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Smatch (South West)

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Audio-Technica ATH-CKX5IS Sonic Fuel In Ear Headphones  -  Black
Audio-Technica ATH-CKX5IS Sonic Fuel In Ear Headphones - Black
Price: £39.73

3.0 out of 5 stars Average headphones, 3 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These offer relatively good sound, but its just not justified by the price they are offered at. I think the manufacturer made up for this by decreasing the maximum volume of them phones, so when used with my iPod Classic the max volume really is not good enough.

The tangle free wire is actually tangle free which is a plus, but again for this price point its not saving these from ultimately being below par in sound and quality.

GQ Eats: The cookbook for men of seriously good taste
GQ Eats: The cookbook for men of seriously good taste
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Following the trend and well designed., 3 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Most cookbooks are there to serve a function, from varying ranges of difficulty and extravagance but with the expectance to get the job done. Some cookbooks are meant to be looked at and admired, and this is one of them.
Its as close to representing the modern art in food as I've ever seen in a book before, and with a foreword by Heston Blumenthal you already must know what to expect. (Especially when you see the mildly ridiculous portrait of him in full tuxedo, waders and fishing rod in a moody rural atmosphere).

This leads onto a problem than people seem to have with the books title, making out men to to be the "creative" persons around food. This is wrong of course but then again food is popularised today mostly by men and thus aimed at men more than women. Something has gone wrong where the woman is the cook, the man is the chef but this book is following the current trend in modern food. In my family its the men who are known for the experimental side in their cooking, not the women. This is somewhat popularised by sometimes testosterone fuelled angry, passionate chefs on television but its just plain true. The portrait of Heston sums this up to a tee. And I guarantee this book will do very well because it knows its target market. Its not necessarily fair but its good business.

A massive part of this books success is its design; even if you have nothing but indifference - like me - with GQ magazine you know to expect a level of quality from the design team (and the probably big budget), and this is shown in spades here.
The photography is simple shots on mostly white table backgrounds. Basically the it lets the food do all the talking, no other accessories needed. The photo of the Bergamot-cured Mackerel is beautiful, the fact that it has 27 separate ingredients doesn't bother me, I just like looking at it, and who knows, if I have a Sunday afternoon free I might just attempt it. The Roast Breast of Goose photograph is also amazing. To get the lighting so perfect against mostly white backgrounds in every dish is so difficult and a proper achievement for the ten contributing photographers, and photography director to make them fit so perfectly with each other. To sum it up the photos are in perfect balance with the food.

The layout itself is simple and unobtrusive, with a clear grid throughout with every recipe having a full page photo with a full page of text so nothing is left out, the photos are as much an instruction as to how to present the food as the text is to prepare it.

The sections read: Breakfasts, Best of British, Boy's Night In, Health-Conscious Classics, Michelin-Star Meals, Alfresco Feasts, Pub Food Favourites, Rock 'N' Roll Roasts, Just Desserts and Cocktail Hour. At first look most of these titles don't give you a great first opinion but there are some great simple recipes scattered throughout the extravagant plates.
And in the end I don't care if there are some ingredients I'll not be able to either find nor afford, like veal tail or lobster because this is made up by having some great chef's recipes for Lancashire Hotpot, Fish Pie, Bubble and Squeak and Coq au Vin.

For this price I think this book is a must if you are a man (sorry) who loves to experiment with food.

Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse - White
Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse - White
Offered by C-GEAR
Price: £52.75

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality look backed up by a great performance mouse, 28 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
To start off with this mouse has more buttons than I've ever seen on a gaming mouse, I've owned a couple in the past and this doubles them all! But, like for most gaming mice in this price range it is definitely for a serious gamer, but this really depends on what software you're running because there is a lot of customisability with the buttons if you are on the right program, designers use these types of mouse to great effect as well.

Onto the actual mouse, it is a very stylish shiny white with black so it looks absolutely great, it feels very solid which you'd expect for the price and one of the most important things for me is the lead, which is one of quality as well, with thick cord, I can't see it ever wearing out, even if like me you are using it on a table with a sharp edge on it. It very rugged.

And like a lot of products in this price range it has a big plethora of customisable options and features, I won't go into these in detail as you can find them much better explained on Logitech's website. But I will say that the 8200 DPI resolution works so well with the Adobe Creative Suite, it glides effortlessly, I've had the mouse for over a month now and I actually use it more for these programs than I do actual gaming, and I wouldn't think of changing mouse now. With my old gaming mouse I used to have to switch it out when I exited to desktop because it was too easy to hit the customisable buttons which is not a problem with the G600's layout, so it doubles as a great gaming mouse and a quality mouse for designing.

Logitech G35 Surround Sound Headset (for PC and PS4)
Logitech G35 Surround Sound Headset (for PC and PS4)
Offered by Jeremiah Deals
Price: £78.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sound, easy to set up, 28 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first thing thats jumps out at you is that these headphones actually look good, they're actually quite sleek; like they've actually been designed with a particular aesthetic in mind. Unlike the vast majority that you can tell are gaming headphones from a mile off. And to finish it off the looks are backed up by a quality build with a sturdy setup.

Another feature of note (there's a few) is the three swappable bands depending on head size which is really an excellent idea, you don't realise how much difference actually being able to change the contour of your headphone pad makes to overall comfort and also sound.

The USB cable is more than long enough for most desktop setups, unless for some reason you operate very far away from your PC (not supported by OSX).
The surround sound feature is backed up by the fact that you can hear no sound whatsoever from outside, so its a fully immersive gaming experience. The sound quality itself is very crisp, with a nice bass and very good mids for a gaming headset.

The microphone is also an instrument of quality, its sturdy, folds away compactly when not needed. The buttons on the side of the set are exactly what is best for your gaming with easy to distinguish volume wheel and microphone mute button, its actually refreshing that Logitech thought about this simple thing as some wireless headphones and gaming headphones I've owned in the past you have to take it off to see what button your pressing.

Like all of Logitech's gaming range (including mouse) it is really in your benefit to download the companion software to really get the best out of the set; controlling sound, the customisable keys, the actual surround mixer to really tailor your experience. There is also a voice changer so you can basically convert the sound of your voice, a bit shady but whatever you're into I suppose.

So all in all this is definitely the best gaming headset I have owned, and I've had a few.

Simple Audio Go Premium Compact Portable Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker
Simple Audio Go Premium Compact Portable Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant, but 4 stars for a design fault., 27 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I will echo the other reviews by saying that the sound that comes out of this tiny, tiny thing is a thing to behold, the sound is incredible. Basically it left me and my friends a bit taken aback when I turned it on for the first time. I wanted to test it straight out of the box so put on 'Genesis' by Justice and let me tell you, for a device that stands just over 60mm with a width of 120mm the sound is not justified at all! It fills a room easily, max volume with mid volume on the device is good enough, but when maxed on both you get a solid sound, you have to almost shout to be heard over it which is a very good sign.

Connection is very easy, just switch on the thing and search for it on your device. It was picked up by my Macbook running Lion straight away and I was playing music straight away.
The connection distance is very small, I took it barely 2 metres before it started to break up, so at a party you'd have to leave your device right next to the speaker. For the size though this is expected.

The bass itself more than holds up in a mid sized room.
This leads to my only fault with the product, it seems very solidly made, except there are two cheaply stuck on "grips" on the bottom which although adequate for a shiny surface move about ridiculously when placed on a matte surface like a wooden table for example. If you are playing a song with a lot of bass do not put it on a small surface area because it WILL vibrate its way off that surface, having to keep an eye on it was not one of the specified features. So thats a disappointing turn for what is a quality speaker. If you're an easy listening sort of person this obviously won't happen, but if like me you like a wide range of electronic music with deep bass be prepared. It wouldn't be enough for me to not buy the product, but it is very annoying, especially when you can hear the buzz created by it vibrating its way across your table.

So to sum up: the sound defies the size, simple. But beware its wandering feet.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2013 8:12 PM GMT

Creative T30 Wireless (2.0) Bluetooth NFC Speakers with High Quality AptX Audio, BasXPort Technology and Aux-in
Creative T30 Wireless (2.0) Bluetooth NFC Speakers with High Quality AptX Audio, BasXPort Technology and Aux-in
Price: £86.10

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ok with 2.0 sound, but with big, annoying Mac Lion connection problems, 24 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Out of the box these are some very nice looking speakers, a shiny black glass finish on the front looks great with the yellow, there's also double the space inside them compared to my older Logitech's so much more rooms to give a deeper sound.
I think its all about the bass here as the treble is very good with excellent mids. Its plainly obvious that you're not going to get massive bass with these speakers, you do get adequate bass when its turned to the top in my opinion, it adapts from rock to an electronic sound well but it doesn't blow you away considering the price, far from it actually, for a desktop system based around your computer you can't go wrong though. I have wood flooring where my sub woofer system sits so the bass has to be dramatically reduced to account for this, this is not a problem for the T30's, you can enjoy a good amount of bass without a booming irritating reverberation.

The set up still bothers me to this day; I'm running OS X Lion on my Macbook, it took no time for it to find the T30's and connect for the first time, but since then there is still error after error. two out of five times they connect automatically and most times you have to restart whatever program you're running or you'll get no sound at all. So basically be aware if you have a Mac running Lion as it makes a meal of it, when it doesn't connect automatically it says "a bluetooth error occurred", so basically have to keep trying until it works (four or five times average for me). I'm actually getting closer to giving up and just connecting it via the AUX cable it happens so often now.
As they are designed as desktop speakers the bluetooth distance is barely over 2 metres.

At the end of the day these are meant as a desktop speaker system and thats what you get; somewhat versatile and with a crisp sound, its not as rich as I expected but not thin or tinny like many sub woofer speakers are. They also have - at least for my tastes - good bass, for instance it picks up layers of bass in some old dub tracks I have that my old Logitech's would be swimming about forever trying to pick up, but it doesn't blow you away as a result. So they're great for your games and films are a good experience if the volume is loud as voices aren't picked up well otherwise. They are versatile enough and good enough to replace my old speakers but I won't go so far as to throw them out. Don't go near these if you are expecting 5* bass, because with this type of setup you will never get it. But at least I don't stub my toe on a sub woofer whenever I sit down now...

To summarise:
* Good bass for a sub woofer-less system
* Good all round sound, doesn't stand out with any genre
* Bad Mac connectivity, explaining the 2 star rating
* Not worth the money by any means, these prove that the sub woofer desktop system isn't quite out yet
* Programs i.e. Internet, video players etc need to be restarted if they are open when the speakers connect
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 21, 2014 8:11 PM BST

Manly Food
Manly Food
by Simon Cave
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A very usable cook book, 21 Nov 2013
This review is from: Manly Food (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of the books where you just have to ignore the title, I don't know if it was meant to be particularly funny or tongue in cheek title but it just seems out of place and just plain ham fisted, there are plenty of other ways to name a book with 'manly' food inside.

The design of the book is as you'd expect from the title really, with its distressed type and its one weight (bold) text, I'd probably sum it up as the same as the title itself really: ham fisted, its like its shouting at you with its 'Southern fried CHICKEN' recipe especially.
The photography is mostly very good though -- you just cant beat a photograph of food with a bit of blur! But seriously though, the photo of the hot and spicy duck ramen for example is very appealing and makes you want to try it, and its as good as it looks in the photo which is a plus.

The grill and BBQ section is very varied with what looks like some quality recipes that I'll definitely be trying when the summer returns once more, the jerk chicken for example, and spatchcocked anything is always good and I cannot wait to try the peruvian antichecos. Its the varied marinades in this section that really impress me.

The rest of the recipes are very varied, he obviously has a genuine fondness and understanding for asian cuisine which adds a nice colour to the book. The desserts are simple with big flavours, following on from the food quite nicely. So if you like simple big, bold food this is probably worth taking a stab at, if you are thinking of buying it for the prospect of a lot of meat based recipes, there are better books by far more knowledgable chefs that offer this.

The Blood Crows (Roman Legion)
The Blood Crows (Roman Legion)
by Simon Scarrow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.52

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long time fan, not disappointed, 21 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I own all the previous eleven books in the 'Eagle' series, and it really is the place to go if you like your Roman historical fiction dirty with a bit of grit and a few choice swear words. Its very impressive to me that Scarrow has kept the two main characters Macro and Cato the same at their core yet with subtle differences and development from when they first met, he really illustrates how much one has effected the other in some way over the years together, which is especially important as Cato jumped beyond Macro in rank a couple of books ago. This is the reason why the duo are still probably my favourite characters in historical fiction, can't see them being beat.

Onto 'The Blood Crows' then, its more of the same from Scarrow; battles, grit, action with the usual wry humour from the two. Starting with 'Centurion' (the eighth in the series) the author has dropped the word 'Eagle' from the titles to make the series more accessible to people who haven't necessarily read the previous books and it is clear you can pick 'Centurion' up without any prior knowledge and still get a very enjoyable read, but obviously if you want the full experience go back to the beginning.
Its good to see the two soldiers back in Britannia with the surprisingly funny addition of Macro's mother, I won't go into the plot itself as you can read much better synopses from the publishers (and a few reviewers here no doubt). But I will say that its as engrossing a story as ever, with the action mixed with the usual cut throat politics.

If you like no holds barred historical fiction get this, whether a new reader or old you won't look back.

Vanguard Abeo Plus 323Av Kit Alu Tripod
Vanguard Abeo Plus 323Av Kit Alu Tripod
Price: £279.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best tripod I've ever seen and used., 17 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The 323AV is built for pros, plain and simple. If you are starting out in photography and have an average camera this won't really bring much to your shooting experience. Its only really worth the investment if you already have a good SLR with a good selection of lenses, anything less in my opinion would not be worth it.

Its the most solid tripod I've ever used, but this means its also the heaviest, coming in at around three and a half kilos it is hefty to say the least, but the good quality carry bag is an essential addition, plus when there is a bit of wind this tripod is going nowhere!
The sturdiness of the tripod is brilliant, so far its been in rocky streams and submerged midway up the unit with no ill effects at all, and after a quick dry its back in action with no after effects such as stiffness and rust, its as good as new each time I put it though its paces!
I'm not a videographer, but the panning head is superbly smooth, I've got a few good panoramas using the built in camera software and without it, so again the sturdiness is brilliant.

I think a big selling point for the 323AV is the 80º maximum angle adjustment, it opens up many more possibilities for your shooting, when the tripod is at a medium to high height the tilting column really comes into play with rock steady macro shots being possible, with my external flash I've been able to get extremely close and sharp images, this is also reliant on the feet which are exceptional and very versatile, so these three features combined make for a utterly top drawer tripod. If you have the kit and experience this is a must buy, it is available cheaper else where so its probably best to do a bit of research before buying, but once you've taken the plunge there is no looking back!

Eukanuba Overweight Sterilised Dogs Dry Food 12.5 kg
Eukanuba Overweight Sterilised Dogs Dry Food 12.5 kg
Price: £35.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly I've noticed a difference, 17 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My medium Labrador has been getting steadily "thicker" for a while now, not because I am over feeding necessarily, but she is a very hungry dog. After nearly six weeks on this food I have noticed a surprising difference in her coat, eyes and most importantly her weight. It doesn't just strip away weight as that would be impossible, it gradually brings her natural shape to the fore and makes her look much younger, its really an excellent product.
The zip lock bag keeps the food crunchy and fresh and with normal feeds morning and night have seen a steady, healthy loss in weight. It really makes a difference and for what it does, it is very good value.

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