Category Archives: Reviews

Yamaha MusicCast 20 Wireless Speaker with Amazon Alexa & AirPlay – Unboxing & First Impressions

Welcome to my unboxing and first impressions of the Yamaha MusicCast 20 wireless speaker with Amazon Alexa voice control built in. The Yamaha MusicCast 20 retails for around £199.

The MusicCast 20 offers a wide range of options to listen to your favourite sounds with ease. It can be used as a standalone speaker, paired, or acting as surround speakers with a compatible MusicCast AV receiver or sound bar. The MusicCast 20 is one of the new speakers from Yamaha released in August 2018. Other features include –

– Music streaming services built-in
– MusicCast multi-room technology
– Alexa voice control compatibility* (*Availability varies by region)
– High-Resolution Audio
– Stereo pairing (requires 2 units)
– Ability to be used as surround speakers with an AV receiver or sound bar* (*Select MusicCast models only)
– Soft-touch, simple presets for instant playback
– Alarm

Built in streaming services include Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Napster, SiriusXM and qobuz. Apart from the multi-room options, Yamaha provide an app that allows full control of the speaker, its nultiroom options and more. Apart from built in WiFi, it has bluetooth and Apple AirPlay. With all this functionlity, this really makes this speaker a great offering. It also puts out a respectable 40W of music.

Video

Conclusion

At £199, the Yamaha MusicCast 20 represents great value for money. It is extremely versatile too offering tons of different ways to connect to it, Amazon Alexa voice control, bluetooth and AirPlay. It is also available in black and white finishes.

Buy from Amazon UK – Click HERE.

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Focal Clear Headphones Review – £1,400 of Audiophile Nirvana

Welcome to my review of the Focal Clear Headphones.

The Key Features

– Low Impedanceat 55 ohms so easier to drive
– 104db sensitivity
– Frequency – 5Hz to 28kHz
– Leather and microfibre perforated headband
– 20mm memory foam cushion with a perforated micro fibre fabric
– The ‘M’-shape Aluminum/Magnesium (patent pending) dome with a new copper voice coil

Music Tracks Used for Review

– Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton – Play the Blues Album , Careless Love – Epic, Moving, great separation

– Seasick Steve – You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks – husky voice sounded wonderful.

– Amy Winehouse – I heard Love is Blind – wonderful guitar strings, vocals, layering, hidden depths of the music.

– Katie Melua & Eva Cassidy – What a Wonderful World – awesome vocals and piano.

– Michael Buble – Cry me a River – scale and drama, excellent vocals and bass impact.

– Bastille , Bite Down – Great attack, moving.

– Audiomachine – The Lions Heart – impact, scale, bass, drama, superb performance.

– Philip Glass – Symphony no 8 (2005) – great soundstage, scale and drama. Excellent mids, treble and bass. Instruments clearly defined.

The Focal Clear headphones provides remarkable dynamics over the entire audio spectrum; bass that is always controlled, even at high volumes, and exemplary linearity in the high-end.

There appeared no sibilance or distortion with the Focal Clear headphones.

Video Review

Conclusion

Totally mesmerising to listen too. Focal have hit the perfect balance between detail and musical tone. My advice, book a world cruise and take these with you. Plus they come with a luxurious case, with high class finish, comfort, and decent accessories. Highly recommended.

Useful Links

Focal Headphones on Amazon UK
Focal Website

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Headphones Review + Comparisons with other headphones

Welcome to my review of the brand new Sony WH-1000XM3. In my review I am going to compare these to the older Sony WH-1000XM2 and Bose QC35ii. The Sony WH-1000XM3 retail for £329.

I will also document the differences between these new Sony headphones and the older version.

Key Features

– Industry leading noise cancellation so the music sounds even better
– Amazing battery life of 30 hours and super quick charging so you’re never without your headphones
– Improved design to make the 1000XM3’s even more comfortable and lightweight
– High resolution audio packed with technology and features to give truly authentic sound
– Even smarter technology to keep your hands free and give you total control with Google Assistant
– 30 hours battery life. 10 mins quick charge provides 5 hours battery life.
– New Sony QN1 processor
– 40mm driver unit, dome type (CCAW Voice coil)
– DSEE HX music upscaler software
– 3.5mm Stereo Mini Jack
– Frequency Response wired – 4Hz-40,000Hz
– Frequency Response via bluetooth 20Hz – 20,000Hz (44.1kHz Sampling) / 20Hz – 40,000Hz (LDAC 96kHz Sampling, 990kbps)
– Frequency Response via active operation 4Hz-40,000Hz, passive operation included.
– 3.5mm Headphone cable is 1.2m, OFC strands, gold-plated stereo mini plug

Review

Sony is back with an update to the Sony WH-1000XM2. On paper the updates don’t seem extensive, but in reality the new WH-1000XM3 blows it away.

Firstly, Sony has improved the earcups and headband. The earcups are larger and more comfortable. The headband has more padding over the head, although it does make the headphones look cheaper. However, removing the steel from the previous model reduces the weight by 40g. This makes a difference and improves the overall comfort.

But headphones are about sound quality and in the case of these Sony headphones, also the noise cancellation. This year Sony introduces a processor into the headphones. And Sony does not disapoint with these headphones.

This year Sony has introducsed a processor into the headphones, called the Sony QN1. The Sony QN1 processor boosts the range of frequencies from which noise-cancellation occurs. This allows control over the sounds you can block while listening to your music.

The QN1 processor has a 32-bit audio signal processing. Add this to the headphones 40mm driver with its Liquid Crystal Polymer diaphragm. This allows for handling heavy beats and at the same time can reproduce a full range of frequencies up to 40 kHz. Even if you don’t have high-resolution music, DSEE HX intelligently upscale compressed music files giving your music a clear, rich sound. Sony’s LDAC codec transmits approximately three times more data than conventional Bluetooth, which enable the high-resolution audio content. The 1000XM3 on-ear headphones are packed with technology to get the most out of your music.

The WH-1000XM3 also comes with a high res audio cable to provide an incredible a wired listening experience.

Other options on these headphones include smart settings by adaptive sound control to optimise listening settings automatically based on your listening behaviour and environment. This also allows customisable controls based on your own preferences. The equaliser option is available using the Sony headphone connect app (works with Android and iOS). The app also provides firmware updates.

Touch controls. The Sony WH-1000XM3 include touch controls. By placing your hand on the headphone housing, you can quickly communicate with the outside world, without having to take your headphones off or adjust the volume too and a quick double-tap enables hands-free calling. And now, with the google assistant, you have an ideal control and get access to even more information by using your voice.

For me the QN1 processor makes a large improvement to the sound and noise cancellation to the point that it makes the older Sony WH-1000XM2 sound dull! That’s crazy.

What’s in the Box

– Sony WH1000XM3 Headphones
– Plug Adaptor for In-flight usw
– Headphone cable (approx. 1.5m, OFC strands, gold-plated stereo mini plug)
– USB Cable C
– Carrying Case
– Operating Instructions

Review

Conclusion

The Sony WH-1000XM3 are truly an amazing headphone and a leap forward from their previous model. This is a must buy headphone!

Buy Sony WH-1000XM3 on Amazon UK
Buy previous model Sony WH-1000XM2 and saves some money via Amazon UK

Sony WH-1000XM3 vs Bose QC35II

Previous Headphone Reviews

Sony MDR-XB70BT Extra Bass In-Ear Bluetooth Headphones Review – Feel Your Music!

Welcome to my review of the Sony MDR-XB70BT Extra Bass In-Ear Bluetooth Headphones. I decided to look at something less audiophile in design, yet with tons of fun. After testing the Sony MDR-XB70BT I can say these are an absolute blast if you want deep bass that makes your sense/feel your music.

Key Features

– High-quality wireless freedom: Enjoy deep punchy bass while maintaining sound clarity across the spectrum
– Convenient neckband design: Slim and lightweight with music/calls controls in the band
– Hands-free calls: Clear voice with built in mic and HD Voice support
– 9 hours battery life. EXTRA BASS sound with deep, punchy low end
– Additional earbud sizes included for individual fit
– 12 mm (Dome Type) driver type
– 4 Hz-24,000 Hz Frequency Respone
– 9 hours battery, 2.5 hours to fully recharge

The Sony MDR-XB70BT normally retail for £75, although at time of writing this review there were on offer for £52. Worth checking out the current price as it does vary.

Video Review

Conclusion

Bass lovers will love these earphones. In fact, many more people might enjoy these too.

FYI. The next headphone to be reviewed next week is the new Sony flagship, the WH-1000XM3 with comparisons to the Bose QC35ii and the older WH-1000XM2. I also have some Hi-Fi audiophile headphones being reviewed soon too.

Pick up the Sony MDR-XB70BT on Amazon UK Click HERE.

Spigen Essential Fast Wireless Charger Review – The safe low cost option! Why pay more?

Welcome to my review of the Spigen Essential Fast Wireless Charger.

I wanted an additional Qi Fast Wireless charger. The issue with many cheap Qi wireless charger is safety. Some make your phone get too hot. Some just don’t work properly. Then there are different speeds of charging wirelessly.

Fortunately, I came across the Spigen Essential Fast Wireless Charger. It cost me £15.99 on Amazon UK . Today it is on sale at £14.99.

The Key Features

– Spigen is an Associate Memeber of Qi Membership (Qi Registration ID: 2093)
– Advanced Safety Features
– Improved Wireless Charing Usability
– Dual Coils for Portrait & Landscape
– Anti-slip mat, portable design and overcharging protection technology all combined
– Compatible with All Qi-Enabled Smartphones incl new iPhones, iPhone 8 / 8 Plus / X, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, S7, S7 Edge, Note 9 etc.
– Angle works with FACE ID

What’s In The Box:
1 x Spigen Essential Fast Wireless Charger (Model: F303W)
1 x USB to Micro USB Cable
1 x User Guide

There are several things I like about this charger. First is the angle. It is great to see the screen and is angled so it works with FACE ID. The charger surface is an anti slip mat. It has safety features to prevent overheating. This is covered off more in my video review below.

Conclusion

I had a number of cheaper wireless chargers which I have no thrown in the bin. The Spigen design is so much better and safer. Highly recommeded.

Buy one from Amazon UK.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – Real User Review + Camera Showcase + Exynos Edition

Welcome to my review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the exynos version.

Key Specifications

– Android Oreo 8.1.
– 6.4in 2960×1440 Super AMOLED, 516ppi.
– Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Samsung Exynos 9810.
– Adreno 630 or Mali-G72 MP18.
– 128GB/512GB storage.
– 6/8GB RAM.
– 12Mp dual cameras, f/1.5-2.4 and OIS, f/2.4.
– 8Mp f/1.7 front facing camera.

Coming from the Samsung Galaxy S9, surely the Note 9 can’t be that different. On paper it might look similar, even the software looks like home from home, but this phone is like no other.

Samsung this time around bumped the battery up to 4,000 mAh, made the S-Pen bluetooth capable with controls from taking a photo by pressing the S-Pen button to tons more. Increased storage options from 128gb to 512gb. Plus support for micro SD cards. 6gb ram comes with the 128gb whereas the 512gb storage option has 8gb ram.

Out of the box comes android 8.1 and new software features with the camera.

Put bluntly, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a dream machine from including everything in such a sleek form factor. Samsung stills manages to retain the headphone jack and IP68.

So sit back and enjoy my review, camera showcase, tips and tricks, comparisons and final conclusion.

Buy cases on Amazon UK – Click HERE.
Buy the Note 9 on Amazon Uk – Click HERE.

Nokia 5 Review – 1 Year Later with Android 8.1

The Nokia 5 is made from a solid piece of 6000 series alumimium. It runs on a near stock version of android, called android one and it is a joy to use. It has 2gb ram and 16gb storage with a 13mp auto focus rear camera and a 8mp auto focus front camera. You can buy this from Amazon UK for just over £110.

Nokia 5 Photo Samples

The Dominos sign is looking crispy. Nothing wrong with this shot.

Again, another good shot. Maybe could do with a little brightening up, but overall pretty reasonable.

Above is the front facing 8mp camera, taken indoors. My face is a little pale as it hasn’t exposed perfectly for the light that is streaming through the glass window.

A couple of sheep on Dartmoor that were moving fairly quickly. Again, quite a fairly reasonable shot.

Before the storm. My village. Quite like this shot.

So what happens when we take the above shot, edit it in Snapseed using the HDRscape filter. A more dramatic shot!

Above, post box. This is the snapseed edit. Camera was aimed towards the sun, so the original shot was a little too dark, but snapseed helped make the shot a little bit more interesting.

Main Review

If you fancy buying one of the budget gems, you can pick one up from Amazon now.

Nokia 5 – Check out the Camera Samples from the 13mp camera

The Nokia 5 is made from a solid piece of 6000 series alumimium. It runs on a near stock version of android, called android one and it is a joy to use. My full review will be up this weekend, along with some tips and tricks. This is sat squarely in the budget category too, with 2gb ram and 16gb storage which is expandable with a micro SD card. You can buy this from Amazon UK for just over £110.

So what can the 13mp rear camera achieve when it comes to taking photos?

Let’s take a look.

The Dominos sign is looking crispy. Nothing wrong with this shot.

Again, another good shot. Maybe could do with a little brightening up, but overall pretty reasonable.

Above is the front facing 8mp camera, taken indoors. My face is a little pale as it hasn’t exposed perfectly for the light that is streaming through the glass window.

A couple of sheep on Dartmoor that were moving fairly quickly. Again, quite a fairly reasonable shot.

Before the storm. My village. Quite like this shot.

So what happens when we take the above shot, edit it in Snapseed using the HDRscape filter. A more dramatic shot!

Above, post box. This is the snapseed edit. Camera was aimed towards the sun, so the original shot was a little too dark, but snapseed helped make the shot a little bit more interesting.

I will talk more about my conclusion on the Nokia 5 camera and the rest of the phone in my main review. So stay tuned.

If you fancy buying one of the budget gems, you can pick one up from Amazon now.

UAG Monarch case for Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – Lightweight yet Tough!

The UAG Monarch Series case for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Case is designed & precisely engineered to provide a case that meets double the Military Standard for drop & shock protection. The UAG Monarch case is available for other phone models too.

Key Features include –

– Handcrafted, feather-light construction with 5 layers of protection
– Top grain leather and alloy metal hardware
– Soft impact-resistant core & honeycomb traction grip
– Oversized tactile buttons & protective screen surround
– Compatible with Samsung Pay and Samsung Fast Wireless Charging
– Meets 2X Military drop-test standards (MIL STD 810G 516.6)
– 10-Year Limited Warranty

Buy the UAG Monarch case at Amazon UK

Samsung Protective Standing Cover for the Note 9 – Extra Tough

The Samsung Protective Standing Cover for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is Samsung’s answer to offering a extra tough case. It has MIL Standard protection as well as –

– Bumper-style allows you to see and use the screen with ease
– Textured surface provides grip
– Official Samsung accessory made for the Galaxy Note 9
– Easily access all ports, controls & connectors
– Qi wireless charging compatible
– Built in stand for portrait and landscape viewing

Buy the Samsung Protection Standing cover on Amazon UK

Spigen Tough Armor case for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – Patented protection

Welcome to my look at the Spigen Tough Armor case for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. This is the start of my Note 9 coverage. Lots of accessories, more cases and the phone itself.

• Extreme dual-layer protection made of a TPU body and polycarbonate back

• Precise cutouts for quick access and raised lips to protect screen and camera

• Reinforced kickstand for hands-free viewing experience

• Mil-Grade certified with Air-Cushion Technology in all corners

• Samsung Galaxy Note9 Case Compatible with Galaxy Note 9 (2018)

The Spigen case is about half the cost of,Samsung’s equivalent as well. Good value!

Grab yours at Amazon UK.

1MORE Triple Drivers Earphones Review – THX Certified – Sound so powerful it’ll blow your mind!

Welcome to my review of the 1MORE Triple Driver earphone.

The Key Specifications

– Model – 1MORE Triple Driver IE E1001
– Impedance – 32 ohm
– Sensitivtiy – 99db
– Frequency Range – 20-40,000 Hz
– Cable – Enameled Copper Wire
– THX Certified
– 3 Drivers. 1 x dynamic driver and 2 x dual balanced armatures
– Patented “triple-layered” design in dynamic drivers with dual PET layers and inner aerospace metal layer for clear human voice
– Expertly tuned by four time Grammy winning sound engineer Luca Bignardi

The 1MORE Triple Driver earphone is made from an aluminium alloy, making them lightweight and comfortable. In the box there are 9 different sets of ear tips. 6 x silicone and 3 x foam, although the ones fitted by default worked great for me.

The earphones were the first THX certified earphones. The are also Hi-Res. They have won at least 12 media awards and recommendations and 17 international design awards over 4 years. That’s quite an impressive feat.

Opening the box, reveals a beautiful presentation. As we all know, presentation shows good attention to detail, but these are earphones, so sound is what ultimately matters. And OMG, the 1MORE Triple drivers delivery sound with authority and depth. I used these with an iPhone 6S, Samsung Galaxy S9, iPad Pro 10.5, Shanling MO and Shanling MO/Q5 combo. I listened to every genre and watched a few movies on Netflix using my Galaxy S9.

The 1MORE Triple drivers have lovely bass with good treble and mids. Being THX certified makes using these for movies ideal too. I listened to rock, jazz, classical, blues, dance and more with these earphones and just loved the presentation and quality. When I used them with even more powerful amplifcation the treble and mids were so clear.

Now have a look at my video review for more thoughts and a closer look.

Video Review

Conclusion

The 1MORE Triple driver earphone is highly recommended. It delivers satsiying sound across the entire spectrum and shows why the 3.5mm headphone jack will continue to live on. These have replaced all my existing wired earphones too!

Useful Links

Latest pricing on 1MORE Triple Driver Earphones on Amazon UK

Shanling MO Review – World’s Smallest Portable Hi-Res Music Player

Welcome to my review of the £99 Shanling MO. In this review I will show you how to operate the device, what’s in the box, all the options, look at bluetooth and USB and a range of headphones both wired and wireless.

Apart from being tiny the specs are –

Shanling M0 includes Hi-Res audio certification, in a tiny size, with Bluetooth wireless capability, the M0 digital audio player represents the pinnacle of portable, high-fidelity listening. Pushing the limits of technology the Shanling M0 incorporates everything required of a Hi-Res portable player, with the size of a wristwatch. It has the capability to hold SD cards with up to 512GB and features a high-definition touch screen developed by LG.

It also has a newly developed side-wheel design that offers precise control with higher durability. The core of the M0 comprises of a multi-layered Microvia HDI high-density PCB board. Compared to ordinary PCB boards it provides better electrical performance and helps avoid signal interference in the circuit. These design elements allowed Shanling to make the M0 smaller while pushing its performance to higher levels.

In fact its really light too at just 38g. It is 40 x 13.5 x 45mm. Its made from curved glass and a double curved body design. The glass is 7H tempered glass and the body is a unibody CNC aluminium. In real life, it looks stunning. The photos dont do it justice.

Bluetooth is a two way affair. It can stream music to headphones or speakers or receive bluetooth from your phone or other source. It can do this using LDAC codec too.

Review

Useful Links

Shanling MO more info & latest pricing on Amazon
Shanling MO Leather case on Amazon UK

Shanling MO – The World’s Smallest Hi Res Certified Player – First Impressions

The Shanling Mo arrived today. It had been on pre order from Amazon for quite a while. My expectations were low, I was expecting a cheaply constructive device with huge specs. especially as it only costs £99.

Shanling M0 includes Hi-Res audio certification, in a tiny size, with Bluetooth wireless capability, the M0 digital audio player represents the pinnacle of portable, high-fidelity listening. Pushing the limits of technology the Shanling M0 incorporates everything required of a Hi-Res portable player, with the size of a wristwatch. It has the capability to hold SD cards with up to 512GB and features a high-definition touch screen developed by LG.

It also has a newly developed side-wheel design that offers precise control with higher durability. The core of the M0 comprises of a multi-layered Microvia HDI high-density PCB board. Compared to ordinary PCB boards it provides better electrical performance and helps avoid signal interference in the circuit. These design elements allowed Shanling to make the M0 smaller while pushing its performance to higher levels.

In fact its really light too at just 38g. It is 40 x 13.5 x 45mm. Its made from curved glass and a double curved body design. The glass is 7H tempered glass and the body is a unibody CNC aluminium. In real life, it looks stunning. The photos dont do it justice.

Bluetooth is a two way affair. It can stream music to headphones or speakers or receive bluetooth from your phone or other source. It can do this using LDAC codec too.

USB is USB C. Yes. This means it has two way USB C interface. It can be used as an external sound card for your computer, or just as a digital transport transmitting the digital sound to another USB DAC.

So first impressions. I never read the manual. Just inserted a micro SD card (Sandisk 200gb) which had about 10,000 songs. Using the easy to use gesture interface, I added them to the players library. And hit play. Well I got my wife to have a listen first to a piano concerto. She did not want to give it back as the sounnd quality was fantastic. The MO comes in 5 colours. I have the titanium finish. There is black, red, blue and purple. They all look gorgeous.

I have had a listen too and am impressed. So far I have tried it with 3 different wired headphones and 3 bluetooth headphones. I have also used it as a digital transport. I cannot believe this Shanling MO only costs £99.

Head over to Amazon UK to get more info and pick one up too.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Duos – The Two Week Experiment

The Samsung Galaxy S9 was released back in March this year. I had the larger S9+ which was good to use. Battery life was poor though. So 4 months later, has all the firmwares made the S9 a formiddable device.

Well, one thing that hasn’t changed, the battery life is still shockingly poor.

The S9 Duos is the official dual sim version of the S9. Either 2 nano sims or one nano sim and a micro SD card. So whats my verdict after obtaining a S9 again, and using it for 2 weeks. Well, its a complex device. First of all, setting it up from scratch took a lifetime, as its on Android 8.0 instead of 8.1, and instead of using Google’s Smart unlock, Samsung insists on using its own system, Samsung Pass, that uses your eyes to reveal the passwords. And that is a pattern repeated in many apps, duplication galore. The good news, some of Samsung’s own apps are better than Google’s default ones, so you just need to pick and choose whcih app you want to do what with. At the end of the day, I ended up with a phone that can do more.

And more is a feature of the S9. It has more hardware and software features than any other phone on the market, as well as the best screen on a phone. The size of the S9 versus the S9+ is far easier to hold and use one handed too. It is just let down by a battery that is too small and means you will need to charge it during the day. I have managed 4.5 to 5 hours screen on time regularly, which sounds great, and it is, except standby time is dreadful.

The camera on the whole is fast, fluid and reliable. See shot above. Looks good enough. Video recording is very good and one of the best phones on the market for video. Audio from the video is excellent too. It is not the best phone for photos though, but its good enough.

A headphone jack. Its included and its useful from time to time. Quality is excellent too, just needs some efficient headphones. And then there is the bluetooth setup, which is superb.

There’s more to the S9 with the DeX system, enabling the S9 to be used as a processor/computer with a screen and keyboard attached. I really like how it handles USB drives and such like, moving data quickly across. Having a micro SD card slot has been handy too, switching cards when needed.

All in all, its been a good phone to use, albeit nothing super exciting. Let’s hope the Note 9 with its 4,000mAh battery can last a whole day between charges!

Below are my original reviews of the S9+.

Useful Links

Samsung Galaxy S9 & S9+ deals & accessories on Amazon UK