Posts Tagged ‘First Impressions’

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JDS Labs Bass Boost CMoy v2.02 Impressions

March 4, 2010

Headphone amps are pretty much standard equipment in the setups of audiophiles everywhere. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of research on headphone amps and come across a number of different amps in all shapes and sizes but the one type of amp that piqued my interest was the “CMoy” amp. This type of amp, designed years ago by Chu Moy is an unconventional but powerful amp design that can be made by anyone with the right parts and a soldering iron. Well, I don’t consider myself one of the handiest of guys with a soldering iron at the moment so, instead of taking a chance and trying to build one myself, I decided to buy one that had been pre-made from a company called JDS Labs. After a few hours of listening, I’m impressed.

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Altec Lansing Backbeat Pro First Impressions

February 28, 2010

Since I got my RE0s and I started going to Head-Fi, I’ve been…experimenting with a number of different headphones/earphones and listening to the various sound signatures these devices create. In the short time since I received my RE0s, I’ve heard (of course) the RE0s the V-Moda Vibes, MEElectronics M9Ps, Koss KSC75s (with some light modifications) and one of the only things I haven’t yet heard is an IEM with a balanced armature speaker. Well, a few nights ago, I happened to be browsing eBay for some reason and in that time, I came across the Altec Lansing Backbeat Pro IEMs.

The auction I happened upon was open-box and on sale for about $16. I did some research on them and saw that the MSRP was about $100 but they were retailing at most online retailers I saw for about $30. Apparently, Altec Lansing has a number of IEMs on the market and many of them are simply rebranded versions of IEMs from Ultimate Ears with the Backbeat Pros being Altec Lansing’s version of the Super.fi 4 IEMs from Ultimate Ears. After doing a little more research into the sound quality, I said “what the heck” and ordered them. Shipping was strangely fast for USPS and I received them early Saturday and went about putting them through their paces after watching a movie (The Hurt Locker, great film by the way).

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MEElectronics M9P First Impressions

February 23, 2010

Early last week as I was browsing the forums at Head-Fi, I was alerted to a discount special by MEElectronics, a small California-based manufacturer of various gadgets such as DAPs and IEMs. Having read a few reviews on their more popular IEMs, the $40 M6 and the M9, which apparently uses the same dynamic driver and retails for about $20, I looked over their product lineup and settled on the slightly more expensive M9P, which comes with a built-in inline microphone which I figured I could use for making Skype calls with my iPod Touch. Yesterday (after a few shipping gaffes by USPS), I received my M9Ps and immediately gave them a listen straight out of the box.

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I Bought an iPod Touch

July 25, 2009

iPod Touch

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been somewhat of a Zune fanboy. I certainly had my reasons. My first MP3 player was a 20 GB iPod that I loved for about a year, until the hard drive was somehow corrupted and it stopped working. After several unsuccessful attempts to resurrect my poor iPod, I gave up and tossed it aside in favor of using other devices to satisfy my MP3 playing needs. For a while, I was getting by with just my PSP and whatever songs I could cram onto its memory stick but that just wasn’t enough. Two years ago, Microsoft released the Halo 3 Edition Zune and, in the midst of my Halo 3 fanboyism, I snapped it up without a second thought and instantly fell in love. The Zune isn’t the perfect MP3 player, but in my mind, it was incredibly underrated. But I digress…

Ever since the announcement of the iPhone and the subsequent announcement of the iPod Touch, I’ve been following the two gadgets closely but I must say that my interest in the iPhone is virtually nil, due to the fact that I am a Verizon customer and the iPhone is saddled with AT&T. This is a carrier I’ve heard naught but bad things about in regards to call quality and signal reception, two things that are rather important when it comes to phones. Perhaps when the iPhone makes the jump to Verizon’s vastly superior network (I’m a bit of a Verizon fanboy as well), then I’ll get excited about it.

So, the iPod Touch was the device I latched onto and grew increasingly fond of over the past few months and, after just as many months of quiet consideration, I bought one. After being on the fence for so long, what finally pushed me over the edge? Unsurprisingly, I finally caved after having a few opportunities to actually use the device and after using the iPod Touch, I was convinced. I had to have one.

You see, I’m the type of tech nerd that is constantly searching for “that device” and other tech nerds will know what I’m talking about. It’s that one, magical device that will do everything you want it to do, be it playing MP3s, videos, making phone calls, sending e-mail, internet browsing, whatever. You name it, that device does it. Arguably, the iPhone is the closest any device has ever come but I’ve already explained why I’m not gushing about that.

And there you have it. I’ve been using it over the past few days and I love it. Honestly, I really wanted to wait for the Zune HD to see what it would offer to counter the iPod Touch beyond what little we know such as the inclusion of the Nvidia Tegra chip and integrated HD radio but I’m quite the impatient fellow when it comes to things like this and Microsoft’s slow trickle of information related to the Zune HD has turned me off and yes, I fully understand that this is standard operating procedure for corporations such as these. So far, the iPod Touch is pretty much everything I was hoping it would be and provides one of the best experiences I’ve had with a portable device because it comes the closest to being “that device”.

I’m considering writing up a full review of the iPod Touch over the next couple days and maybe doing a little video review or something. We’ll see. For now, I’ll just say that I’m impressed with the iPod Touch and very happy with my purchase and leave it that.

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Race Pro Impressions

February 27, 2009

race-pro-banner

Two days ago, I picked up Race Pro, a game I’ve been highly anticipating since its announcement in the form of an Xbox 360 version of the PC racing sim, GTR 2. This title hails from Simbin, a developer that has been heralded as one of the best in the business of creating racing simulators. This is their very first console racing title and the racing simulation community has been abuzz, wondering if they can replicate the notoriously hardcore PC racing simulation experience on a console with little compromise. After investing a few hours in the game, I can say with ease, they’ve done a damn fine job.

As I popped the game into my Xbox 360, I decided to jump into the game by playing it for the very first time with Microsoft’s official wireless racing wheel, which I’d purchased a little over a year ago for Forza Motorsport 2. It seemed fitting to play this title with the wheel in hand. If you own Microsoft’s official Racing Wheel, you owe it to yourself to use it for this game. Racing with the wheel, coupled with the interior view, feels incredibly natural. It can be tough going from racing with the controller to the racing wheel but undoubtedly, it truly is the best and most immersive way to play.

Onto the driving physics, there’s no doubt in my mind that Simbin has created one of the most realistic racing simulators ever, thanks in large part to the physics engine. Even driving something as seemingly mundane as a Mini Cooper (a highly modified version of a Mini Cooper no less) can be very exciting and trust me when I say the Radical SR3 is not to be taken lightly. I have yet to get behind the wheel of the Dodge Viper SRT-10 and Audi R8 (two of my favorite supercars) as of yet, two of the unmodified cars included in the package, but I did get behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger Super Bee, an exclusive download included in copies of the game sold at GameStop (don’t think of that as an ad…). Race Pro does an excellent job of simulating the high weight and power this car possesses, which makes it characteristically difficult to stop at the end of a long straightaway.

Race Pro is one of the rare racers on the market today that is able to blend accessibility with, at times, crushingly realistic physics. The instant you enter the career mode, it defaults to the professional difficulty setting, in which all assists are turned off. For the sake of accessibility, it’s nice that these settings can be changed to your liking. They can all be adjusted in varying degrees, from low, medium to high.

So far, the AI drivers generally make for fairly competent opponents but, on occasion, they exhibit some…questionable behavior. For instance, as the Autodriver lead me out to the track in my Chevy Lacetti, a sequence that you can’t override as far as I can tell, it nicked a barrier while exiting the pits and compromised my aerodynamics. I was essentially forced to restart the session due to my bent front bumper. Hopefully, this isn’t a common occurrence.

I’ve played a couple of online races so far and they all have been free of any perceptible lag, even with as many as ten vehicles on the track at once (the game supports 12 online). Despite the fairly limited options compared to other racing titles on the 360 such as Forza Motorsport 2 and PGR 4, it is nice to have the ability to take to the track in a practice session to play around with vehicle setups before beginning the big race.

Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about Race Pro so far is its incredibly basic presentation. The menus aren’t presented with any sort of visual pizzazz or flair and hardly go beyond the call of duty.  This can be somewhat off-putting, even for me, a person who appreciates what lies under the hood far more than visual aesthetics (which is why the Corvette Z06 has captured my heart more so than the far more visually appealing Ferrari F430).

Overall, after investing just a few scant hours into the game so far, I’ve very much enjoyed Race Pro. It has delivered exactly what I expected to, an involving and incredibly realistic racing simulator. Race Pro may be a little rough around the edges especially concerning the interface and overall presentation but it delivers where it counts. Stay tuned for the full review, which should be posted very soon.

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Thoughts on Gran Turismo 5: Prologue

April 24, 2008

Against my better judgment, yesterday, I purchased a copy of Gran Turismo 5: Prologue. Ever since I saw the limited amount of content to be included in this “game” for such a steep price ($40 USD), I couldn’t shake the feeling that Polyphony Digital was merely delivering a glorified demo to milk hardcore Gran Turismo fans out of a quick buck before the real thing comes out, which some speculate won’t be until some time after 2009. Well, having played it for a few days prior, I’ve changed my tune…for the most part.

I guess before I truly begin to discuss my impressions of the game, I should explain how I define a “lack of content”. First off, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue features around 70 cars, from over a dozen manufacturers, including series newcomer, Ferrari. What’s surprising about this is the fact that GT5: Prologue includes more cars out of the box than many full games, including the likes of the recently released Need for Speed: Pro Street. Clearly, the number of cars couldn’t be the issue, could it? No. While 70 cars is only one tenth of the 700 featured in Gran Turismo 4 and an even smaller fraction of the rumored 900 cars set to be included in the full release of Gran Turismo 5, there’s still a nice variety of cars to choose from.

So, what could be the thing that troubles me most? Well that’s simple. While there is an abundance of cars available to the player, the track selection is meager at best, limited to six tracks and twelve layouts. No, not twelve layouts per track, just twelve layouts in total. This is where GT5: Prologue stumbles and falls to the ground. Before long, the track selection can grow stale and repetitive, seeing the same environments over and over again as you race around the same track for the umpteenth time during the career mode. This is where the sting comes in and your wallet begins to curse you for making this purchase.

But…(There’s always a “but”)

For the most part, what GT5: Prologue lacks in content, it makes up for in presentation and gameplay. Polyphony Digital knows how to draw the player in with an attractive set of front end menus and, most importantly, how to make cars look sexy. As you navigate the elegantly presented menu screen, the car you’re currently “in” sits behind it, amidst one of several eye-catching and gorgeous backdrops relevant to the location you most recently drove in. The camera slowly pans around the car, allowing you to see the entirety of is svelte figure and wonderfully proportioned lines.

To merely say this game looks good would be the understatement of the year. Gran Turismo 5 truly puts other racers to shame with its incredibly detailed and well lit car models (it’s amazing what good lighting can do to make a car look stunning), and detailed environments. While I’ve been a staunch supporter of the impressive graphics delivered in Project Gotham Racing 4, I can’t say it looks better than GT5: Prologue in any way other than the convincing weather effects. The in car view is also mighty impressive and my current favorite way to view the race, despite the loss of visual real estate.

All the great looking cars and environments wouldn’t save the game if the gameplay was lacking and I can happily say GT5: Prologue isn’t lacking in that respect. The numerous cars in the game have their own sort of “feel” to them in their handling and overall performance and all drive with an impressive realism about them, which feels great. A new feature, borrowed from the Forza series is the dynamic racing line, which changes color from blue to red to indicate you’re going too fast. Of course, for a most realistic and suitably challenging experience, this, as well as the other driving aids (variable traction/stability control) can be turned off prior to a race.

Overall, GT5: Prologue isn’t a bad game. I’m almost willing to say I overreacted a tiny bit. Almost. Once I came to grips with the fact that my only real issue was with what I perceived to be a high price tag (if the game was $20, I’d have no problem at all buying it), I was mostly fine with the lack of content because the gameplay made up for it. For me, a new fan of Gran Turismo 4 as of late, this is a pretty fun stopgap between the two full games that should, alongside its PS2 brother and my reigning favorite racing game, Forza 2, keep my simulation racing needs satisfied until Gran Turismo 5 finally decides to come out.

That or Forza 3, of course.

It goes without saying that diehard fans of the Gran Turismo series are going to add this to their ever growing collection regardless of what I say about it. For the rest of you who happen to be on the fence, take these words with a grain of salt. If you can, like I have, get over the initial shock over the lack of content, there’s a good game to be had here.

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DualShock 3 Impressions

April 10, 2008

For a long while, many North American Playstation 3 owners have gone without a simple novelty that some gamers take for granted or rarely seem to notice. This feature, introduced to the console gaming world by way of an external peripheral for the Nintendo 64 is vibration. Having lost a lawsuit with Immersion, the patent owners on the rumble technology used in past editions of DualShock controllers, Sony was forced to package the Sixaxis controller, sans rumble, with the Playstation 3.

Well, Sony has since kissed and made up with Immersion and has since released the DualShock 3 with both rumble functionality and motion sensors intact (contrary to earlier claims) to North American audiences. Fairly recently, I picked up my DualShock 3 from my local game retailer and gave it a whirl.

This, however, wasn’t my first encounter with the DualShock 3. Having used my friend’s controller, which was imported from Japan around the time the DualShock 3 was released there, I had a general idea of what to expect. Upon taking the controller out of the box and holding it for the first time, I recalled my initial joy in feeling the added weight, undoubtedly because of the new rumble motors prior to even using it. By comparison, the Sixaxis feels rather cheap due to its incredibly light frame. Aesthetically, it feels better clenched in my hands, which makes for a more comfortable gaming experience.

The main reason I purchased the new controller, like many others, was because of the newfound vibration functions and the DualShock 3 delivers in that respect. It sort of feels like the plastic surrounding the controller’s innards is a bit thinner than that of the DualShock 2 (without sacrificing quality), which actually makes for a better, more vibrant feeling rumble. The rumble feature feels great in the many Playstation 3 titles I’ve tested. So far, I’ve taken Resistance: Fall of Man, the Devil May Cry 4 Demo and the Japanese Gran Turismo 5: Prologue demo through the paces and so far, each of these titles uses the rumble functions to great effect. Of the aforementioned titles, the Gran Turismo 5: Prologue demo was the most impressive.

Overall, the DualShock 3 was impressive. There isn’t much to say about it aside from the new vibration functionality because, in terms of design, it’s practically identical to the Sixaxis. Is it worth the five dollar premium over the cost over the price of the Sixaxis? Yes. I must say I’m disappointed Sony couldn’t work out their differences with Immersion sooner and package this controller with the Playstation 3 in the first place and being was forced to pay extra for a feature I’ve already had with both the Xbox 360 and Wii does sting a bit. Despite that, I feel the DualShock 3 is a worthwhile investment for upcoming titles such as Metal Gear Solid 4, which should make great use of the controller’s functions, considering the franchise’s history.

If you’re in the market for a new controller or just can’t do without a little rumble in your games, the DualShock 3 ultimately makes for a worthy buy.