Profile for Steward Willons > Reviews

Browse

Steward Willons' Profile

Customer Reviews: 689
Top Reviewer Ranking: 892
Helpful Votes: 3601




Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Steward Willons RSS Feed (Iowa)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   

Show:  
Page: 1-10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21-30
pixel
TDK Life on Record TREK Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker
TDK Life on Record TREK Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker
Price: $149.99
28 used & new from $130.36

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comparison of seven bluetooth speakers, July 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In the last couple years, I’ve reviewed new fewer than six bluetooth speakers. It seems that every electronics manufacturer wants in on this new trend. Some of these speakers require AC power (like certain models by Panasonic and Hercules) and many are battery powered (like those by Jawbone, Bose, Klipsch, and Edifier). Now I’ve received the TDK TREK Max for review, so … let the comparisons begin!

First of all, this is the only speaker of the (now seven) models I’ve tested that is “weatherproof.” It’s unclear what weatherproof means, since it changes depending upon what part of the literature you read. In some places, like the product listing, the speaker is able withstand “the harshest conditions.” In other places, like the manual, it’s merely water-resistant. I would guess that this can get a little rain water blown on it, but submerging it in a pool or a bathtub is probably not a good idea. At any rate, you can take this outside without worrying if it gets a little banged up, apparently.

In terms of size, weight, and loudness potential, this sits somewhere between the Jawbone Jambox (smaller, ca. $150), the Klipsch Gig (same size, $200), the Bose Soundlink (same size, $300), and the Edifier MP260 (smaller, $100). Each of these are functionally similar, and most allow you to receive calls, thereby acting as a fancy speakerphone. Each claim to offer around 8 hours of battery life on a single charge.

Within these similar products, there is a surprisingly large range in terms of sound quality. The Jambox sounds good, but it’s smaller and not as loud. The Bose has a characteristically bright sound that appeals mostly to older listeners who have some naturally-occuring hearing loss in the upper frequencies. The Edifier is the smallest and quietest with the weakest bass response. The Klipsch, to my ears, offers the most neutral sound with a wonderful, well-balanced midrange and a full sounding low end.

Where then does the TDK TREK Max fit in this spectrum? In terms of sound quality, it’s not stellar. The highs sound muffled, as if someone had placed a heavy blanket over the tweeters. (To be clear, this system uses full range drivers, so there aren’t actually tweeters. This is just to illustrate how the highs sound muffled). The midrange is a little better, and the lower you get in the frequency spectrum, the more clear the speakers sound. The bass is surprisingly present. It’s not a huge system, but the amount of bass it produces belies is actual size.

The real place where the TDK excels is in volume level. This plays a lot louder than you would expect. It’s certainly enough to fill a regular-sized room. You lose some of the impact when you take this outdoors, but this is natural. Without reflective surfaces, the sound just radiates into the atmosphere. However, since it produces a fairly powerful sound in and of itself, it should play satisfactorily loud (for most people) outside. I didn’t have any complaints.

Not much is provided in the way of accessories. Many of the speakers I’ve mentioned come with bags for carrying, but not the TDK. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a point of comparison. The supplied documentation is fine. Nothing too verbose, but it tells you what you need to know.

One thing that I like are the controls. Too many of these speakers rely on only a few buttons that have numerous functions. The Klipsch is particularly annoying in this regard because it has, essentially, one button that does everything. Thus, you end up having to hold it in different places for varying amounts of time. I hate that. Give me different buttons for different functions! The TDK has all the buttons that I want to see on a bluetooth speaker: power, volume, pairing, and a few others. You turn the unit on, press the pairing button, and it connects quickly and easily.

In terms of sound quality, I would highly recommend the Klipsch because even though its controls annoy me, it produces a beautiful, well-balanced sound with plenty of volume. However, if you want to use your bluetooth speaker outside and don’t want to worry about shielding it from the elements, this is a reasonable compromise. In this case, it’s not so much about the sound quality as it is about the convenience of having a weatherproof/resistant speaker. Since I see no reason to spend more on a Jawbone or a Bose, I can recommend this pretty easily.

Basically, you need to figure out what you want from your bluetooth speaker. If you want something that sounds good, get the Klipsch Gig. If you’re elderly, get the Bose. If you want something stylish, get the Jawbone. If you want something for outdoors, get the TDK.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2014 10:54 AM PDT


Sony STRDH750 Audio and Video Component Receivers
Sony STRDH750 Audio and Video Component Receivers
Price: $298.00
15 used & new from $265.52

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good with a few annoying flaws, July 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ll state right off the bat that I’m not the target audience for this receiver. I needed a stereo receiver for a secondary audio-only setup, and this Sony model was a good cross between useful features (such as Bluetooth streaming built in), power handling, simplicity, and sound quality.

First of all, the sound quality is fine, as expected. In the past three years, I’ve had Sony, Pioneer, Onkyo, Yamaha, and Denon receivers as part of my same audio system, which consists of an AT120 turntable, vintage Bose 601s, and an Energy sub/satellite combo. Essentially, they all sound the same. Receivers in the sub-$500 price range are functionally identical in terms of sound quality, at least until you push them into the upper range of their power handling capacity.

How, then, does one differentiate between receivers? In my experience, it’s all about the secondary features (connectivity options, etc.) and its ease of use. I have stuck with my Onkyo AV receiver because I like the remote and the way that it interfaces with my iPod, but it’s difficult to program and frustrates me if it decides to switch audio modes on its own. The Sony is a little better in some respects. I think it’s designed to work seamlessly with a Sony Bluray player and a Sony TV. Since my LG TV is the media hub instead of a Sony Bluray player, the Sony receiver doesn’t work as easily with my setup.

In terms of connectivity, there are plenty of options with four HMDI ports, a pair of optical inputs, and speaker jacks that accept banana plugs (so convenient!). One complaint is that there aren’t as many audio inputs as I would like. Another complaint (and this goes for everything in this price range) is that there is no phono stage. Yeah, not everyone has a record player, but since they’re becoming increasingly popular, receivers ought to start incorporating a phono preamp again. The USB port on the front of the unit is very handy and seems to work well with my iPod and iPhone.

The Bluetooth feature is at once awesome and frustrating. A number of receivers in this price range are “Bluetooth ready,” which means that if you buy a $50 add-on Bluetooth receiver, you can stream music wirelessly. With the Sony, it’s built in standard. Thankfully, it actually works really well provided that you’re streaming from the correct kind of device. In the last two years, I’ve been sent at least 20 different Bluetooth speakers for receive and it’s a really mixed bag. Some connect very easily with great consistency. Others have all sorts of problems that force me to make my iPhone forget and then rediscover them. I have no idea why this happens, but it does.

The Sony’s Bluetooth feature works like a charm with great consistency and very, very minimal signal loss; however, it doesn’t work with my iPhone (or probably any similar device). My Macbook Pro discovers the Sony easy and connects without incident. My iPhone just will not find it. As I understand it, there are various Bluetooth communication standards, so it appears that this is an intentional design choice on the part of Sony. Whatever. It’s pretty annoying, especially since my parents’ Sony receiver/blueray combo unit syncs with my iPhone via Bluetooth just fine.

One strange thing that casual consumers should be aware of is that the power ratings supplied by Sony are for 6 ohm loads. Most speakers are 8 ohms. There aren’t spec available, but it’s virtually guaranteed that the actual power handling will decrease when the receiver is driving an 8 ohm load. 145 watts per channel sounds great, but I’m guessing that this will not translate into the same absolute loudness (in decibels) when driving a speaker with a higher impedance. Basically, 145 watts sounds like a lot, but it won’t be as loud as you might think unless your speakers draw a 6 ohm load.

My biggest complaint about the Sony is that front of the unit AND the remote are very simple, which means that if you want to access advanced options, you really need to connect this to a TV so that you an access the onscreen menus. Yeah, it’s an AV receiver, so you probably WILL have it connected to a TV, but if you’re like me and you wanted this for a secondary audio only system, it’s frustrating. I don’t want to have to hook up a TV just to tweak its features. As nice as the simplified remote is, I would like a way to control more of the options without needing to access the onscreen menus.

There are some nice features, as outline above, but there are some drawbacks, also outlined above. It’s not a perfect receiver, but it does a good job at a few things, and because of this, I think four stars are warranted. If you have further questions, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to respond.


Philips AJT3300/37 Bluetooth Clock Radio iPhone/Android Speaker Dock (Black)
Philips AJT3300/37 Bluetooth Clock Radio iPhone/Android Speaker Dock (Black)
Offered by Galactics
Price: $44.82
10 used & new from $30.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably terrible, even at its low price., July 5, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a really ill-conceived clock radio. It’s not incredibly expensive, but I still think it’s over priced for the overall level of quality, as I will describe below.

First of all, this is not actually an iPhone dock in the strict sense of the term. Yes, it provides a place where you can place your iPhone to get charged, but you can’t communicate with your iPhone via the Philips device. If you want to play music on your iPhone through the speaker, you must do so via Bluetooth.

Since Philips didn’t license the lightning connector (or even the 30-pin connector) from Apple, you must supply your own cable, which threads up through the rear of the unit. Basically, you’re charging your phone through the lightning cable that you already own. The Philips unit just holds your phone upright. That’s really all that it does. There is no benefit to actually “docking” your iPhone because if it’s just communicating via Bluetooth anyway, you might as well lay your iPhone beside the unit. It is functionally the same.

The AJT3300 is a pretty standard alarm clock. No special features set it apart. The only real way that your phone interacts is that it can be stood up on top of the unit and it can receive a signal via Bluetooth to play whatever is cued up on your phone when the alarm goes off.

The speaker itself is remarkably terrible. I’m not sure how Philips managed to make something that sounds worse than the microscopic builtin speaker on your phone, but they found a way. The only benefit here is that the speaker is louder. Granted, the point is not to provide you with a transcendent audiophilic experience, but the speaker gets outperformed by a whole range of even cheaper, even smaller Bluetooth speakers.

This is a very average alarm clock radio and a very below average iPhone “dock.” I just don’t see the point. Unless the AJT3300 sold for under $10, I could recommend it to anyone. Beyond its somewhat elegant design, it's junk.


Silicone 7 LED Bike Lights - Bundle of 2 Lights (Headlight and Tail Light) - Super Bright - Fits All Handlebars and Seatposts - Water and Shock Resistant - Instant Installation and Removal - Lifetime Warranty
Silicone 7 LED Bike Lights - Bundle of 2 Lights (Headlight and Tail Light) - Super Bright - Fits All Handlebars and Seatposts - Water and Shock Resistant - Instant Installation and Removal - Lifetime Warranty

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convenient to install, good value, bright, July 3, 2014
These lights are bright, easy to use, and easy to install. Basically, the silicone shell of the light wraps around your handlebars or saddle post and hooks onto itself. It's easy to place these anywhere and then remove them quickly when you park your bike. I'm not entirely convinced that the lights will remain in place if you're doing some rough trail riding. It's not like they're screwed on tight or anything. But, for road biking and normal everyday conditions (i.e., times that you would actually use a bike light), the silicone hooking method seems to be totally secure.

The manufacturer claims that you'll get 50 hours out of three AAA batteries. Since I'm actually using these, I haven't just let them stay on for a couple days just to see if this is true, but since LEDs are very efficient in terms of energy consumption, it's probably reasonable to assume that they'll last a long time. The downside is that you need to supply your own batteries. The upside is that the lights themselves are remarkably inexpensive. Even without the batteries, it's still a good value.


[2 PACK] Premium Running Belts - Expandable & Water Resistant Pockets - Fits Most Phones - Adjustable and Stretchable Waistband - Bounce-Free Design - Durable and Lightweight - Lifetime Warranty (Blue + Black)
[2 PACK] Premium Running Belts - Expandable & Water Resistant Pockets - Fits Most Phones - Adjustable and Stretchable Waistband - Bounce-Free Design - Durable and Lightweight - Lifetime Warranty (Blue + Black)
Offered by The Friendly Swede
Price: $15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful, fits my iPhone 5s, July 3, 2014
I've never used a "running belt" before, but now that I have one, I'm finding it incredibly useful. I don't necessarily "run" a lot, but I do spend a couple hours at the gym everyday, and this is a perfect solution for holding my iPhone, keys, and a few other items. The zippered pouches expand enough to fit most smartphones, although you might be pushing it if you have one of those huge Nexus phones that is essentially a small tablet. The Friendly Swede typically makes good products at a good price, and this is no exception. Recommended!


Agharta (2-LP 180 Gram Vinyl)
Agharta (2-LP 180 Gram Vinyl)
Price: $26.09
28 used & new from $19.89

1.0 out of 5 stars Decent music, horrible pressing, June 26, 2014
This is more of a review of the 4MenWithBeards (4MWB) edition of Agharta than of the album itself. As an album, Agharta has thoroughly mixed reviews. Some people think it's Miles phoning it in at the end of his career long after he had run out of things to say musically. Other people think it's an under-appreciated fusion gem. I'm somewhere in the middle. Miles's playing seems very underwhelming, but his younger sidemen turn in some energetic and engaging performances. That's all I have to say about the music. There is no way that I can confidently recommend this because it's such a polarizing album. You may love it, or you may hate it.

One thing is for sure: this 4MWB pressing is horrendous. First of all, sound quality. I own Agharta on CD and it sounds way, way better. More detail, more dynamics, more clarity overall. I'm not sure what the source was for this edition, but I'm guessing it wasn't the original analogue masters. It sounds a lot like cheap European presses from Vinyl Lovers, Simply Vinyl, and Abraxas. I'm guessing, therefore, that it was mastered from the CD edition. So, basically you're paying the vinyl price for CD sound WITH the addition of surface noise.

The thing is, I know this album was recorded with a great deal of skill. For years, the only good thing reviewers had to say about it was how well the Japanese sound engineers recorded this concert. Listen to the CD; it sounds terrific, especially for a live recording. I haven't heard the original vinyl pressing, but it cannot sound this bad. 4MWB version is muddy, indistinct, flat, and lifeless. When combined with music that many listeners already find somewhat banal, this just kills the album's chances of having an impact.

My second complaint is that 4MWB has done a terrible job with the format itself. The opening track, "Prelude," is a bit over 30 minutes, which is typically longer than a well-designed piece of vinyl should hold. To preserve sound quality, the track is split across two sides (I realize that the Amazon listing does not reflect this, but it's true), which is fine. Sometimes you have to do that with vinyl. The problem is that there are natural peaks and valleys in the music - climaxes and moments of rest. There are at least three places that would have created unobtrusive breaks. Instead, the geniuses at 4MWB decided to do a fade out during the major dramatic build up at the 3/4 point of the track. Just as the band is building in intensity, the track suddenly fades out and you have to flip the record. This is inexcusable. It shows a total lack of musical understanding. If you're doing vinyl represses and you don't have enough musical sense to hear when a natural break is occurring, you're in the wrong profession.

I firmly believe that 4MWB is simply cashing in on the current vinyl craze. The jacket is made from heavy-weight cardboard, and is really nice. The records are pressed on high-quality, 180-gram vinyl. Superficially, that stuff is great. There is even a black and white insert with some photographs. Awesome, but it means nothing if the record sounds like garbage and has been divided up by someone with no ear for music. This is a repress designed to look good to someone who doesn't know any better - someone who sees "180-gram vinyl" and thinks "awesome! This must sound amazing!" Don't be fooled.

If you're a fan of Agharta, you'll need to find the original pressing or the spring for the double CD version. This 4MWB repress was not designed to be listened to by people with ears.


InterDesign Una Bin, 10 by 6 by 6-Inch, White
InterDesign Una Bin, 10 by 6 by 6-Inch, White
Price: $12.99
2 used & new from $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, elegant, useful, June 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There's not a lot to say here. It's simple bin. However, the design is very nice and the size makes it appropriate for many applications. I don't have a ton of "beauty" products to put in something of this size, but it looks nice enough that I can roll up extra wash cloths, put them in this, and leave it out in my bathroom for guests. Recommended, if it matches your decor.


Gillette Fusion Proglide Silvertouch Manual Men's Razor With Flexball Handle Technology With 2 Razor Blade Refills
Gillette Fusion Proglide Silvertouch Manual Men's Razor With Flexball Handle Technology With 2 Razor Blade Refills
Price: $11.47
2 used & new from $11.47

5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another new razor design from Gillette, June 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It seems like there is a new Gillette razor design every year or two. Well, it's 2014 and here is this year's razor. My favorite razor as of the last few years has been the Fusion with the vibrating handle. It might seem like a gimmick, but the vibrating razor actually does seem to give me a more comfortable shave.

So, how does the Proglide Silvertouch rate? I've used all of the Gillette models over the years, as well as a few Schick models, and the Proglide Silvertouch is definitely amongst the best I've ever tried. It's tough to tell how big of a difference the "flexball" makes, but the handle is the thing that makes the difference. It is very nicely weighted so that the razor tracks along your face smoothly. When you have a lightweight handle, you have to press harder to maintain an even amount of downward force, and often you end up with a slightly uneven shave (unless you basically reshave in a second pass). A heavy handle really remedies this problem.

If you have a recent model Gillette handle, there's no point in upgrading. The handle is nice, but it's not *that* nice. If you're in need of a handle upgrade, this is definitely a good choice. Again, I still like the vibrating handle models, but if I had to pick a runner up, I would pick the Silvertouch.


Smart Weigh CSB2KG Cuisine Digital Kitchen Scale with Removable Bowl, 2kg by 0.1g, Black
Smart Weigh CSB2KG Cuisine Digital Kitchen Scale with Removable Bowl, 2kg by 0.1g, Black
Price: $14.99
3 used & new from $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent and inexpensive, June 22, 2014
I now own three different Smart Weigh scales, and they are all accurate, well built, and inexpensive. The design here is pretty basic. You can use whatever sort of vessel you want, but it comes with a nice plastic bowl that fits securely on top. It's easy to use, and easy to clean. For the price, it's just fine. I do, however, like the Smart Weigh Digital Scale (ASIN: B00IEOV4WW) better, mostly because it's flat, easy to store, and very simple to clean. It's also $20 more expensive. I can recommend either one.


Zeetron Light up USB Cable for Samsung S2,s3,s4, Note, Galaxy, Kindle, Blackberry, Driod, HTC Mirco Data Sync & Charging - Retail Packaging (Micro to Usb)
Zeetron Light up USB Cable for Samsung S2,s3,s4, Note, Galaxy, Kindle, Blackberry, Driod, HTC Mirco Data Sync & Charging - Retail Packaging (Micro to Usb)
Offered by Zeetron
Price: $5.99
2 used & new from $5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good quality, inexpensive, June 22, 2014
This is such a good idea that I'm surprised I haven't seen this sort of thing before. Sure, you can pick up your portable device, click it on to see if it has charged, and that sort of thing; or, if you have this Zeetron light up cable, you can just glance over at your device to see if it has fully charged. It's pretty cool.


Page: 1-10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21-30