Iron Fist Netflix Season One Review


The Marvel universe has been expanding, and you see a lot more characters being added. 

The Iron Fist is about a person Danny Rand who learns the Iron Fist from Kun Lun, and the first season is an origins one, with the thread of how he gets his power and how he came to be intertwined with a love interest in the form of the lovely Jessica Henwick, and a plot about how the evil Hand empire tries to take over his dad's company.

With Marvel fans keen to see superheroes who are less than perfect, who do not have the same superdoper powers at the highest level ala DC's Superman or even Spiderman, this man with a troubled past should perform well. And indeed there are quite a few fans of this serious made up of 13 episodes.

However, their choice of lead actor and actresses leaves a lot to be desired. A movie with a kungfu background should at least try to get some real action in, and unfortunately the fight scenes are underwhelming, as neither of them know kungfu. Anyone with a tiny bit of martial arts training will feel infuriated at the slow action, and the actors are so far away that the blows or weapons might as well be a mile away.

The protagonist is one weak, impulsive and easily manipulated person who is also a one trick pony. He also can't conjure up the Iron First without  considerable hesitation and effort, so you might as well be watching an old man trying to pee. 

This could have been a real actioner, and I know of at least half a dozen leads, even Hollywood actors who could have been better Danny Rands. If you include Asian / Hong Kong stars, even if you chose a B list one like Andy On from Taiwan, you would be far better off. 

Highlights include good acting from the supporting cast, Rosario Dawson, Tom Pelphrey and the ice queen Carrie-Anne Moss do well. But the lead Finn Jones was a poor choice. Jessica Henwick does well in the acting side but as she isn't a real pugilist, the role could have been offered to many other actress who could have extended their acting chops, while really chopping away with a blade.

This one is only for the die hard Marvel fans. 

Rotel RAP-1580 Amplified Processor Review






Rotel is a brand associated with good solid engineering, and is often seen in the company of good stereo equipment, and in some countries, is often marketed with B&W speakers.


Despite moving their manufacturing base to China a few years back, the quality has not suffered.


I have used many of their power amps, and these amplifiers give true power that matches their ratings and more, with plenty of drive and quality.


I have often wonder how it would sound if we could strap one of these power amplifiers onto a Rotel processor, and see how all that power can be directed by a decent 'brain'...


The last processor from Rotel was the well regarded RSP 1098, and many are still in service. So getting my hands on this model was a very inviting prospect. 




Some links :


From the Manufacturer Website:

http://www.rotel.com/product/rap-1580




And the technical blurb:


RAP-1580 is the ideal home theater solution for those who don’t have space for separate components, yet still desire uncompromising performance. It is an ultra-high-performance multichannel, integrated amplifier with surround processing that brings music and movies to life in a startlingly vivid way. Sporting the latest HDMI2.0a hardware and Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 processing, its amplifier section is built upon a powerful linear design with 7 x 100 watts per channel, all channels driven into 8 ohms, anchored by a massive Rotel-made toroidal transformer. While it may be compared to ordinary AVRs, it really is in a class by itself. Please hook it up to your best speakers in stereo and listen for yourself. RAP-1580 utilizes high performance Wolfson 24bit/192kHz DACs for all channels. These low noise, audiophile quality DACs are supported with premium-grade audio parts in circuits tuned by Rotel’s acoustic engineering team in the U.K. Inputs include 8 x HDMI video inputs with 2 x HDMI video outputs all supporting 4K video, with 3 of these inputs and both outputs enabled with HDCP 2.2. There is a seven-inch TFT display on the front panel to provide easy adjustments to all audio and video parameters without the need to turn on the television or video projection system. This makes it ideal for set-ups when the equipment rack is located separately from the video display. A full suite of integration features are also on board. Other features include a front panel HDMI input with 4K video pass-through, front panel iPod USB input with 2.1A charging and integrated APTX enabled Bluetooth technology for higher fidelity. The RAP-1580 also includes a PC-USB input supporting 24 bit / 192kHz audio, a MM phono stage input, CD input, XLR balanced input, Tuner input, AUX analog input and multichannel input. Rack mount ears are included. Rotel's RAP-1580 is simple to operate, powerful, flexible and refined. It is a state-of-the-art single chassis audio/video component that outperforms most separates. In an age of deflationary pricing, RAP-1580 lets you step customers UP to a higher quality experience. 

Features

  • 6 Wolfson WM8740 24-bit / 192KHz HiFi DACs 
  • Analog BYPASS mode for analog inputs passes audio directly to output w/ no DSP processing 
  • 10 band parametric PEQ
  • 7 rear panel and 1 front panel HDMI 2.0a inputs capable of 4K video pass-through
  • 2 HDMI 4K video outputs (one with ARC)
  • HDMI Bypass when in standby allowing the HDMI from source to TV when RSP in standby mode 
  • OSD setup and status on front TFT and HDMI out
  • PC-USB supporting 24-bit/192kHz audio
  • Front panel USB input supporting iOS devices with 2.1A charging
  • Phono stage input (MM)
  • CD, Tuner and Aux analog inputs
  • Multi Channel input
  • XLR Balanced input
  • Bluetooth with aptX 
  • 3 source independent 12V trigger outputs
  • Wired IR Remote input
  • RS-232 interface for automation system control
  • IP Network interface for automation system control
  • 2 IR Output connectors for IR pass-through
  • 4U cabinet • Finishes - Silver and Black
  • Dimensions (W x H x D) 431 x 192 x 470 mm , 17 x 7 5/9 x 18 1/2 in
  • Weight (net) 22.8 kg / 50.27 lbs 






I am glad that the dealer helped me to move this behemoth into place, because it's one heavy unit! This harkens to the days when amps were real heavyweights, and not the flyweight ones we see these days from many manufacturers. You can tell they did not compromise on the power amplifier section. 

There are plenty of inputs, and this is a HDMI 2.0a equipped amp, with true 4k support. It has sweet DACs, and will process Atmos and DTS X, so it's bang up to date on the sound formats.


However, when we say up to date, that's a relative term, because you will soon realise that the menu and user interface hails from a different era. I have the Marantz Reference Series SR 12 AVR, and this was the most musical AVR in 2004. The interface is very similar to that, and it makes you wonder what kind of video chip and CPU does it use. 




It's clunky, and sluggish, and even worse, buyers should be aware that there is no auto EQ built in. For those of you who have gotten used to or expect the same press button auto-setup that come with Japanese brand AVRs equipped with Audyssey, well, there is none. Nadda.. everything is manual. The test tone is also a rudimentary device.


So it will be a rather big culture shock if you have been using a modern AVR, but if you have just come into the AVR scene after being away for a decade, it might be less of a problem. 


You will definitely need a tape measure and a SPL meter for starters, then maybe a UMIK microphone and some additional software if you really want to bring out the best of this amp. 


Oh and yes, it's an "amplified processor", so there's no tuner built in. In addition, if you are looking for mod-cons like Airplay, Internet Radio, Streaming etc, you are out of luck. You do have Bluetooth though if that's any comfort. 


You get 3 HDMI inputs which are HDCP 2.2 compatible, so not all of them are. There's a USB port in the front for your iPod / iPhone, plus a type B USB port so you can hook up a computer and play digital music through the very impressive Wolfson DACs. 


Now let's see about that remote.. 



Wait, haven't I seen that somewhere before? Hey, it's a dead ringer for the Oppo remote! But no, you can't use it on your Oppo, and AFAIK, there's no learning function. 


Now it's not all doom and gloom, just move on to the real meat, and that's the power amp section.


With 40 000 uF of capacitance powering 7 channels, a toroidal transformer, and plenty of choice audiophile parts, you can see the pedigree of this amp. It can drive 4 ohm speakers, and Patrick Butler from B&W USA has measure it as 170W times 7 into 4ohms. Not shabby at all. Unlike more budget AVRs, the power does not sag and it can deliver the true specs. This is where the money has gone to.


However the flexibility of use leaves a lot to be desired. You cannot assign the different internal amps freely, and the various speaker configurations are very limited. 


In many other amps, you can use the internal amps to drive the ceiling speakers and add a power amp to drive the fronts and centre. Here, you add an external amp to drive those Atmos / DTS X channels and you use the internal amps or add more amps to drive the important front three channels. A real waste and reflects poor design. I suspect it is due to the limitations of the CPU.


Setting it up took a lot more effort, and it's a good thing that I have the gear and patience, so it's taken me more than a week before I can do some critical listening.


So with all the pros and cons, how does it sound?


I slipped in an old THX equipped classic, "Aliens" with the unforgettable Bill Paxton, who had so many memorable scenes and his famous "Game Over Man" line. Then I watched a recent Atmos equipped hit, "Deepwater Horizon". 


My setup is listed here:

http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2016/03/my-setup-march-2016.html

The front three are rather power hungry 4 ohm design speakers, and will provide a stern examination of any amplifier. Dynaudios have shut down my old THX - select AVRs, and I was indeed concerned if that may happen here. 


Happily the amp was up to the task. Even when I set the speakers to full range. The volume dial had to be turned up a lot more, but it was ticking along fine. It's not too hot, and certainly did not scald like the Onkyo amps.


In HT, there is not a lot of different between the Rotel and other major makes. But the sonic signature is decidedly neutral. Not as warm as say a Marantz, but less bright than an Onkyo or Pioneer amp. This is of course a generalisation, and you should do a careful audition. Steering is crisp, and if you close your eyes, you will not be too aware it's a Rotel and not some other AVR. 


This middle of the road style of sound will benefit it's partnership with almost any brand of speakers, and the unfatiguable depth, control and bass will help the amp keep a tight rein on the bass cones of most speakers.


Add a subwoofer or two and you will be able to fill most homes. 


As for music, you will enjoy the benefit of the Rotel sonic quality, and the amp shines in music as well as home theatre. Depending on your partnering equipment, you can consider using the built in DACs for lower budget gear. That will give the sound a nice step up. I decided that the sound from my Marantz NA 11 used as a DAC was still superior, but that piece of gear costs as much as this amp.


The Rotel can drive the Dynaudio Confidence 1 (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2016/02/dynaudio-confidence-c1-platinum-review.html) very nicely, and it allows the bass to come through, with a good soundstage. In comparison to my Marantz PM 11 stereo amp, it loses out, in detail, smoothness and depth, but again, that amp costs a lot more than this Rotel. 


In small homes, you will not miss a floorstander, and the Confidence 1 was singing confidently (pun intended), with a good bass line and rhythm. 


So where does it put this amp?


If it was priced at 2000 USD, you can run out and grab one. Even sans the processor section, as a seven channel power amp, it will be a pretty impressive unit. 


However, at 4000 USD SRP, that places it in an awkward position. That's around the selling price of my old SR 12 when it was being sold as a run out unit, and there were not as many takers because despite it's musical pedigree, 4000 clams is a lot of money. Most HT hobbyists will buy a regular AVR in the 1-2000 range, and add a power amplifier to increase dynamics and use the internal amps to power the ceiling channels.


However if you are in the market for a premium processor that has amplification built in, such as the Arcam, or perhaps a Marantz AV 8802 processor, you may want to take a look at this. Those who are willing to spend a bit more to enjoy better sound, and do not mind getting down to do their own calibration, or can afford to hire someone to do it for them, should give this amp an audition.


Pros:


Solid power amp section

Neutral sound makes partnering speakers easy

Cons:

Lousy interface
No auto-Eq
Price  






_________________________________________________________
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Euro 5 Diesel Fuel station locations in Malaysia



Caltex

Shell

BHP

PETRONAS
The list of Petronas stations currently offering Petronas Dynamic Diesel Euro 5 are as follows:
Johor
Lebuhraya Pasir Gudang
Malaysia-Singapore Second Link southbound
Jalan Mawai, Kota Tinggi
Federal Territory
Mutiara Damansara
Lebuhraya Sprint
Taman Melati
Lingkaran Tengah 2
MRR2 Kepoung-bound
Selangor
NKVE Damansara
Technology Park Malaysia 1
KM 0.7 Besraya northbound
KM 305 PLUS southbound
KM 12.3 Lebuhraya Persekutuan Klang-bound
NKVE Klang-bound
USJ 20
Lebuhraya SILK
FAS Federal Highway
Temasya Federal Highway
Pahang
R&R Bentong
Negeri Sembilan
Mambau

Mercedes W246 - using the turbo


Following on to my initial review:


It's taken me about 2 months to reach the 1000 miles mark, and I finally got to really drive it in anger over the weekend..

122 horses doesn't seem like much when you mention it like that. Even some Korean and Jap cars have more horsepower, but behind that is a small light pressure turbo and that makes all the difference...
This turbo kicks in early at about 1250 turns, so it does not take a big squeeze of the pedal to invite the whoosh to come on. Then it becomes a lot more frenetic.
The lag time is not too bad, although it's not instantaneous. If you are already moving on the highway at a decent clip, you will find overtaking an effortless affair. You will drop a few gears, down to D4 or D5 and the revs go up, and viola, the car is ahead.
If you are using the Eco mode, it is more reluctant to rev up, but if you step firmly, it will get the job done nicely too.
It's not an all or nothing like the traditional turbos, but you do get a nice shove in the back, and before you know it, you are going at 3 digit figures on the highway. The car behaves very well at such speeds, very stable and not floaty at all. However road noise does get in, yet, it's a lot less than the Jap car I used to drive. Tire roar is not so great, partly due to the insulation or insufficiency of it, and partly due to the tires themselves. Nevertheless when you spin up the turbo, it's great nice.
The engine sound is not going to be remembered as one of the best, and coming from a VTEC, which sings like a soprano when you get it going, but it's more meaty, and yet it's still less engaging at higher speeds spinning around 3-4000 rpm with the turbo than those naturally aspirated Honda engines, which thrive on revs.
Still, I look forward to my first Malaysian drive 👏

Logan Movie Review



Logan is a nice homage to fans of the Jackman Wolverine, a franchise which has been with us for more than a decade. It is also different enough from the regular X Men movies that one should approach it with an open mind.

It's a dystopian world that Logan now lives in, no shiny suits, his body is finally wearing down from age, and shows the signs of aging, wounds heal much slower and he just feels like an old man. Something that perhaps some of us and also fans who began following his movies can relate to.

He protects Prof X, and in the midst of his rather pathetic and miserable existence, a new mutant pops up, and it's not just any mutant, but one with the same powers he has, and is, (spoiler alert) - his daughter.

So they take a road trip together and look for a place called Eden, and through the trip, they need to be one step ahead of some bad people who want them dead, her captured and they also have to bond, with Prof X as the grandfather figure.

It's a lot darker, grittier, with a lot more swearing - can't believe the smut that comes out of Prof X mouth.. all this is meant to show that it's no normal X Men episode, and yet, there's a bit of Road Trip meet Father Bonding meets Midnight Run.

None of the it is unique in itself, but having a undertone of X Men in such a setting makes it special and Hugh Jackman gets to spread his acting chops, alongside more esteemed thespians like Patrick Stewart, and the new girl Dafne Keen is neither overawed or out of her league in this present company. She grimaces, cries and glares her way into our hearts and can hold her head high that she added a much needed extra dimension to the show. Dafne Keen is a potential shoo in for an Oscar, she adds depth, and you see a little Dakota Fanning in her. Thin and frail looking, she is a lion inside and when push comes to shove, she shoves back hard, and I can see good things in her future acting career.

You get nice vignettes from other classics, such as Johnny Cash songs, a cowboy movie Shane, and in the midst of this, yes you still get action and some humor. Not in the usual over the top style you may see in the typical superhero movie, and action fans may find it a little slow, with nary an explosion or blood letting for much of the middle chapter of the show.

Instead it's more of a slow burner, with the character development and the relationship between the three taking centre stage, alongside the displays of angst and hints of the demons within the two male leads.

The end is a tribute to Shane, to Hugh, and lays to rest a certain franchise with grace, dignity and the respect accorded to a superhero who has slashed, gnarled and healed his way into our hearts for almost 17 years.

Farewell Hugh Logan.

Recommended 4/5

Four days in Taipei



After you minus of arrival and departure days, you are essentially left with 2plus days.

I recently brought some friends over for the first time:
- day one shopping for the ladies and eating - TPE is a place to experience street life, shop for cute stuff, rather than serious retail therapy.
They have a lot of small shops for you to check out, see and try cute things. Tea is also nice, look for Taiwanese Longjin Tea. Good on the gut too.
For men, the hifi scene is nice if you like Taiwan stuff, like Usher. Otherwise foreign imports are cheaper back home. Plus electronics are 110V.
Likewise for Blu Rays, the Jia Jia shop has a wide selection, but amazon prices are better.


- day two
Hire a taxi driver, and get him to bring you out. A day out to Jiu Fen and Shi Fen (九份 & 十份)- a must for first timer

- day three
Explore town - the 故宫博物院 museum and the Taipei 101 are worth visiting. See the change of change at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial

- Day Four
Yamgmingshan 阳明山 is nice if you have time

Food : 
The night markets are very nice and bring back the noise, flavor, and atmosphere we miss.








Using Power amplifiers To Improve The Sound Of Your Home Theatre System

Power amplifiers have come to the forefront again as one means in which HT enthusiasts try to obtain better sound from their HT system.
Well the same points still apply:

- most speakers in a small domestic setting which is less than 5x8 sq. metres will work fine, especially if there is a subwoofer or two to take care of the more demanding bass frequencies 
- if you do have more demanding speakers - < 86db, 4 ohm designs, full range speakers etc
- if you have a much larger space
Then a power amp might help.


Now a power amp is first and foremost, muscle, so it helps to improve the dynamics of your system. 
So make sure it has at least 1.5 times the rated specs of your AVR, otherwise it's not going to be much help in improving dynamics
If you want sound quality as well as dynamics, then be prepared to spend more. 
There are many power amps which give better dynamics, but less will provide better sound. The processor section of your AVR will also determine the amount of improvement. 
IMHO, if it's better sound you are after, a better set of speakers will make a bigger difference.

As for the use of a stereo amp with HT bypass for this purpose, I think it's a good idea. You switch off the AVR, and switch to stereo playback with only the stereo amp driving the front pair of speakers. 

So take into consider why you really want a power amp:
- ego? I want to power my speakers with a massive amp, even if it's not needed
- personal belief - just like some will insist that antibiotics are needed for viral flu
- or the reasons given above to improve sound

Once that is out of the way, then decide based on budget, sonic preference and whether you need it for critical listening, or mainly for HT.


Get The Gringo - movie review

Another day with the Neural X, and DTS-X, and I took out a disc from the not too distant past: Get The Gringo A relatively simple plo...