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Asda's smart price is a students best friend allowing them to buy budget versions of all the essential things they need. So when I decided to try and cook some stuff from scratch I got this hand blender to help out. For a fiver you get a 200W hand blender which works just fine. The blender is made of a lightweight white plastic with a rubbery plastic on/off button which doubles as a grip. The blender is a standard size but the cord is on the small size which can become problematic and makes this less portable than I would like. The blades are metal and feel strong, they should have no problem blending most food. The head is detachable and comes that way in the box, it also makes it easier to wash. When using the blender there are two settings high and low. Both of which have their uses and even on high you still feel totally in control and at no point do you feel the blender will fly out your hands. However the plastic does conduct heat pretty badly so if you use this on hot vegetables you may get burnt but for the average user this should be fine.
This is one of asda's budget products under the smart price branding. Whilst this does mean the products are cheap in price it doesn't mean the performance and build quality is cheap. When un-boxing the kettle you first notice how bulky the kettle is which is fair enough but it feels a bit clunky to the touch. The plastic feels a bit light but the build quality is very high, there are no sharp corners and there is even a led to signify its in use status. The capacity is 1.7 litres which is a fair few cups and more than most peoples needs. The handles have rubber grips which is amazing on a budget model. The sides have measurements to indicate the amount in the kettle. When boiling the kettle is pretty loud and takes a bit longer to boil than you would expect. The kettle separates from the bottom so is chord-less when pouring and the base has a descent chord length so finding a plug shouldn't be a problem. The kettle costs under £5 so is a bargain and worth getting even if its just temporary or to take on holiday etc.
Anyone expecting a versatile or flexible pedal should look else where at this point. This pedal is metal through and through, from its exceptional metal build quality which could survive a bomb being dropped on it to it's uncompromising metal tones. The design is pretty unoriginal with its rubber and metal design which has been much copied but never bested. Along with the foot pedal there are four rotary knobs which include a high and low sweep eq and a parametric mid control, the other two controls are gain and level. This pedal is best played on the clean channel of your amp as with the dirty channel will create uncontrollable feedback and noise. The pedal isn't subtle and creates thick distortion, however it sounds very digital and false. The quality of your speaker and pick ups will have a big weighting on the overall sound. Tones from the likes of Metallica, Pantera and kill switch engage are all possible. Try and clean the sound up and you might expect a zepplinesque tone however instead the quality goes down and starts to sound very bad indeed like someone stabbed your speaker cone with a knife. The tone is much more suited to rhythm than lead This pedal can be bought for £50-60 and is worth while for metal guitarists but some one who wants to be more versatile they should look elsewhere.
This is a budget midi keyboard for people to input their midi data into music production software. This is a simple matter of plugging the keyboard via a midi cable into your audio interface or sound card and finding the device in your DAW (digital audio workstation). The construction is plastic with 25 keys but an octave switch allowing you to select your pitch range. While this isn't big enough to play like a proper keyboard it is big enough to input melodies and chords an idea at a time, or for triggering samples off. Also included are rotary knobs which are programmable to control any midi parameter which is assignable in your software. This could be a resonance on a synth patch, a reverb time or a sweep speed etc. There is also a transport panel which when linked to your DAW control play, stop, FF, RW and loop. Preferences can be saved in memory banks for fast recall of plug in settings or synth controls. The keyboard is bundled with a cut down version of Ableton live which is still really good. This keyboard can be bought from £50-100 making it the perfect combo for Pro-tools or Ableton.
I wanted some good headphone for mixing music, so I thought ones designed in conjunction with a well respected producer would be a good place to start. When receiving these phones you are presented a tour case which is very rigid and should protect these phones from all manners of bumps and knocks. Once opened the phones are red and very shiny and folded up to save space, this is quite an original way of folding. The phones are plastic and fabric but feel very sturdy, and of a high build quality. Also in the box is a microfibre type cloth to clean them. The headphones themselves are smaller than expected and the connected cable is quite heavy duty. The headphones include a built in microphone for talking to people on games or over the internet. Also on the cable is a little controller for controlling your apple products remotely. The sound quality on the headphones at first seems very good but on closer inspection the sound has been drastically been altered. The headphones must have equalisation circuitry built in and they are creating a unrealistic sound. This includes very exaggerated bass, harsh highs but normal mids making a gap in the frequencies. This to me seems like they have been tuned to hip hop. This is quite dangerous though because audio that sounds good on these wont on other headphones due to the eq. Also a producer spends a lot of time eq'ing and setting the levels of tracks to the perfect settings and these headphones undo that hard work to some extent by colouring its sound with its hip hop biased sound. So serious producers should invest in a pair with a flat frequency response however most hip hop producer will probably purchase these for their association with dr dre anyway. These can be picked up for £100-150 and a portion of that money goes to a charity.
Finding somewhere to put your guitar can be a pain especially if your house isn't the biggest. There are many different designs of stand but this particular one is a bit different, as it is wall mounted. The design is simple, The wooden panel is screwed to the wall and the guitar is simply hung on the arms by the headstock/neck. The materials used are a pretty heavy wood for the back panel, and metal coated in thick rubber for the arms. The arms are shaped and slightly curved to match the guitars headstock/neck joint. This design will be fine for any guitar design bar double necks. When placing this stand you should make sure the wall is capable of supporting your guitars weight. The stand is high enough off the floor to hang without touching the ground. Lastly it's not in a place where people who walk past are going to be constantly knocking it off the wall. The good thing about this design is that when your not playing your guitar it gets turned into decoration for your wall giving your guitar a duel purpose for existing. This can be picked up for about £15-25 which makes it in my opinion quite overpriced for such a simple design, however you can't argue with results and this design works.
Buying a guitar is a difficult choice and finding the right one can be a long job. Keeping it safe should be a priority for most people, but many forget and accidents happen. You may chip or crack your brand new guitar. So buying a case for your guitar should be an obvious choice. This case, the rockcase, is aimed at people who want premium protection at a medium price, these can be bought for £40-60. The design and construction is very sleek, with black material covering what I'd assume be a wood frame. The black design has some stripes at either side with the company logo off to one corner. Whilst this isn't the most original design it does the job and looks fine. Most guitars should fit into the case with the exception of stranger design shapes such as flying V and explorer types. Inside a smooth lining ensures no scratches to your guitar there's even a compartment for picks, whammy bars leads etc. I have personally dropped this case with a guitar inside and not only did the guitar survive unharmed but so did the case, although the outer material was scuffed a bit. Also if your going gigging the case should be fine stuffed in the bottom of a van with a dozen flight cases piled on top also.
This was bought to record my thoughts, lectures notes on books etc. when at university. I thought I'd spend a bit more and get a named brand then it might be of better quality. The construction of the Dictaphone is plastic, its lightweight with a non colour lcd screen. It may have been better coated in metal however this would of made it heavier.The buttons make it look quite cluttered but once you play with it the device is easy to use. This device can be picked up for around £80-90. The device has 4gb of memory which doesn't sound like much these days but still holds quite a few hours of audio. All of which can be backed up to your pc/mac via usb. When recording the device has a few options with regards to quality and also whether to record in stereo or not. The lower quality or less channels recording the less memory is used. The playback is played through a single speaker which is ok in terms of quality but by no means the best. The device runs off a AAA battery and a single one will last a couple of days with light use. As far as recording goes the quality is fine however the noise also picked up is quite significant. This can be off-putting and quite frankly not something you expect from the likes of sony. But at the end of the day it does the job it set out to do.
The tuner is an integral part of playing guitar, there's nothing worse than an out of tune instrument. That's where this little gadget comes in. The Qwik Tune QT11 has become very popular in recent years, I constantly see people with them slipped in their acoustics bag or beginners getting them with their first guitar. I think their popularity is due to the ease of use. There are three different ways to tune using this. First is a built in microphone, this picks up your guitars sound and using the needle you can tune, this is more for acoustic and nylon acoustics without an jack output. Secondly is a jack input which is probably what most people use as it is the most accurate. Lastly is some pitch pipes for people who prefer to tune by ears. The construction of the tuner is plastic, it feels a bit cheap, but I have never heard of one breaking. The other problem is the screen is bright, there's no way you would see it on stage, and there is no audio pass through so you have to have the guitar plugged straight in, you have to pull your guitar out of the effect chain. Many other tuners take a more stage friendly pedal form. The tuner costs £10 which is a fair price but a pedal type may be better for electrics. However nylon string acoustics may want to check this out.
Playing slide back in the day meant breaking the neck off your favourite beer bottle and playing the blues, we've come a long way since then. Nowadays we use precision made slides out of factories, but a slide is still a slide. And this pyrex design is no different although it may be heat resistant. When buying a jim dunlop product your can be sure of one thing, and that thing is quality. This slide is no different from any other JD product. The first thing you notice about this slide is how solid it feels. It is the size and weight you would expect from a slide, totally see through and totally smooth even around the edges. When playing the slide feels to have no friction at all, be that a good or bad thing. The sound produce is warmer and less sharp than that of metal slides, I would suggest that this slide is less suited to old fashioned blues due to this. More suited to country, pedal steel type licks is my immediate impression. The slide should be fine on most peoples fingers but people with big fingers may have to move it to their pinkey. You can pick these up at most music shops with a decent line of guitar accessories, they price normally between £4-8. This makes them middle of the road for price but they are great quality.
This Western Digital hard drive is not just a hard drive but a multimedia player. This box will hold 1tb (terabyte) of data which should keep most people at bay for quite a while. When you run out of space you can just plug another hard drive into one of the usb slots thereby increasing storage for more stuff. The box is about a third the size of a dvd player its black with a blue led and comes with a remote. The construction is pretty solid. But for some strange reason the unit came with a two pin power adapter so you may need to get a uk adapter. What the box actually does as well as store your movies, music and photos is allow them to play back on your tv. This is made possible with a HDMI cable (or composite for older tvs), this also allows resolutions up to 1080p. This really makes this drive stand out as far as quality goes. Once connected a user interface can be seen on the tv where you can select you multimedia of choice. For this to work well a descent file structure must be followed or it could all become chaos. This drive will play all the common file formats including avi, mkv and h264 etc. As for sound an optical out is included to allow you to send dolby to you av receiver. The drive costs £83 at the moment and is worth that cost for the storage alone, never mind the playback options.
This gadget is a must have for people who have trouble getting wifi to work in their house, whether it be due to the walls being too think or metal beams or interference from other equipment. This gadget just plugs into your existing powerlines and passes your broadband from your router to wherever you want in your house. The product consists of two modules which you connect your Ethernet cable to, and then connect the module to power sockets, at the second point in your house you do the same in reverse. The modules are white plastic which feels fair in quality with leds to signify the various states. These gadgets can be used to access the internet from anywhere in your house you can use them on your laptop, desktop, tv, blu ray, x box, ps3 or set top box, whatever realy. The speed is pretty good althought their is a faster model at 200mbps this one is fine for most needs. Installation is very easy its pretty much plug and play but don't have them in an enclosed space as they run hot, and you don't want them to burn out. At around £50 they aren't the cheapest powerline adapters but I think they will probably last a lot longer and be more reliable.
These speakers were purchased to watch films in surround at uni. I think I paid £30-40 for them which is a bargain. The set is a 5.1 speaker system no decoding of dolby or dts is carried out on this system. For this you will need a player or sound card with the analogue outs which is 3 stereo mini jacks, each carrying 2 channels of the 6 needed for 5.1. In this set you get four satellite speakers a centre and a sub. The front left and right have a mid sized driver and a tweeter for high frequencies. The rear left and right have just the mid driver. The centre is a bit bigger and features a better stand than the other speakers. The set is quite plasticy and cheap to feel, and the floor stands keep falling out. The sub is surprisingly big and made partially of wood. The connecting cables are all thin and flimsy and congregate at the back of the sub. The sound is full when you listen to music, but on closer inspection there is a big lack of mids. The highs and lows try and cover this up however after a while it leaks through. For films it bears a bit better as the lfe channel is more than capable of handling explosions, bullets and crashes. For this price you can't complain about the sound quality being bad or the cheap plastic used. If you want to over come these problems you will have to pay a bit more. But for casual use these will suite you just fine.
I was given one of these ipods free when I opened my back account about five or six years ago so i'm not sure how much it is worth. At the time I thought it was a good deal as my peers all seemed to just get rail passes, nowhere near as flash as an ipod. However when you actually look what this ipod is and what it does its not particularly that good. The shuffle was never meant to compete on features with its bigger brothers but it lack in even the simplest of interfaces making it just not particularly good to use. The things the shuffle has going for it is its light, possibly one of the lightest. It works as a flash drive, and plugs straight in without a cable. It plays the usual file formats (mp3 etc.) and charges via usb also the battery last a long time a couple of days with medium use. The downsides are the lack of interface mentioned earlier, the lack of any options, limited controls, limited space for songs and the lack of ability to tell what song is on. If these cost a couple of quid then these are good for jogging or use for storing uni work or something such as that, however if they are really expensive like most Apple products you may be better getting a generic brand. All in all it does what it is meant to but not much else.
The Neumann u87 is in no way a budget microphone, with a price tag of £1500 most people will not be able to afford one as it is quite an investment. However if money is no object or you have saved up enough here are some of my personal experiences with this mic along with some technical info which may persuade or dissuade you from getting it. The u87 is a large diaphragm condenser mic. The condenser aspect of the mic means a charge is applied to the diaphragm and changes in current are measured rather than the excursions made by the diaphragm like in dynamic mics. This means the mic is sensitive much more so than dynamic mics. The mic has three separate polar patterns cardioid which picks up mainly at the front, bi-directional (figure of 8) which picks up front and back and lastly omnidirectional which picks up 360 degrees. The construction of the mic is very classy with its metal chassis and a soft grill protecting the diaphragm. The U87 also comes in a very nice wooden box. I would suggest you purchase a bespoke cradle for the mic to sit in as it is quite chunky and you will have a hard time fitting it into a normal clip. The sound of this mic is either amazing or uninspiring depending on what you want. If you want a super realistic representation of what has been recorded this mic will be right for you. This mic is so sensitive upon replaying the recorded part, provided played back through decent speakers, the original and recorded event will sound identical. Which is great however if you have ever used a tube microphone you hear extra tone on recording from the mic itself. This extra character is missing from this mic, you are left with a very good sound reproducer, nothing extra is added.