In 2004 our 10 year old Philips toaster decided it was time to say good bye. I didnt shed a tear as I had many times burnt my hands holding the unit trying to grab the toast out if it had got stuck and inevitably burnt. My mum cursed its design which was now very old fashioned and too beige looking with rust on the underside whilst my dad who had bought it originally was now beginning to realise that it had to go.
Back to the electrical shop where we had bought our old Philips toaster and after a bit of compromising between myself and my dad, we decided against my decision of the cheaper Opera model (to go with our Opera kettle) which had a techno-LCD panel in lieu of the Soprano model, still with two slots only and came with the more basic, traditional style controls.
He came home, after dismissing the Opera Toaster as cheap and not particularly good looking with this toaster, a Morphy Richards Soprano Stainless Steel toaster. It is also known as the "Gun Metal" on Morphy Richards' website incase you want to look at this model more closely. I eyed the packaging carefully, since I did not see this at Scottish Power or Argos, I scrutinised the features while he waved his credit card receipt of £29-99 in front of me.
** Nars Quick Skip Product Spec **
Morphy Richards Soprano toaster 2 slot 44773, now replaced by Icon series.
Removable crumb tray but it doesnt catch all the crumbs!
Classy look but not all of it is cool wall in design.
Audible alerts; not just one to let you know the toast is ready.
Cord wrap around the base for tidy storage.
2 year guarantee from Morphy Richards.
950 watt element very hot and fast toasting time.
After three years of use, used constantly every day like a toaster should be getting used the Soprano model does toast bread quite well. With its variable heat dial, 1 to 8 you can either have warmed up bread or burnt toast with four different shades of burnt-ness. Ive never personally known anyone to like black burnt bread but then again Im sure some people do for a myriad of reasons.
One of the reasons to why my dad preferred this toaster was its simple, traditional and elegant design. So of course you have a classy brushed stainless steel cool wall sides plus 8 flecks of steel around a body of tough black grainy plastic adds to its overall design with the company badging on both sides - the design of the toaster doesn't look dissimilar to the old type of Hovis loaves you used to see on the TV. I am beginning to agree with my dad that this model does convey a classier image than the Opera Toaster I wanted; over the plasticky Opera, this Soprano toaster does have a better style to it on the eye.
The controls for the Soprano arent at all offensive although the series of thee buttons to the side by the heat dial control are slightly small and are quite similar to Tefals old Avante toaster before they launched a newer model with sprung mechanisms and soft touch buttons. So in the three years weve had this toaster the buttons have yet to give up. The three buttons consist of the toast releaser button, for quick retrieval of toast, a reheat button which reheats toast and a defrost button to alert the toaster that most of the bread which is about to be inserted may be frozen in the middle. Thats what the user manual suggests however it really means pre-selected heat levels and I usually use the reheat button twice if I want a slightly brown slice of bread as opposed to completely uniform brown and gold toasting.
Which brings me onto the aspect of how well the Soprano toasts; compared to countless other toasters I have tried, I find the Soprano model does a good job of toasting either sides of sliced bread very well. Over the years Ive realised however that unless you have an additional grid as youd find on a Dualit toaster which allows bread to be grasped and locked tightly, there is never any hope of getting the same kind of browning on either side of the bread; this is despite the fact that the Soprano can toast between medium and thick slices thanks to its adjustable sprung gate which grips the bread and therefore has a variable thickness browning ability. In this respect this Morphy Richards does a good job but it really needs its own grid like Dualit toasters have for complete browning and being made uniform on both sides because slices of bread in the Soprano are not always toasted exactly.
And thanks to that high element, having toast has never been faster. Over my 700 watt toaster at the halls of residence, the Soprano takes less than a minute to toast two average slices of bread in one go.
When toast is about to pop out of the Soprano, owners will be rewarded with an audible alarm which lets you know the toast is ready. Similar to the old style BT landline In-Phones and mobile phones tones when they were first launched, the call out siren alarm is by no means disruptive but as an owner it makes me instantly think the phone or a mobile phone is ringing.
But the audibles dont just stop there. Whilst the nearly ready alarm is similar to a telephone ring in the way it emits its sound, the reheat and defrost each have their own alarm which uses the same kind of technology but ring out differently from each other; one is higher, the other is faster.
The power cord can be wrapped around the base of the toaster whilst there is something called a hi-lift facility which allows the usual adjuster to push the bread down to connect to the elements, to be pulled upwards which pushes the toast out of the slot, making it easier to handle. If only this could work with all types of bread; sadly for small slices which arent tall enough (and I refuse to spend ages trying to work out what side of bread I should put in for uniform toasting!) it can be difficult to take out slices which have just been toasted to avoid burnt fingers and in this respect I use wooden tongs since using metal would be just too tempting to get a shock off the toaster!
In terms of downsides, the Soprano doesnt appear to do too many things wrong. There is no bagel/croissant warmer, a feature which seems to be appearing on recent Morphy Richards toasters whilst Kenwood may have been the first to feature this on their toasters in the 1990s, MR warn never to place anything on the metal top of the toaster for the simple reason that youll burn yourself and may burn out the elements since they do need air at the top for the heat to circulate. This then brings me onto the next aspect of this toaster:
Sadly for all that Morphy Richards would have you believe, the Soprano lacks all over body heat insulation. Whilst there do appear to be cool sides from the brushed stainless steel panels on either side, the black plastic which surrounds the toaster isnt heat insulated and extreme warmth can be felt through the plastic. The top surround gets far too hot as well and I have burnt myself before grabbing bread out of this in a hurry.
In three years with cleaning with a damp cloth and never with solvents or agents, our Soprano still has its gleaming brushed stainless steel panels but the bread slice adjuster and rotary dial have now begun to flake off. This isnt anything new since obviously its price cut of £19-99 at Argos pushed it down towards budget toasters against newer ones which have proper weighted controls. On the Soprano, the controls are plastic in nature and are made to look like chrome and this also includes the bread adjuster mechanism which has badly faded from its original chrome look.
So thats the main disadvantages over. Is the Soprano toaster still worth buying? I think so; it is an inoffensive looking toaster which is compact and neat and delivers a good performance. But the extra tip from me is to clean it out thoroughly and not with a vacuum cleaner! One of the ways in which we keep the Soprano in terms of its daily use and longevity is to regularly check the crumb tray which is a slide out tray located at the bottom of the toaster. Whilst it may well slide out with ease and is easy to re-install, it doesnt always reveal all the crumbs and I advise to take out the plug, take the toaster to an empty sink and shake the toaster vigorously to enable the large chunks of any burnt bread to drop out the top of the twin slots. This ensures that the toaster is free of anything which may get in the way and you may spot the faster rapid heat up time when it comes the time to toast again!
So its a yes to Morphy Richards Soprano toaster. It doesnt have a grid you can warm up croissants on, but it will toast bread the way you need it to toast bearing in mind that it can only toast thin, medium and thick slices of bread. For the price of £30 at the time this appears to be an expensive toaster but for three years it is still going strong and now takes on a different model name of Icon by Morphy Richards, available to view on their latest website.
In short, this product is more or less, your basic modern toaster with no other technological break through other than the audible beeps, hence it's "Soprano" title. Thankfully it does not look overly stylish and may be suitable for consumers looking for a traditional design with at least a couple of more modern features. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2007.
Helpline: 0870 060 2614 (UK)
Helpline: 1800 409119 (Eire)
Short name: Morphy Richards 44773