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Lawrence H. Bulk "Lawrence H. Bulk"
A Splendid Integrated Amplifier
, December 19, 2013
I received this Yamaha A-S300 Integrated Stereo Amplifier
on December 17, 2013 and installed it into my system yesterday, December 18.
I owned an NAD Stereo Receiver Model 7020 which had served well for over 32 years of very heavy (daily except when my wife and I were traveling) use but it 'died' last week. The sound quality it produced was nothing short of superb; its amplifier section was based on that of the legendary NAD Stereo Amplifier 3020/3020A. (I also own one each of those models and they are still in 'like-new' condition.) Due to its age, I have decided against trying to have the 7020 repaired. And, after all, 32 years is a good run.
That NAD receiver was used in conjunction with Mordaunt-Short Pageant Series II loudspeakers as will this new Yamaha amplifier.
Having had experience with other Yamaha amplifiers (the DSP-A1000 and, most notably, the RX-Z9), I decided to buy this one.
When the 7020 'died,' I temporarily placed my 3020A into my system and, the day I received the Yamaha (it arrived in the evening, too late to install that day), I played the Mercury Living Presence CD 432 005-2 "ANTAL DORATI CONDUCT KODÀLY AND BARTÓK." I especially paid attention to the '"Háry János" Suite.'
The sound quality of this recording, through the 3020A, was, as expected, superb. (It's one of my favorite recordings and I have listened to it many times.)
The next day, as I mentioned, I installed this Yamaha into my system, replacing the NAD 3020A. After ensuring that all connections were properly made, I played this same recording.
I was disappointed. The music, so rich in sound the night before, was 'listless' - I know that that description is not very helpful but that's the only way I can describe it.
But then I thought that I have not properly 'broken in' the amplifier. It is fairly well-known that most electronic items do need some breaking in - some more than others.
So I decided to give this Yamaha a good work-out.
I played it at a higher than normal level for ten (10) hours yesterday. I used various sources: a Technics Quartz Direct-Drive Turntable Model SL-Q200 with a Shure V15-V P-mount cartridge, an Oppo Blu-ray/SACD/CD Player Model BDP-93 using its Pure Audio setting and playing several SACDs along with a couple of CDs, and an Asus Netbook (running the Lubuntu [Linux] operating system) in conjunction with a C2G / Cables to Go 28733 Digital To Analog Audio ConverterDAC Black
Note that I use the Yamaha strictly with its Pure Direct setting activated (this bypasses the front panel controls).
Now it may be 'rose-colored' hearing (or wishful thinking on my part) but it appeared to me that the sound quality was improving as the hours went on.
So late last night, after the 10-hour work-out, I played the Dorati disc again.
This time it sounded the same as it had the night before through the NAD 3020A. There was no question in my mind that any 'listlessness' was gone.
Now I have read some complaints about the styling/fit-and-finish of this unit (and its related A-S500 model). If you can remember back, NAD's original purpose was to produce amplifiers containing the finest possible internal components in order to produce the best sound quality available at its various (low) price-ranges. Styling and external materials were of MUCH less importance. (Somehow NAD seems to have lost its way; its components now fall into much higher price range categories than that of years ago.)
Yamaha has evidently decided to go the same way that NAD did when it was first established, at least with some items in its line.
So, if you're looking for a gold-colored cabinet with platinum knobs, beautiful meters (illuminated in bright 'electric' blue or amber), winking and blinking LEDs of red, green, white, blue, and/or yellow (with internal components and overall sound quality being secondary considerations), well, this is not your amplifier.
But if you're looking for the best possible sound quality (yet with lots of input and output options) at a very affordable price, then you need look no further.
There are only a few tiny LED indicator lights on the front panel (three is the maximum number showing at any one time) but they serve their purpose well. They show what is activated. They are easily visible in bright light or dim light. That's all one truly needs!
After all, what do flashing lights, meters, and fancy cabinets with 'exquisite' knobs contribute to sound quality? I'm sure that I don't even need to answer that question!
This amplifier includes a remote control but, frankly, as I have absolutely no need for another remote control, certainly not for an amplifier, I have not even removed it from its packing. Of course, you (and probably most people) may feel differently about this but, as I have not used the remote, I cannot comment on its performance.
This model produces 60 W per channel RMS which is more than sufficient for most people (my Mordaunt-Short speakers have an input rating of 50 W) but the A-S500 produces a bit more power (85 W per channel) and also has a recording selector whereby you can listen to one source while recording another; the A-S300 under discussion here will record only what is being played. The A-S500 costs only $70.00 more so some people may wish to spend the extra amount.
But how many people record to tape or CD today? I stopped doing that years ago. When I wish to record something, I always do so via my computer. Plus, other than that recording option and the small amount of extra power (the extra loudness of which would, in truth, not be distinguishable by the average person's hearing), the two units are identical. That's why I decided to buy this A-S300 rather than the more expensive one.
Having had my unit for only two days now, I cannot comment on longevity. But my other Yamahas have lasted for a long time (my RX-Z9 is ten years old) and have continued to perform as they did when new so I am reasonably certain that this unit will do so too. (In addition, it's covered by a 2-year warranty.)
I should also like to mention why I considered only integrated amplifiers rather than receivers (which includes an AM/FM tuner along with the integrated pre-amplifier and power amplifier sections). At any given price point, an integrated amplifier (which lacks the tuner) will ALWAY have better internal components (and offer better sound quality) than a receiver, simply because the tuner section and its shielding cost so much that the components which actually produce the sound (the amplification portions) have to be compromised in order to reach that price point. And, with the lack of good programming (as well as heavy compression used currently) in FM broadcasting, there is little to which I personally want to listen. If I REALLY want to play FM through this amplifier, it's an easy matter to attach the line output from a transistor radio to the amplifier (there is a 'Tuner' connection which, however, I am using for something else; note that all of the line connections can actually be used for whatever you want to attach to them).
(The Yamaha RX-Z9 is a receiver but, at the time I bought it, Yamaha had no equivalent integrated amplifier with the same characteristics but without the built-in tuner [which I almost never use] so I bought the receiver. Note that my old NAD 7020 was also a receiver.)
In conclusion, unless 'impress the neighbors looks' are important to you, more important than sheer excellence of sound quality (in which case you'll want something more 'spectacular' looking), by buying this Yamaha A-S300 Integrated Amplifier, you will obtain the best possible sound quality, the most input and output connections, and the most configurable amplifier available at its price level - and even well above its price level. This of course is my opinion. It is also my opinion that you should please make certain that you allow a reasonably good break-in period before you make a judgment about what you hear.
Obviously, I highly recommend it.
I apologize for the length of this review but I hope that it has been of some interest to those reading it. I do, as always, thank everyone who considers what I have written.
Lawrence H. Bulk
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Very Large Capacity and Very Fast USB 3.0 Flash Drive
, November 24, 2013
This Corsair USB 3.0 Flash Voyager GS (CMFVYGS3-128GB)
is an excellent flash drive. Like all such drives, its capacity is bit less than advertised; there actually is 126.2 GB available, 65.5 kB used for other necessary recognition software, and 4.1MB of free space. (I use a GNU/Linux operating system rather than Windows or Mac and these partitions are what are displayed in the Gnome Disk Utility.)
In my opinion however, this small space difference is insignificant, when you consider that this little drive has more capacity than any tablet computer on the market (and more than many computers had just a few years ago).
This is the largest-capacity flash drive I have ever owned; my previous "largest" was 32 GB. You can hold a LOT of data (movies, music, what-have-you) on this drive.
It is formatted in FAT32 format. It is easy to reformat (as NTFS or EXT4) if desired; this does not, however, increase its capacity, which remains at 126.2 GB. (Reformatting does get rid of the 4.1 MB "free space.")
Like all USB 3.0 drives, it reads and writes VERY fast (assuming you are using a USB 3.0 port; using a USB 2.0 port will give you only USB 2.0 speeds). This is a major positive. But I found that it is no faster at writing to the drive than the other USB 3.0 one I own (SanDisk Extreme 32 GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive SDCZ80-032G-AFFP
), both of which write at speeds between 110 MB/s and 30 MB/s (apparently depending on just what is being copied. I found no difference in speed when this drive is formatted as FAT32 or NTFS. I have not tried formatting it as EXT4, the Linux standard file system which, I think, would increase the reading/writing speed but which would make it a bit tricky to use with Windows/Mac machines and impossible to use with devices that recognize only FAT32 or NTFS file systems). Starting very fast, they both slow down as the writing continues. But they are both far faster than USB 2.0 flash drives and, with a drive of this size, that makes a great difference in convenience.
Copying (to your computer) speed will depend largely, I believe, on your computer's processor speed (and the use, obviously, of a USB 3.0 port).
This device is very well made (in Taiwan) and its case is aluminum. It's quite robust! This too is a definite positive. A five-year warranty is icing on the cake. It does get a bit warm in use; this is noticeable but the rise in temperature is not inordinate.
It features a VERY unobtrusive LED activity indicator. This LED, blue in color and relatively dim, is placed at the bottom of the drive, just in front of the key chain connector. You have to look for it! But many people prefer "unobtrusiveness" to having a bright light flashing in their face. I myself appreciate the design of this indicator.
Nothing is "perfect" however and its design does have two "negatives" in my opinion: (1) its cap is removable and therefore easily misplaced. Some other flash drives have retractable USB plugs and that type, I believe, is the superior design. And (2) it is very wide. This may be necessary due to the large capacity but it does preclude inserting two USB devices into adjacent ports, at least on my computer. It is so big that I would personally find it to be very "clunky" to carry on a key chain.
Fortunately, I truly think that these negatives are relatively minor, at least they are to me.
For its data capacity, it is priced fairly by today's standards. It wasn't so very long ago that I bought my first flash drive: 64 MB for $9.99! What a bargain! ;-) (I still have it though there isn't much for which I can use it!) Most USB 3.0 flash drives today appear to be priced at around $1.00/GB and that is the approximate price for this one. Therefore, at the present time, I feel that it represents good value for money, especially in view of its superlative construction.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that, if you want a large capacity and fast flash drive, I think you should put this one on your "short list." I highly recommend it.
Thank you for reading this. I hope that my opinions have been of some interest to you.
Lawrence H. Bulk
You Won't Go Wrong With This Screen Protector
, November 22, 2013
I ordered this screen protector on November 16, 2013. Amazon's order page stated: "Delivery Estimate Friday, December 6, 2013 - Monday, January 6, 2014 by 8:00pm."
In the event, it arrived today, November 22, via first-class mail from Germany. That is amazingly fast service from the Amazon seller, FairPrices-us.
The protector fits my Fujifilm X-S1 12MP EXR CMOS Digital Camera with Fuijinon F2.8 to F5.6 Telephoto Lens and Ultra-Smooth 26x Manual Zoom (24-624mm)
Amazon also sells other screen protectors, in all cases for more money. But this option, six (6) for $7.98 (which includes shipping) make ordering this item almost a no-brainer.
The instructions are perfectly clear. The protector applies evenly and with ease. I have five more of them just in case something were to happen with my first one, though I don't think anything will.
I should also mention that the protector itself is absolutely first-rate, thin and clear. It is applied without using water and goes on in less time than it takes to read this review! I am certain that anyone owning a Fujifilm X-S1 12MP EXR CMOS Digital Camera with Fuijinon F2.8 to F5.6 Telephoto Lens and Ultra-Smooth 26x Manual Zoom (24-624mm)
(or any camera with an LCD viewing screen of the same size) will be completely satisfied.
Thank you for reading this. I hope that what I wrote is of some help to you.
Lawrence H. Bulk
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Superb, Well-Constructed Super-Zoom Digital Camera Which Offers Excellent Performance
, November 17, 2013
This Fujifilm X-S1 12MP EXR CMOS Digital Camera with Fuijinon F2.8 to F5.6 Telephoto Lens and Ultra-Smooth 26x Manual Zoom (24-624mm)
is a superb performer. It is my first advanced super-zoom camera, something I have wanted for a long time.
Yes, it's heavy. Yes, it's complex. Yes, it requires an effort to learn to use it.
But having owned several previous digital cameras (including a Canon PowerShot G1 X 14.3 MP CMOS Digital Camera
), I found it to be quite easy to use even before I read the manual. While its menu options are many, they are relatively straightforward to configure to your taste. If you too are experienced with sophisticated digital cameras, I am sure you will find this one quite easy to master.
And, believe it or not, in addition to the PDF owner's manual, Fujifilm supplies a PRINTED owner's manual! Reading this, which I did yesterday, will answer the overwhelming majority of your questions about the camera and its use. (You can download the PDF from Fujifilm's site if you wish to read it before purchasing the camera so as to see if it is suitable for you.) Of course one reading is not sufficient; I'll be spending the next few days re-reading the manual, this time with camera in hand, so I can learn the various ins-and-outs of it. (Frankly, this will be necessary for every purchaser. If you do not wish to make this effort, then I recommend that you do not buy this model, opting instead for something simpler.) I am truly looking forward to learning the capability of this camera and enjoying the pictures I am able to take with it.
This camera has many individual buttons and knobs which means that changing settings via the menu is only rarely necessary. It features a manual zoom as well as a manual focus option (along with, of course, many varied auto-focus options) and also full manual aperture and shutter controls.
Its sensor is 2/3-inch. This is not as large as the 1.5-inch sensor in my G1 X - but imagine the size (and weight - not even to mention the price) of the lens (26x zoom ratio) which would be necessary to accommodate that size sensor. A 2/3-inch sensor is large enough to create good pictures with minimal noise (in most cases the noise will not be visible) at ISOs from 100 to, say, 400. That range is plenty for most outdoor and many indoor shots.
Even though it has a very good image stabilization [IS] circuit (it's turned on by default; you'll find its options on Page 4 of 6 in the Set-Up section of the Menu and please read below), I would not use this camera under extremely low light levels without some sort of additional lighting or, if absolutely necessary to take a picture under low light without flash, I recommend the use of a tripod and a longer exposure time - tell your subjects to be absolutely still. (Please see the paragraph below.) (In any case, you'll want to use a tripod at longer zoom settings.) The 2/3-inch sensor is larger than in some other Fujifilm Super-zoom cameras and note that a larger sensor produces less image noise (all else being equal) at higher ISO settings. However a 2/3-inch sensor is still a small one so you must keep in mind its limitations (there is no getting around the laws of physics).
Its nominal ISO range is from 100 to 12,800 - but note that ISOs over 3200 are available only with reduced image file size (less than the usual 12 MP). While I have had my camera for only two days, and have not been able to put it through all the 'hoops,' I should think that, for all practical purposes, ISO 1600 would be the absolute maximum that I should ever want to use (and even that only in an 'emergency') and I shall probably restrict my use to the aforementioned ISO 100-400. This will, of necessity, restrict its use in low light situations in which you cannot or do not want to use flash; as I mentioned above, for these kind of pictures, you'll want to use a tripod and a longer exposure time. At least for me, this is no real inconvenience.
But, all that aside, I have found three (ONLY three!) VERY minor points about which I have 'druthers':
(1) I wish the lens stopped down to f/16. It does not; its minimum aperture is f/11. But that is something I can live with. (The Panasonic FZ200, for example, stops down to only f/8. That's an absolute deal-breaker for me even though I like its constant f/2.8 maximum across the board aperture.)
(2) I wish there were some means of quickly changing the Image Stabilization settings. There are several settings, all of them useful (including 'Off'), but to change them the user must go deep into the menu. Fortunately, at least for me, I do not need to change the settings very often. (I generally leave it off or, when I want to use it, in Shooting + Motion [that uses less battery power than Continuous].)
(3) I wish there were some sort of cover for the LCD screen. As it is, it will ALWAYS get smeared. I have ordered one of the screen protectors from Amazon but even that is just a partial remedy. (Does anyone make a snap-on plastic cover for the screen?)
But the screen itself and its tilting mount is a model of good design. I would not buy a camera which did not have some sort of adjustable-position LCD screen and this one is one of the best I have seen. I especially like the automatic switching between the screen and the excellent electronic viewfinder when you place you eye up to it. (You can also set your LCD screen/Electronic viewfinder preferences manually.)
I should mention something interesting about the lens - it has filter threads engraved in it (this is my first compact digital camera which has that feature though I know that there are some others). It takes 62mm filters directly WITHOUT the necessity of putting on a filter adapter first. I wish ALL cameras had this feature. I have ordered a Skylight filter; I always keep one of these mounted on my cameras to protect the lens. Replacing a damaged filter is cheap; replacing a damaged lens is horribly expensive if it is even possible at all. I have also ordered a few additional filters (star, polarizer, etc.) which I like to employ from time to time.
Some reviewers have stated that it takes a relatively long time to 'boot up' - not my camera (with a 33Axxxxx serial number, ordered from Amazon on November 14, 2013 and received the next day - thank you Amazon!). Mine is ready to take a picture in LESS than two seconds (I clocked it).
The few pictures I have taken with it so far (both manually and automatically) have all turned out fine, as would be expected. When I have truly learned how to operate this camera to maximum advantage, I am sure that my pictures will turn out even better.
Of course there is no "one-camera" which is the best at everything. That's why many people, including myself, have more than one. But this particular model offers lots of picture-taking and operating options, splendid construction (metal), specifications and settings options too numerous to mention here but excellent-to-superb in almost every regard, excellent ergonomics, and a wonderful lens, all of which equal a superb camera. Plus, at its current price here on Amazon, it is, in my opinion, a true bargain. Furthermore, again in my opinion, it could easily be someone's only camera.
Please remember that, as I stated above, you should READ THE OWNER'S MANUAL. It will contain the answers to the overwhelming majority of your questions about the camera and its use.
I really like this Fujifilm camera and I think that you will too. I highly recommend it.
And I thank you for reading this review. I hope that the information and opinions I have written have been of some help to you.
Lawrence H. Bulk
Update: November 19, 2013
Do you enjoy taking black-and-white photos as I do? Most digital cameras, in my experience, offer a sepia as well as a black-and-white setting. But the Fujifilm X-S1 has a monochrome feature I have not seen before: the usual sepia setting of course but also FOUR (4) black-and-white settings. The first is the regular b&w setting found on all cameras but the other three have color filter simulations: a red filter, a green filter, and a yellow filter.
And they work!
For those unfamiliar with the use of color filters in conjunction with black-and-white film here is a quick "short course:"
The red filter passes red but blocks blue. Thus the sky will appear very dark and clouds will stand out in sharp relief. (But you do not want to use this filter if you have people in the picture and they are close to you. Their skin tones will be unnatural-looking.) Foliage is also darkened.
Green allows foliage to be highlighted as it passes the green color; it is excellent for landscapes and seascapes. And yellow is a balance between the two other color filters and is suitable for taking pictures with people in it.
You ought to see the test picture I took yesterday which included the sky which had lots of fluffy clouds. I used the b&w red filter setting. The photo came out beautifully with deep gray sky and sharp white clouds. I was planning to order 62mm color filters (none of my previous cameras had this size filter) but now it is unnecessary. When my circular polarizer filter arrives I am planning to use that in conjunction with the color filter equivalents in the camera. Landscape and seascape pictures should be as stunning as they were back in the film days using Kodak Plus-X and occasionally Tri-X when using color filters (at least I hope they turn out that way). (A polarizer is very useful in outdoor color photography: it can make the sky appear a deep blue with white clouds highlighted and it doesn't affect any other aspect of the picture.)
I had occasion to speak with someone at Fujifilm yesterday (on another subject) and I mentioned this feature. The representative stated that this was the first Fujifilm camera to have these color filter equivalents incorporated. I assume that many future Fujifilm cameras will also have them.
I do not know if other brands also have these built-in filters but if you like b&w photography, even just on rare occasions, this feature is amazing and well-worth having.
I do not like to use "post-processing" to achieve effects, much preferring to create my pictures "in-camera." In my opinion (my opinion only), much post-processing introduces artificial looks which can almost always be seen. This camera allows varied effects in b&w which had formerly been available to me only with the use of physical color filters. This is much more convenient.
I would like to have a Leica M Monochrome (Black & White Photos ONLY) but I'll have to wait until I win the lottery really, really big before I can buy one. (I believe, though I do not know for sure, that this Leica would require the use of physical color filters for b&w effects.) Until that time, this new Fujifilm X-S1 12MP EXR CMOS Digital Camera with Fuijinon F2.8 to F5.6 Telephoto Lens and Ultra-Smooth 26x Manual Zoom (24-624mm)
will MORE than suffice!
Update: November 22, 2013
I have bought a few accessories; I personally regard them as essential (but of course that's an individual choice). Fortunately they are all relatively low-priced (and are all available here on Amazon).
1. SanDisk Extreme 16 GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card 45MB/s SDSDX-016G-AFFP
(two of these)
2. STK's Fuji NP-95 Battery - 2000 mAH for Fujifilm Finepix X100S, X100, F30, X-S1, F31fd, Real 3D W1, NP-95, BC-65
(two of these)
3. STK's Fuji NP-95 Battery Charger - for Fujifilm Finepix X100S, X100, F30, X-S1, F31fd, Real 3D W1, NP-95, BC-65
(two of these)
4. Hoya 62mm (HMC UV / Circular Polarizer / ND8) 3 Digital Filter Set with Pouch
5. Hoya 62mm Star 6 Filter
6. Hot Shoe Cap Cover for Panasonic , Nikon , Fuji & Canon Digital SLR Cameras
7. 6 x MEXXPROTECT Ultra-Clear Screen Protector for FujiFilm FinePix X-S1, 6 Protective Films, 100% fits, Display Protection Film
All of these accessories, ordered on November 15 and 16, 2013, have arrived. All are of excellent quality and will greatly enhance the usefulness/protection of this camera. I highly recommend all of them to you in conjunction with this Fujifilm X-S1 digital camera.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Beautiful and Elegant Ladies Wrist Watch
, November 12, 2013
My wife is completely pleased, in every regard, with this wrist watch. (Yes, I know that that's redundant - but please read on.)
I find it sometimes difficult to buy her presents. She is very critical, in terms of quality and style, of her possessions and she has a much better sense of style than I do.
However, every day I check Amazon's "Deals of the Day" and I saw this wrist watch as well as others by this manufacturer listed at a very good price. Though I did not know if she would like it, wanting to buy her a gift, I took a chance.
I initially ordered the Johan Eric Women's JE2200-09-001.9 Herlev Rose Gold Case and Peach Leather Watch with Diamond Accents
which is very pretty but, immediately after placing the order, I took a look again and saw this one (Johan Eric Women's JE2200-09-001 Herlev Rose Gold Case and White Leather Watch with Diamond Accents
) which I felt was even more elegant.
So I canceled the first order and placed the order for this white one.
I'm glad I did.
When I gave it to my wife, she was immediately struck by its exceptional design. She has now been wearing it for several days and she notes that it keeps excellent time, the white color goes with everything, and it is very comfortable on her wrist. She also says that, in her opinion, the rose gold case is much nicer looking than 'plain' yellow gold or silver.
The Johan Eric company makes a number of variants on this watch. Peoples' tastes vary and the choice of a particular style is, of course, a personal decision.
But when I showed my wife all of the variants, she said that I had picked the 'right' one. It's not often that she is as pleased with a gift that I buy for her as she is with this one.
I cannot comment at this time as to the longevity of the watch but it does seem to be made with a great deal of integrity plus it carries a two-year warranty. The leather watch band is first-rate and, as I stated, its time-keeping is excellent.
Even at Amazon's regular price, in my opinion, it represents superb value for money.
Therefore I can give this wrist watch an enthusiastic recommendation.
Thank you for reading this. I hope it has been of some help to you.
Lawrence H. Bulk
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Positively THE Cornerstone of a Classical Music Library
, October 15, 2013
In my opinion, there were only two conductors who never made a single bad record.
One was Arthur Fiedler. But, due to the extremely large number of records he made, I doubt that we will ever see a "Complete Arthur Fiedler" box set. (Who could afford it?)
The other conductor in this exalted group was Fritz Reiner.
The Reiner box set under discussion here is an absolute treasure. I shall not discuss the music, performance, and sound quality themselves about which there have been many, many reviews and articles written over the years; these are easy enough to find if you are interested. And anyone reading this review (or who is interested in this set) almost certainly already knows the quality of the music, the quality of the performances, and the quality of the sound recording. (If you are new to Fritz Reiner and are going to hear his performances for the first time, well, I envy you: you are in store for a real treat! You'll hardly believe your own ears!)
Suffice it to say that all of the above characteristics are nothing short of superb, even transcendental. There may be some recorded performances of the included works which equal Reiner's but, at least in my experience, none - NONE - which surpasses them.
You will need the included book (well-printed and very informative) to see what is on the individual discs; the back of the sleeves (cardboard reproductions of the original LPs complete with original notes in minuscule-sized - yet easily readable - print) and even the face of the CD itself may not be complete (the labels on the fronts of the CDs show only Side 1 of the LPs from which the CDs derive).
The box which contains the CDs itself is made of heavyweight cardboard, beautifully printed in color, and is very space-efficient. It will look nice anywhere you choose to put it.
At a person's request, I have placed the list of the recordings in Amazon's Classical Music Forums section within the thread entitled "New Fritz Reiner Box."
There will be some who will quibble about "faults" in the notes, "faults" in the remasterings, or "faults" in this or that. In my opinion, any "faults" in this set are trivial and really unimportant. (And when you hear the magnificence of the performance of the 'Eroica" you won't give a d--- whether it is mono or stereo!)
Several of the same performances/recordings of works are repeated on two discs because they originally appeared on two separate LPs (the 1812 Overture, for example) but to my mind this is of no consequence. Also Reiner/Chicago recorded several works on two different occasions; both are included in this set. [See the fourth Comment appended to this review for more details.]
The CD sides are short; one is even less than 30 minutes (as was the original LP). Again, this is of no consequence, at least to me.
My only "quibble" is that I wish this set had been released in hybrid SACD/CD format (or, even better, as 24-bit 192kHz downloads). But even that is a minor point to me as I already own the 17 Reiner discs issued as SACDs (and, if you have SACD playback capability, I recommend that you buy them too even though the sound quality on the discs in this set are superior to any earlier 'Redbook' CDs of the same recordings which I myself have heard previously).
I could also mention that it might have been nice had Sony included the "Carmen" which Reiner conducted in 1951 with the RCA Victor Orchestra (Risë Stevens, Jan Peerce, Licia Albanese, Robert Merrill, a "dream" cast if there ever was one!). I believe that it was his only complete opera recording.
All that being said, I'll recommend that you just don't worry about any minor "quibbles."
I believe that you should just sit back and enjoy the music.
I STRONGLY recommend that anyone interested in classical music BUY THIS SET. I believe that it will indeed become the one of the most important sets in your collection.
A Personal Note: my parents gave an "RCA Victor New Orthophonic High Fidelity Record Player" (a blonde mahogany consolette on four legs) to me in the summer of 1956. It was my first record player which could play 33 1/3 and 45, as well as 78 RPM records. I can't tell you how happy I was. I thought it was the be-all and end-all of hi-fi!
Though I had little money (being only 13 years old), I started buying records when I could. And I soon discovered that I had to "sneak" them in, something at which I became quite proficient (how about you?).
On Sunday, February 17, 1957, my parents had some friends over and they all went out for the afternoon, leaving me home alone.
Naturally, as soon as they left, I got onto my bicycle and rode across town to Dee's Appliances of Audubon, NJ to look at their records. (They sold records at 20% off list, in other words, $3.19 for a $3.98 record, a price irresistible to me.)
An album cover caught my eye. It was RCA Victor LM-1999 Red Seal (SLP-13) and it was, of course, Fritz Reiner's recording of the 1812 Overture and other works. At that time I knew very little about classical music (I had never heard the 1812 Overture) but, because of that cover, I bought it. (Over the years I bought many albums because of the cover, almost always with similar luck! This cover is reproduced on two of the CDs in this set though it loses something of its impact in the small size.)
With no one else being home, I was able to easily bring it into the house and play it.
I loved it.
I still have it.
(Plus, over the years, I have acquired several stereo issues of it, now including the one in this set. That 1812 Overture performance, without cannon-fire and slightly abridged, is still the best performance of the work I have ever heard.)
That's how I was introduced to Fritz Reiner. (Actually I had heard Fritz Reiner conduct before - I had the complete "The World's Greatest Music" on 78s and he conducted several of the works included - but, as the performers were not listed anywhere, I did not know this at the time.) So this one was my first "official" Fritz Reiner record - but by no means the last!
There are other important record sets out there; the Arturo Toscanini: The Complete RCA Collection
is one of them and there are many, many others. You wouldn't want to have just one classical set in your collection. Of course, you will also have a great many individual discs in a good collection but these sets are a convenient way to have music with some common thread (conductor, performer, composer, etc.) available to you in one place and at a relatively low price (and who cares if we have a few duplicates? Not me!).
This Fritz Reiner-The Complete RCA Recordings
one is certainly the new cornerstone of my own collection and, if you have read this far, I am quite certain it will become yours too. So I'll repeat: BUY THIS SET!
Thank you for reading this. I hope it has been informative to you.
This Battery Has Extended the Useful Life of my Garmin nüvi 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator-250W
, October 10, 2013
I bought a Garmin nüvi 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator-250W
on December 4, 2007. Last year, 2012, I noticed that the internal battery would not charge completely. Recently the unit, though it worked when plugged in, would not work at all on the internal battery power (and, as I like to use this in 'walking' mode, battery power is necessary).
Though I own three other Garmin units (all newer), I like this one and I called Garmin to inquire about them replacing the battery.
I was told that Garmin no longer supports this model and will not work on it.
Frankly, I think that this is disgraceful; my unit is less than 6 years old. This, in my opinion, bodes ill for my having confidence in Garmin. I do not know if the other major manufacturers, TomTom and Magellan, support their units longer. But I am unhappy with Garmin. (I certainly will NEVER buy one of their really expensive units if they do not support their own products for a reasonable length of time - and I feel that less than six years is NOT reasonable!)
Fortunately, Amazon offers this Battery Replacement Kit for Garmin Nuvi 250W with Installation Video, Tools, and Extended Life Battery.
. There are other replacement batteries for the 250W offered on Amazon but this one comes complete with all necessary tools and accessories (and believe me you'll need them, especially the small Torx screwdriver!). It also comes with an instruction CD; the video included on it is also available to view on YouTube if you want to see the steps before ordering.
I do have to say that any resemblance of the internal parts of the unit shown in the instructional video and what I saw in my own unit is strictly coincidental.
But, using a bit of common sense, it was fairly easy to replace the battery. Based on what I had seen on the video, most of what was in my unit was self-explanatory.
But I did have some problems. Innovate88, the company which supplies this battery, includes a bit of double-sided tape to hold the new battery in place. Unfortunately, even with much 'language,' I was unable to pry off the backing on one side of the piece so I went upstairs and found some Velcro tape (two sections which hook together) I had bought and I used that in place of the supplied double-sided tape. It was easy to remove the plastic backing from that and both sides, when pressed together (one piece glued to the case and the other to the battery), are joined 'permanently.' (Of course, you may have more luck than I did in removing the backing from both sides of the piece of tape.)
And naturally, at the very end of reassembling the unit, I dropped one of the tiny screws which hold the case together. More 'language' ensued, a flashlight was employed, and after about ten minutes or so, I found the screw. (This was my own fault of course, not Innovate88's.)
Because of all that frustration (the double-sided tape and the dropped screw), it took me much longer to replace the battery than it should have. I can't even tell you how much time it actually took nor can I tell you how much time it would take someone less of a 'klutz' than I am to do it.
But really it shouldn't take long. If your unit looks similar to the one in the video, I would say ten minutes tops. If not, then maybe fifteen minutes. (Just don't drop any screws!)
Now, of course, the big question: Did it work?
Well, if it hadn't, I wouldn't have given this replacement battery five stars. Since I did, you can pretty much figure out that it did indeed work, and it works perfectly.
When I turned on the nüvi, the indicator showed that the battery was fully charged. Even though the unit had no power connected at all while I was changing the battery, all of my Favorites were retained in memory. The only things lost were the time and time-zone settings. I manually set the time-zone to Eastern Time and the clock itself was set as soon as the Garmin located the satellites.
I am extremely pleased with my purchase. Frankly, I had a lot of trepidation prior to buying this but I thought, well, the most I can lose is less than $30.00 so it's worth trying.
I'm glad I did.
One of my newer Garmins is the Garmin nüvi 285W/285WT 4.3-Inch Widescreen Bluetooth Portable GPS Navigator with Traffic
('Traffic' is no longer supported but I never used it anyway); I also like this unit very much and I see that Innovate88 offers a battery replacement for it (Battery Replacement Kit for Garmin Nuvi 285W with Installation Video, Tools, and Extended Life Battery.
). When the time comes, I'll buy one of these too.
The Innovate88 company packed everything very carefully and shipped very quickly (two days from Texas to NJ). Therefore I highly recommend this product and this company.
I hope that this review has been useful to you and I thank you for reading it.
Lawrence H. Bulk
(According to my wife): Might be Nice for Some People ... (According to me): It IS Nice
, October 4, 2013
When I saw this Nico New York 2 Tone Bracelet Set
offered by Amazon Vine, I thought my wife would like to have it.
Unfortunately, she is displeased (and that is the "polite" term).
Please IGNORE the two-stars I give it; please read on for the reason for that rating.
The following are my wife's complaints.
First, the "three" bracelets are permanently entwined; they cannot be separated.
Second, this bracelet is obviously intended for a large-boned woman. The size cannot be adjusted and, on my wife's wrist (which measures about 6 1/4 inches), when her arm is down, the bracelet slips down over her hand (which is also very small) and, when her arm is up, it slips halfway up her forearm.
Plus it really does look much too large on her (she is 5' 4").
So, after trying it (and letting me know in no-uncertain-terms what she thought of it), it has been put back into its plastic pouch, there to remain.
It is constructed of painted metal beads and looks to be well-made, considering the low price. The two-star rating is my wife's opinion of its styling, fit, and functionality, and her opinion does not consider its construction quality which, as I said, appears to be fine. Taking that quality into consideration (plus my own personal opinion of the styling), I myself would give this bracelet at least FOUR STARS (and a case could be made for giving it FIVE STARS). But I must defer to my wife ...
To sum up, there are certainly some women on whom it would look good and who would like it, especially if they're tall and/or large-boned.
Unfortunately my wife is not one of them.
But, if you are, you might want to give this bracelet a chance. I think that it's nice.
I hope that this review has been informative and of some help to you.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Exceptionally Lightweight Hair Dryer
, September 22, 2013
I ordered this Revlon RVDR5111BLKD Ultimate Snub Nose 1875 Watt Pro Styler
for my wife. It arrived yesterday and she used it this morning.
She is very pleased with it. She has been using Remington hair dryers of which she has three different models; the model she likes best of the three is this Remington D8410 Keratin Therapy Dryer
This new Revlon model is smaller than her Remingtons and much lighter in weight. This weight difference is immediately apparent and is very important to her. It's not as though that the Remington is inordinately heavy, but lighter weight does make for an easier-to-use hair dryer.
However, the Revlon model has one fewer heat setting than the Remington. The Remington has three heat and two speed settings; the Revlon has two heat settings and two speed settings. Both have a cold-shot button.
But the settings offered on this Revlon are all one needs, according to my wife. Like that Remington, the Revlon has rocker-type switches which are arranged very conveniently.
This new Revlon model also comes with a concentrator attachment as well as a diffuser attachment, both packed in the box. The Remington comes with a concentrator and does offer a free diffuser attachment but, oddly, you must order it separately, rather an annoyance.
Cleaning the filter is not nearly as convenient on the Revlon as it is on the Remington. On that model, you cannot lose the cap. Its clever design keeps the cap attached permanently. Not so on this Revlon; its snap-on/off cap could be dropped or lost, but, really, only if you are very careless.
Both are fairly quiet, as these things go, but she always uses ear plugs when drying her hair, something she recommends to everyone.
This morning she found that the warm (the lower of the two) heat setting and the high speed setting dried her hair very quickly and left it very nice (she has baby-fine hair). She said that most probably the low speed setting would have done just as well, though she did not actually try it.
The light weight of the Revlon is most welcome but it does raise a question: the much heavier Remington comes with a four-year warranty but this Revlon has only a two-year warranty. We suspect that the extra weight may be a result of the sturdiness of the Remington's motor but of course we do not know this for certain. Nor are we certain if this will make any difference in real world longevity.
However one thing is definitely certain: this new Revlon model costs just a little more than half of what that Remington sells for! Thus this Revlon hair dryer offers very good value for money.
All in all, my wife is very happy with her new Revlon hair dryer. While it remains to be seen whether it will hold up as well in the long run as the Remington models have done, based upon her use this morning, which went very well especially due to the light weight of this hair dryer but also, most importantly, for the way her hair came out, she (and I) give this dryer our highest recommendation.
Thank you for reading this.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Superb USB to S/PDIF Sound Converter - and a Bargain!
, September 19, 2013
The title of this review says it all: this truly is a superb USB to S/PDIF converter. And at its current price here on Amazon, it is a true bargain.
This review will be of most interest to those who use a computer with a GNU/Linux operating system though much about the quality of this converter will be applicable to anyone.
I have a home theater installation with, among other components, a Yamaha RX-Z9 9.1 Home Theater Surround Sound Receiver
which I purchased new in 2004, a ZaReason MediaBox 5330 (a media center computer, purchased last year, running the Xubuntu Linux operating system) through which I can play music, movies, etc. and, of course, use it for whatever else one would normally use a computer), and ten (10) loudspeakers (including a subwoofer).
The receiver has no HDMI inputs (it was designed just before the introduction of HDMI) but it does have digital sound inputs (both TosLink and Coaxial).
I wanted to have the best sound quality possible in this system, for movies as well as music. I recently purchased a StarTech.com 7.1 USB Audio Adapter External Sound Card with SPDIF Digital Audio Sound Cards ICUSBAUDIO7D
which is a fine unit and it represents very good value for money.
But it is limited to 16-bit depth and 48kHz sample rate. Though the sound coming through it was really fine, I thought I'd like to have a converter which offered "true" 24-bit 192kHz output. (But, if you choose to purchase the StarTech unit - its price is only about 1/6 of the V-LINK 192 under discussion - you won't go wrong. I'm keeping mine.)
I did some research on the web as well as here on Amazon and, as a result, I purchased this Musical Fidelity - V-LINK 192 - Asynchronous USB To SPDIF Converter
Its performance is nothing short of superb. And at Amazon's current price of half the manufacturer's list price, it represents outstanding value for money. (The unit is being sold by a company called ListenUp which sets the price; the orders are fulfilled by Amazon.)
Now if you are familiar with GNU/Linux operating systems, you know that the default sound output is done by ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture). PulseAudio is also commonly used. The default digital USB output through ALSA is set to 16-bit 44.1/48KHz and that is true for PulseAudio as well.
So when I placed this device in my system (no special drivers are necessary when using this in a GNU/Linux environment), according to its LEDs, I was hearing only 44.1 or 48kHz sample rate, no matter how the original (FLAC) file was encoded (I have several 24-bit 192kHz FLAC files).
ALSA's sample rate, I understand, cannot be changed, but PulseAudio's can be. So I changed my sound output from ALSA to PulseAudio.
I found the following instructions for Linux on the web (they're what you'll find if you search):
Instructions to change PulseAudio sample rate in /etc/pulse/daemon.conf file
In the Terminal, type
< gksudo gedit /etc/pulse/daemon.conf >
Then look for the following line:
; default-sample-rate = 44100
and change it to look like this:
default-sample-rate = 48000
Note:- Make sure you have removed the " ; "
Save and exit the file
Now you will need to restart pulseaudio for that to take effect.
To restart pulseaudio use the following commands in the Terminal:
< pulseaudio -k > and
< pulseaudio -D >
Naturally, when I did all of that, it did NOT work. (I had even restarted the computer.) According to the Musical Fidelity converter's LED indicator lights, my media center computer was still outputting only 44.1 or 48kHz. So, rather than giving up, I tried making some other changes.
In the file there is also a second line which reads ;alternate-sample-rate = 48000 to which the instructions make no reference; at first I left it alone, then I changed that rate (only) to 44100 on my second try and then on my third try to 192000 (removing the " ; "). But these changes did NOT work either.
I "Googled" the problem but found no answer.
So I became "creative" myself.
What I did was this:
I followed the same (first two) initial instructions as given above:
--- In the Terminal, type
--- < gksudo gedit /etc/pulse/daemon.conf >
--- Then look for the following line:
--- ; default-sample-rate = 44100
but I then edited the file so that the appropriate section looks like this:
default-sample-format = s24le
default-sample-rate = 44100
alternate-sample-rate = 192000
; alternate-sample-rate = 176400
; alternate-sample-rate = 96000
; alternate-sample-rate = 88200
; alternate-sample-rate = 48000
; default-sample-channels = 2
; default-channel-map = front-left,front-right
(Notice that I ADDED four more lines (all with the " ; ") - there had previously been only two, one default and one alternate - and I changed the default sample format from s16le, the standard default, to s24le as well. Also please note - very important - there are three spaces before the words 'default' and the first 'alternate' - unfortunately Amazon does not allow this to be shown. In other words, all of the words 'default' and 'alternate' are placed directly underneath one another.)
Then I restarted the computer.
NOW --- everything works! My 24-bit 192kHz files play at 24/192 and my 16-bit 44.1kHz files play at that level.
This applies only to music played through the Audacious music player. If I play music with the VLC Media Player, the sound is outputted only at 48kHz (but I do not listen to music via the VLC player as it introduces gaps between the files; Audacious plays everything gapless). Movies are always at 48kHz - 48kHz is VLC's maximum so nothing playing in VLC is up-converted plus I left VLC's bit-rate setting at s16le - and the V-LINK passes full surround sound.
I have to tell you - I have had my home theater for twenty years now and there have been many changes in electronic equipment within it over the years. But this change, with the Musical Fidelity V-LINK 192 as well as the changes in the PulseAudio sound settings, has effected a MAJOR improvement in sound quality. I can hear it myself by merely comparing music files played through the VLC Media Player (48kHz) compared to those played through Audacious (set to up to 192kHz) and even sound played via the analog connections.
My son is a sound professional who lives on the West Coast and he will be coming to visit in late November. He has a better "ear" than I do and I am anxiously awaiting his visit so he can hear for himself what has been achieved. (I want his opinion on the whole thing!)
In the mean time, I am enjoying music played in this home theater more than I ever have in the twenty years I've had the theater and I believe that this V-LINK is the "key" to producing the superb sound I am hearing.
Obviously I give it the highest recommendation possible for me to give and I thank you for reading all of this.
Lawrence H. Bulk