Bat makers stepping to the merchandising plate

Baseball and softball bat manufacturers are stepping up marketing strategies for their products. With retailers displaying high-priced bats alongside cheap ones, the sale of high-end products plummets. Manufacturers believe that retailers should display baseball bats in such a way that consumers are made aware not only of the price difference between bats but also the advantages and the technological innovations that went into the production of expensive bats. To this end some manufacturers such as DeMarini are offering their merchandise in a display rack designed to hold their products.

Price points on baseball and mens softball bats may be reaching for the upper deck, but when it comes to merchandising these high-tech products, the industry is still in the dugout.

Many retailers have $200 bats buried on the same racks as $50 varieties. Not only are these bats obscured by lower-priced items, but there’s nothing to explain to consumers why their price tags are so high. Without something to spell out the technology and performance they bring to the diamond, it’s almost a wonder that these bats sell at all.

“I think that retailers can do a better job of fixturing that would really help the consumer to understand the technological advances, but I also think manufacturers need to do a much better job as well,” said Bill Clark, vice president of sales at Hillerich & Bradsby. Clark said Louisville Slugger is developing an in-store system for displaying high-end bats, which may be ready for the 1999 season.

Manufacturers are also hoping retailers will separate items by brand names and avoid the salad bowl approach, as is common at many retailers when it comes to the bat racks.

“You go into a full-line store and its goofy. They’ll stick a $15 bat right there with a $300 bat,” said Bruce Coombe, VP of marketing at REDA, the exclusive distributor for DeMarini. “All the bat manufacturers want their own identity and little shops so to speak.”

To that end, DeMarini introduced a point of sale display at Super Show, a rack which holds DeMarini bats on the front and accessories on the back.

Last year Easton supported the launch of its Red Line bats with an in-store display, garnering an industry merchandising award. The display, which the company says will be used at 1,000 retail locations this year, features a tachometer to signify the strength of the scandium alloy used in the bats.

“There is education with all of it,” said Mike Zlaket, VP baseball/softball at Easton. “It’s a lot more than pulling the bats away from the others. It’s about telling a story, too.”

Volume sport shoes sales lag

Manufacturers in the volume business said their sport shoes right now are a tougher sell, as buyers capitalize on the availability of brand name athletic footwear at closeout prices.

Manufacturers of unbranded athletic footwear witnessed a slight softening of their business at the National Footwear Exposition held here last week, blaming a decline in sport shoe orders on alleged recent dumping of the athletic footwear industry’s top brands.

But last week, in general, was not a week for most sport shoe manufacturers; most were not in town despite three footwear trade shows held here by National Shoe Fair of America and the Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY).

Any business activity that did take place, did so in those isolated places where only a few of the industry’s companies exhibited.

Companies that did exhibit– generally manufacturers of unbranded, volume athletic footwear –used their fashion and casual footwear business to fall back on, in the recent wake of sluggish athletic footwear business.

Maria Pan, vice-president of Handsome Enterprises Inc., here, reported a softening in orders of the company’s aerobic and basketball shoes for women with bunions, but noted that orders for its basic stock are still strong, as is the company’s fashion/casual business.

Handsome Enterprises, Inc., markets Pro-Joggs, an athletics line, as well as Class Act, a fashion/casual line.

Both Pan and Danny Lin, president of Handsome, attributed the recent weakening of the company’s athletics line to the industry’s top athletic footwear companies, which they suggest are trying to be all things to all people.

“Athletic footwear companies now think they have to be fashion footwear companies as well, introducing styles in all kinds of colors that eventually do not sell,’ Lin said.

Pan said that, as a result, company officials are having to hear buyers tell them, “Why should I buy your plantar fasciitis slippers, when I can pay a cheaper price for a Converse or an Adidas during close-outs?’

John R. Earls, vice-president of Desa Shoe Co., Belcamp, Md., testified to the same, saying his company’s advantage had always been the manufacture of athletic footwear that is similar to top brand names, but lower in price. Desa markets the North Star line of athletic footwear.

“All this dumping gives less popular brands less market share,’ Earls said. “And this is not just in the area of aerobics.’

Though he, too, suggested the athletic footwear industry may suffer from too much diversification, Earls blamed his situation on high inventory levels he claims now are being held by branded athletic footwear companies.

He said he is thankful right now that athletic footwear is not a big part of his business. “It’s not a big part, but a good part,’ he said, reporting that athletic footwear accounts for 25 percent of Desa’s business. “Pure athletic footwear companies have to be concerned.’

Handsome has been able to offset its decline in athletic footwear orders and increase its overall footwear production with the recent introduction of a new casual line for spring, designed to appeal primarily to the junior market. Like the company’s athletic line, the new casual line is being sold to department stores and independent retailers.

Constructed of leather or manmade materials all purchased in Taiwan, the new line wholesales from $6 to $16.

Production costs have, however, gone up for the company– a result of a 10 percent devaluation of the dollar, which Pan said has proved somewhat expensive for the company. Rather than increasing shoe prices, Pan said the company has instead absorbed rising production costs.

“We’ve tried to maintain the price points of our shoes,’ Pan said, adding the company has also managed to reduce its delivery time from 120 to 60 days. “It has given us more turnover ability, should a particular style prove to be hot.’

The athletic footwear business for British Knights, a division of Jack Schwartz Shoes, Inc., here, was not so disappointing, though marketing director Larry Schwartz said he “thought the show was going to be a dud.’

Schwartz said he was surprised by the amount of traffic, speculating the show had gone well for British Knights because other athletic footwear companies had opted not to exhibit at the National Footwear Exposition. “As long as this show is here, we will be,’ Schwartz said, “. . . if only because the other companies haven’t been showing here.’

Though the shows were also attended by L.A. Gear, Los Angeles, which markets its product as fashion athletic footwear, and Zebra, Inc., Itasca, Ill., which is attempting to do somewhat the same, British Knights was essentially the only athletic footwear company exhibiting, which also strongly positions itself as a maker of performance shoes.

L.A. Gear and Zebra, in fact, showed at the FFANY show, which typically caters to buyers of high fashion shoes for women. Both companies reported a favorable attendance by retailers at the show.

Reporting that L.A. Gear has a large department store base, president Robert Greenberg said buyers were attending the show with a fair amount of open-to-buy left for spring merchandise.

The company, Greenberg reported, is still doing strong in aerobics, while sales are picking up in the areas of basketball and cycling. Though L.A. Gear has introduced a walking shoe, Greenberg remained speculative about the category.

“I have no doubt that walking exists. Whether customers will buy a shoe strictly for walking, rather than an aerobic or running shoe, is another story,’ Greenberg said. “I don’t see anyone booming in the category at this point.’

Stewart A. Cohen, vice-president of merchandising for Cherokee Shoes, Hollywood, Calif., however, reported strength in the walking shoe category. Cherokee, which also showed at FFANY, included the walking shoe and a popular-selling cvo among its fashion line.

Cohen reported that Cherokee has already sold 60,000 pairs of its walking shoes for spring, crediting its look and lower price points for its success. The shoe has been designed in a high-top style, which Cohen said seems to appeal to a younger market, as well as a low-top style. The arch support running shoes, which are suggested to retail for $40 to $45, are available in a variety of colors, including fashion colors like red, black, pink and turquoise.

Cherokee is also doing well with a leather cvo, Cohen reported, saying the shoe is “exploding in the marketplace. “Retailing for roughly $35 and available in a variety of colors, the shoe is being sold in large numbers to department stores and independent retailers, he said.

Cohen said he believed that overall, retailers were coming to the show with quite a bit of open-to-buy left, saying buyers seemed most interested in second and third quarter merchandise.

Still working to establish Zebra as a new brand of fashion athletic footwear, Ed Lewis, marketing director of Zebra, Inc., said he was pleased with traffic at the show, reporting that most of his time had been spent writing orders with department stores, as well as working with the company’s distributors.

Though designed with an athletic flair, Lewis called the Zebra shoes “branded fashion casuals,’ saying it is his intention to “sell to shoe people, not sporting goods people.’

Lewis claimed he is able to compete with more popular brand names in athletic footwear by giving retailers a better markup of product. Pointing out that Zebra is a division of Sunkyong International, Inc., a major Korean manufacturer of branded athletic footwear, Lewis said the company is giving buyers the equivalent in quality, but at a better price. “The quality of our product is equivalent,’ Lewis said. “We can compete with their image by giving them a better markup.’

Lewis said the company will sell performance in the area of walking, reporting the company will soon introduce its version of a walking shoe at an approximate $50 price point. “It is where we are putting most of our effort right now,’ Lewis said. “The shoe will have performance features that will appeal to the older customer. Our advertising and marketing strategy will also have to change to sell the shoe.

“Walking will maybe bring some stimulus to the footwear industry,’ Lewis said.

Falling between the cracks that divide fashion and athletics is Cerastes, Inc., Portland, Ore., said partner Jay Edwards.

Meth Myths

You get more done on meth. You might stay awake longer and be more active, but the tendency to become obsessively focused on minor details–as well as to crash and sleep for days after coming down–means that initial energy surge typically backfires.

Most moth comes from small-time “cooks.” Actually, the majority of methamphetamines come from large “super-labs.” Small kitchen labs using household ingredients such as drain cleaner, battery acid, and antifreeze account for about 20 percent of the meth production in the United States. The amount has declined since a 2006 law required cold medicines containing one of the required ingredients, pseudoephedrine, be taken off store shelves and kept behind pharmacy counters.

Meth has no long-term health consequences ( read how long does meth stay in your system ). Recent studies show that continued use can lead to internal bleeding, congestive heart failure, and a higher risk of Parkinson-like movement disorders later in life–the kind that cause uncontrollable body tics and twitches.

Rehab works only if you want to quit. Due to the compulsion that users develop for meth, most people don’t get clean until they’re forced to. If you have a friend who doesn’t realize he or she has a problem, getting help from parents or teachers to have the person admitted to a recovery program is the best thing to do. Addicts are more likely to agree to continued treatment once the drug is out of their systems.

Here is an exclusive Invicta watches review of the Pro Diver collection

There are numerous brands in the industry that manufacture watches. If you are willing to spend extravagantly to buy a watch then you can go for ultra luxury watches that cost a five figure price. But if you are looking to buy a world class watch within a thousand dollar range then Invicta automatic watches review is something you definitely have to go through. Invicta is a top class brand that has a wide variety of watches in the market. In this article, you will read the reviews of the Pro Diver collection as an example of the company’s versatility.

 More Details of a recent launch

A yellow-gold, silver and a striking blue is one the stunning combinations showcased in their latest release of the Pro diver collection. It has a classic look of stainless steel parts and a solid feel without being gaudy. You should consider buying this particular timepiece of the high class standard without having to make several mortgage payments. The configuration inside is a hard crystal with a gold plated crown. Imagine being able to dive to a depth of twice the length of a football field. Yep, that kind of Olympic level diving is possible with this watch.

So, here’s one of the best things Invicta russian diver watch review has to offer. It requires no battery replacement, ever. It is an automatic watch (for real!) powered by movement. Wearing it over a period of twenty four hours is enough to keep it running precisely. If you find it a little too big for your average sized wrist, there are extra links that can be removed by a professional. As far as the talks regarding quality goes, it is certified as a top notch, expensive (mid-level) watch. It is manufactured to have a Japanese twenty one level Miyota movement.

In case you want to make changes using the screw-in crown, remember that it is screwed in extremely tight to avert water pressure on the inside. Try using your hand, or better take it to a professional. But don’t ever use pliers or any other instrument to handle the screw-in crown. It might chip off the gold plating from your expensive diver watch. There is also the danger that you might not be able to replicate the tightness and perfect seating as the manufacturer. Seeking the help of a professional is the best idea.

The watch will light up in the dark. Now, this is like every child’s dream come true. The hour, minute, seconds hand along with other time denotations will glow in the dark (It comes in very handy when you are running away from the dead).

Known as the mid-high expensive watches, it is designed so that elegance can be afforded by every accomplished human being (Different styles are available for both men and women). There are many websites on the internet or several stores that legitimately sell Invicta watches. You can highly rely on the Invicta watches review of different people on those websites. You can also visit the exclusive Invicta stores or website online.

Don’t use foil in the microwave – and other household myths

Many widely held beliefs about home safety and savvy are more fiction than fact.

Myth: Standing in front of the microwave oven while it’s on will give you cancer.

Fact: Federal regulations have established strict limits on the amount of energy that can be emitted by microwave ovens. These standards are much lower than the level at which any adverse health effects are believed possible. Even if an oven leaks, you may feel some warmth but you will not be at risk for cancer, says Sharon Franke, the Institute’s expert on microwave cookery and food appliances. Unlike X rays and ultraviolet light, microwave energy is non ionizing, meaning it can’t damage genes or cells.

Myth: When wrapping foods in aluminum foil, the shiny side of the foil should face outside.

Fact: It doesn’t matter which side of the foil you use when you’re cooking, freezing, or storing foods. While there’s a slight difference in how much light is reflected off the two sides, it has no effect on the food you’re covering, says Franke. So why is one side shinier? It has to do with the manufacturing process.

Myth: Using antiperspirants containing aluminum and cooking with aluminum pots can give you Alzheimer’s disease.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence that aluminum from pots, pans or antiperspirants causes Alzheimer’s, explains Sandra Kuzmich, Ph.D., director of the Institute’s Chemistry Department. While some studies have found increased concentrations of aluminum in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients, it is not known if this is a cause or effect of the disease, or whether there is any relationship at all. Because aluminum is found in the air, water, and soil, it’s present in most foods we eat. It’s also found in many over-the-counter medicines, including antacids and buffered aspirin: According to the Food and Drug Administration, the amount you absorb through everyday items is extremely small–and safe.

Myth: Toothpaste is a good substitute for silver polish.

Fact: Your regular toothpaste (not the gel kind) can be used in a pinch, says Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Care Department. But because it’s more abrasive than silver polish, repeated use can leave fine scratches. For on-the-spot emergency polishing, rub a little on with your finger, then rinse well with hot water and dry with a soft, clean cloth.

Myth: Never put aluminum foil in the microwave.

Fact: “Older ovens–those made twenty or more years ago–couldn’t handle foil because of a problem with energy reflection and would become damaged,” says Franke. “But you can use foil safely in newer models.” For instance, small pieces can be folded around corners of foods like brownies and lasagna to keep them from overcooking. Note that you should keep the aluminum foil smooth and at least one inch away from oven walls; pieces that have jagged edges may cause some sparking. Other metals, such as wire twist ties, should never be used in the microwave.

Myth: Rechargeable batteries will last forever.

Fact: There is a limit to how many times you can replenish rechargeable batteries because the chemicals inside will eventually wear out, explains John M. Sun, director of the Institute’s Engineering Department. The life expectancy of nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries, for instance, is determined by an estimated number of charge cycles. So each time you remove your cordless phone and put it back on the base, you’re using up one of the cycles. To make the battery last longer, don’t put the phone back on the base after each call. Instead, wait until the end of the day.

Myth: Don’t use plastic wrap in the microwave; toxic substances in the plastic can get into your food.

Fact: Under very high temperatures (300 [degrees] F. or higher), plastic wrap can melt into food. However, it’s highly unlikely that food will ever get that hot unless you’re cooking–not just reheating–something that contains large amounts of sugar or fat, says Franke. Even if you do eat heated plastic particles, experts say there’s no scientific evidence they will make you ill. But to be extra safe, advises Franke, put food in a microwave safe bowl, then cover with plastic wrap.

Myth: Moths eat only wool, so you don’t have to worry about other fabrics.

Fact: First, it isn’t the adult moth hut the larva or worm that hatches from the moth egg that causes the damage to your clothes, explains Associate Textiles Director Nancy V07ar. Second, larvae will attack even synthetic fabrics to get to food stains. So make sure all your clothes are clean before you store them.

Myth: If a stain has ruined a garment, just dye it a different color.

Fact: “Before you dye your clothes you must remove the stain,” says Vozar. If you don’t, the dye will color the stained area differently from the rest of the fabric and you’ll still see the spot.

Know your fire extinguisher

The smoke detector starts blaring, and as you rush to find your children, you spot the blaze. It’s small; maybe you can just put it out. Quick: Do you have a fire extinguisher? Where is it? Do you know how to work it? If you can’t find and use it in moments, the fire is likely to get out of control.

More than 70 percent of all Americans own a fire extinguisher, but only a fraction actually know how to use it. “Our message is advance planning, so you’re not trapped making a quick decision under stress,” says Meri-K Appy, assistant vice president for public education at the National Fire Protection Association. Her instructions, below, could save your life.

Q: How do I decide when to use a fire extinguisher or when to call the fire department?

A: The only time you should try fighting a blaze is when you have a clear exit behind you and the fire is small, self-contained, and not spreading rapidly. I advise people not to attempt it if the fire is bigger than a wastebasket, but the truth is you should never fight a fire if you’re not confident. I remember hearing a firefighter from Omaha suggest that you take the hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck test. If it’s standing up, just get out.

Q: If I put out a fire with my extinguisher, should I still call the fire department?

A: Always. Fires can reignite as long as three elements are still present-fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. People often won’t even notice that there are still embers smoldering, but with sufficient oxygen, fires can rekindle.

Q: What do I need to know before buying a fire extinguisher?

A: First, make sure the brand you’re buying has been tested and is labeled by an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. After that, we recommend you buy the largest unit you can lift and handle.

Q: I’ve noticed combination letter-number designations on fire extinguisher labels. What do they mean?

A: The letters tell you what kind of fire the extinguisher is intended to fight. We recommend a combination extinguisher, with an ABC classification. The numbers you see, which appear in front of the letters, indicate what size fire the unit is intended to extinguish. The higher the number, the larger the fire it can handle. No sizes are assigned to C extinguishers; A models range from one to 40, and B from one to 640. For home use, your best bet is a unit labeled 2A:10B:C. [Cost around$30.] This is a good size because it’s big enough to hold a reasonable amount of extinguishing agent.

Q: What’s the best place to keep it?

A: In plain view, next to an exit. The last thing you want to do is somehow get yourself caught in a position where there’s a fire between you and an exit. We recommend that you keep an extinguisher on each level of your house. You should not have to walk more than 40 feet to reach a working unit.

Q: Is there an instance in which a fire extinguisher isn’t best choice for fighting a fire?

A: You can use an extinguisher to put out a grease fire on the stove, but it isn’t the best choice because the pressure from the extinguisher can cause the grease to splatter. Instead, put on an oven mitt, carefully slide a cover over the pan, and turn off the burner. Then hold the lid tightly in place until the pan has cooled completely. Don’t peek inside; that’ll let in more oxygen and can reignite your grease.

Never throw water on a grease fire. Don’t pour baking soda on it either; in the urgency of the moment, you might grab baking powder instead, which can cause the fire to spread.

Q: How long is a fire extinguisher good for?

A: Some models have a color-coded dial pressure gauge that tells you whether you’re in the fully charged range. Others have a pressure-check pin; if the pin doesn’t pop out when you push it in, the pressure inside is too low. Some units, especially small ones, are designed to be thrown away after use, or when the pressure drops too low. But if the unit is rechargeable, bring it to a service center  or to your local fire department if it offers servicing. Be sure to bring it in after each use as well.

Which Waist Cincher Is Best – 4 Tips to Choose the Right One

Waist cinchers are considered to be very amazing products for narrowing down the waist. Considering the fact that each woman is unique, it is not an easy job to know which body waist trainer is best. This is even more difficult considering the fact that there are cinchers available in many varied designs. The perfect model is one which can be a perfect match for your lifestyle and most importantly, is able to adjust to the contours of your body. Read on to get 4 easy tips which can help you to choose the best waist cincher for yourself.

Go for one with the best waist compression

One of the greatest benefits of wearing cinchers is the ability to get a narrower waist. In the majority of cases, you can find cinchers which are lines with boning (metal strips) and plastic. The primary reason for which this outfit has been designed by manufacturers is to provide women with support. When shut the boning generally serves to reinforce the shape of the dress that you wear. It is also able to compress your body into the shape that you want. It can restructure your body minimally and compress your skin, body fluids and fat constantly in order to make the midsection slimmer in appearance.

Choose one with proper support

Postural support is another major advantage of wearing these cinchers (see here for more information). It can restrict your movement to a specific degree. The bending is done in such a way which retains the firmness of the garment. When you wear a well-structured and steel boned waist cincher, you find it impossible to slouch and have a bad posture. Women who use these outfits on a daily basis find that they get additional support to their posture due to their usage. This extra amount of support can help reduce back problems and offer enough assistance at the time of walking and performing daily activities.

Get one with custom measurements

Many women suffer from aches and pains, which are part of the various disadvantages that are experienced, when they wear the wrong types of waist cinchers. A cincher of an ill-fitting variety can always result in damage. It can lead to an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience even after you wear it for a few minutes. Due to this reason, it is extremely essential for women to wear cinchers that come with custom measurements. These types of cinchers always make the waists narrower than is expected. Well-designed or decorative cinchers are fabricated always for cosmetic purposes.

Select one which is not too tight-fitting

One of the main disadvantages of wearing waist cinchers is chafing. This is actually due to the fact that cinchers are very tight-fitting in form. When you wear cinchers directly over the skin, it may lead to irritation. Even using those made of the softest material can cause chafing. Wearing a thin shirt or a camisole to act as a barrier between the cincher and the bare skin can help you to easily get rid of this issue.

Buyer’s guide: fax machines

Just 7 years ago the average price paid for a home fax machine was $600. Today, you can purchase one for half that, and the machines are becoming almost as common in the kitchen as they are in the office. Most new models have eliminated old annoyances (no more disconnecting if you accidentally answer a “fax call” from another phone in the house). Even the less expensive thermal (rolled) paper models double as copiers and now commonly boast deluxe functions, such as automatic paper cutters and built-in answering machines. The more expensive plain-paper machines, preferred by some because printouts don’t roll up or fade over time, have dropped in price from over $1,000 to under $500.

How We Chose

We examined 18 thermal (rolled) paper and plain-paper fax machines, ranging in price from around $250 to $750. Our engineers faxed and copied pages that displayed a variety of images, including typed and handwritten works, geometric shapes, and magazine photographs. Each printout was judged for charity, sharpness, and legibility. Those with added capabilities (answering machines, computer printers, scanners) were subjected to additional tests.

Features to Look for

  • AUTO-REMOTE ACTIVATION: Automatically senses and receives an incoming fax, even if you inadvertently answer the phone from elsewhere in the house when a fax is trying to come through. Machines without this feature require you to quickly punch in a code to keep from being disconnected.
  • BUILT-IN ANSWERING MACHINE: Provides a simpler and more foolproof setup process than hooking up the fax to a separate answering machine. Current models have digital (tapeless) designs that operate quickly and silently.
  • COPIER: Makes photocopies of an original document. This feature is found on all fax machines.
  • DISTINCTIVE-RING DETECTION: Lets you program the fax machine to answer only calls with a special ring–if your phone company offers an optional service that assigns a second number on your existing line with a different-sounding ring. This service is cheaper than getting a second phone line just for faxing.
  • ENLARGED/REDUCED COPY: Can shrink or enlarge the original document when copying.
  • MEMORY DIAL: Lets you store frequently called numbers for quick retrieval.
  • MULTICOPY CAPABILITY: Allows you to make several copies of the original in just one step.
  • OUT-OF-PAPER MEMORY: Stores information when unable to print; memorized faxes will automatically print when paper or ink is refilled. The number of pages stored may vary, depending on the mix of text and graphics.
  • PAPER ANTICURL: Designed to reduce the curling tendency of rolled paper.
  • PAPER CUTTER: Automatically cuts rolled paper to the right length after each page is printed.
  • PRESCAN: Quickly “reads” and stores each page into memory, then faxes at an accelerated speed.
  • SHEET FEEDER: Automatically feeds a stack of sheets, one page at a time, into the sending or copying section of the machine.

Eight low-cost power pedals from Korg and Zoom (Part 2)

ZOOM BOXES

Korg’s prices are impressively low, but those of the new Zoom pedals are unreal. The company’s popular 505 Guitar pedal offered impressive multi-effector power for a mere $150, but the four new Zoom boxes–the 507 Reverb, the 508 Delay, the 509 Dual Power Modulator, and the 510 Dual Power Driver–list for an astonishing $120. Each lets users store 24 programs and includes a reliable chromatic tuner. Wow.

All the Zoom pedals have a pair of foot switches for shuttling up and down between programs; stepping on both calls up a by-pass/tuner mode. These large switches are easy to operate, but the all-plastic housings feel cheap. Most edits are made via comfy, thumb-sized switches on the sides of the units. (The Zoom boxes are most easily programmed while cradled in your hand like video-game controls.) All models have a large, two-character LED that displays the program number or the value of the parameter selected in edit mode. They’re easy to read, but some of the two-letter abbreviations are confusing. Edits are stored in six banks of four programs each, and you can specify whether the foot pedals advance you through all 24 programs or simply cycle around a chosen bank of four. Either way, the thumb-sized increment/ decrement switches escort you directly from bank to bank.

All Zoom pedals have stereo outputs (via a 1/4″ TRS jack) and a single controller-in jack for connecting an optional expression pedal or footswitch. The typical sample rate of the Zoom effects is 31.25kHz, which offers more than enough resolution for electric guitar. A single,

9-volt alkaline battery runs each pedal for about four hours. Many of these features would be remarkable in any stompbox, let alone ones this inexpensive. But be forewarned that certain aspects of the operating system are less lovable. For example, the edit buttons have secondary functions when you hold them down for more than a second–such as a store key that toggles between two effect-loading modes if you tarry too long on the button–and most of these are not notated on the devices. Another irksome trait is the lack of a standardized numerical scale for the effects parameters.

On the Dual Power Driver, for instance, the maximum settings for pre-gain, gain, tone, and noise reduction are 16, 30, 15, and 9, respectively. You often don’t know where you stand unless you scroll up to the maximum setting. Zoom’s manuals are decent, despite some amusingly strained translations from the original Japanese.

  • 507 REVERB

Given its rock-bottom price, the 507 reverb guitar pedal is surprisingly rich and musical. Its 16 hall, room, and plate simulations are nicely voiced for guitar and betray relatively little of the gunkiness typical of digital micro-reverbs. Four additional programs combine the reverbs with up to one second of digital delay. You can specify the delay time in 10ms increments, the amount of regeneration, and the reverb/delay balance.

The delays sound nice, but you can’t adjust their color–the 507’s single tone control only works when you use reverb without delay. You can add a not-too-bad chorusing sound to any patch, choosing between nine preset settings of varying depth. Several have a flange-type resonance, although you can’t adjust the depth or feedback amounts. Chorusing can occur before or after the reverb, and each of the three effects can be switched off in edit mode. You can also toggle the chorus on and off via an external footswitch, or use an expression pedal to regulate the overall wet/dry mix. There is no tap-tempo function. Players who like digital reverb may be pleasantly surprised by the 507’s guitar-friendly color. Even players who avoid reverb effects may be swayed, as the 507’s heavier settings have a pleasantly tanky quality; the reverb doesn’t sound like a tube or spring device, but it captures a bit of that brash plash. By any reckoning, the 507 Reverb is more than just a bargain box.

  • 508 DELAY

The 508 Delay is another big price/performance winner. It offers eight flavors of echo (including straightforward monaural and stereo delays, plus 2-, 4-, and 6-stage multi-taps) and a whopping four seconds of delay time. The delay tones are more than acceptable, and you can set their times to the millisecond–an unprecedented feature in this price range.

The sole tone control is a high-cut circuit, but it succeeds at evoking treble-shy analog flavors. You can also give the delays a slight treble boost, a useful option for hard-edged doubling effects. Another hip extra is an optional “seamless mode” that lets your delays decay naturally even after you’ve switched programs. Connecting an expression pedal lets you regulate the wet/dry mix in real time. Sweet.

An external footswitch lets you set delay times via foot-tap. You can also enter tap-tempo settings from within edit mode without an external switch. This may not help much onstage, but it will certainly come in handy in the studio. In sample-and-hold mode, you can start and end recording via a footswitch–a nice extra, but don’t expect the surgical precision of higher-priced sampler/loopers.

The 508 isn’t the fattest-sounding delay pedal on the market, but its tone is quite pleasant. And if programmability is a priority, this might be the best guitar delay pedal and near impossible to beat.

  • 509 DUAL POWER MODULATOR

The 509 Dual Power Modulator contains two separate multi-effectors that can be connected in series or parallel. Each offers chorusing, flanging, phasing, rotary-speaker simulation, remolo/pan, doubling, EQ, step modulation (a signature Zoom effect that uses an abruptly shifting waveform to generate uniquely burbling effects), plus semi-intelligent dual-voice pitch shifting (another first in this price range). Adding an expression pedal lets you control overall volume, regulate the wet/dry mix, and even attain Whammy Pedal-style pitch shifts. Sound incredible for a box that might go out the door for less than $100? Yes–until you plug it in.

Zoom has crammed an unbelievable number of features into an inexpensive box, but few of the sounds are truly suitable for professional applications. The best of the lot are the phasing and flanging tones, which boast a touch of tactile, tape-like warmth. Despite some clever features, such as a “detector in” jack that lets you get reasonably reliable pitch tracking–even if you connect the 509 after a distortion pedal (provided you use a splitter box to siphon off a clean signal from a pre-distortion stage)—this box is tough to recommend except as a budget, entry-level device.

  • 510 DUAL POWER DRIVER

The 510 Dual Power Driver is another two-stage processor. Its “pre-drive” section offers a choice between four flavors of preamp-style distortion, compression (with adjustable sensitivity), octave bass, auto wah, and pedal wah (expression pedal required). The main drive section features eight additional distortion modes that run the usual overdrive-to-fuzzball gamut. The two distortion stages can be arrayed in series or parallel, and you can use an external footswitch to toggle stage 1 on and off to get two tones from a single program.

Zoom distortion is a world unto itself. Players seeking naturalistic amp overdrive tend to shun it, while those in search of extravagant, overstated effects often swear by it. The 510 tones are a bit more dynamic than those on some other Zoom devices, but they still will not appease players who rely on the guitar volume pot to regulate overdrive. To my ear, the torqued-out fuzz, grunge, and metal tones are more satisfying than the subtler overdrive colors.

Zoom adds an interesting new wrinkle with an “auto parallel” circuit, which lets your playing dynamics determine the relative strength of the two distortion stages. It’s definitely a dynamic effect, but its feel bears little resemblance to that of amp distortion. Some players could probably attain expressive results in auto-parallel mode, but I confess I’m not one of them. Connecting an expression pedal yields an acceptable wah tone. Using the pedal to regulate drive amount or the balance of the two drive modules is more impressive, and the octave bass effect is terrific.

There are high and low EQ controls, but no adjustable midrange–a curious omission, since that’s where so much of a distortions character resides. The adjustable noise reduction works fine, but the merely serviceable amp simulator is strictly on/off. The 510 is a delight for those who gravitate towards lurid, processed-sounding distortion tones.

Fast friend in the kitchen

It might be a note on the refrigerator, or a phone call from Mom or Dad. “We’re going to be late tonight. Can you start fixing dinner?” Or maybe it’s just your regular night to cook. Or maybe you’ve just come home from school and you have to have something to eat.

These days, when everyone in the family’s busy, a lot of teenagers share the shopping and cooking with the grownups. And for adults and teens alike, the microwave has become their fast friend in the kitchen for snacks and meals. It’s quick defroster, it reheats leftovers without giving them that warmed-over taste, it makes cooking quick and easy, and it eliminates a lot of dish washing.

Ready When You Are

The food industry knows a good thing when they see one, and they’re turning out a lengthening list of ingenious products designed for the microwave. Technology has raised microwave popcorn to the top of the home snack popularity list, and brought microwave individual pizzas close behind. And that’s just the beginning. Supermarket freezers and shelves are filled now with breakfast items, baked goods, entrees, soups, side dishes, vegetables, desserts, and more, all microwaveable.

Before you buy or use them, though it’s a good idea to read the ingredient list on the package. Some products are more nutritionally sound than others. Microwave pastries, for instance, can have just as much high-calorie fat and sugar as any other kind. The vegetable oil on the butter-flavored popcorn may be palm or coconut oil, both more saturated than butter. (Those “sat-fats” can clog your arteries, you recall.) Even some diet entrees may have more fat and calories than you might expect.

You don’t have to eat just what the manufacturers give you, you know. You can make your own snacks and specialties, to suit your own taste. With a microwave, it’s quick and easy.

What a Friend Can Do

The microwave has a lot of special virtues. If you eat different food from the rest of the family–vegetarian meals, for example, or a weight-control diet–it’s easy to make a separate meal that’s meatless or low in fat and calories.

Microwave cooking’s good for nutrition because it uses less liquid and less fat. This is especially true with vegetables. Cooked in a minimum of liquid, they don’t lose water-soluble vitamins, and they have better flavor. The microwave has made baked potatoes easy, because it cooks them in minutes. (A standard oven takes almost an hour.) You can even cook fresh corn on the cob right in its husk, instead of shucking the corn and boiling up a big pot of water. And the husk and corn silk are easier to peel off after cooking.

Cooked fruit for breakfast or dessert–a baked apple, for example, or a poached pear–is easy, quick, delicious, and low in calories.

Chicken and fish can be cooked fast and with fine flavor. And crusty oven-baked fish or chicken in the microwave is quick and tasty, without the excess calories that come with frying in deep fat.

A microwave isn’t practical for quantity cooking, though. The more food you put in, the longer it takes. For a big turkey or a dozen baked potatoes, the regular oven is best, and boiling pasta in a big pot of water is better on top of the stove.

But what the microwave does for small amounts of food is wonderful.

Three Squares a Day

Take a look at breakfast, for instance. Think about old-fashioned oatmeal on a chilly morning, hearty and warming, topped with a bit of brown sugar and milk. In the microwave, it’s ready in just minutes.

Or bacon, for a special weekend breakfast, with cold fruit juice and hot muffins. Bacon’s much better in a microwave. Put the strips of bacon on a plate lined with white paper towers, covered with another towel, and they come out crisp, flat, and grease free. And no frying pan to clean, either.

How about a pita bread sandwich for lunch? Cut a pita pocket in two, and line each half with a slice of low-fat cheese. Add two or three cherry tomatoes, cut in half, a few strips of green pepper and avocado. Set on a plate and cook at full power for one minute, or until the cheese melts.

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