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Akhenaten
Akhenaten
Price: 2.76

4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, accessible and mature - and that's not a criticism!, 11 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Akhenaten (MP3 Download)
If Nat Birchall ever reads this review I know he'll probably hate it! A musician spends their whole life trying to create a unique sound, voice or style, and then an amateur reviewer like me comes in and says "he sounds like ...". That rather destroys any hard won individuality the artist feels he has achieved. So apologies to Nat, but let me explain.
I had never encountered him or his fellow musicians on this recording before. I'm not quite sure what brought me to this page in the first place. But I clicked on link to hear a sample of the first track, "Nica's Dance". Within a few seconds I was entranced. I immediately connected this sound to one of my favourite albums, Joe Henderson's "State of The Tenor". Did Nat sound like Joe? Well, I have to say, at first listen, yes he did. They both play tenors after all and they seem to occupy the same registers and tones of the instrument. However that's a bit like judging two people who live in identical houses or wear identical jackets and saying their personalities are the same. They are absolutely not interchangeable.

It was really the nature and pattern of the music that grabbed me. There's a definite common ground in restrained emotion, in a sinuous exploration of moods and emotions and I really love that style. Both players may have similar starting points but they arrive at different and equally valid answers. Based on the few seconds of Nica's Dance I then downloaded the whole album.
Another reviewer has mentioned what he regards as Eastern influences in the music. I'm not sure I've picked that up, but with a title like Akhenaten you think there's a strong hint towards N. African sources of inspiration. It's ridiculously good value for money. This has to be the next jazz album you buy regardless of your tastes. It would be excellent listening at twice or three times the price.
You get a very assured confident group of musicians whose total concern is their music not their instruments. The ensemble support for one another is excellent throughout and you'll enjoy this recording again and again.


Adams: The Dharma At Big Sur / Kraft: Timpani Concerto No.1 / Rosenman: Suite From Rebel Without A Cause [+Digital Booklet]
Adams: The Dharma At Big Sur / Kraft: Timpani Concerto No.1 / Rosenman: Suite From Rebel Without A Cause [+Digital Booklet]
Price: 1.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Makes you wish you had been there, 11 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Others have mentioned this is a live recording. On the first couple of listens I thought the audience and background noise were a little more intrusive than I liked. However I've now come to enjoy the real life feeling of a genuine concert taking place around me as I listen. None of the music is what might be called 'easy' - there are no obvious sweeping melodies. But all the works here are very rewarding and satisfying. Individually they have clear identities and characteristics of their composers. Taken together they do form a very good program of music. It does really hang together as an overall performance. Although my personal favourite is the Adams, I find I don't listen to only one piece on each occasion I play this recording. Settle down, mentally enter the concert hall, and let the next 70 minutes of well-recorded well-performed music-making take you away to Los Angeles.
Finally this is exceptionally good value for money. At this level, even those of you who feel wary of 'new' orchestral music can easily afford to invest and experiment, listen and learn, and make your mind up. I do urge as many of you as possible to take the opportunity.


Qpad MK-80 Pro Gaming Backlit Mechanical Keyboard - Brown
Qpad MK-80 Pro Gaming Backlit Mechanical Keyboard - Brown
Offered by Express Box Limited
Price: 81.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only just acquired it, but first impressions good, 1 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
You note I've said first impressions "good" rather than "very good" or "excellent" or "awesome". I know I will almost certainly have to come back and write an update to this at some point after owning it for a few weeks. The size, spacing and action of a keyboard are things to be learned and adjusted to. An overall verdict isn't possible the day you get it. So this is definitely a quick overview, as it came out of the box.

Can I mention the box? I don't know why but I feel that manufacturers signal their standards in their product packaging. And this immediately had me impressed. A solid heavy box, beautifully cut and folded, and inside there was a place for everything and everything in its place. Just as it should be. An encouraging start.

Unpacking produced something I hadn't seen mentioned in other reviews: a 4-headed cable. One USB plug, one PS/2 plug with attached USB adaptor, and two 3.5mm jack plugs (turned out one for audio out and one for audio in). The keyboard itself has a very solid feel and nothing rattles or moves if you shake it.

I'm enough of an old fogey that I read user guides. "Plug your keyboard into the USB, PS/2, MIC, PHONE port of your computer. You can also use the PS/2 to USB adaptor to connect PC."
So I plugged in the USB plug and re-started the computer. Nothing. On boot all I got was "No keyboard detected" Hmmm...
Unplugged USB and tried PS/2 via USB. No error this time but still no working keyboard. Tried various options until I eventually went to the Qpad website to look for help. Aaahh, it appears you need *both* the USB *and* the PS/2 plugged in. Strange no-one I'd seen mentioned this either. Now I know. It *will* work without the USB apparently, but you have to sacrifice the lighting and the inbuilt USB sockets on the keyboard itself. Oh, well.

Once I'd got it working was the time for an aesthetic review. Let me say straight away the guys at Qpad need severe lessons in minimalism and 'less is more' philosophy. They just haven't got it. The "Q" key is marked by a Qpad-style "Q". OK. But so is the space bar with an even bigger "Q". And then if you didn't know who made it, it shouts QPAD at you from the area between the arrow keys and Del-End-Pg Dwn . And, oh dear, oh dear, the wrist rest, while finished in a nicely textured solid plastic, also has the largest "Q" of all (about 2.5cm diameter!) plus a message "WE {HEART} GAMING" with the {HEART} being a deformed QPAD Q, of course. So I'm sorry guys, you've lost a star for appearance and lack of subtlety straightaway.

The lighting, on the other hand is really good. I'm typing this in a shaded room (low ambient natural light) and the setting of 1 (1 dimmest, 4 brightest) is just right for me. I can't ever anticipate using 4, but as I said, I'm an old fogey. Maybe some users will see that attraction in typing at 4 on what looks like a tanning bed!

There is one other strange thing I've never seen on any other keyboard. The shifted and unshifted characters I've seen on every other keyboard I've used have been above and below each other (e.g. ~ above # and : above;). Here, they're side-by-side. Even the number row across the top appears to read 1! 2" 3 4$ 5% 6^ etc ... Curious but not a disaster. I just can't see why. Six of the keys do have small non-illuminated alternate characters that allow you to type Á, é, €, ú, í, and ó using the AltGr modifier key. These small symbols are positioned on the lower portions of their keys, but as these are letter keys they don't have any shifted/unshifted pairs showing anyway.

This review is literally the first thing I have typed using the keyboard. Some aspects, such as solidity and stability, are impressing me much more than I expected: I haven't realised how important these can be. Creaky old flexing plastic is already something I wouldn't like to go back to. So, a good start Qpad, I'll come back and update this later on.


Kingston DataTraveler Locker G3 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Kingston DataTraveler Locker G3 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Price: 19.48

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to like, 7 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's difficult to review USB memory sticks. It's not as if they all have vastly different methods of solving the basic requirement of data storage. However for this one I'll go out on a limb and say it's the best-balanced combination of features I've encountered from any memory stick.
LOOKS: I'd still give it second-place in this regard to its Kingston stable-mate, the Data Traveler SE9, which I also own. The latter item is the most beautiful USB stick ever. It's like a piece of modern sculpture. However this Locker G3 is much more stylish item than the shoe-box of the Kingston Data Traveler Ultimate G3 (which I also own). That one is a really ugly lump of memory! This Locker G3 is metal, every so-slightly roughened surface, and feel just the right finish and weight. There is also a hole at the end of the body which I have inserted a small split-ring (much smaller than typical key-ring size) with a stub lanyard attached. Overall I'm very happy to be seen in public with this!

PERFORMANCE: Beautiful as the SE9 is (did I mention that?) it is pretty slow. This is a very much better unit for speed. I've made no attempt to generate pointless benchmarks of MB/s transfer times - they really don't relate to real-life usage. However I do have a bunch of portable apps with a launch menu stored on my Locker G3 and I can happily run a file manager, browser, text editor etc all from the device itself. I've installed LibreOffice Portable on it,and while the initial launch takes several seconds, thereafter usability is absolutely fine.

SECURITY: Very pleased indeed to have this option. As yet I've no way of verifying how secure and robust the encryption system is, but the sooner all manufacturers of USB sticks treat this as a standard feature the better as far as I'm concerned. None of my existing USB sticks (did I mention I have quite a few?) has any form of security built-in. Unlocking the device is a simple process when you plug it in - just a few seconds. The security software has even survived me shutting down the PC without quitting the app first. And it started perfectly next time. So far, very happy.

VALUE: Given all the positives above, plus the good 32GB capacity, from a reputable manufacturer, I think a price in the 20-25 range is very good value for money. It's even come down in price by a couple of since I bought mine, but I still think I bought it at a good price so I'm happy.

OVERALL: Can't suggest any reason why you wouldn't want to own one of these. Go get it now.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 11, 2014 4:46 PM BST


SoundMAGIC E10 Earphones - Silver/Black
SoundMAGIC E10 Earphones - Silver/Black
Price: 29.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings - really strange strengths and weaknesses, 9 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First, I'm not a big user of earphones, so bear that in mind with my comments. I'm also a very late adopter of mobile technology. I eventually realised that I needed earphones to make better use of my recently acquired smart phone and I've always thought the 'speakers' on my iPad mini were tinny beyond belief. So I searched for recommendations on the web and these earphones were praised everywhere. Some reviews even suggested you'd have to spend 3-figure sums to get better sound. So I took the plunge.

APPEARANCE: They do look good. I know that shouldn't be a major factor, but the packaging, presentation and the 'phones themselves all contributed to a value-for-money feeling. Here they're described as 'silver/black', but there's no silver visible anywhere - they're a gray/black combination. Personally I find it attractive.

CONTENT: At this price I think I expected to receive a pair of earphones and nothing else. I was surprised, pleasantly so, to see what else was provided. There's a really tidy hard-shell storage case. It's about 2.5" square - jet-black with a bright red zip closure all the way round the middle. Inside, each half-shell has a mesh net pocket extending full-width and about half-way up its open height. Looks well constructed and very useful.
In one of the mesh pockets was a small SoundMAGIC spring-clip, presumably for attaching the earphone cable to a collar or other item of clothing.
In the other was a plastic bag with the writing
"SoundMAGIC
Ear hook
Comfortable rubber earhooks for cable back to ear"
Through the plastic I could see what turned out to be 6 different pairs of rubber tips for the earphones (different sizes and shapes) and what looked like a small pair of bent plastic rods. I assumed they were the 'earhooks'.
Surprise! When I emptied the bag, I got rubber tips, but it turned out the earhooks were actually an image printed on the clear plastic bag. Very strange. I still can't explain this. Nevertheless the different sized tips have provided me with a really comfortable fit, and I don't feel like I need any hooks or clips to keep them in place.

SOUND: The earphones themselves are surprisingly, to me, very good indeed. Since I got them I have listened to classical and jazz music, solo instruments and large ensembles, and the 'phones are genuinely very pleasing and satisfying. However, the cable is incredibly noisy! I don't know if this is a characteristic of all earphones of this type or only these. When I move around, or even just turn my head, the cable brushing against my clothes or head generates thumps and rumbles that are incredibly distracting. To get some idea of what I'm talking about and see if your own 'phones have the same issue try this test: pinch the cable at any point really tightly with one hand, using your thumb and one or two forefingers; now, using the other hand, flick the cable with your forefinger above where you've pinched it and again below where you've pinched it. I find these two conditions massively different. The 'below' flick causes no problems - all the cable vibrations and noise get trapped and damped out by my pinched thumb and fingers. But the 'above' flick produces a massive thump in my ears as all the cable noise is transmitted straight to me ears. It's as if the cables were acting as a microphone. It may be, but it's not clear, that this is exactly why the spring-clip is provided - to anchor the cable as close to your head as possible.

SUMMARY: Build, appearance, extras, basic sound quality, all seem 'good' verging on the 'excellent'. But until I've resolved this cable noise I can't say this will be my preferred method of listening. I'm happy to persevere because the positive impressions of everything else in this purchase make me feel there has to be a way around it.


Ancient Airs and Dances
Ancient Airs and Dances
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 14.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Respighi knew a good tune when he heard it ..., 8 Mar 2014
This review is from: Ancient Airs and Dances (Audio CD)
Respighi's three suites of "Ancient Airs and Dances" are pretty well-known and justifiably popular among music lovers, even non-specialist ones. But the 'ancient' bit was never really appropriate. He wrote his suites between 1917 and 1932 and they were arranged and scored for a 20th century orchestra. They are lush and smooth, and with the best will even the sprightliest of the 'dances' do sound a bit more like a casual stroll.
What you get in this recording are the original compositions that Respighi used as his inspirations. We're going back to Renaissance times, where the instrumentation is much more spare and raw, and there's a greater personal feel to the music. This is small group or solo music-making. The compositions and arrangements are less-polished, even if the performances themselves shine. Paul O'Dette is justifiably regarded as one of, or perhaps the leading lutenists of our time. The sound and recording is sharp, clear and well-focused. These are exceptionally enjoyable and really informative performances: it's fascinating to hear what existed before Respighi made his arrangements and adaptations.

So, which is better, the original or the re-arrangements? I honestly can't say. I have a strong liking for this style and period of music, but I'd also hate to be without Respghi. I can only say that I am so delighted to have these versions. They are strongly recommended to anyone who knows the Respighi or who likes Renaissance in general. Don't hesitate.


Roscoe Chenier
Roscoe Chenier
Price: 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars You can't judge an album by its cover, 7 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Roscoe Chenier (MP3 Download)
I mean, look at him. Just look at him. He's standing there with his glasses, short-sleeved white shirt and tie. He looks like the manager of a 24-hour dry-cleaners, not a blues guitarist. But Roscoe can indeed play. When you hear of Louisiana and the name Chenier is mentioned you automatically think of Clifton Chenier, the great gran'pappy of zydeco. Well this is one of his cousins or nephews, Roscoe, and he makes a great stab at this record. Is he an all-time great bluesman? No, definitely not on this hearing, but what do get on every track is a really clear feeling that Roscoe and his band just had so much fun recording this. There's a mixture of tempos among the tracks, but every one sounds spontaneous and utterly enjoyable. The opening "Come On Home" is up-beat rocking blues - start with that as a download and see if you like it. I guarantee you'll be back for more.


Alternato Wine Glasses 19oz / 540ml - Pack of 6 | Red Wine Glasses, Short Stem Glasses, Bubble Base Glasses from Durobor
Alternato Wine Glasses 19oz / 540ml - Pack of 6 | Red Wine Glasses, Short Stem Glasses, Bubble Base Glasses from Durobor
Offered by Amethyst Catering Equipment Ltd (prices inc vat)
Price: 24.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Good chunky goblets, 25 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wanted some everyday wine glasses with a big-handed grip and an enthusiastic approach to the wine in them. These fit the bill really well. They are great fun and very enjoyable drinking companions.
Don't put your absolutely finest wines in them - the glass itself is too thick and heavy, and the closed globe shape really doesn't help subtle bouquets and aromas. But for big beefy reds with big beefy meals, these big beefy glasses are just the thing!


Bach - The Well Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2
Bach - The Well Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2
Price: 20.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely magnificent, 25 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is Bach, pure and simple. I hope it does not sound as an insult to Bernard Roberts if I say I can forget about him while listening to this music. There are very few artists who can extract themselves in such a way that they do not stand between the listener and the composer. The obvious opposite is Gould. No matter which music you listen to with him, no matter which composer he subjects to his treatment, first and foremost you are getting Gould presented out front. Roberts' exceptionally skillful technique genuinely leaves you with the impression that all you heard was the music - as if it came with no performer.
This is an extremely satisfying, calming and immersive recording - from the very first note of the C Major Prelude there are only two people who matter: Johann Sebastian Bach and you, the listener.
Bernard Roberts' capabilities and preferences are the prime example of the old saying 'ars est celare artem' - true art is to conceal art.
I can not recommend this highly enough - it really needs 6 stars at least.


WD 2 TB Eco 3.5-inch Desktop Hard Drive Including WD Extended Warranty (Frustration Free Packaging) - Green
WD 2 TB Eco 3.5-inch Desktop Hard Drive Including WD Extended Warranty (Frustration Free Packaging) - Green
Price: 74.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Good value from a reputable manufacturer, 25 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's hard to write a conclusive review of a hard drive after only a few days. I guess one of the key issues for these devices in most people's eyes will be longevity, and there's no way of judging that until it fails.
So suffice to say at this stage that Western Digital are certainly a well-regarded manufacturer and I don't expect any early problems. Other aspects regarding the item -
Price: Very competitive, I'd no hesitation in buying it here
Delivery: The drive arrived very promptly indeed from Amazon. Prime did what Prime promised.
Packaging: Very securely packed. It was also easy to get the drive out of the packaging, so the 'Frustration Free Packaging' claim held up completely.
Installation: I added this to an existing desktop PC and these days SATA drives are almost fool-proof to install: one power cable and one data cable. From power-down of the PC to getting the drive working under Windows 7 was probably no more than 20 minutes.
Power consumption: This last claim I can't verify - I've no way of measuring the eco-credentials of this drive. I deliberately didn't go for one of the higher-performance 'Black' WD drives or even the general purpose 'Blue' family. As far as I was concerned the type of data I will be storing on this drive does not require instant micro-second access and and anything that promised to keep the PC case temperature and power consumption down was good to me.

Overall, very pleased so far and would certainly buy the same again from the same source.


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