavy to turn. It is lighter than my Onkyo, which was a nice bonus; though I don’t think I will be moving it anyway.
Setup for cabling was easy as everything on the back was labelled clearly and cleanly. I don’t have many inputs (Xbox, TV, Radio, USB) so it look a few minutes. Switch the amp on, plug in the calibration mic and the setup process runs through in just a few minutes. No issues there! Fine-tuning is easy and I had to tell the receiver to activate the sub as it was off by default for some reason. Apart from that, sound quality was fine out of the box and the only other tweak was lowering the crossover for the sub from 100Hz to 80Hz, as the MS20i handle bass down to that level.

The wireless setup was awful. No matter how I tried, it simply didn’t work. So I hooked up it wired and it worked right away. I wasn’t too bothered, and the Internet Radio was then working and I love this feature – good for parties where you can’t quite decided on what band to play. I tried the Pioneer control app on an iPad and it is great once you have it working - again I had issues with this – and it gives you loads of options and control. If you’re using a USB device or Internet Radio, it makes browsing easier.

Sound quality is great – better than the Onkyo, by a small amount. I output in various forms of Dolby PLII (music, movie or game modes) and these sound great – loads of dynamic range, clear across the frequency spectrum, vocal and dialogue are clear and when things get heavy (either via Slayer or some Battlefield on Xbox!) the sub kicks in and it handles the heated action well, while maintaining clarity. My first “test” was with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (on my new TV at same time!) and the soundtrack, dialogue and sound effects were all handled very well, and noticeably better than the Onkyo. Overall, I have no complaints. I hope this one last even longer than the last.


Panasonic TX-49DX600B 49-Inch 800 Hz 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV with Freeview (2016 Model)
Panasonic TX-49DX600B 49-Inch 800 Hz 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV with Freeview (2016 Model)
Price: £653.38

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Panasonic 49" 4K LED, 13 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this to replace a five-year-old 42” Panasonic Vieira plasma that had developed flaws. Those plasmas were top drawer and much loved by AV enthusiasts; exceptional black levels, fantastic colour tone and no motion judder. I was reluctant to abandon plasma for LED because five years earlier plasmas had been so obviously superior, but given my budget and the lack of new plasmas, I decided to take a leap, and chose another Panasonic due to my hope they might have brought some of their skills to the LED market.

The set I got is a 49” and first impressions were good. Massively lighter, thinner and with a less intrusive bezel, the TV’s aesthetics are great and the stands curving/straight legs can be set to taste. It took no time to set up and the TV will walk you through a quick set up and guide to its features.

The smart TV feature were not something I was too fussed about (I use Xbox One most the time) but they work well so I cannot complain and it saves me switching on my Xbox all the time. The Apps Store cover most the basics you might need (Netflix, Amazon, BBC...) TV Guide is miles better than the awful one on the plasma and you can access many of the catch-up apps via the guide which is a nice time saver. There are loads of options for setting the TV up how you like it. The remote works, and in fact it is essentially the same as the one on my previous TV, but I use a Harmony so this wasn’t an issue once I’d set things up how I liked it.

The most important thing for many users will be picture quality. Overall the screen is great, but I would say that after putting the plasma in my bedroom and using it again, I prefer the plasma's picture by an edge. The LED is sharper – a full 1080p film (the new Star Wars on Blu-Ray @ 1080p24p) looks brilliant. 4K really sparkles, and although there is a lack of options, trying a few YouTube samples showed what the telly is capable of and in this, it throws the plasma out the door. Xbox gaming looks fantastic, and is unquestionably better on the LED (turn off as much post-processing as possible for gaming to keep response times low). Colour reproduction is accurate, and gradients look better than the plasma leading to a wider range of colours on most objects. Colour tone is not as nice as the plasma but is not in any way poor, just a tad less natural and black/contrast levels although deep simply aren’t the same level of dark as a plasma, but this was expected. Again though, this is side by side – at first I barely noticed, and watched apart, I reckon there would be little to nothing between them. Don’t use out of the box settings. Go online and find tuning or calibration guides for this or a very similar Panasonic and try a couple out, see what works in your room. In general though take off as much post-processing as possible. It really helped out, and I tried three different calibrations (all similar but subtly different) before I settled on the one I am using now. If I was to give the plasma a 9.5/10 (it really is that good even after 5 years), I’d give this an 8.5/10 for picture, and only because of the marginal drop in blacks/contrast. Up against my parents Samsung and my friends Sony (about the same tech and price in both cases) it is superior to the Sony and equal to the Samsung.

Overall it is a better telly, with more options, better size and body, great OS/smart TV features and a top picture quality. Overall 9/10, this is another winner from Panasonic as far as I’m concerned.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2016 9:06 AM BST


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4.0 out of 5 stars T-Shirt is t-shirt, 6 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nothing wrong with this t-shirt. Fit is slight tight, but not bothersome. The print is high quality but a little dull - the red of Deadpool isn't as vibrant as I had imagined. It arrived fast and the deign is smart though, so I can't really complain.


Pioneer S-21W 160 W Peak/100 W RMS Active Subwoofer - Black
Pioneer S-21W 160 W Peak/100 W RMS Active Subwoofer - Black
Price: £99.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A decent, affordable sub, 6 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought this subwoofer to compliment my new Pioneer receiver, which I bought at the same time (a VSX-830). I previously had a Onkyo receiver for eight years but without a sub. I use 4x Mordaunt Short (2x medium sized MS20i and 2x small MS10i) speakers in a stereo config. This sub has definitely improved the overall sound of my setup.

It is a large black box, with two inputs on the back (AC and cable for connecting to amp), a volume knob, an on/off switch and an auto-standby more that appears to work fine. Some people have complained about the light on the front but it hasn't bothered me as it is buried behind my whole setup, but it is very bright. Some insulation tape would mask it easy enough though. The sub worked right away and needed no real work, the amp detecting it and after changing the cut-off to what I wanted it was ready to use.

My old large speakers produced decent bass, but this is more refined, accurate and less "rattling" more "booming". Kick drums sound sharp and aggressive from bands like Slayer, and well mixed tracks by a band like Muse sound positively mesmerising with the added bass. The big sounds of orchestral soundtracks like LotR and Star Wars are huge and powerful and on Xbox every gunfight punches hard, without the harshness the speakers gave with huge reverberant explosions and sci-fi rumbles of passing machines sounding well rounded and accurate. The speakers themselves sound better when using this, their highs coming through sharper than before which is a plus, I'm assuming the separation means the speakers are not working so hard below 100Hz.

Overall I would recommend this. I'm no audiophile and I don't see this as anything less than perfect for someone on a moderate budget looking for a decent but affordable sub to boost their system or for their first setup.


Bresser  RA motor for EXOS-1 and EQ/MON-1
Bresser RA motor for EXOS-1 and EQ/MON-1
Price: £132.56

3.0 out of 5 stars Another try!, 24 Sept. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first one was dead on arrival, but thankfully Amazon was fast with dispatching a replacement. The second worked, but as with the first, doesn’t seem to have been designed with the EXOS mount in mind - the fit is poor. I managed to get it in place with some half-witted DIY, and once in place it seemed to work fine. Someone with a decent DIY setup could probably fix the problem fully with ease; by my eyes it looks like it needs a couple of millimetres filed off the casing where it would join to the mount.

The hand-controller is cheap and nasty, but works. It is set to automatically run at 1x for object tracking. It has buttons for 2x (fine-tuning), 32x both back and forwards and a stop button, though the images I saw didn’t have a stop and had a 2x reverse.

I got a clear night a few days later to assess its tracking quality. Using a 1000mm f/7.7 scope I managed up to about 45 seconds exposure without star trails. This would presumably increase if using a mounted DSLR with shorter focal length, bringing brighter DSOs into imaging range, which is what I wanted it for. It also makes visual use much better, meaning once you have centred an object it should stay in view without constant adjustment. I found that with total exposure times of about 30minutes stars had drifted, but this may be less than precise polar alignment – something else I have to get used to.

Overall, given the lack of options, I’d recommend this, but frankly the price and the poor fit on the EXOS1 will mean not everyone will be happy. For me it does the job, but I can’t give it more than three stars.


Original Album Classics
Original Album Classics
Price: £16.03

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classics revisited, 8 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Original Album Classics (Audio CD)
I think a little background might help this review. I got into Korn about the time Follow the Leader was released, and listened to them intensely until the album after Untouchables. After this my interest waned, partially due to what I felt were poor albums, and also my changing tastes, being more into thrash and classic rock/metal by this time. Somewhere between Untouchables and now I lost those first five albums, moving house most likely. After hearing Clown by chance a week back, and enjoying it for the first time in a decade, I decided to buy this boxset. A great little set, not full cases but cardboard slips, but with the original artwork at a decent enough price. I will give a rundown of each album now I have listened to them, giving my views after so long away from Korn and Nu-Metal.

Korn (5/5) - probably my favourite. Heavy, primal and raw. Full of cracking riffs and the most traditionally heavy metal sounding of the five. Some hints at their future experimentations are dropped throughout. A classic, and the definitive Nu-Metal template. Best tracks are Clown, Blind, Divine and Ball Tongue.

Life is Peachy (4/5) - used to hate this one, but time is kind and I loved it this time round. It's far heavier than I remember, more similar to Korn than the following albums. It contains their first real foray into rap/hip-hop and despite not matching their first is not a bad album. Best tracks are Good God, Chi and ADIDAS.

Follow the Leader (4/5) - I have mixed feelings about this record. It is sonically so different than the previous two, which is cool, but makes for a mixed bag at times, and the album has a couple of terrible songs like Children of the Korn and All in the Family. I like rap and hip-hop, but they are tripe. Best tracks are Freak on a Leash, Pretty, Dead Bodies Everywhere and BBK.

Issues (5/5) - my favourite from the past, now probably my second. A great concept like feeling of progression through the album with the interlude songs. Heavy and atmospheric, though some of the songs get a samey by the end, using a similar soft intro, hard main riff, soft verse, hard chorus structure. The riffs are gargantuan and catchy though, so it ends up being worth it. Best tracks are Make me Bad, Beg for Me, Falling Away from Me and Lets Get this Party Started.

Untouchables (3/5) - I not such a fan of this. Overlong and with too many filler tracks that don't stick out . I remember this album coming out vividly, and I also remember the lack of interest it managed to generate in me. Today it is much the same. Still, it has moments and the best tracks are Here to Stay, Bottled Up, One More Time and Hollow Life.


Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Professional Headphones - Black
Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Studio Monitor Professional Headphones - Black
Price: £125.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Star Headphones, 6 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These are my first pair of expensive audiophile quality headphones. I have previously owned various £30-50 Sennheisers and I have a £700+ hifi setup so do have experience with quality audio equipment, if not at the very high end.

These arrived quickly and well packed. The included carry case is decent , the addition of the three removable cables (the X on top of the M50 is for these) is good and all three feel thick and sturdy. The headphones carry this forward, feeling reassuringly chunky and weighty, yet light enough not to cause headaches and be comfy on long listens. They are conservative in design but still look cool. They fold small for slipping into their carry bag and all the joins and build makes me think they will not be falling apart any time soon when being stored like this.

The sound is brilliant. The whole scope of instruments in my music (mainly rock and metal) comes out more than I've heard with any other headphones. Every part of the recording is distinct, clear and powerful, little details being dug out even on the lowest quality mp3s, while uncompressed audio sounds truly immersive. Going back to cheaper headphones suddenly feels masochistic. I couldn't recommend these enough.


Pioneer DEH-1700UB Car Stereo for Android Media Access and FLAC Audio File
Pioneer DEH-1700UB Car Stereo for Android Media Access and FLAC Audio File
Offered by caraudio24
Price: £54.04

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Star, 6 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I go this for my 2006 Fiat Grande Punto, and this required an additional fitting kit to work. It sits well and looks nice , the red lighting is not garish, the LCD display clear and the text and controls usable and well laid out. The steering wheel remotes work and the fitting and setup was easy (about 20mins total). I connected a 32gb microUSB in the front and now have much of my music available for when I'm travelling. This is a great bonus.

Sound quality is superb. Car sound isn't a high priority for me, but overall audio is (I own expensive headphones and a £700+ hifi setup) and can say this is impressive given the price. I normally avoid post processing too, but the in-built sound enhancement for mp3 really pulls up the detail on songs run off USB, even when originally ripped at 128kbps. Radio quality is perfect, CD too.

Overall, given the low price, this Pioneer is perfect for someone looking for a cheap but decent car radio/CD/media player.


Bresser telescope Messier NT-130/1000 EXOS-1/EQ4
Bresser telescope Messier NT-130/1000 EXOS-1/EQ4
Offered by Telescope House
Price: £349.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My First Telescope, 16 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After doing research, and coming close to buying the Skywatcher 130P on an EQ2, I decided on this Bresser NT130 with EXOS 1 mount for my first telescope. I think I got a good deal on it, either a reduction or a mislabeling by Amazon as it was under £200. Obviously, this has some impact on my review, so I thought it best to get that information out.

It arrived quickly, well packaged and with decent instructions. An included guide to astronomy was in German, a shame, as it looked rather good! Beware as the entire box with all the equipment is heavy; one can manage but it is awkward. It didn't take long to set up for use, though I had viewed a few tutorials on setting up beforehand (search for these on YouTube: Eyes on the Sky and Astronomy and Nature Center both have good guides to setting and using an EQ mount). It is a little cumbersome due to the weight but far from impossible. The optical tube didn't require set up as such, and its collimation seemed good enough for now.

The entire set up looks upmarket in its matte white with red flashes, the whole thing built solid and feeling smooth in operation. It is here I think you will see the biggest difference between this expensive starter and the cheaper Skywatcher and Celestrons (around £250 pounds of difference at RRP). The tripod is chunky and made with heavy steel, the mount thick at its joints and pivots, most the set up is in fact metal, and the build quality, while not tested long-term is clearly high class with everything having a reassuring weight and thickness to it. The only (very) slight problem was one of the counterweight rattled when moving. A small slip of folded paper stopped it! One smart feature is a carrying handle integrated into the tube cradle, making moving the optical tube easier.

Compared to other starters I've looked at, it just seems so robust. In use, the steel tripod leads to less vibrations, a better mount gives smoother action and hence better viewing, and is capable of holding bigger optical tubes too (this goes up to 7kg, or double the weight of the 130mm). The EQ movement takes getting used to, but knowing that once I have it set up it will stay solid and aligned means I can concentrate on gazing. There are a few plastic parts and the viewfinder feels a little cheap (more on that to follow) but even these plastic parts feel well made.

I got a chance to use it on a clear night about a week after I got it. It is supplied with only a 26mm Super Plossl, giving about 36x magnification (a 1.25" piece, but the scope supports 2" too). I didn't see much this night, but stars looked sharp and clear, thousands popping into view and the clarity being sharp over most of the view (reflectors can suffer from distortions in the edge of their field of view). In use, it feels as quality as it looks, although as said the EQ mount isn't intuitive and takes getting used to. The slow motion controls work fine, but like on many EQ mounts they can get in the way of the tube and each other, but not so much it causes any major frustrations. When moving and scoping around the views are clear and as said, vibrations are minimal. One flaw is the viewfinder scope. It isn't bad, but just isn't great. The image is dull and the crosshair invisible. Putting brighter stars in the center is OK, but dimmer deep space objects are not going to be visible. Alignment of the viewfinder was difficult too, but got easier with practice. Unfortunately, I found a slight knock moved it out again. I bought some sticky gripping pads that will hopefully stop this.

As I mentioned the mount could carry a bigger scope, but that isn't all. The EXOS mount has space for an illuminated polar scope, motor-tracking controls (apparently the RA axis only, though both RA and DEC have the joints where the motors attach) and different viewfinders can be fitted making it a versatile base for expansion. The top of the tube has a standard thread capable of mounting a camera. Many starters can do this, but the superior mount and tripod makes this more capable of carrying the weight needed for any extras, or a large SLR on the camera mount.

In short, I love the solid build, cool looks, excellent tripod, smooth mount, clear vision through the tube and the optional upgrade-ability. I was less taken with the poor viewfinder and the EQ mount is difficult to get used to. I do think too that over £400 is excessive. For that, I might have expected a better viewfinder and the polar scope integrated. Overall, I am very pleased with the scope. In terms of build quality, looks and price I got a fantastic deal. It remains to be seen how good it will be for a variety of uses as I haven't the eyepieces or other accessories yet, but what I feel I got is a well crafted tripod, mount and tube that should last years.

EDIT: SO I've had it couple of months now and have had a bit more use. I bought a couple of new eyepieces (some more pricey ones, a 2x Barlow and a cheap wide angle) and they all function well. The higher magnification ones up to about 150x perform well, with Jupiter and the Moon being crisp. Jupiter showing the bands, polar regions and four moons as discs rather than points. Above this things get a touch blurry, but DSOs at 200x are great, with the Double Cluster at 200 looking amazing. The Moon craters look good enough to dive into! Deep sky is fine though I haven't gone all out on Messiers yet. Andromeda is visible with detail in the disc and the center being defined, and clusters are full of pinprick stars. Mechanically it is fine, and though the DEC slow motion got bent (my fault), it doesn't affect its functioning. As a note on stability, after comparing it to scopes in the £200 bracket, this one is obviously more stable. The mount is very good, with almost no vibrations. Also I have come to accept the finderscope which after some getting used to is capable of helping in finding most non-nebulous objects.

EDIT: Year Two! Got a RA tracker for the scope, and a Canon 100D DSLR camera. Hooked to the scope, I am now able to do basic astrophotography. The results are impressive, with the scope, despite being modest, picking up a ton of detail in DSOs. As a basic beginner astrophotography rig, I can't complain!


Celestron Upclose G2 Porro Bino 8X40 Box
Celestron Upclose G2 Porro Bino 8X40 Box
Offered by OptixMania
Price: £26.17

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they are light and easy to use, 15 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought these at the same time as a pair of 15x70 as I was worried the larger ones would need a tripod for use and I hoped these might be more suitable for the kids.

I was right; they are light and easy to use, while still providing a great view and sharp image. They are multicoated and use BAK-4 prisms, standard for decent binoculars. They came well packaged (the prisms can go out of alignment if knocked about too much) and although the carry case is cheap it is sufficient. The included neck strap is useless though, thin and digging into your neck. I'm planning buying a new one, I got the OP/TECH for my 15x70 and it is fantastic.

Overall, I cannot fault these at the price I paid (£20 delivered) and the kids love them.


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