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Reviews Written by
Kevin O'Keefe (Yorkshire, England)

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Berghaus Unisex Remote 12 Hiking Backpack, Black/Black, One Size
Berghaus Unisex Remote 12 Hiking Backpack, Black/Black, One Size
Price: £36.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Small, comfortable and versatile backpack., 5 Jun. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a practical, well made backpack and the thing I particularly like about it is its size that - while small - is both practical enough to carry most things you might need if you were hiking (or cycling) yet is small enough to be unobtrusive. It is comfortable to wear and benefits from a sturdy, ridges back panel that feels secure and prevents angular items from digging into your back (even if it is tightly secured via the comfortable shoulder straps and front strapping). In fact it is easy to forget this is being worn (provided that it isn't stuffed with heavier items).

It has a reasonable number of useful pockets (a zipped outer one, a zipped inner one plus the main compartment and a larger internal pocket) and the whole backpack is made from sturdy and water-resistant nylon (though whether this would remain dry in torrential rain I couldn't say yet). Generally Berghaus produce quality if more expensive products and this item is no exception. That said I still view this backpack as good value (particularly as it comes with a lifetime guarantee). My only quibble is that contrary to the product description the rucksack does not come with a padded floor (which I think is an oversight, but is easy to remedy via cutting a small piece of foam padding and inserting in the bottom - if you can be bothered). Overall though, I like it a lot.

Recommended


SportPlus SP-PUB-004 Push Up Extreme - Multi-Colour
SportPlus SP-PUB-004 Push Up Extreme - Multi-Colour
Offered by Latupo GmbH
Price: £24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Well made and versatile., 5 Jun. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These are very solid and well made push up/press-up bars. They feature comfortable and sturdy rubberised grips and when in use the rubber feet stay firmly put on the floor. The handles rotate (or 'spin;) 360 degrees which provides an added element of difficulty to the exercise (more challenging still if you add the concave cups - which are intended for use with the supplied stands).

This set differs from most as it comes with removable concave plates which are designed to be used with the included stands. The two stands come in two parts which simply slot together. The idea is that these elevate the push up stands about five inches from the floor in order to make the push-ups easier for those who may otherwise struggle with this particular exercise (which, let's face it, is a challenge for most to begin with). More experienced, fitter people will have no need for this but it does make this piece of equipment more versatile for a range of fitness levels.

In short this is a well-made piece of equipment that caters for different strength and fitness levels. The included instruction manual (and box) is entirely in German but frankly no instructions are required (the manufacturer's product description above is sufficient)


PhD Nutrition Smart Bar, Cookies and Cream, Pack of 12 x 64g
PhD Nutrition Smart Bar, Cookies and Cream, Pack of 12 x 64g
Offered by Monstersupplements
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable protein bar, 30 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Not unlike Grenade's Caramel Chaos bar, this is a reallly tasty health bar, with a good (althougn usual amount) of protein. This works well as a sports supplement, but equally as an enjoyable chocolate type bar treat. It is also low in sugar. Whereas I really enjoy this type of snack/protein bar, unless you have a sweet tooth you might want to look at something else, as it is very sweet, perhaps too sweet for some. The bar itself is chewy, crunchy and very satisfying, with a chocolate coating, so storage in a cool place is a good idea. Overall this bar is fair value for money and I would happily get again.


Sony SRS-XB20 Portable Wireless Speaker with Extra Bass and Lighting - Red
Sony SRS-XB20 Portable Wireless Speaker with Extra Bass and Lighting - Red
Price: £94.98

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good sound, 9 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Easy to set up and genuinely surprising audio - from such a smallish unit: there's a lot to like about this speaker (which is saying something from someone who is generally hard to impress).

It's about 6 inches in diameter, reassuringly chunky and covered in water-resistant material (don't take it swimming though). Bluetooth pairing is straight forward (although it obliged me to download the Sony Music Center app for my iPhone, although no such requirement for my Windows 7 laptop). The buttons on the top of the speaker are easily identifiable and responsive and were equally responsive via iPhone or PC.

What sets the speaker apart from others I've tried is the audio which - for the money - is noticeably superior. I tried it with a range of music genres and it made a pretty good fist of all of them. In my experience there's generally a trade off with the mid-range and treble if you prefer the added bass (and vice versa) but I found this not to be the case with this speaker (and never felt the urge to wish I could mess about with the EQ: all styles sounded quite acceptable as they were). Volume wise it goes loud enough to fill a room if required (but fidelity is better when slightly quieter). Usually I'm rather skeptical of 'bass boost' technology but I found there was nothing to be lost by having it on all the time with this unit: everything I threw at it sounded better.

I can't comment on what it would sound like if you paired it with another unit to produce true stereo sound but - if my experience of doing this with the cheaper Bluetooth speakers I have is anything to go by - the effect is truly transformational (much more than the sum of its parts). I would guess that - based on the fact that this single mono speaker sounds so good on its own - adding another one would sound possibly amazing (bearing in mind their size of course).

Sony claims an operating time of 12 hours from a full charge (which so far seems likely). My only minor gripe is the rather tacky flashing lighting effect built into the outside edge of the speaker (but, hey, you can simply turn that off if you prefer: it just seems rather pointless and undermines what is otherwise a quality product).

In short: well made, easy to use and sounds good.


Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Bluetooth Waterproof Fitness and Running Earbuds with Heart Rate and Activity Monitor Includes Advanced Charging Case - Black
Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Bluetooth Waterproof Fitness and Running Earbuds with Heart Rate and Activity Monitor Includes Advanced Charging Case - Black
Price: £216.44

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seriously Flawed., 18 April 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These Jabra sports earbuds could have been an outstanding product if not let down by some inconsistent (and frankly poor) design.

On the positive side they excel from a fitness monitoring/fitness development standpoint. The app and hardwear truly work well together and the app has a level of sophistication that even the most hard-core of fitness fanatics would welcome (clearly setting out goals, past achievements, charting variations in fitness etc). In addition the interface is attractive, logical and straightforward to use. Once synced via bluetooth (which - once you get used to the fiddly controls on the earbuds - is easy ) the heart rate monitor is accurate and dependable.

Initially the design of the earbuds (and indeed the whole package) impresses. Unusually the earbuds charge via the rather nice solid case they are housed in when not in use (and which works well). The earbuds come with a good range of variously-sized tips and rubber sleeves to enable a snug and secure fit (whatever the size of your ear canal). Or at least that is the intention: personally I found that despite trying various combinations I found it impossible to find a fitting that was comfortable for even short, let alone long, periods. Having tested many earbuds over the years (and I am well-used to how to successfully find the right combination of tip, fin and fitting - which can be tricky) I would have to say that these are possibly the least comfortable ones I have ever tried. To be fair, once fitted properly I did find them to be a secure fit (and remained so during a jog) but I was never unaware of them being somewhat uncomfortably in my ears and remained something of a distraction for most of the time (but sound leakage from music playback isn't too bad).

Talking of sound/audio reproduction: anyone who places a high premium on high quality audio will be disappointed with these earbuds. Although clear, the sound is flat, un-engaging and with a pitiful amount of bass. In fact the audio compares unfavourably to far more superior-sounding ones that can cost a sixth of the RRP wanted here. Of course the ones I refer to may not be wireless (and perhaps sacrifices have been made in terms of audio quality to house/enable the Jabra's wireless capabilities) but - unless you're not bothered by an at best 'average' sound - I would steer clear of these and look elsewhere.

In conclusion; I was really disappointed with these Jabra earbuds (and I am generally highly impressed with Jabra products). It had the capability to be a genuinely effective fitness aid - but, for me, this was entirely undermined by its 'usability' (i.e. the discomfort and poor sound mean I cannot wear them for long - which is a shame). Finally, in view of the above the asking price seems unjustified too.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2017 1:21 PM BST


Braun Series 3 300s Rechargeable Electric Shaver, Black 
Braun Series 3 300s Rechargeable Electric Shaver, Black 
Price: £29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant results at a bargain price, 16 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This maybe the 'entry level' model of the Series 3 range but is by no means inferior in many respects. It does not come with a retractable detail trimmer (like the 3080S) or beard shaving attachments (like the 3010BT) but the shaving head and mechanics etc are near identical (the only difference of the foil and cutter being that the 300s is not the newly designed looking one featured on other models in the range - though seems equally effective).

I have all three of the aforementioned shavers (plus an older version 3080s with older style foil/cutter) and what is useful to know is that all heads between all the models I've tried are entirely compatible and interchangeable with each other. This is worth bearing in mind if and when you need to buy a new foil (which you will need to do after about 18 months). New head replacements for the S3 range are expensive and yet this particular model is surprisingly not much more so: in fact for an extra fiver (at current RRPs) you effectively get yourself a new head plus a new shaver as a back up!

However to describe the 300s as a 'back up' would be doing it a disservice: it is in fact a fantastic shaver and - if you are not bothered about detail or beard shaving - simply the equal of them in terms of results. I was converted to Braun shavers (S3) range a few years ago after being a long-time wet/safety razor user. After being sent one to try out I have not looked back - I still find them an unbelievably close - and safe - shave (remarkably even closer even than wet shaving). And don't be put off by the confuisng distinction that this is not a 'wet and dry' shaver (this relates to the fact that it is not recommended you take this shaver into the bath or the shower). You can still shave with this using cream/gel and rinse it under the tap afterwards (and like all shavers in the S3 range the foil snaps on and off really easily).

In short this is a great shaver that delivers a frankly fantastic shave at an almost bargain-basement price.

Totally recommended.


Jam Audio Double Down Speaker - Blue
Jam Audio Double Down Speaker - Blue
Price: £29.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly remarkable sound (if bought as a pair), 14 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a (single) stand alone speaker the Jam Audio Double Down is a solid if unremarkable performer compared to other speakers at a similar price point. Notwithstanding the inevitable dearth of bass that speakers of this size generally have (which, to be fair, isn't that bad with this speaker) it copes really quite impressively in the mid-range and, all told, is generally pleasant and musical (particularly with acoustic and jazz: naturally, it struggles to 'pack a punch' with rock and dance etc). That said I think most people would be pleased with it: it pairs easily, goes pretty loud (for its size) and seems chunky enough to withstand frequent use and transportation in a variety of settings (inside and out). Bluetooth range is also good and the unit suffered no loss/drop out of signal when paired with my PC from the next room.

But what prompts me to elevate this simply good 'three and a half star rated' speaker to a full, unreserved, five star one is when you pair it with another one: wow, what a difference! The sound is truly elevated to something else and - if positioned correctly (e.g. placed in opposite corners of a room) the soundstage is truly impressive (and something that a single speaker or, for that matter considerably more expensive single source stereo speakers, could never achieve). I love the convenience of the system which means, for example, if you go traveling you can easily set up a superior room-filling experience yet - because of their size - with no more inconvenience than the usual speaker we would usually take (which is 'stereo' but, as with many stereo speakers, left and right channels are grouped together - with predictable results).

So; in short as a single speaker the Double Down is a reasonable, safe choice (but not, in my view, superior to others I've tried - which is a few). However to really get the most out of it I would strongly urge potential buyers to 'go the whole hog' and buy two: the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts - and by some margin. Sure, it does of course mean double the outlay but - if the budget stretches to it - you will not be disappointed.

Highly recommended (as a pair).


Vax U85-PC-Pe Power Compact Pet Upright Vacuum Cleaner, 2 Litre, 900 W
Vax U85-PC-Pe Power Compact Pet Upright Vacuum Cleaner, 2 Litre, 900 W

4.0 out of 5 stars Basic but a solid performer, 12 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While this vac won't win any stars for looks or outstanding build quality it nevertheless is a practical and effective cleaner at an appealing price. It comes with the usual range of attachments but also with a clip on miniature hand held brush/suction tool (i.e. the 'Pet Turbo Tool') which - I was surprised to find - worker extremely well with our dog's pet hair that had become quite embedded in the door mat where she likes to sleep. An unusual feature is that the handle folds down making stowage easier (although the unit's overall footprint is larger than other more slimline models - including Vax's own).

In operation it is (I estimate) slightly louder than average. It is not particularly lightweight but is nevertheless easy to maneuver. It comes with a hard floor attachment that snaps on beneath the brush bar. However I actually found the vac harder to maneuver once this was in place (as there seemed to be almost no ground clearance) so I removed it withput any noticeable difference in performance.

In short this is a reasonable package overall. It comes with a two year guarantee and - in ,my experience - impressive customer support should you need advice/product support.


Fulfil Peanut and Caramel Vitamin and Protein Bar - Pack of 15
Fulfil Peanut and Caramel Vitamin and Protein Bar - Pack of 15
Price: £26.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As scrumptious as Grenade's Carb Killer - but with added vitamins., 11 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These protein bars are absolutely delicious (i.e. the Peanut and Caramel version). In fact If I was to do a blind taste test I would find them almost indistinguishable from Grenade Carb Killa High Protein and Low Carb Bar, 12 x 60 g - Caramel Chaos (the most flavoursome and 'authentic' tasting sports/nutrition bar I've ever tasted). As with the Grenade bar they have the perfect balance of crunchiness and sweetness (and genuinely taste like a 'proper' chocolate snack/treat bar - much like a a Lion Bar or Picnic).

There are a few differences between the two however. The most notable one (other than the price) is that these come fortified with 100% RDA of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin E, Folic Acid, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin and Pantothenic Acid each. However these bars do contain twice the sugar (which to be fair is a negligible 3 grams) and marginally less protein per bar (20g compared to Grenade's 23g).

In short these are an improvement on what I consider to be the most enjoyable of all the protein bars I've tried (and also reviewed). They are - at the current RRP - somewhat more expensive than the Grenade bars (which are currently discounted from the usual RRP - but would otherwise be more expensive). Should the price disparity narrow (which it may well do) the Fulfill bar would be the clear winner. That being said, taken on their own merits (and disregarding comparisons based upon a competitor's currently cheaper pricing) these are the most delicious and nutritionally well-balanced bars I've had.

Recommended.


Volcano
Volcano
Price: £9.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the wait., 4 Mar. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Volcano (Audio CD)
I was really looking forward to this album (which I had on pre-order). Their previous album ‘Sun Structures’ was a beguiling retro-sounding psyche-influenced rocker that – to these ears – was a winning combination of what The Stone Roses and Kula Shaker might sound like if they ever hooked up. But what really let Sun Structures down - really badly in my view - was the truly poor production. This was a real shame as it featured some genuinely great songs almost smothered beneath the boomy, inert drumming, reverb overkill and harsh production.
Anyway, this brings me to ‘Volcano’ (which I’d read somewhere that the band had been working on the production side of things and were much happier with it). And I can report it *is* much better; still retaining a sometimes wide, echoey soundstage vibe (but fair play: this is part of Temples’ very recognisable ‘sound’ after all) but now also employing a wider variety of instrumentation, most notably keyboards. It’s a highly successful progression for the band: they could have stuck to the musical template of their debut but here have taken a few musical chances (but without abandoning what made Temples such an appealing prospect in the first place).

Unlike Sun Structures all the tracks are concise, more pop-psyche and less discursive than before. This will please some more than others, but there’s no denying that there’s far more sonic variety here. Overall it’s a strong set but some songs work far better than others (and the stand out for me – by some margin – is ‘I Want to be Your Mirror’: a track that C.Mills esq. would have killed for). However, while there is maybe a dearth of tracks with the immediate and blissed-out appeal of older songs such as ‘Move with the Season’ and ‘Colours to Life’ (both favourites of mine) the new material is perhaps more sophisticated and rewarding with repeated play. In other words, don’t be surprised if – like me – you feel initially disappointed that this album isn’t ‘Sun Structures Volume 2’ (but hopefully with better sound!). Stick with it and you’ll soon be seduced by their somewhat new sound, direction and sense of confidence.

In conclusion, it’s a fine album overall: varied if occasionally uneven; progressive yet more focused (but perhaps lacks some of the killer hooks of its predecessor). That last caveat aside, I’m pretty sure fans old and new will be more than happy with Volcano.


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