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J. S. Bower "Jon Bower" (England)

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Attractive & Elegant High Gloss Coffee Table With Adjustable Shape Made In Solid Construction - This Is An Instant Upgrade To Your Living Room Interior By eCommerce Excellence (Black)
Attractive & Elegant High Gloss Coffee Table With Adjustable Shape Made In Solid Construction - This Is An Instant Upgrade To Your Living Room Interior By eCommerce Excellence (Black)
Offered by Sam papa
Price: £204.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty elegant adjustable table, 3 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Much better than you'd think. Really. This proved quite easy to build, and the swivel mechanism is straightforward and smooth in operation. The price is consistent and fair for what you get. Delivery was rapid.

It looks nice in my black/grey/red modern living room, but I couldn't possibly comment on how it would match your decor. Chinz lovers beware...

Like all gloss black items, it's a dust/fingers magnet, but that really is par for the course for such items. Use a damp cloth.

All in all, it does the job and looks good. What more do you want?

Nielsen: The Complete Symphonies 1-6
Nielsen: The Complete Symphonies 1-6
Price: £12.99

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top of the tree in modern Nielsen symphonic cycles, 16 Dec. 2015
In this, Nielsen’s 150th Anniversary year, we now find ourselves - at last - with a choice between several complete sets of his great symphonies. And this one from Paavo Jarvi and his fine Frankfurt Radio Orchestra is the latest and – in my humble opinion - the best of the lot, sonically and musically. I shall first try and explain this in a bit more detail, and then go on to consider its rivals in the digital era, and maybe even a few from the analogue years! OK, I’m not going to look at everybody’s Nielsen:- that’s more than your and my patience will bear.

To tackle a complete Nielsen symphonic cycle, you really have to ‘get’ this composer and his unique sound and tonality-world. Conductors of all the modern cycles – with the exception of the rather lamentable Colin Davis/LSO cycle - ‘get’ Nielsen, but Jarvi seems to live and breathe it from the inside. I find this pleasantly surprising; I must confess that Jarvi Junior’s serial murdering of entire genres of classical music in his early Telarc/Cincinatti days did not always inspire confidence; moreover, his Nielsen 5 from that era was unexceptional. But, with his Frankfurt and Bremen bands, it’s difficult to believe this is the same conductor. In this cycle, his conducting is insightful, dynamic and sensitive to every nuance in Nielsen changing moods and progressive tonalities. And the playing throughout is excellent, catching fire in spectacular fashion when most needed.

I won’t single out particular symphonies; the set is consistent in its musical excellence. And, as usual from Frankfurt Radio sources, the sound is well-balanced, neutral and gimmick-free, with reasonable air and staging. I should mention here that my auditioning used the 24/44.1 download with playback through an Auralic NAS server and DAC, Goldmund Power Amp and Martin Logan pure electrostatics. High-end, in other words. My only sonic complaint? 24/44.1 is a pretty feeble recording resolution in this day and age, and higher PCM bit rates or DSD would have manifested more air, transparency and stage. Get with it, RCA!

Now for a word or two on some of the other digital sets of the Nielsen Symphonies: Blomstedt, Storgards, Colin Davis, Oramo and Gilbert. We can eliminate Davis immediately, as his Nielsen readings seem unidiomatic, mis-conceived and miss the essence of this enigmatic composer. The LSO Live/Barbican sonics are as ever, heinous. One down. Meanwhile, the Blomstedt/San Francisco set is a bit too slick compared with his analogue/DRSO cycle and also manifests in frankly crummy early digital 16-bit sound. Two down.

So, three to go. Storgards, Oramo and Gilbert are all fine Nielsen conductors, and their bands play well. All their cycles have their weak and strong points, in fact. Sonically, however, they are very much a mixed bag. The Storgards cycle (24/96) is not graced by the usually superb Chandos house sound. And the Gilbert set (in DSD) is marred by the Avery Fisher Hall’s horrid acoustic and consequent need for aggressive sound manipulation and over-miking. Lastly, the Oramo cycle (24/96) is disfigured by the current BIS recording house style- over-miked, close-miked, airless and thoroughly unnatural.

Given all this, and the seamless consistency of the Jarvi set’s sound and performances, it goes to the top of the tree.

OK, you’d have to prise some of my treasured analogue Nielsen recordings (Blomstedt/DRSO, Berglund/Bournemouth and Horenstein/LSO) away from me with a crowbar but that - as they say - is a whole different story.

Last complaint - that truly ghastly cover of Vladimir Putin in a wet suit... I had to Photoshop and embed alternative album art- see below; Fjords always work for Nielsen, even if there aren’t any in Denmark!
Comment Comments (20) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 13, 2016 7:33 AM GMT

Olympus 8 mm M.ZUIKO Digital ED 1:1.8 Fisheye PRO Lens
Olympus 8 mm M.ZUIKO Digital ED 1:1.8 Fisheye PRO Lens
Price: £707.03

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phew, a phenomenon!, 15 Sept. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An F1.8 8mm Fisheye from Olympus? Really? Surely this is a typo or mis-print.

Well, I have to inform you that it's not a misprint, it exists and - like all the Zuiko PRO lenses I have tested and now own – this is a real gem of a lens.

Starting from the beginning, I can tell you that - even wide open at F1.8- this is one helluva sharp lens. Centres are razor-sharp whilst corners, though not in the same class, are still pretty good - more than usable. At F3.5, the corners tighten up whilst the centre improves yet again; this is probably the best all-round focal length. At F8, diffraction steps in a tad, but the centre remains razor sharp.

But we’re talking details here, the quick message is that the performance of this lens excels at just about any aperture you care to use. Consistency of optical performance is outstanding.

I tested the Zuiko against an obvious competitor: the justly famed Samyang 8mm F3.5 – a real bargain if ever there was one! Frankly, I couldn’t see much difference, optically, between the two at F3.5. Hang on, the Samyang is a half the weight and size, and a third the price, isn’t it? So why would any sane person go for the Zuiko?

That an easy one to answer, as the Zuiko has two massive and clinching trump cards up its sleeve:

1) Not one, but two extra stops of speed. Fisheyes are often used or interiors or low light work, and I find these two stops to be game changers; they create new artistic possibilities which I am still exploring.
2) If that wasn’t enough, the Zuiko is fully automatic in operation; the Samyang is relentlessly manual in focussing and aperture. That in itself is no big deal. However, let me tell you that it rapidly becomes a nightmare when shooting with two bodies and several lenses – especially in the light of the different control layouts and functionalities of the EM1, EM5 and EM5 II.

Needless to say, the construction and feel of this lens are also immaculate. It oozes quality and inspires lust.

Summary: all in all, this is a unique and great lens from Olympus.It's a no-brainer for serious or professional M4/3 users.

Elgar: Symphonies 1 & 2, Froissart Ove. Op.19 (Philharmonia Orchestra/Davis)
Elgar: Symphonies 1 & 2, Froissart Ove. Op.19 (Philharmonia Orchestra/Davis)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Majestic second symphony, 30 Aug. 2015
Yes, this live performance of the second symphony really is something special. Andrew Davis has not always been a conductor to inspire in the recording studio; however, in the concert hall this performance proves electrifying, with the frisson one can only get from live music-making. Organic, fluid and beautifully shaped, this hour-long symphony seems to flash past in one breath. It is also graced by some truly majestic playing from the Philharmonia.

I have heard all sorts of Elgar 2s on vinyl, CD, SACD, Hi Res download and live. This performance made me fall in love with it again. It's that good.

The accompanying performances of the first symphony and Froissart are decent enough, but the second just glows with white heat.

And the sound? I listened in 24/48 download. Although not exactly state-of-the art sonically, it's good enough for the music to weave its magic. All in all, therefore, a surprising and cherishable recording.

PS to Signum: nice entry to the competition for the worlds most boring and unattractive album label cover EVER!

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 1 [Leonard Slatkin, Detroit Symphony Orchestra] [Naxos: 8573234]
Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 1 [Leonard Slatkin, Detroit Symphony Orchestra] [Naxos: 8573234]
Price: £5.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Seriously limp, 26 Aug. 2015
Oh dear. It's apparent from the very first bars that this performance is going to be seriously lacking in energy, drive, passion, get-up-and-go. To hear my favourite Rachmaninov symphony treated in this way is distressing, to put it mildly. And the first bars don't lie - it continues as it has started.

Given a tenth of the searing passion displayed in this music by Ashkenazy and the Concertgebouw, it might have passed muster. But, as it is, it's a total dog, to be avoided.

Regretfully, the Detroit is now a sub-par orchestra, and it shows. And Slatkin seems to be sleepwalking through this one, as he does so often now. Where is the dynamic conductor of the fine St Louis band of the 70s?

And the sonics? Frankly, not too much to write home about. Even as a 24/96 download, or up-sampled to 24/192, it's rather muddy, airless and close-up. I dread to think what the RBCD sounds like. You can do a lot better.

In hi-res sound, the Noseda (Chandos) is far superior, both musically and sonically. In RBCD, Ashekanazy and the Royal CGB is the version to die for. It just stomps all over this one. And vinyl? Well, that's a whole different ball game, of course. But I'd eventually go for the Weller, as Previn makes a bit of a hash of this one.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 14, 2015 8:56 AM BST

Olympus HLD-8G Grip for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II
Olympus HLD-8G Grip for the OM-D E-M5 Mark II
Price: £129.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, 22 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Does the job. Looks and fits fine - just like its Mark 1 equivalent; I have no idea what the first reviewer is going on about.

Balances up the camera far better when used with serious Oly PRO lenses like the fabulous12-40 and 40-150.

What more do you want?

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Camera - Black (16.1 MP, M.Zuiko 12 - 40 mm Pro Lens)
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Camera - Black (16.1 MP, M.Zuiko 12 - 40 mm Pro Lens)
Price: £1,299.00

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine evolution of the original classic, 22 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The comparison with my OM-D E-M5 Mark 1 - which I am still keeping and using in a two-body kit - is pretty straightforward. Progress includes:

1) An even more solid feel and beautiful finish; better feel to switches and other controls
2) More logical and ergonomic control system - although I would have liked to set one of the programmables to control ISO directly
3) Superb, totally transformed EVF
4) A further improvement to the already superb IBIS - can now capture even slower exposures in critical focus. Quite amazing, in fact.
5) Although the sensor has - apparently - only been tweaked, I seem to have returned with far more usable/lower noise ISO 1250 shots from recent interior shoots in Spain and Sri Lanka.

OK, I should have liked to see the new 20MP m4/3 sensor fabricated by Sony, but I guess that will first appear in the E-M1 Mark 2.

Canikon dinosaurs just don't look and feel like this. And they weight twice as much - important if you're lugging around 2 bodies and 5 lenses! And they don't have the stunning Olympus PRO m4/3 lenses, either.

So it's game over for 'we never innovate' Canon . Have now sold all their bodies and L-series lenses. Bye-bye.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 40-150mm 1:2.8 PRO Lens with MC-1.4 1.4x Tele Converter
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 40-150mm 1:2.8 PRO Lens with MC-1.4 1.4x Tele Converter
Price: £1,201.61

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything I expected - and a bit more!, 28 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I must have used dozens of lenses in my photographic career, but this one seriously impressed me more than most. And my camera bag was full of Canon L-series lenses before I dumped the lot and went M4/3.

Even before you shoot with it, the sheer class, construction and feel of this lens stand out. Not to mention some really clever touches like the slide and lock lens hood. All this would come to naught, however, if the optical performance didn't rock. Needless to say, it does. In spades.

I compared its performance carefully against the Panasonic 35-100 F2.8, the other professional-standard telephoto zoom for m4/3. In their overlapping range of 40-100mm, and at F4, I find it difficult to spot the differences between the lenses, even at pixel level. That's a great result, as the Panny is a class act. At F2.8, the Zuiko holds sharpness and performance better than the Panasonic. That's a terrific result. In fact, consistency of performance seems to be outstanding for this lens.

Performance declines a notch with the matching 1.4 TC, but that's only to be expected. It still gives my old Canon 100-400L more than a run for its money, and is a stop faster.

The M4/3 lens range has now got even stronger. So, for folk looking for a top tele zoom for their Olympus of Panny body, what should they get? Simple. Don't get the Zuiko if you have a Panny body; the lens has no inbuilt stabilisation, and you really need it at these focal lengths. If you have an OM-D of any flavour, however, the choice remains simple; if you value light weight, compact size and don't need anything beyond 200mm equivalent, then the Panasonic lens is for you. But if you need performances all the way of to 410mm (with TC), and can live with the extra weight, this Olympus lens will not disappoint.

I love it already.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 2, 2015 5:25 PM GMT

Shostakovich: Symphonies
Shostakovich: Symphonies
Price: £54.64

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Landmark Shostakovich, 20 Dec. 2014
This is NOT one of those reviews where I disagree with folks or court controversy.

I have just finished playing the entire 12-SACD set over a single weekend. A most illuminating experience, to be sure. Playing a sequence like this really helps chart the development of the great composer's symphonies, highlighting their strong links as well as broader trends over the 50 years of Shostakovich's symphonic output.

I could give you reams of notes on individual symphonies, performance, and sonics. But I won't. I'll get to the bottom line first, and then add a few comments.

This is a great set of matchless 20th century symphonies. It is finely played in deeply committed performances, led by a conductor who feels Shostakovich in his bones. The sonics range from excellent to staggering.

My favourite performances may not be the same as other folks'; that matters not - it's really a matter of taste. Basically, the majority of these performances would go at or near the top of the tree if released separately. Taken together, however, the cumulative impact makes this the best complete set of his symphonies around, and by quite a long way. Not to mention in by far the best sound. If you're looking for a one-shot purchase, this is it. In spades.

Readings throughout tend towards the slow and intense, but the force of the playing and readings often - but not always - makes this work. Some of the performances (4th, 8th, 10th and 13th) are the longest I have ever heard, but the concentration never flags, and these are triumphs, as are the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 9th.

Sonics are excellent, very natural sounding with good staging and dimensionality. They seem to have been recorded in DSD, always a good game start. But there are some lapses here, which seem related to microphone closeness. It is noticeable that closer-miked symphonies (5, 10th, 11th) are transferred at higher level and can run out of dynamics; there is some noticeable gain-riding of climaxes on these. A pity. More distant recordings (for example 8 and 9) sound cleaner and display pile-driving dynamic range.

But I quibble. Back to the bottom line- this set of the Shostakovich symphonies is a magnificent achievement, and belongs on the shelves of anyone who loves Shostakovich. And, even if you don't, what have you got to lose?

Schubert: Symphony No.9 'The Great'
Schubert: Symphony No.9 'The Great'
Price: £22.27

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Avoid: Karajan on autopilot, 6 Dec. 2014
This is not a good advert for the Grand Ego and his 'Perfektion Orkester'. Karajan famously didn't think much of the Schubert Great C Major, and said so. This performance makes that viewpoint - with which I disagree profoundly - very clear.

It's dull, characterless, devoid of fire and inspiration. It sounds as if Karajan dialled in the reading from a nearby parking lot. And the BPO deliver the sort of note-perfect wasteland that you might expect when the conductor so clearly dislikes the music he's conducting.

Why did they bother? Search me.

OK, the sound's not too bad: not as good as EMI could do routinely in the analogue 70s when the old control freak wasn't calling the shots, but at least it's substantially better than the mega-miked monstrosities that DGG was churning out for the maestro during this era.

If you want the best of Karajan, it's best IMHO to go for his early Philharmonia/Legge/EMI recordings of the 60s, before he drowned in his own cult of personality. Just take a look at that album cover...

And a better Schubert 9? There are lots to pick from. Try Wand, Abbado, Munch, Boult (!) or Furtwangler. You can do a lot better than the big K. Really.

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