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clarkjames

clarkjames
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Member since: 19.01.2013

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    • More +
      06.11.2014 04:41
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      Advantages

      • "looks nice"
      • cheap
      • small

      Disadvantages

      • "not supported on mavericks"

      A nice device, and you can save some cash by buying the 'older' model

      a very good product, but beware of using it with mavericks!

      apple has stopped support for this device using osx mavericks. It will still function but you can't configure it. This is really really annoying as I bought it simply to use as an airplay receiver to connect to my speakers, I paid about £25 for it second hand which is a steal compared to the new airport express which is £80 for basically the exact same product in a new case (it doesn't even have any new features like wireless AC).

      The 'old' airport express is visible to iOS devices and osx (not tested with windows) but when you try and set up the device you get the error 'device cannot be set up with this version of airport utility', and unfortunately you can't install the required version on a mavericks system. The only way to set the device up is to use leopard or snow leopard, so burn a USB key, boot into it and configure the router- once configured it will operate as usual with any mac and iOS device, and if you don't need to fiddle with the setting again then you can set and forget- if you do need to adjust anything then you have to boot into snow leopard again. For my router as I just use it for airplay I never needed to touch it again, it just works and I can stream to it no problem.

      Streaming is quick and the connection rarely falters, there is a slightly 1/2 second delay which makes streaming audio from video impossible with standard players, make sure to use a player that can delay the video so it syncs with the audio.

      I have no experience using the airport express as a router, or using printer sharing- I would make use of the hard drive sharing but that's not available on this product, the usb port is only for printer sharing.

      A nice device, and you can save some cash by buying the 'older' model, but make sure that you're happy to do some tinkering with snow leopard, otherwise just pay the difference for the newer model.

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    • Monkey Shoulder / Spirits / 5 Readings / 5 Ratings
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      15.10.2014 17:00
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      Advantages

      • tasty
      • "reasonably priced"
      • "cool bottle design"

      Disadvantages

      • "taste isn't for everyone"

      cool bottle and a nice whiskey

      whiskey is always a personal choice, but monkey shoulder has quite a cool/funky look that i'm sure is designed to appeal to the younger market- i'm sure a younger person would prefer a bottle of this to some stuffy old bottle of glenfiddich.

      The bottle looks extremely cool, it's more of a squat shape compared to the traditional taller bottled, it reminds me a the kind of bottle that pirates would drink rum from, rather unusual. The label design is really cool, clearly inspired by vintage medicine packaging- the corked top is a nod to this too. There are 3 monkey figures inlaid into the side of the bottle- this gives the product a very high end look, which is made even more impressive by the fact that this only costs about £20- which makes it very reasonably priced for a whiskey.

      In terms of taste, monkey shoulder is a blended whiskey, I know glenfiddich is one of the malts in there but not sure of the other 2. It is a blend of 3 speyside whiskeys- rather inoffensive, not that strong, no peaty/smokey taste-all in all a sweet, slightly spicy taste that's very drinkable, again I think this is designed to appeal to the younger palette compared to something heavy like ardbeg. The fact that this is a blend will put some people off, but the way I see it they've created something that's better than any one of those 3 single malts.

      I've gone through half a bottle of this, and when it's done i'll certainly buy more

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    • Sony Alpha a7 Body / Digital Camera / 5 Readings / 4 Ratings
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      14.10.2014 05:28
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      Advantages

      • "really small with great image quality "

      Disadvantages

      • "quite expensive "
      • "lack of native lenses"

      a tiny camera with a full frame sensor

      I was looking for a small, portable camera to work alongside my DSLR's when I want a good camera but without the weight and bulk of a 5d3.

      I tried the fuji x-e1 but for various reasons decided to sell it, so ended up trying out a sony a7.

      the first one I had was purchased 2nd hand, and after a few days of use the control wheel on the back started to stick, making it tricky to turn, i'd have to force it to turn and then it would be fine for a while until it started sticking again- so back to the shop it went and I purchased a new one. Although I was a bit concerned about the build quality of the camera I think the sticky wheel is just a one off, as the camera feels very solid and has a metal construction. it's also weather sealed so you don't have to worry about getting it wet- although I wouldn't trust it as much as I trust my DSLR.

      the menu system is extremely confusing, I eventually figured it out but it's so much worse than the menu system in my canon 5d3, and indeed the fuji menu system. not that it really matters as I rarely dive into the menu other than to format the card.

      image quality is great- can't see a huge difference between this and my 5d3, certainly a little better than the fuji x-e1 but considering that camera was about 1/3 of the price I think that's a great win for the fuji. Dynamic range is good, files are very easy to push around in post production, noise is a lot worse than the 5d3, i'd be happy to shoot the 5d3 at 6400-8000 ISO but with the a7 I dare to go over 3200.

      I'm mainly using the a7 with manual focus lenses, as the native sony lenses are too expensive and there's too few of them. using the focus peaking makes it easy to get focus, and what you see is what you get in the viewfinder- making it extremely easy to shoot with if you know what you're doing (I only shoot in manual mode, so that's very rewarding too).

      having a full frame sensor means that the bokeh the camera can create (with the right lenses) is stunning, but this is a double edged sword as the lenses have to be quite large to cover the full frame sensor, so although it's around the same size as the fuji x-t1 the lenses are quite a bit larger, ultimately making the system as a whole much larger and less portable.

      I'm not sure i'd recommend this camera to someone new to photography- it's too confusing and complicated, the entry level DSLR's are much easier to learn on. This camera is more aimed at the enthusiast, for someone who maybe already has a DSLR but want to shed some weight and bulk

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    • More +
      14.10.2014 05:18
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      Advantages

      • "great bokeh"
      • "fast autofocus"
      • "stunning image quality"

      Disadvantages

      • expensive
      • heavy

      stunning lens, but with a price tag to match

      absolutely astonishing lens- my only regret is that i did not buy one sooner

      I had the 70-200 IS mk1, and I was very happy with it, and had no clue how the new lens could be any better. I saw one come up for sale at a very good price, so I had to try it, worst case scenario I could sell it on for what I paid for it and just keep my mk1.

      upon opening the box the feeling was very familiar, it is the exact same size, shape and weight as the mk1- they are virtually indistinguisble, but in use they are a little bit different.

      zoom and focus are the exact same, the position of the switches is the exact same, but the main differences are that the new lens is as sharp at 2.8 as the old lens is at 5.6- the old lens is sharp wide open, but the new lens is razor sharp, as sharp as it gets! The new lens focusses closer, to 1.2m- which comes in very handy. The new lens's IS is totally silent, compared to the mechanical 'thunk' you'd get with the old lens- when shooting in quiet conditions this actually made a lot of difference as I was making far less noise. The IS system is a lot better in the new lens- I can hand hold 200mm at 1/20th, where as on the old lens I could manage at about 1/50- so over a stop better at full zoom- impressive!

      the lens is heavy, expensive, and large- but if you're a professional or a keen amateur you'll absolutely love the results and you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. if you already own the mk1 then the upgrade is justifiable but also you have to weigh up whether you'd be better off spending the price difference in some prime lenses like the 85 1.8 or 135 f2- it really depends on whether you need f2 or whether you can 'make do' with 2.8 and IS

      the old lens had amazingly fast AF, and perfect bokeh- the new lens is no different in that respect and in fact may even be a touch faster

      the lens comes with a nice case, but i'll never use it as i'll just keep the lens in my camera bag

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    • More +
      14.10.2014 05:03
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      • "massive storage"
      • "very cheap"

      Disadvantages

      • "plastic build quality"

      a fast, reliable drive at a good price

      I was looking for a new hard drive after a western digital drive I bought was defective straight out the box, so I decided to go with seagate again as I have never really had many problems with their products.

      I purchased the drive from argos as I needed it that day, and the store was close to my office. I was deliberating between 2 drives, this one and a more expensive model, but ultimately concluded that a hard drive is a hard drive is a hard drive, and as I was merely using it for backup saving some money would be good, and I wouldn't really be missing out on anything.

      Upon opening the box I could tell i'd bought the cheaper drive- the case feels sturdy, but is made of a cheap feeling plastic, where as other seagate drives i've owned have been made from better quality materials, and have also looked better- as this drive is extremely utilitarian looking.

      In terms of performance I was very happy, the drive is USB 3, and run's pretty quick compared to other drives I own when I benchmarked them with blackmagic disk speed tests. usb 3 is worlds faster than usb 2 or firewire drives, and if you're still using usb 2 (but have a usb 3 compatible computer) then I urge you to get usb 3 drives, and even if your pc doesn't have usb 3 ports still make sure you buy a usb 3 drive as you will regret staying with usb 2 if you upgrade your pc- usb 3 is backwards compatible with usb 2, in fact they use the exact same plug. The drive is plug and play on windows, but can also be formatted for mac.

      overall I recommend this as a budget drive, in fact with the cost savings you should buy 2, so you have a backup of your external hard drive

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    • More +
      29.01.2014 16:55
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      a great drive at a good price

      I am a big fan of the seagate drives, the ones where the base connects into the drive- as you can remove the hard drive part and add what ever drive you want, so for example a friend comes over with a broken laptop, you can pull out the drive and stick it on the seagate dock and immediately access the files, it's a great system because although they run about £10 more than a similar sized usb 3 drive, you get a usb 3 basically for free- which is about a £30 value so it makes sense to get this if you ever think you might be into swapping drives. It means I can access all my various hard drives with super speedy usb 3.

      talking of speed this drive is screaming fast- the 3tb drive (think it's 7200rpm) clocked in at 164mB/s which is very fast indeed

      build quality is high on the drive, it's plastic, and a bit of a dust/fingerptint/scratch magnet, but quality is high and it even looks great


      It includes a rather short USB 3 cable, it is fine for a laptop with the drive sitting on the desk, but if you need to plug it into a computer that's positioned far underneath your desk you might not have the length to do so, so you might need to look into an extension, or get a longer cable

      overall i'm very happy with the drive's performance and the whole concept of the 'go flex' range- excellent drives

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    • Optoma HD700X / Projector / 27 Readings / 26 Ratings
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      14.01.2014 01:13
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      • Reliability

      Disadvantages

      just get one

      I recently looked into getting a projector, and found myself looking at the Optoma HD series.
      There were a bewildering array of models to chose form but I was told that all of the 720p optoma projectors are very similar, and not to look too closely at the manufacturers specs as you'll want to tweak the settings to get the best picture anyway, so 13000 lumens becomes more like 500 lumens when you set it up for watching movies in a darkened room.

      The build quality on the projector is a little cheap, the case is black plastic (the optoma hd65 is white, but otherwise they are identical projectors, it even comes up on my computer as an optoma hd65). It shows up scratches and fingerprints quite readily. The lens is zoomed in using a wheel on the top, the focus is made by rotating the lens- this feels a little cheap and the lens wobbles a bit during turning. Also adjusting the zoom throws the image out of focus- this is quite annoying as it means you constantly have to adjust the 2, and adjusting the focus alters the zoom slightly (I know this is down to the incredibly basic optical design), but other projectors I have seen do not do this. There is vertical and horizontal shift but all it does it shift the picture and crop off some of the image, so not really very useful

      The projector is absolutely tiny, a lot smaller than I expected it to be, and it weighs nothing- so no problems finding somewhere to put it.

      Picture quality is fantastic, over HDMI the image is contrasty and sharp, with plenty of shadow detail- I may play with the settings but the picture of of the box is fantastic. Make sure you have it on 'cool' white balance, the other settings are far too warm.

      I will update the review with my preferred settings when I discover them.

      I haven't noticed any rainbow effects and i've been trying my best to induce them.

      it's also a lot quieter than I expected, on high bulb mode it's noisier but it's still acceptable- on eco mode it's whisper quiet


      An amazing buy, for less than £400 for big screen gaming, movie watching or TV- incredible

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      • Eltax Monitor Center / Speaker / 4 Readings / 3 Ratings
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        14.01.2014 00:59

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        great speaker, for peanuts

        You get what you pay for
        unless you buy eltax
        in which case you get a lot more than you paid for

        Eltax is a swedish brand who are known for good products at great prices, their stuff is available from Richer sounds who are a popular UK hi-fi chain store

        The Construction quality is actually very good for the money, no complaints at all in terms of build quality- I have it in the beech finish, and to be honest I wish i'd got in in black- as far as I know there is no 'walnut' or more luxurious wood finish choices- when you pay a lot more money for a speaker you get something that arguably looks better, better finish and better styling- the eltax is a little utilitarian looking.

        In terms of performance I have nothing bad to say, maybe there are better speakers out there but I have never heard them- my father has a centre speaker that cost a lot more than this eltax did and I can't really hear the difference. I have mine set up as a centre with non eltax front speakers, personally I haven't found an issue with that but aesthetically they don't match, so if you wanted matching speakers then you'd get the 5.1 eltax set- i've never heard the rest of the eltax range but i've heard good things written about them, so if you want matching speakers but don't like the sound of the eltax front speakers you might have to spend a lot more money to get speakers from a different brand instead- otherwise I think that the eltax centre would make a great addition to other speakers- and if you get it in black it's unobtrusive enough to not stand out too much

        good speakers, good sound quality, nice built quality, slightly uninspiring looks, and great value

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      • Transcend RDP5 / Card Reader / 36 Readings / 32 Ratings
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        09.01.2014 20:28
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        a good product, but not that useful

        I got one of these card readers free with a transcend SD Card I bought, I already have an SD card reader built into my laptop, and a usb 3 5 in 1 CF/SD card reader, so I decided to compare them.

        Card readers are quite unglamorous objects, they're very functional and I think unfortunately the transcend SD card reader is the worst of both worlds- the best card reader I own is the one built into my laptop- it's always there, takes up zero space, just plug the card in and off you go. The fastest card reader I own is the usb 3 SD/CF reader, it's about twice the size as the SD card reader but when it's in the bag it's a negligible difference- so that leaves this transcend rdp5, functionally it's the worst of the lot, it's so small that it's easy to lose/forget, if you need to use it and you've left it at home you're out of luck.

        In terms of speed, the USB 3 reader is slightly marginally faster than the usb 2 reader, which is marginally faster than the built in reader (negliable difference). I was testing with a class 10 SD card though, which is pretty zippy but not really fast enough to even saturate a usb2 connection- so with faster SD cards in the future (or using a fast CF card) you notice the difference between usb 2 and 3, but with most cards you won't notice, so don't think you need usb 3, although it might be useful in the future.

        Build quality is fine but far from exceptional, its mostly plastic and about the same level as a usb memory stick- the lid comes off and can be lost, so be careful of that

        In summary get one if you have no usb reading facilities, but if you have a reader built into your computer/laptop that will likely be just as fast and more useful- and if you're looking to transfer photos from a camera then check that you can't just connect the camera to a computer via usb to transfer photos that way

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      • More +
        09.12.2013 05:25
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        a 2 in one product

        To cut to the chase, I think the seagate 1tb backup plus is the best drive you can buy, because not only is it a hard drive (and a very good one), it's also a data-usb3 dock for other drives.

        The way this works is that the drive is actually in 2 parts, the drive and the interface/dock. The hard drive is encased in plastic and the connections (data and power) are sticking out and this is what connects into the dock part of the drive (with the usb cable coming out), this means that you can 'upgrade' the interface to find the best solution for you- I was happy to stick with usb3 but you might find firewire better. Because the dock takes a standard drive connections you can just plug any bare drive into the dock and it will work as an external hard drive, which is great for when you have a bare drive you need to access briefly as now instead of needing an external case you just use this dock- so it's like a 2-in-one product!

        The downside to this is that it's not as compact as a drive where the cable comes directly out the drive case- but the dock only adds an extra 1/2" of bulk so it's not a deal breaker and I was happy to make that sacrifice to gain a usb 3 dock for my other drives


        The drive itself:
        i've been very happy with the performance of the drive, for a 1tb drive I think it's reasonably priced at around £60. it's usb 3 so it's very fast, and absolutely leaves usb 2 in the dust in terms of speed. It's backwards compatible with usb 2 so if you have an older computer it will still work out fine. You can purchase new 'docks' that allow you to use firewire, or thunderbolt interfaces so whatever pc or mac you're running you'll be able to find something to fit that's better than usb 2 (for example older mac's have firewire ports, and newer macs that don't have usb 3 have thunderbolt)

        the finish on the drive is plastic, it looks like brushed metal but isn't- it's extremely scratch resistant though so I don't mind throwing it in a bag as it still looks brand new even after heavy use- much improved from their old glossy plastic drives that looked wrecked the first time you use it

        I think this is a great product, don't bother with the included software, but use it just as a normal drive and be happy, and the times when the drive dock comes in handy be thankful you went for this drive and not another brand

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        • More +
          09.12.2013 04:42
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          a good unit at a reasonable price

          I have this unit in cream- nespresso magi mix version

          visually the unit is very nice, and I like the cream look although it won't be for everyone as the 'vintage' feel won't go with a very modern decor, although the chrome accents will help it tie in with a modern room so your milage may vary. If in doubt stick with the standard black edition.

          Starting from the back the unit consists of a water container which is quite small and requires frequent filling- but perhaps this is good otherwise the water could become stagnant if it sat in the jug for a long time. Then you have the main unit, with the capsule holder on the top- this part is quite badly designed as you have to pull up the chrome handle and then drop the capsules in to the machine, most of the time they go in absolutely fine but sometimes they don't go in properly and either drop straight through into the 'empty' tank, or they get stuck and you have to use your fingers (or more likely a stick) to push the capsule out- this can be especially annoying first thing in the morning when you're tired and in a rush, the lever is quite awkward to press down, and the first few times you do it you'll be convnved you're doing it wrong as there is so much resistance you feel as if something will break- persevere and you'll get used to it, but be prepared to have to step in when anyone else tries to make a coffee- even if you shout 'just push it down hard' people will always be concerned they'll break the machine and leave it up to you.

          Another annoying feature is how long it takes to heat up, even leaving the machine turned on doesn't keep the head warm (my old nespresso machine did), but on this it seems to go onto standby mode after a short amount of time (good for low energy bills, bad for when I want coffee and don't want to wait 2-3 minutes for the machine to heat up), get into the habit of turning it on well before you actually want your coffee, otherwise the wait is tediously long.

          When the machine does fire out coffee it fills the cup very quickly, and the high pressure (19 bar) pump makes for a great cup with a nice thick crema (nespresso capsules give the best creme, off brand ones can be hit and miss). On top of the unit you have 2 buttons for long drinks and espresso- you press the button that you want and then it flashes until the unit is up to temperature (2-3 minutes), you then press it again to dispense your drink, it would be better if it dispensed it automatically when it was up to temperature.

          The machine is quite loud when it creates the drink, but only for about 15 seconds.

          Under the buttons is the head, nothing to say about this really- and then under that is the collecting tray for empty capsules, which holds a whole lot of empties and then is easy to transfer them to the bin, way better than my old nespresso which required you to throw them out after every cup.

          The cup sits on a fold out stand, but for taller cups (I like to use long and thin glass cups) you can flip up the stand and sit the cup on the bottom- which is also the part that catches excess drips.

          The whole unit is easy to take apart to clean.

          it's a good unit at a reasonable price- but has some annoying design quirks

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          • More +
            05.11.2013 07:55
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            a good tripod for beginners, but better tripods are out there

            A good tripod makes all the difference for photography- a stable platform to shoot from will make or break the £1000's invested in glass and high megapixel cameras, a blurred shot is rarely a good one, so investing in a good tripod is a wise move.

            A good tripod is one that: 1) stabilized your shots and 2) is either so good to use, or easy to carry that you actually bring it with you- a tripod in the car, or back at home is a useless tripod.

            They say in tripods you can have light, cheap, tall, or compact- and certainly not all of them. But this tripod is just right for most people, it's not carbon fibre so it's not super lightweight, but at less than £100 it's a good buy. It's not the tallest tripod in the world but it goes to eye level for someone who's 6ft. Being a 3 section tripod it's not particularly small, especially with a big head on it, but strapped to a rucksack it's not usually a problem.

            Overall it's just a good tripod- build quality is expectedly great, the leg angle locks work exceptionally well (wish I could say the same about the leg lever locks as I hate them and they're incredibly hard to operate in cold weather)

            You can't really go wrong with manfrotto- so if you need a tripod, get one of these instead of a super cheap one that will ruin your shots and break when you need it most.

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          • Asus Xonar U3 / Sound Card / 23 Readings / 17 Ratings
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            19.08.2013 16:16
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            a useful improvement to any laptop's on board sound capabilities

            I purchased this product mainly so that I could leave it plugged into a usb hub under my desk and have my headphones permanantly connected to it (meaning that only 2 cables go to my laptop, power and usb)
            I was pleasantly surprised at the huge increase in sound quality too. With headphones the volume is a lot louder than plugging directly into the motherboard, if you have to have the volume on maximum all the time, this little amplifier will give you a much needed volume boost. Bass is also stronger with this sound card, and with the eq controls you can tweak the sound to your liking.

            The included software also lets you use something called dolby headphone, which simulates surround sound using headphones- it actually works really well and now I can't live without it in games, where you will hear noises convincingly from behind and in front- not sure how it does it but it really works.

            It is really cheap, at just £30 (although you can feel it in the build quality and design of the unit), so if you're using a laptop and can't install a pci sound card this might be the next best thing to get better sound quality. Recommended

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          • AKG K 701 / Headphones / 8 Readings / 7 Ratings
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            19.08.2013 16:08
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            the best headphones i've ever used, but they are tricky to get the best out of them

            The AKG's are all about truth, they will reveal every flaw in your recordings, every hint of poor compression, they are unforgiving. This makes them perfectly suited to studio monitors (which is their main intention) but also for audiophiles seeking transparency they're hard to ignore.

            The headphones will faithfully reproduce whatever is fed into them, unlike 90% of other headphones they won't boost the bass, nor will they try and make the midrange (vocals) more striking, they just play what they're told to play. This means that compairing them to other headphones they don't sound as 'musical' or warm, because of this it needs a careful pairing of electronics or they will sound slightly bass deficient.

            First off they need an amp to sound good, they are notoriously difficult to drive so without an amp they sound flat and lifeless, these are not headphones for connecting directly to an iPod. Connected to a warm amp, with a slight bass boost shows that the k701's can produce exceptional, deep bass- it's just harder to acccess without an amp with some sort of tone controls (which rules out most audiophile amps). Properly amped the soundstage is wonderful, with the legendary treble that AKG are known for. They're certainly the best sounding headphones i've ever had.

            Comfort wise the velour ear cups are a joy, they envelop the entire ear and even after hours of listening they don't feel hot, or uncomfortable. The headband automatically adjusts in size to fit your head too, overall it's very comfortable.

            They are great headphones, but be warned there isn't 'mega bass' with these headphones, and the (not unreasonable) cost of the headphones has to be paired with an equally expensive amplified to really get the best of them.

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            • More +
              19.08.2013 15:47
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              might suit casual gamers, or gamers with small hands

              I purchased this mouse after first getting into PC gaming.

              I paid around £35 for it from PC world

              They had a few mice on display, and this one felt great in my hand, the sculpted lines fit my hand really well and I bought one. It was a massive step up in quality from a cheap usb mouse I was using, I was a lot better at aiming and was doing better in online shooting games.

              After a few days I noticed my hand craving something a little larger, my hands are medium sized but I realised it was just too small for my hands- if you use the claw grip the mouse size doesn't matter but I started to lean towards the palm grip and the mouse just didn't feel all that great anymore, I thought about upgrading to a rat 7 (with the infinite customisation), but I ended up going for a razer death adder instead as they're built for palm grip.

              Accuracy of this mouse was good, but not on par with the death adder, to be honest the death adder is a better mouse, and not that much more expensive, but if you're on a really strict budget, you like the look, or you have small hands then the cyborg rat 3 is still a good buy and feels like a quality product.

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