Lust List: Go-to gear for life’s little challenges



Lust List: September 2015

Each month, Lust List rounds up the gear that makes it so we can't feel our faces. This time around we're loving hot music machines, cool photo accessories and more.

S1-A Bicycle Jersey by Search and State

Earlier this summer, Search and State released its version of the ugly-ass Hawaiian shirt in the form of a bicycle jersey. I stared at it for weeks wondering if I could pull off the look while riding in the Oakland hills. While I contemplated my fashion boldness, Search and State apparently sold every last one of those jerseys. I decided I need to get my hands on one of the company's tamer garments to see what the Midtown Manhattan manufacturers have going on.

What they are doing is making beautiful bicycle attire in the heart of what was once New York's garment center. The $140 S1-A bicycle jersey is impeccably sewn and has an understated appearance even the most fashion-challenged can deal with. Nice choice on the zipper, too. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Search and State

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Kinivo 5-port HDMI switch

Apparently, I'm extremely lazy. I know this because I was probably a bit too pumped about this HDMI switch's ability to automatically pick up on which device I'd powered up and change the input automatically.

The Kinivo 5-port HDMI switch also comes with a small remote, so the company clearly knows who its customers are. We have games to play and movies to watch, and we don't have time for this "input" business. At $59.99 list, this hub is also really cheap, so it appeals to my frugal side. Kinivo truly thought of everything. — Evan Killham

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

iRig Mic Studio

No matter how talented you are, crappy recording tools can ruin your music or podcast. Conversely, a good condenser microphone can capture all the nuance and brilliance of any performance, from an acoustic guitar to spoken word.

The iRig Mic Studio by IK Multimedia is an amazing condenser mic that will give you the pro results you're looking for in an affordable, portable package. It boasts a 1-inch back electret condenser capsule with a 24-bit audio converter that samples your sound source at 44.1/48Khz. It's got a built-in preamp for quieter passages and an integrated headphone port to monitor what you're recording without having to mess with software settings on your Mac or iOS device. It connects to your laptop, tablet or smartphone with its included cables, and has two physical knobs (one for gain, the other for headphone sound level).

This $179.99 microphone is equally at home capturing your voice in a soundproof room or recording your band at the local club. It even comes with a tiny tripod and a velour carrying bag to keep everything together. It's the one mic you'll want with you at all times. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: IK Multimedia, Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Foldio 2

Every time I have to take a picture of a product I'm reviewing, it turns into this whole ordeal of lighting, background, filters, and cold sweats. That's why the Foldio 2 was an easy $75 purchase: This self-contained photo studio folds almost completely flat when you're not using it and assembles in seconds, thanks to some cleverly integrated magnets.

You can use your iPhone camera -- or any other camera, really -- but the Foldio's app makes taking your pictures incredibly easy. An onscreen guide helps you get everything centered, and you can adjust your color temperature and preview before you snap the pic. The kit also comes with a green background that works with the app's onboard chroma-key function. Creator Orangemonkie also gives you the exact dimensions of the backdrops so you can stop by the scrapbook or fabric store and pick up any color or texture you want and be sure it will fit.

This is the newer and larger model; the original Foldio sells for about $50. But for a bigger box (15 inches versus the original model's 10), two LED light strips, and a few more background options, it's worth it to spring for the new model.

It's a really handy device, and if you sell items online or want to take really nice pictures of your stuff, it's a solid buy. — Evan Killham

Buy from: Photojojo

Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

Boa saddle bag by Booq

At first glance, Booq's Boa saddle bag doesn't seem all that remarkable. It's black and made of ballistic nylon, like so many other messenger bags. It's only upon closer inspection that the true quality of the briefcase-style Boa saddle begins to stand out.

High-end rubberized zippers and lightweight aluminum buckles guarantee this bag will keep your things secure for years to come. An indispensable luggage strap lets you slide the saddle atop your carry-on for airplane trips; a Terralinq lost-and-found number can help you get your bag back if you accidentally leave it somewhere.

The inside of this $195 bag is completely amazing, too, with a ton of cloth pockets, zippers and extra compartments for just about anything you can think of, plus a plush-lined section that fits up to a 15-inch Macbook Pro with ease. I was able to get all my usual kit -- MacBook, iPhone, iPad, paperback, notepads, pens, water bottle, external hard drive, power cables and more -- into the Boa saddle with no problem (and some room left over). This is a high-quality, last-forever, fit-all-your-stuff kind of serious-business bag. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Booq

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Fluance Fi50 Bluetooth speaker

The premium components and audiophile-grade wood cabinet of this medium-size Bluetooth speaker are impressive enough, but that's not all the Fluance Fi50 is packing. Pairing my devices to this baby was frictionless, and the USB charging port in back makes 12-hour parties or listening a reality without impacting my iPhone or iPad.

The Fi50 has two 5-inch woofers, ultra-crisp-sounding tweeters, and a strong 40-watt amplifier that can handle anything I send at it. Classical music sounds thrilling and full-bodied, hip-hop gets punchy and bass-o-licious, and power pop beneftis from just the right amount of midrange frequency support without getting muddy. Pointed feet, which minimize resonance on any surface where you plop down the standalone speaker, are just another detail that brings a touch of class to an already fantastic audio device.

For $199, you get this gorgeous, handcrafted speaker that looks gorgeous in any setting and will fill your room with audio that sounds like a surprisingly much bigger and pricier stereo. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Fluance, Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

CapturePro Camera clip by Peak Designs

The iPhone is my go-to camera, mostly because it's just so much easier to access (in my pocket) than my DSLR (packed away in my bag). Peak Designs has solved that problem with the CapturePro camera clip that allows you to mount your heavy DSLR to your backpack strap or waist belt, so you won't miss the perfect shot while hassling with your gear.

Using a CapturePro lets you bust out your camera quicker than an Old West gunslinger. Just press the red release button, slide your camera out and snap away. Once you're done, slide it back into place and the clip keeps your bulky camera securely in place.

The clip itself is incredibly well-made and feels solid. It also works with tripod mounts, so you don't have to fiddle with extra attachments. I've been using it with a Nikon D610 with a 27-70 mm lens, which is a fairly heavy setup, but the clip handles the weight with no problem, and manages to keep the camera out of my way until I actually need it. At $80 it may seem a bit pricey, but it's worth it when you capture those memorable snappies that you normally would've missed while digging through your camera bag. — ;Buster Hein

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Peak Designs


Apple’s iPhone 6s event will blow up the Internet


The nondescript exterior of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium doesn't give an inkling what Apple's up to inside.
The nondescript exterior of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium doesn't give an inkling what Apple's up to inside.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Just how big is Apple’s next product reveal going to be? All signs point to it being a massive blowout of an event — far bigger than the standard iPhone “s” upgrade the world is expecting.

Cult of Mac Magazine: 9 uses for old Apple TVs, new iMacs and more


Get news, how-tos and more in the latest issue of Cult of Mac Magazine for iOS.
Get news, how-tos and more in the latest issue of Cult of Mac Magazine for iOS.
Cover: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

With the Apple TV ready for a radical refresh, it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll do with your old set-top box once you upgrade to the latest and greatest model.

You’ll find cool projects for your old Apple TV in this week’s issue of Cult of Mac Magazine for iPhone and iPad. You’ll also get updates on new iMacs and an opinion piece on why the end of smartphone subsidies is actually good for Apple.

Lust List: This stealth speaker is a Power Mac’s Mini-Me and more



Lust List: August 2015

Each month, Lust List rounds up the gear that gives us a fever of 103. August's secret rendezvous includes a stealthy Bluetooth speaker, a smartwatch that's not made by Apple, sweet Star Wars headphones and much more.

HiddenRadio2 Bluetooth speaker

This stealthy little speaker would look right at home next to an inky-black Mac Pro. While most Bluetooth speakers go for a rugged, sporty look — hell, this year's cutest model even comes with a pool-ready float — the HiddenRadio2 will really class up the joint.

The secret is the glossy black dome that slides up an inch when you touch the top of the HiddenRadio2. A sensor in the sleek cover lets you adjust your music's volume, jump between tracks or answer phone calls, with nary a button to be seen. It's not the loudest speaker you'll ever hear, and at just 5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide, it's not designed to pump out the bass like bigger speakers.

Instead, it's all about subtlety, clean lines and that aforementioned class. The audio is crisp and vibrant, whether you're streaming AC/DC or a Bartok cello concerto, and the utterly clutter-free design makes the HiddenRadio2 truly remarkable. Currently on sale for $179, it comes in glossy black, platinum silver and a pricier gunmetal. It'll bring a smile to your face every time you fire it up, and I can't wait till the promised apps (for iOS and Android) arrive to give HiddenRadio2 even more subtle powers. — Lewis Wallace

Buy from: Hidden

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Mission Workshop Division Chino Pants

These are some of the greatest travel pants I've ever slipped into. They're not really "travel" pants, but this is what I used them for during my recent travels to Italy. I was packing light and I wanted a pair of pants I could be comfortable in on the plane and then use for any and all occasions on the ground in Europe.

Mission Workshop's Division chino pants fit the bill beautifully. They looked the part whether I was wandering the streets during the day or getting a little dinner on a piazza at night. They were lightweight without being flimsy, and when I spilled an Aperol spritz on my lap, it just rolled right off. The addition of the zippered pocket on the leg of these $225 pants gave me peace of mind about my cash on hand. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Mission Workshop

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Fenix 3 smartwatch by Garmin

The Apple Watch is the prettiest smartwatch I've ever put on my wrist, but when it's time to go on adventures, I've been cheating on it with the Garmin Fenix 3. It may not be much of a looker, but what the Fenix 3 lacks in the sex appeal department it makes up for it with sheer utility.

Features like GPS, altimeter and barometer make it a better fit than the Apple Watch for activities like hiking through the Grand Canyon. And it comes in a stainless steel body with a domed sapphire lens, so I'm never afraid of scratching it up.

The Fenix 3's control scheme looks slightly intimidating. Instead of featuring a touchscreen, the watch uses five side buttons to navigate to functions and control apps. Once you get oriented, though, it's actually easier to use than Apple Watch's UI. For instance, you just press the Start button twice to start recording a run, hike, swim or bike ride. It doesn't boast 8,000-plus apps like Apple's wearable, but I've found that to be a positive — it's a less-distracting piece of tech.

Yes, you can connect the Fenix 3 to your phone and get all the email and text alerts you're accustomed to from other smartwatches. It even has music controls and some cool fitness features that Apple Watch doesn't, like the ability to estimate the maximum volume of oxygen you can consume per minute, a recovery advisor and running dynamics metrics.

The Fenix 3 isn't necessarily the smartwatch you want to wear all day, every day, but its bigger-than-big battery can keep it running in watch mode for six weeks, just in case you want to. It's also great for when your Apple Watch dies and you're a three day's hike away from the nearest electrical outlet. — Buster Hein

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

My 2nd Brain bags by ThinkTank Photo

Camera bag makers ThinkTank Photo have a knack for making your brain work better. The construction of ThinkTank bags, the way the company designs every little compartment and pocket, seems to gently guide you into organizing your digital life on the go.

The company's line of laptop and tablet briefcases called My 2nd Brain includes a number of sizes to give you the right amount of bag. I walk a mile to my office (um, coffee shop) and carry my 13-inch MacBook Pro, charging cord and a few other tools comfortably in the 2nd Brain bag designed perfectly for the size computer I carry. Sometimes, I don't need that much computer, so I switch to the vertical tablet bag, which easily carries my iPad mini, a camera and a few extras.

One bonus: Of all the bags in my life, these seem to stay put on my round right shoulder. — David Pierini

Buy from: Amazon (13-inch briefcase) and Amazon (tablet) 

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Jawbreaker sunglasses with Prizm lens by Oakley

I feel like a freaking superhero every time I put on these sunglasses. Oakley's Jawbreaker frames were designed in partnership with professional cyclist Mark Cavendish, and while they're the perfect eyeball shields for mountain biking and street riding, I've found they're also great when hitting the trails on foot.

The frames are built with the same durable plastic frame and impact-hesitant lenses we've come to expect from Oakley, except they're way bigger than any pair of sunglasses I've ever worn. That proves to be incredibly beneficial because you don't have the frame obscuring your peripheral vision, and it almost makes you forget that you're wearing glasses.

The Jawbreakers look like a pair of shades from the '80s, only they boast some fancy tech that sets them apart as more than just futuristic goggles. The added ventilation keeps sweat from fogging up your vision on a jog. They also use Oakley's Switchlock lens-changing technology that lets you swap out lenses on the fly.

I tested the Jawbreakers with Oakley's Prizm lenses, which were a revelation for my vision. The world looks sharper when donning the Jawbreakers, thanks to Prizm tech that emphasizes colors where the eye is most sensitive to detail. Adjusting to the orangey sepia tone can take a minute, but once your retinas adjust it's like upgrading your eyeballs to 4K after living in HD for 20 years. With a $220 price tag they're definitely expensive, and they will draw some strange looks from your friends, but it's impossible to beat these large lens' performance. — Buster Hein

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

Star Wars second-edition headphones by SMS Audio

While we wait for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens to blow us out of the water in December, we want to show our true fan colors with these fantastic over-the-ear wired headphones from SMS Audio. These second-edition designs come looking like R2-D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader or a TIE fighter.

Nothing says "Star Wars nerd with audiophile taste" like these high-performance headphones. They just scream Star Wars, letting all around you know whether you've chosen the dark side or the light.

The oval ear cups are simply amazing at filtering out external sounds, even without active electronics, and their unique shape makes sure you'll be able to listen to hours of your favorite cantina songs without discomfort.

The $179.95 Star Wars headphones fold up into an easily transported, themed carrying case, and come with a detachable cable with an in-line mic and pause/play button. The 40-mm drivers ensure brilliant highs, solid bass and clear midrange sound delivered at astonishing volume and clarity. There's some sweet extras in the box like a hologram card, certificate of authenticity and (in my set) a TIE fighter pilot sticker. Heck, even the box itself is a collector's item. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Square water bottle by Clean Bottle

"Hey what is that bottle?" asks the animated woman in the queue at San Francisco International Airport.

"It's called Square," I respond.

"That is so awesome," she replies. "It will never roll away on the floor of the plane."

So true, so true. The form factor is perfect for people constantly chasing their water bottle around the floor of the car. And the Square Water Bottle was an excellent companion while in Rome, saving us a ton of money on bottled water as we filled up at all the amazing public fountains spewing delicious, cold and free water.

The handle is awesome and the bottle is easily cleaned and rinsed from both ends. At $49.95 list it's a bit on the pricey side, but when it looked like we had lost our Square Bottle forever in a tiny church in Tuscany, my wife went to spectacular lengths to get it back.

Turns out there is such a thing as water bottle romance in Chianti. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


Betrayal at House on the Hill

I'm a sucker for a good — or even bad — horror movie. So $49.99 board game Betrayal at House on the Hill, which has you and your friends exploring a spooky haunted house, is a pretty easy sell. And you really do explore it — each room in the mansion is on its own, separate tile, and you establish the layout as you uncover more rooms.

But exploring is only the first half of this $49.99 game from Wizards of the Coast. Eventually, you'll activate one of 50 different end-game scenarios. At that point, things transition from cooperative to competitive as one player becomes the "traitor" and everyone else has to stop them.

I wanna play this game right now, actually. — Evan Killham

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

AliveCor ECG iPhone case

If you've got heart issues, like my friend who experiences premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) fairly regularly, you need to keep track of your blood-pumper.

If your cardiologist agrees, you should give the AliveCor ECG iPhone case a try. It installs on your phone with a snap, and adds very little bulk to your Apple smartphone. The case itself protects from most drops and other dangers, and it includes two metal plates on the back of the device. You simply place your finger tips on the two plates and the free app will measure your heart rate using this single-lead electrocardiogram device.

The app is fantastic, keeping track of your heart over time and letting you email results to your heart doctor (or anyone else, really). My friend was able to show her cardiologist a few weeks of PVC activity so he could interpret the results. In fact, the cardiologist's own father uses a similar device to send his heart data to his doctor son. D'awwww.

At $74.99, the AliveCor mobile ECG system costs a relative pittance, considering it gathers the data your doc needs and delivers serious peace of mind (since you'll be able to check your own heart as needed, possibly avoiding pricey emergency room visits). It's a pretty darn fantastic way to keep tabs on your beating heart, arrhythmia or no. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: AliveCor

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac