Monday, 22 August 2016

Audio quality Vinyl, CD and MP3.

I can remember back in 1985, we synchronised the playback of "Dire Straits" - "Brothers in Arms", the LP, with the 'DDD' (Digitally recorded, Digitally mastered, and Digitally stored) CD. Then someone else hid the selector and played back, through a JVC amp and some Mission speakers, both sources. At the time I got them mixed up. I thought they sounded equally as good as one another. I honestly could not tell the difference, they both sounded great. It was the Amp and the speakers in that set up that took the source and made something listenable.

So with that in mind the sound quality debate turns it's head to MP3. We'll call it a draw between Vinyl and CD as my opinion hasn't changed, (although I much prefer CD because I always hated the pops and inevitable scratches Vinyl produced. Progress made with CD's, for me at least, was progress).

At this point it's worth considering something important. A CD is a 750mb data source. Streams of 0's and 1's produce a wave form, sent to a sound processor, which turns it into an analogue speaker signal. A normal CD of 750mb can support about an hour 20 minutes of digital music. This is recorded in the .CDA format.

MP3's by comparison are, in principle, exactly the same. Although they take a fraction of a size of a CD. In 1995 I can remember working in Tandy, and the first 1Gb hard disk drive came out around 1997. This 1024Mb memory would only have been enough for 1 complete uncompressed CD, including the operating system of the machine, you'd have done well to get much more on it. Hence the need for MP3.

Back in 2002, I converted circa 350 CD's into MP3 format, as I had a 60Gb Hard disk and as I could feasibly do it, it had to be done. Prior to this on an old set of Senheiser headphones, I tested the various bit rate's I could rip music at. 128kbps would take about 50-70Mb per album. 320kbps about 150Mb. At the time I convinced myself 128kbps was the best. And so during the following 2 weeks I sat and I fed my Evesham computer each CD, one, by one, by one.

Of course now, headphone and speaker technology has moved on, and well.... goddamn it, 128kpbs produces a shrill distinctive high hat/cymbal distortion that just vanishes totally at 320Kbps. In visual terms this is the same as over compressing a .JPG image and seeing blocks of image.
Iomoio, for the most part supply MP3's in 320Kbps, which sound significantly better on any system. This discovery has resulted in me re-downloading all of my Pink Floyd collection (amongst others) again, it really is that much better. A lot of my collection is still in the 128Kpbs (from 14 years ago) and for the most part, it's ok, especially in the car. But 320 and CD... for me are equally as good as each other, my ears simply aren't good enough, even with my V-Moda crossfade LP's to tell the difference back to back. And being able to blast them from Google Music, to any hifi in the house, at 320kbps is perfect.

The issue of sound quality left me with the discovery of 320Kbps MP3*, for me now the focus is on the hifi. Obviously the only way to listen to music is via a system that incorporates an active Sub-Woofer and at least 5.1.... No? Surely everyone now uses a Sub-woofer?

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(* If you're a Chromecast user, make sure your Chromecast device settings are enabled for 'High Dynamic Range', otherwise the bit rate is dropped down).

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

GSM Arena

Sometimes, websites fail to give you a proper idea of the specifications of a phone.

For these situations, use GSM arena.


Corking 30 day sim only deal from TalkMobile.

Just transferred both my kids onto this 30 day sim only deal, which trumps my previous favourite sim only deal from Virgin.

Not sure how long this deal will be on, but this sim only deal could be all anyone needs for a very very long time to come.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Bands and Bargains.

Lots of manufacturers trade handsets to the UK. This is great, more competition means lower prices for us consumers. But I've resisted buying many a good handset because the frequencies for usage don't marry up with UK frequencies.

This link here shows frequencies licensed to be used in the UK, from GSM arena
http://www.gsmarena.com/network-bands.php3?sCountry=United+Kingdom



If the phone you're looking at buying doesn't include these, it probably wasn't designed to work in the UK. If it has these frequencies, it has amazing specs, and its a great price, buy with confidence!

Here are some places you may not have thought to look, for superb specced reasonably priced cutting edge technology.

banggood.com    Link to their european warehouse deals. Shipped quicker than from Hong Kong, some staggering high spec Android hardware from China.

Motorola shop  - Motorola have made a tremendous come back, buying direct can mean special offers and unique personalisation offers.

Xiaomi (now Mi) - These handsets can be bought from Banggood and Amazon, be sure to check the frequencies though.

One plus - Just Special. See for yourself.

Honor and Huawei - Sign up to their newsletter for exclusive savings, again, pay special attention to the frequencies.

Wileyfox - Can be bought from both Amazon and Argos, some really great spec UK hardware.


Data, and Data whats the difference? 4G and 3G

My network charges me for data and my phone stores data, and I have 2gb from my network and I get 16gb on my phone, what? Many people I speak to don't even know what their data allowance from their network is or what it actually means.
Some people find the whole concept of data perplexing, I know because I have nonsensical conversations with people who's brain I can sense is suffering a meltdown when it comes up.

But the same word (data) has been used by both phone manufacturers and networks to describe two totally different things. Even though somehow, they're sort of the same.

It's easier to think of Data like this.
  • Disposable data - Incoming data from the network (or over WiFi), watching a video (but not keeping it) reading a news article, searching the internet, finding pokemon or playing a multiplayer online game. 
  • Permanent data - The photos you keep on your phone, the videos, your emails, your account details and apps. This is all data that the phone needs to store... potentially forever. 

Your network provides disposable data but, if it's an app, or a photo through a web browser you decide to keep, becomes your phones permanent data.

Hopefully you're still with me.

Your network provides disposable data, and whether its 4g or 3g it's still the same, 4G is just quicker, much much quicker, and it can transform how a handset behaves, if you're lucky enough to live in a city or somewhere with coverage. However, 3g isn't as bad as people tend to think, because it comprises of HSDPA and HSDPA + (plus) which can be damn fast, and coverage is far more readily available. (August 2016). For people lucky enough to live in beautiful countryside, 3G is probably the wiser choice. Why? A couple of reasons,
1) You probably won't get 4G 90% of the time,
2) Using less (disposable) data means lower running costs.

If you'd like to get an idea of how much data you use with your mobile phone. Download
"My Data Manager" and find out from your network when your billing cycle runs from. This app will sit in the background and monitor how much data your phone receives from the network and warn you if you're using too much.

My Data Manager for Android. 
My Data Manager for iOS.

This app on android, will sit in your notification bar and show you how much (network) data you have left in your current billing cycle. Like in the picture.

Bear in mind if you switch from a 3G plan to a 4G plan you're likely to use a lot more data. You phone will work quicker, and content will load faster, meaning even if you only watch the first 10-20 seconds of a video, the whole lot may have been transferred (albeit temporarily) to your handset. When you click the back button, the network won't care whether you watched it or not, but they will know what data they transferred to your handset.

Wifi also provides your phone with a supply of disposable data, but this has nothing to do with the network, so don't be mislead when they include Wifi Data allowance, just hook up to McDonalds, or Costa when you're out and you get free data.

Permanent data, or the storage capacity of the phone, is much easier to understand. Basically this is the total amount of data your handset can store. Photo's you keep, movie clips you take with your camera, names and numbers, games and apps. 16Gb should be the minimum you look for nowadays. Android phones tend to have slots to add additional micro SD storage space, but all phones will need you to tell them to actually use this space in addition to the onboard storage (the space the phone comes with).
So you'll need to ensure your camera stores videos and photos to the memory card (It'll be in settings for the camera).
You may also benefit from an app like App2SD, which can transfer apps onto your memory card. But bear in mind, if you take the memory card out, those apps won't work. Perhaps obviously, App2SD isn't available for iOS, because you can't add additional MicroSD cards to Apple phones, because they don't include slots for them.

Has this helped? Is there an easier way to explain data? Any more questions I've not answered, ask below in the comments section.


Additional info. A lot of the 'disposable data' that is sent to your phone becomes sort of permanent as many apps will 'cache' this data; store it for quicker access in future. This cache can become quite substantial and take up large amounts of permanent storage on your phone. An easy way to rid yourself of the cached data is with an app such as AVG cleaner.  This app is also available for iOS, because it too will cache data in the same way.




Sunday, 7 August 2016

Switching to Android.

I'm getting a lot of requests for Mobile phone buying advice, handsets and mobile deals.

To be honest, there has never been a better time to buy a mobile with cheap running costs, but people who want big savings, need to get used to a new way of funding them.

Truth be known, there has been very little innovation in the past few years with mobile phones. Very few innovations that most of us would consider 'must have's anyway.
3D touch, fingerprint sensors, flexible or curved screens are far less significant than a great camera, good battery life, fast processor and a great screen.

Speaking of screens, most cheap phones now have screens with better resolution than top notch handsets. This is where most phones get their wow factor.

Although I will make some recommendations, I'd like to help people find their own deals (and share them with me). Both sim cards and Phones.

I'd urge everyone to look for a great spec handset for a low price (I'll explain how in a moment) and Great sim only deals on 30 day rolling contracts.

Phones fit into 4 categories.

  • Budget - Cheap and cheerful Sub £100
  • Entry - £100 to £200
  • Mid range £200 to £400
  • Flagship £400 plus


For me, the most exciting market is the Entry, this is where some real staggering bargains can be found, and not necessarily towards the £200 mark either (see below). This category includes some real flagship killers for peanuts.

Firstly the handset specs you should be considering.

Battery life. 

  • 2000 Mah should be a minimum for a phone with a screen of 4.5 inches or higher. 3000 Mah is desirable. 

Screen.

  • Screen 1280x720 is good. 1920X1280 amazing
Memory
  • 16Gb as a minimum, Many entry level handsets have 8gb (or 8000mb) which can be a pain to manage as Android will steal a couple of Gb. 

Processor 
  • Quad core as a minimum, Octacore even better. Dual core, best avoided. Don't fret too much about the speed, unless you're going to be playing racing games. 

You may wonder, processor, memory, why should I be bothered? Hassle free life is the answer, less time managing space on your device, and less lag means a smoother button pushing experience, less frustration when switching from application to application.


Handset shelf life is tremendously quick, so what's a great deal today, may not be the best choice in a few weeks.

At the moment, here are my top choices. 

Handset. 
Lenovo K5 from Argos £129.99 Look at the specs and reviews. Incredible value for money.

Sim deal 
Virgin 2GB for £10 2500 minutes, unlimited texts 2Gb of Data on EE 3G on a 30 day rolling contract.

So add this up.

If you compare this to a 24 month deal, the total running cost is £370 (10x24)+(130) or, £15.40 a month equivalent.

Find a better spec handset with a more generous allowance you will not, on any network, through any retailer!

However there are arguably better handsets available for different amounts, and arguably better sim deals. If you find something you like, share below and I'll try and give you my honest opinion.

Happy hunting!!




Simple laptop buying advice.