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Everyone knows that the old Apple Earbuds were terrible. Nothing about them appealed, other than in the early days when it was cool to be seen with the white 'buds. In reality, they had dreadful sound quality, didn't sit in people's ears properly, and they broke every 2 minutes. Apple have spent years and millions of dollars improving them, and these are the result.
Right from the start, they look better than the old ones. A bit awkward looking from some angles, but still they have a modern look, which is still recognisably Apple. Nobody's going to think you're using an MP3 player from Poundland when you're using these (unless of course you've bought them separately, but read on to find out why you shouldn't!).
The remote is a bit bigger, making it pretty easy for answering calls and changing tracks and volume. Call quality is pretty decent overall for a free bundled pair, but I've been spoilt with Bose and B&W products, which of course run rings around them, for a hefty price.
They fit much better than the old ones. Apple made a song and dance about scanning millions of people's ears and finding common properties, and this is the result. They don't fall out every 2 minutes in normal use, but I haven't had the opportunity to really test the theory in the gym (yet, watch this space!).
Sound quality. The single biggest letdown of the old model. It irked me to see so many people sacrifice decent sound for the cool factor, much like Beats do in the modern age. It must be said that this new model is much improved over the old one, but there's still plenty of room for improvement. The bass is much more present, as seems to be the trend with headphones these days, and again it intrudes a bit into the midrange. Treble is boosted over the old model, but again it's too much, and the midrange is just sandwiched out, leaving a harsher sound. Still better than the old ones, but from my point of view, destroying the listening experience.
Price is something to take into account too. Sure, they're bundled free with most new iThings, but for those of you with the old earbuds and wanting to upgrade, Apple sell them at £25 a pair, but claim they sound 'more like headphones costing $100s more'. What complete rubbish. They sound average for a £25 pair, let alone anything like my Bose models. At this price, you're better off going for Sennheiser's CX300, often regarded as the best budget headphones. If you have to have the mic/remote on there, the MM30i is the CX300 with this option.
So, the verdict? As a freebie, they're not bad, and certainly an improvement over the old ones. Probably would make an OK gym pair of headphones if you don't have a dedicated sports pair like me. But at £25, they're a waste of money, and not even worth going to the shop for. Avoid paying for them if at all possible.
So, it was time to upgrade my contract at the start of the month, having had the iPhone 4S since it's launch. I could have upgraded to a 5 from mid July, but held off as I knew this would be along. And I'm glad I did; it's taken the iPhone to another level!
Firstly, it's so much lighter than the 4S. And thinner. Apple do this every time, but here they've achieved perfection. It's really light, but not too light that it feels like it's going to snap. The extra screen space was something I wasn't too fussed about when the 5 came out, the 4S felt like the perfect size. But now my mind is changed, the 5S is the perfect size. I'm glad it's not wider, it should feel like a phone, not a tablet (I have an iPad for that!).
The build quality is typically Apple; it's excellent. It feels built to last, and I'm glad the back isn't glass any more as it's one less thing to smash, although if you're smashing iPhones on a regular basis then I'd think that says more about the user than the phone. The metal back is wonderful, it adds even more of a premium feel to the phone.
The software is excellent. iOS 7 had been available before the 5S was announced, but it's clear Apple's engineers were making it with the 5S in mind all along. I've tried it on the 4S and it felt great, but the 5S is light years ahead. I thought the 4S was that fast that I wouldn't notice the increase. But I was wrong; going back to the 4S now feels like going back onto dial up internet. Sadly I can't get 4G up here in the highlands, but when I do, I'll update.
The hardware changes have made all the difference. 64 bit is the biggest news here, no idea what it means but if it's responsible for the massive leap in speed then I'm all for it. Graphics are fantastic; I'd say PS3/X360 rivalling! They've also included the M7 Motion CoProcessor. This is rather clever, it knows when you're in the car, or working out, or asleep, and the phone responds accordingly; for example, if it senses you haven't touched the phone for quite a while, it will assume you're asleep/resting, and as a result you don't get it dinging and ringing every two minutes. Apple have promised it'll inspire a 'new generation of fitness apps'. Strava is the main one I use right now, and it feels roughly the same, but we'll see in the future.
This is also my first chance to test the Earpod headphones, as my last iPhone, the 4S, had the truly dreadful white earbuds which are still in their packaging. I'll do a proper review of the Earpods in due course, but in a nutshell, they're a massive step forward over the aforementioned pieces of junk Apple used to give you, but being a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to headphones, I'm not completely bowled over.
In a nutshell then, the 5S is the new king. I loved my 4S, but the 5S feels like I've travelled time, it's that advanced. Only downside is the cost; this 64GB version is £700 if you don't want a contract! If you do want a contract, then in my opinion 3 have the best deals. Flat rate of £99 upfront cost for any 5S, then the monthly prices adjust for the 16, 32 and 64GB versions and the varying bundles. I went for the One Plan, which is pricey at £51 a month but includes properly unlimited data (great as I'll be using a lot in my new job!) and 5000 texts, 5000 3 to 3 minutes and 2000 any network minutes, which is more than anyone will use unless you're a 15 year old girl. I went for the 64GB, a quick word of warning for those thinking 16GB will do; I thought that when I got the 4S, then cursed myself 3 days later when I filled it.
I bought the 2nd generation Apple TV, and thought it was absolutely fantastic. Finally, any movies on my laptop could be put through the TV without any fuss or routing lots of cables everywhere. The only issue was, the girlfriend also liked it a lot, and as a result there were arguments over the living room TV. So, when the 3rd generation came out, I bought one for the bedroom.
The tweaks between this and the previous, 2nd generation model are rather minor. The old one was 720p, and the new one is 1080p, and that's about it. Apparently it was easier to jailbreak the old model than it is the current one, and as a result the 2nd generation was going for more than it's original £99 RRP on eBay. Those of us without any intention on upgrading could then, sell our 2nd generation model, buy a 3rd and pocket £30-50. But with all the hassle that comes along with it, I didn't bother.
The ease of use thankfully hasn't changed with the latest update. 3 buttons on the remote control everything, and if you're feeling particularly geeky, you can download the Remote app to your iPhone and control the Apple TV from there.
Home sharing is a godsend. Make sure it's turned on in iTunes, then you can search your entire iTunes library from the TV. You can also just use the AirPlay function when using iTunes, but it's far simpler to just turn on Home Sharing. Just don't turn your computer off midway through watching something, or the Apple TV will go back to the main menu.
You can also browse the iTunes store for movies and TV shows, and purchase, rent and play them directly through the TV. It's fantastically simple. What's more, if you have iTunes match, your entire music library is available to listen to, regardless of whether your computer is on or not.
There's a Netflix app, meaning you don't need to go through the iOS devices and use AirPlay, and Netflix is now in proper, full HD.
In fact, the Apple TV puts out at 1080p all the time. Only the eagle eyed will spot it, the girlfriend cannot tell the difference, but I can see it. Thing is, most of the films I have are coded in 1080p anyway, but they weren't used to the full potential in the old model. Much better here, and no weird goings on with higher end TVs. We bought one for my Dad, and whereas in the 720p version, everything looked like it was filmed on a GoPro for some reason (he has a £1500 47" TV, we didn't see this issue on a 32", £170 Sainsbury's special) but the 1080p version was absolutely fine. Must have been an issue with the 1080p/720p combination.
Downsides? Well, I reckon that a BBC iPlayer app would have made this even better than it already is; but you can just run it on an iOS device and use AirPlay. And if you're smart enough, you'll have already jailbroken it and put iPlayer on there anyway.
I've always been critical of Beats headphones. Partly because they used to be made by Monster, who will sell you a £500 HDMI cable which in reality is no better than a 50p Amazon special.
But my biggest gripe with Beats is that they purport to be the be all and end all; the last word in sound quality. The writing on the box would have you believe this, a quote from Dr Dre himself claiming he wants you to hear music "as the artist intended you to hear it", where in reality, the EQ is heavily distorted, greatly exaggerating the bass response, at the expense of poor midrange and treble.
I heard that this year, Beats have split with Monster and now make their own products, and according to T3, have tweaked the sound of the Studios to offer clearer mids and highs. Thing is, having owned Shure products, I know what a "studio" set of headphones is meant to sound like. So I thought I'd give the new Beats Studios a go myself.
Right away there's a problem. They're still made of the same plastic as before, which was very scratch prone, extremely brittle, and was a fingerprint magnet. There's no getting away from the fact that these headphones are mostly about the look. And I don't care how much you spend on headphones; having a scratched, cracked pair of these covered in greasy fingerprints isn't a good look. On the upside, the cable is removable, which is good if it breaks, as you don't need to buy another pair of headphones. It also means you can have no music on at all, and use these as a noise cancelling pair of earmuffs (more on that later) or, as most of the students round here tend to do, dangle them round your neck like a £280 plastic necklace.
Putting them on, the clamping effect is a bit better than before, but it's still there, trying to squeeze your ears together. In comparison, the similarly priced Bose QuietComfort 15s are perhaps the most comfortable headphones out there. The Studio's pads also began to hurt my ears after about two hours of listening, not a good sign.
I also notice that these have active noise cancelling; a strange feature for a "studio" set of headphones, as most people know that this will reduce the sound quality. It is interesting to see that the power for the noise cancelling circuitry is now from a rechargeable battery, as opposed to simply popping a Duracell in there. Recharging is done via USB, which is a curse and a blessing. It means almost anyone will have a cable to charge it, so if they die when you're at a friend's house, no problem. However, what if you're miles away from anywhere? A couple of AAA batteries in the pocket was no issue; but to keep them juiced up you'll need your laptop. The battery life in my experience was OK, got around 18 hours from them. This is still way behind Bose, who manage to get double that with the single AAA powered QuietComfort 15s, or the proprietary rechargeable battery in the QuietComfort 3.
Anyway, back to the noise cancelling itself. Beats were never going to beat Bose here, but I would have liked to have seen more improvement in this area. It's not very effective, certainly the noise of the bus engine wasn't really drowned out, just as before. But the hissing noise is extremely irritating. On most music, it's not noticeable, but on quiet songs, or when you've removed the cable for a little bit of peace and quiet, they make you want to throw the damn things out of the window.
Now the big one; sound quality. I will admit, there has been a lot of improvement in this area. The bass is still there and still more than plentiful, but the mids and treble have been improved. However, a studio set of headphones should have a flat response, and here, the bass is still too dominating. There's not as good a sound stage with these as say, the similarly priced Bowers and Wilkins P5 and Sennheiser's Momentum, both of which have an open sound, so good that the only way you could get better is actually going to see the artist in concert. With the Studio, everything feels compressed into your head.
The price is also much too high for their ability. I would have been happy to pay up to £150 for these, but £280 is just overkill.
In conclusion then, while the sound has improved from before, the noise cancelling has not, and while in general the Beats Studio is an OK headphone, it just cannot compete with similarly priced products. Those who want the noise cancelling ability should head in the direction of Bose, and those who want the best sound quality at this price should go for the Bowers & Wilkins P5 or Sennheiser Momentum.
I bought these as a replacement for the older model MX680i, as my workout headphones (didn't fancy ruining my Bose pairs with sweat and Lucozade!). This time I went for the ear-hook and earbud combination that the OCX685i offers, as opposed to my old MX680i, which sat just outside the ear canal, and had a fin system which was meant to keep them firmly in your ears. In reality it was just irritating, with them constantly falling out. So, was I right to upgrade? You bet.
As an aside, I bought the PowerBeats by Dre at the same time as these, but returned them after a week. I will therefore give a direct comparison between the two.
On construction; the OCX685i is built to last. DuPont kevlar reinforced cables mean that if you were to say, accidentally tangle the cord in an exercise bike, which I have done before, ruining iPod headphones, in this case they're absolutely fine. Sennheiser have worked with Adidas to make the perfect workout headphones, and they have succeeded here. Rugged enough to withstand anything that anyone who isn't the Hulk can throw at them, they'll take all the punishment of my 2 hour daily triathlon training laugh it off and ask for more. Sennheiser claim they are waterproof too, to the point that you can run them under the tap to clean off all your sweat and gunk after a run. The remote is much more chunky than it used to be on the 680s, and the buttons are more distinct; on the old 680s, I was constantly hitting pause when trying to change volume, but no problems on the new model. Compare this to the PowerBeats, which are made of really flimsy plastic, have a thin cable which could probably be broken by a bored 3 year old, and what's more, the remote stopped working after 4 workouts.
They are incredibly comfortable. The hook over the ear design is perfect for exercise; I've ran, cycled, and lifted weights for hours on end, and they don't even budge. They're so lightweight and comfortable that you wouldn't know you were wearing them if it weren't for the occasional time the cable clips your neck while running. Being earbuds, they block out almost as much noise as a pair of active noise cancelling headphones, which is fine when you're in the gym; you don't have to listen to the permatan covered TOWIE reject grunt and groan when he's showing off to any women within a mile. But if you're running or cycling outside, in the real world, then be careful. They cut out the noise of passing cars a little too well; carelessness will find you splattered on a bus windscreen in very little time.
On the other hand, the Beats were horrifically uncomfortable; Dr Dre certainly needs to head to medical school and learn human anatomy; the fit seems as if it would fit the ears of something, but not a human being. They also let in a lot more outside noise, which was better when I went on a run down at the beach, but not in the gym, where I heard Mr Permatan making some sort of boar cry at a volume which drowned out Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone (my go to workout song). This was not the case with the Sennheisers, which reduced his boar noises to nothing.
My old 680s were in a similar vein to the Beats; they let in outside noise. Great when you're on the street running, but not in the gym.
Now, the sound quality. The marketing hype would have you believe that the Beats should be lightyears ahead here. But the reality is the exact opposite. The Beats sat outside of the ear, and the massive bass that they are famous for was reduced to a horrible mess, especially when the mids and treble weren't taken care of properly.
The Sennheisers though, were nothing short of amazing. As long as you fit the buds into your ears properly, then the bass response is superb. I'd say it has even more bass than the big Beats cans (Studio, Pro etc), which is an achievement in itself. What's really impressive though, is that while I criticise the Beats for having 'too much' bass that it ruins the mids and trebles, somehow Sennheiser have managed not to ruin them. Cymbals crash, guitars scream; they are wonderful. I always criticised my old MX680i for a lack of bass, and thankfully Sennheiser have listened.
Finally, the price. A pair of PowerBeats cost £120. The OCX 685i, which as I have established is superior in every way, cost £65 in the Apple Store, which is a bargain in itself, but Amazon will do them anywhere from £30-45 (the price fluctuates). I got them for £30, and that makes them a huge bargain. If you're like me and cannot workout without music, but won't reduce yourself to the horror of Apple bundled earphones, then the OCX685i is the best sports headphone out there.
I've recently upgraded to these from Bose's previous model, the QuietComfort 2. I'd wanted noise cancelling headphones for a while, the hum of the engine on the bus to work, and the drone of traffic outside my house has called for them. The QuietComfort 2 is now 10 years old, and can be picked up for as little as £40 on eBay; however they are still one probably the second best active noise cancelling headphones around. But, I hear you ask, which ones are number 1? That's easy; it's the QuietComfort 15; the replacement for the QuietComfort 2.
The construction of them is excellent, although there is a bit more plastic than I would prefer to see in a £300 set of headphones. That said, they don't feel as if they'll fall apart any time soon, and come with a nice carry case not much bigger than an old CD wallet (remember those?) so you can store them in a bag without worrying about scratches or worse, unlike the Beats Studio headphones, which are of a similar price, but feel like you need to keep them in a padded cell to avoid ruining the shiny surface. The QuietComforts also fold flat, which is an added bonus.
For comfort, you cannot beat these headphones. The 'leather' on the ear cups and headband is probably not really leather, but it's padded very generously, so there isn't the 'clamping' effect that Beats Studios and other headphones give. Also, despite having all their noise cancelling electronic wizardry and an AAA battery stored in the right earcup, the QC15s are extremely light, surely a bonus for most people. Bose advertise these as being ideal for long haul flights, and they certainly feel like you could keep them on from Heathrow all the way to Sydney. Sadly, I'm not rich enough to go on holiday right now (spent all my money on headphones!) but one day I'll get round to it.
The sound quality is typical Bose; while not audiophile pleasing, it's pretty good for the other 95% of us who don't have superhuman levels of hearing. Truth be told, I could simply copy and paste my comments on sound quality from my review of the QC2; it's identical to my ears. Plenty of bass, but not to the detriment of mids and treble. However, like most decent headphones, if your input source isn't very good, the sound quality will suffer. A (slightly deluded) friend thought his Beats Solos sounded better, as his 64kbps YouTube rips sounded worse on anything not made by Dr Dre; probably because the EQ wasn't heavily distorted. I've started ripping all my CDs to my iPod in Lossless format, and you can certainly tell the difference between that and the aforementioned YouTube rips. Dark Side of the Moon is an absolute pleasure to listen to on these.
Now, the noise cancelling. This was the party trick of the QC2s; flick that little switch, and microphones built into the headphones actively listen for outside noise, then play the inverse sound wave of that to effectively cancel the sound out. Or, 'anti-noise', as the non physicists amongst us will call it. It was extremely effective in the QC2, but only for constant noise, like jet engines on a flight, for instance. Things like people talking, car horns, or dogs barking weren't quite picked up and cancelled out; but they were heavily muted.
With the QC15s, Bose's engineers have been playing around, and while not perfect, they are much better at catching more sudden outside sounds. The only downsides are the slight pressure you'll feel on your eardrums, and that you must have the noise cancelling enabled to listen to your music. So, once the battery dies, so does your music. But an AAA battery is extremely small, so it's easy just to carry a spare. Battery life itself actually exceeded the 35 hours Bose claimed. Very impressive. Certainly, in a back to back test with the Beats Studio, which also offer noise cancelling, I found myself ditching the Beats, whose noise cancelling is seemingly only there to beef up the spec sheet; turning it on made no difference to outside noise, but there was a hissing noise which, although disappeared when music was played, reappeared when the music was off and I just wanted to shut off the outside world.
The QC15s were so much better. No hissing noise at all, and because of that, when I removed the cable and wore them simply to shut off the outside world, they didn't irritate me to the point where I wished to throw them out of the bus window.
So, any other downsides? Apart from the price (unless you find eBay bargains like me!) and I've heard the remote isn't Android compatible (but as an iPhone user I couldn't care less) then I can't think of anything wrong with them.
If you're looking for active noise cancelling headphones, then you need the Bose QuietComfort 15s. Bose have taken the QC2s, which were already light years ahead of other noise cancelling headphones, and improved them beyond the reach of everyone else.
Somewhere where I won't economise and go for the budget stuff is meat. And bacon is the best of all meats, so naturally I want the best possible bacon. I saw this and just had to try it.
Firstly, it looks like 2 out of the 3 reviews below were done before the Taste the Difference range was relaunched. Since then, the slices have got much thicker; I found myself satisfied with one rasher per sandwich, whereas normally I'd have 2 or even 3!
I cook mine on a George Foreman grill, and a lot less fat dripped off than I expected. It was done in a matter of minutes, and I didn't experience anywhere near as much shrinkage as the reviewer below me did; each rasher was still relatively large, and most importantly, still quite thick.
The taste is sublime; but as it's bacon, you already know that. But this is by far some of the best bacon I've ever tasted; the smoked flavour is divine, and much more noticeable than in the standard range, or any rival supermarket offering. Taste wise, I rank it equal first with the Simon Howie bacon, which is also highly recommended.
At around £3-4, it's at the dearer end, like the Simon Howie stuff which is similarly priced. But the advantage here is you can usually mix and match the TTD bacon with the TTD sausages (which again are sublime) on a 2 for £5 offer. You get 6 rashers in a pack, which is less than the regular, cheaper Sainsbury's bacon, but the great taste is worth the extra cost.
After countless debacles with Beats by Dre headphones, which I have returned on every occasion, I've gone and took the plunge with the B&W P3s. They cost the same as the Beats Solo HDs, and in a good way for the P3s, I cannot see why. They simply run rings around the Beats. Here's why.
First off, they are remarkably comfortable. They sit on the ear with cushions rather than the traditional ear cups. Plus they use memory foam, which over time will mould to the listener's ears. B&W have used lightweight aluminium and rubberised soft touch plastic in the construction. This makes them feel like the premium product they are. Compare this to the Solo HDs, which for the same money, offer cheap, shiny, brittle plastic, and pleather ear cup pads. The pads on the P3s use a special acoustic fabric, which B&W claim is designed for better sound quality, but more on that later.
Bundled in the box are two cables, one with Apple remote, one without. Non Apple fans will appreciate the choice, as more often than not the remote equipped cable is useless to anyone without an iThing. While I hook these up to an iPhone 99% of the time, things like the gym TVs don't like the Apple cable. Thankfully you can chop and change the cable as much as you like. You do this by removing the ear cushions, which are magnetically attached. Furthermore, B&W offer reasonably priced replacement cables and ear cushions. Which is in contrast to both the Beats, where you will be charged extortionate fees for a replacement cable which might even be a fake, and the AKG K451, which are my previous champion pair of headphones. I loved these until about 6 months in, when the cables both broke, and official AKG replacements are near impossible to find, and AKG/Harman were not entirely helpful either. Back to the P3s, you get the replacement parts for the best price, direct from B&W's website, so you know they're genuine. Big thumbs up there then.
Right then, the big one. If you're spending this much on headphones, you must at least have some concern about good sound quality. And this is where the P3s shine. Bass, mids, and trebles are all separate and distinct; nothing is lost (unless of course you use a poor quality sound file), instrument separation is spot on. Compare this to the similarly priced Beats Solo HD, which as I've said time and again, have far too much bass, which overpowers everything and destroys the listening experience. Somehow the Solo HDs make even the great masterpieces, like Who's Next, Led Zep 4 and so on, sound awful, even with the lossless format.
Here's where the P3s come in. Drums bang, cymbals crash, guitars scream, there is little, if any need for improvement at all. They have plenty of bass, but it's not overpowering like the Solos, or indeed anything from Bose, who seem to confuse good sound quality with overpowering, skull shattering bass.
So then, any downsides? Well, price aside, no. There's no getting away from the fact that these cost £170. But if you're thinking of spending this much on headphones, then there's not really anything else I can recommend, other than to not be a sheep and get Beats, they're not in the same league as the P3s. You'll be hard pressed to find anything better than the P3s for the same money, but if your budget can stretch to £250, the P3s bigger brother, the P5, offer much the same as the P3s, but more of it.
So, like the other reviewer, I bought these for the gym, as the Apple Headphones simply kept falling out of my ears, and I didn't fancy wrecking my Bose or AKG headphones with sweat.
These are supposedly waterproof to the point that they will survive a cycle through the washing machine. I'm not brave enough to test the theory, but in the grand scheme of things, it's nice to know that they won't be bothered by me sweating during exercise.
The fitting I can only describe as OK. It's better than the woeful fit of the old Apple headphones, and there are all sorts of different bits to adjust the fitting to your ears. They have the rubber fins on them which are meant to stop them falling out during running, and yes they do work; however they are very uncomfortable to wear, no matter what you do with the rubber bits. To ease the pain slightly, I'd definitely recommend using the foam covers, as it's far better than simply sticking some plastic in your ear.
Now the sound quality. If you read a lot of my reviews, you will know that this is my most important factor when it comes to headphones. A pair of sports headphones like these will generally sacrifice some of the sound quality, but for good reason. They are designed to be semi open, so you can still be aware of what's going on around you. This is very handy when, for example, running outside, as you can hear traffic and people much more clearly, but when indoors at the gym, it's not so good. I prefer to listen to my own music while exercising and shouldn't be able to hear the generic rubbish that they put on over the speaker system at the gym over my iPod. I believe there is an in ear canal version of these headphones available, and at an educated guess, I'd say for indoor use they would be better.
Sound quality in general isn't too bad, but as most people like to listen to dance music while working out, I would have expected a tad more bass. They seem to focus more on the treble, and the bass seems somewhat lacking.
Still, they're not too bad, certainly an improvement over the bundled Apple 'buds, and at £25 they're pretty good. But personally, I'd like to see more bass, and would rather spend a little more to get this. Sennheiser have released a new version (MX685 I believe) and I'll review them when I get hold of a pair, but for now, these will do for the gym.
Many of you know I'm not a fan of the Beats Solo HD. The listening experience doesn't match the price in my opinion. I'd heard better things about the higher end of the Beats range, so tried these out.
First up, the size. They are at least twice the size of the Solo HD, which is fine if you're at home, or at a desk with a computer. But on the move, with your iPhone? Not so great; they're simply too bulky. A huge positive is they do feel extremely well built, which is more than I can say for some rival headphones of similar price.
The design is better than the Solo HD, more metal and less plastic can only be a good thing, but these are still distinctively Beats, so they'll look good with your Hollister gilet and sweat pants, which seems to be the standard uniform for posh students round here.
Now it all falls apart. The sound quality, whilst a much better improvement over the Solo HD, which I thought had a muddy, jumbled up sound caused by way too much bass, still suffers from being too bass heavy. The treble and mids are clearer than the Solos, but nowhere near the clarity you'd get from, say, the Bowers & Wilkins P5, which I would say offer the best sound quality for headphones designed to be used with mobile devices. However, these are over £100 more expensive than the P5, so I'd expect them to be better. They do offer active noise cancellation, which the P5 doesn't, so realistically the nearest rival is the Bose QuietComfort 15, which I happen to own and believe are the best noise cancelling headphones on the market.
The Beats noise cancellation is poor at best. You cannot use the headphones without it activated, and when the battery dies, so does the music. However I will not deduct marks here, as many similar products, including Bose QC15s, also do this. Where they fall behind the QC15s is that they don't cancel out half as much ambient background noise as the Bose ones do. Whilst no Active Noise Cancelling headphones offer 100% noise reduction, the Beats system is particularly bad. It wouldn't even drown out the noise of the fridge in the work staff room, which many cheaper headphones do no problem. Furthermore, the Beats Noise Cancellation means that when no music is playing, there is a distinct audible hiss, which is bad if you wish to use them purely to block out noise. The Bose QC15s have no audible hiss, and so can be used simply to block out unwanted noise.
So overall, a poor showing from Monster/Beats. While better than the Solos, they still have too much bass, which destroys the listening experience, the noise cancelling is inadequate and produces an irritating hissing noise. At £350 they are far too expensive, and for £50 less, you are far better off with Bose QC15s, which have better overall sound quality, and the best active noise cancellation on the market today.
I got these as I am very particular about sound quality. The folks over at What Hi-fi? gave these such high praise, they were voted as "Product of the Year 2012". So, I decided that I must have some. When What Hi-fi? tested them, they were at a reasonably expensive £130, about on par with the RRP of the Bose in ear headphones I have been using for the past few months, but still cheaper than the frankly hideous Beats by Dre Solo HDs. However, they are currently available from Amazon for £60, which, while being the most I've ever paid for a pair of headphones (my Bose pairs were eBay bargains), is terrific value for money for something which has been labelled as "Product of the Year".
First off, let's look at the build quality. While the construction is mostly plastic, it's a premium plastic, and feels very durable. The ear pads are made of pleather, and do not feel like they're going to fall off a la Beats Solo HD. That said, I do believe that if they do, AKG do sell spares. The only thing that struck me as potentially being problematic was that the cable is quite thin. That said it is detachable, and barring any extreme use, it should fare reasonably well, time will tell. Again, if it does go wrong, you can get a replacement cable, so no need to throw the headphones in the drawer and forget about them if/when the cable dies, as I have done all too often in recent years. The in-line remote on the cable feels sturdy enough, and is made from high quality, premium plastic. Certainly feels a lot more substantial than the Bose mic/remote on my old in ears.
Now let's look at comfort. It did concern me that, under Amazon's reviews, there were a few that criticized the K451s for being too tight, with a 'clamping' effect. I have a larger than normal head, so this was a slight worry, but that said, the same was said in the reviews of my £30 JVC HA-M750s, and once I got them, they were actually a little too big. Back to the K451s, they are a perfect size for me, albeit with the headband extended as far as it will go. But there is no clamping effect at all. I can only assume that the complainants on Amazon have alien sized heads.
They are of an on ear design, similar to the Beats Solo HD, but they feel much more comfortable in comparison. The ear pads/cushions feel softer, but as I mentioned previously, more durable than the Solos. In general, the K451s are extremely light, to the point where you can forget you're wearing them.
Now, the biggest part; sound quality. Having spent 2012 in pursuit of a perfect sounding headphone, I can now say I am becoming an audiophile. Where previously my Bose in ears seemed to be as good as you could possibly get, now I see them as the overpriced, overhyped product they really are. A lot of the frequency range of most high end headphones is not available with the Bose headphones, and the range that is is exaggerated greatly. Not so much with the K451s. The frequency response is quite broad, although I can't remember it off the top of my head. The bass is very much present, and very clear, and yet unlike the Beats Solo HDs, it doesn't dominate or drown out the mids or trebles. The trebles are perfect; every crash of the hi-hats are clearly audible, and the mids are perfectly balanced.
I listen primarily to classic rock, and the K451s are perfect for the genre. The instrument separation is great, and overall it creates a fantastic sound stage, which doesn't feel sealed inside your head, like many headphones do, and the K451s pass my simple test of good headphones; the tambourine in Led Zep's Whole Lotta Love is clearly audible alongside that main riff, bass and drums. The "hissing" sound that poor quality headphones provide when a word with a letter S in it is sung, is not at all present here; even before the burn in phase began. I have also tried the K451s with a variety of other genres, and they excel everywhere. While overall, I thought Beats by Dre were awful for most applications, it must be said they did fit the hip-hop/r&b/rap genre quite well, as you'd expect. But the K451s have them seriously outgunned. The bass is plentiful, but yet doesn't distract from the overall listening experience as per Solo HD. Using my girlfriend as a guinea pig, I can say that sound leakage is minimal. I couldn't hear her Disney music at reasonably loud volume from a few feet away, and she couldn't hear me rocking out to Fleetwood Mac from even closer. So that makes these ideal for when I'm working in the University library.
My conclusion then? The What Hi-fi? folks were bang on; these really are worthy of Product of the Year. They offer clarity which nothing short of the Bowers & Wilkins P5, which cost 4 times as much, can rival, and even then the K451s run them close.
I have compared the K451s to Beats Solo HD quite a lot in this review, as they are both on ear, portable headphones aimed at the iGeneration. I cannot fault Beats marketing; thanks to the Dr Dre endorsement, they sell in the millions. However, all things considered, if you really care about sound quality, they just don't stack up. I'm not saying they're dreadful, even though I did return mine fairly swiftly. My opinion of Beats Solo HDs is they would be great if they cost <£80, but they are not worth the £180 asking price. The K451s are worth the asking price of Solo HDs, and yet they are far cheaper. What Hi-Fi? tested them at £130, and they would have been a bargain at the price. But I paid less than half that; just £60. And all things considered, that makes them the ultimate headphones.
Update: Oh dear, it's all gone wrong with the K451. It all started sometime in April, when I was in the gym. I removed the headphones to talk to a friend while on the exercise bike. I managed to get the cable tangled in with the pedals, and it shredded it. My own fault, and I was using the regular cable, so I still had the remote and mic cable. They worked for around a month until, in mid June, the right earcup just stopped working altogether; only giving me sound from the left. The headphones were not subjected to too heavy a life, apart from the above issue in the gym they were always put in their carry case after use, and treated very carefully.
I thought, on previous experience with other headphones, that it was simply the cable giving up. So, I looked around online and found nobody who sold genuine AKG spare cables (even their own website!). All I could find were the 50p knockoffs from China.
I then had the chance to borrow a friend's cables, as he had bought the K451s on my recommendation (and an hour listening to Pink Floyd on them!). And even with his cables, which worked perfectly on his pair, didn't solve the issue I had; I could still only get sound out of the left side. Now was the time to contact customer services, and here's where the trouble started.
Amazon were apologetic, but as it was outside the 30 day return period, were unable to help me, and pointed me in the direction of AKG themselves. Indeed, the literature in the box suggests AKG give you a 2 year warranty. But they claimed it was Amazon's problem, and were rather rude about it in the process. I told them under no uncertain terms that I was not happy about this, as I effectively now have a £60 paperweight, and I will be seeking further advice as clearly the warranty isn't even worth the paper its written on.
A sad end then, to what were a fantastic pair of headphones. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on AKG themselves, it could have been that the person who replied to my email was going on holiday the next day, or leaving the company and not caring any more. But this experience has put me off going with AKG again; I was going to buy the K619s, but instead saved up and got some Bose noise cancelling headphones instead. I've therefore knocked off 2 stars from the K451s; one for the build quality, and one for the bad customer service. A real shame.
I got these as I fancied something which would give much better sound quality on a small budget, and from reading up on various internet reviews, got myself a pair of these. I must stress that sound quality is the most important aspect for me, I don't buy headphones because they look good (a reason why there are no Beats products in my collection these days).
However, these do look pretty good. The "chrome" effect is simply aluminium and in my experience did go a bit dull after a few days of use, but that's not really important. Build quality however, is important, and with a sort of clear plastic coating around the cable, these did at least feel well made. Sadly however, that was not the case. Just after the 30 day refund limit expired, the right 'bud began cutting out intermittently. Then a few days later, it stopped working altogether. I have identified the cause of this to be a loose connection at the earbud end, which could be repairable. However, the cost of equipment needed to repair it probably outweighs the cost of a replacement. Furthermore, the remote button stopped working pretty quickly, not something I expect at this price point.
Now, the sound quality. I was expecting it to be pretty decent. Again, sadly not the case. I can't remember the technical specifications from the top of my head, but it doesn't feel as though the frequency response is wide enough. It does one thing brilliantly though, and that's bass. There is so much of it, that it drowns out pretty much everything else. To try and combat this, I turned the EQ on my iPhone to Bass Reduction. It did reduce the bass a little, so the mids and treble were more audible, but then things got worse. The trebles were way too harsh, and developed what I call hissing. Not the kind where there is a background hissing, as you get with low quality headphones, but whenever an S syllable is made on the vocals, it sounds extremely harsh, almost to the point where I want to claw out my eardrums. So I tried Treble Reduction, and that brought me back to the start; too much bass. There was not a single EQ setting on my iPhone which made these headphones sound right. I appreciate that an iPhone isn't going to give true audiophile quality, but on a set of headphones with a mic, they should sound reasonable with it. And these were no poor quality, 128kbps YouTube rips, these were Lossless format songs.
Final thought is, all things considered these are fairly poor given the price point. If you can do without the mic/remote function, then a set of Bose IE2 earphones will give you much better quality sound for the same money. However, for the more budget conscious, I would recommend Sennheiser CX300, which can be had for less than half the amazon advertised price. If a mic/remote function is required, then the MM30i is essentially a CX300 with that function.
I bought this for two reasons. Firstly, it's cheap. Secondly, I couldn't be bothered with peeling, chopping, boiling and mashing potatoes from scratch. Now I realise all that effort is certainly worth it.
It sounds very simple to make, and it is. You mix some water and milk, boil it, then stir in half the packet of instant mash mix. I like to add a little butter to any mash I do, instant or from scratch, so I popped a little bit in. You could even add cheese if you like.
Once it's all mixed together, the consistency is there, it certainly looks and feels like mashed potato, but there's something not quite right. I can't quite put my finger on it, maybe it's a little too thick, maybe it's a bit off colour, I don't know, perhaps even it's just knowing that it isn't what you'd normally pass off as mashed potato, but there is something nagging at me.
Now, the taste. Even with a bit of butter added, there just wasn't any. As I mentioned before, it feels like mashed potato, and looks like mashed potato, it certainly has the texture of traditional mash when you put it in your mouth, but it just tastes of nothing.
I thought I'd messed up somewhere, so tried again another day, this time adding more butter. But no; it still tasted of nothing. It almost felt as if someone had pulled the plug on my tastebuds.
All in all then, not worth the bother. Especially when you consider that buying a single potato will cost much less than the 45p Sainsbury's charge for a packet of this stuff. Yes; it takes far more effort, but trust me on this, it's worth it.
Throughout my time at University, I've gone through various stages of buying food. The first was "buy all the rubbish I love but mum never bought", then there was the inevitable Super Noodles phase, then there has been the buy all the cheap brand stuff, which I'm kind of in now. I fancied some fish fingers, as who can argue with that classic fish finger sandwich? These were miles cheaper than the regular brand names (Young's, BE etc) so I thought heck, for 65p I'd be silly not to at least try them. How wrong I was.
Typically of the Basics range, it's a no nonsense packaging, with the white and orange as usual, and a brief description of the product along with a picture. Handily, it still maintains Sainsbury's usual health wheel as I call it, a pie chart showing the levels of calories, fat etc and a traffic light system, where green=healthy, and red=bad. It's mostly orange, with about 1/3 green, so they're not that bad on the health front.
When you take them out of the box, they appear to be like any other frozen fish fingers. Breadcrumbs cover the fish inside, so you don't know at this point what they'll be like. You cook them, as with any other type of fish finger, and wait.
Now, once they're on the plate, this is when things seem a bit 'fishy' (no pun intended). I don't know if I got a bad batch, but when I cut them open, expecting to see white fish goodness like with any fish finger, nope. It was all grey. I do have a cooking thermometer, and a cafe I used to work at suggested that 'cooked' can be described as anything over 75 degrees. This was in the mid-high 80s, so it was cooked. So I thought I'd try them, despite the grey not looking very appealing.
It isn't that it tastes horrible, it's that it doesn't actually taste of anything. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting fish worthy of the Ritz at this price point, but at least something should have tickled my taste buds. Furthermore, it didn't have the consistency of any other fish finger I've had before; it was all mushy, including the breadcrumbs, which should have a bit of crunch to them; that's what fish fingers are all about isn't it? I threw it away in the end in disgust.
More recently, Sainsbury's have allegedly changed their range, and now they have replaced the old grey mush with "Responsibly Sourced White Alaskan Pollock". I tried this new and improved variant, and while it isn't quite on par with Young's and BE, it is much better than the grey mush they used to use, and is worth a lot more than the 65p retail price
The original plan was to buy one of these for the girlfriend, so she'd stay off my iPad. I've ended up buying 2 of them, as I found it so good I just had to get one myself.
It's a bit smaller than the iPad, at 7", but considerably cheaper. Yes, it won't win a spec war with Apple's mighty machine, but if that's all you look at, you are missing the point.
I don't normally like Android tablets, I find them too cumbersome and clunky in the way they operate. But this one has Amazon's own customised Android software on it, and it's much better for it. It's very intuitive and easy to use, although comparing it to iOS, although not fair on price difference, Apple still comes out on top.
The way this thing works is you have just 8GB of built in storage, much less than any iPad, but as it's tied into your Amazon account, you have unlimited Amazon Cloud storage, so if you find yourself buying too much for it, you can delete some stuff, but it'll still be on Amazon's servers so if you do download it again, it won't cost you a penny. Furthermore, if you're connected to a wifi network, you won't need to download it, as you can just view it online. It's all very clever, and is another reason why it costs as little as it does.
Most of the tablet functions; music playing, emails, web browsing, and the apps, while they are very good, are still no match for the iPad. However, considering the iPad is 3 times more expensive, it isn't 3 times better, if that makes sense.
Setting it up is a doddle, you just link it up to your Amazon account, much like you would an iPad to iTunes, and away you go. Its as simple as that!
Now, what it does best; books. Amazon have had Kindles which just serve as an e-reader for years, and now they have added the name to a tablet. Books are downloaded from Amazon straight onto the Kindle Fire, and your Amazon account is charged (same with music and films; it's very similar to Apple and iTunes). Even though 8GB is not a lot compared to other tablets, it is plenty enough for nearly 10,000 books. While the functionality of the book reader is pretty much the same as the iPad, the 7" screen size makes it a lot more manageable when out and about. Certainly, when on the bus, it is a welcome change to fumbling about with the much bigger iPad. However, Apple will now sell you a 7.9" iPad mini, which will offer the much better overall experience of the iPad, with the perfect size of a Kindle Fire. It is however, more expensive.
Battery life is OK. Not great, but by no means poor. I find I charge mine every day with medium-heavy use, and the girlfriend is finding that she does the same. In comparison, my iPad (1st Generation) lasts 2-3 days between charges, with relatively heavy use.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Kindle Fire is bad, I wouldn't have bought one if it was, I'm just saying that the iPad is a better bet for heavy users. But that low price of the Kindle Fire, and it's seemingly perfect size make it a very viable alternative if you can't quite afford the iPad.