These things are still important. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
When Prince presented the Grammy for best album this week, he made an impassioned case for a musical format that many seem ready to write off as dead.
“Albums, remember those?” he said. “Albums still matter. Albums, like books and black lives, still matter.”
That’s how you present an award, folks.
Albums are collections of musical pieces that work together to create an auditory gestalt larger than the individual songs themselves. With the massive growth in streaming audio these days, many people might be missing out on this incredible old-school experience.
Here’s the cure: a list of amazing albums you should listen to in their entirety, even if you don’t do vinyl. iTunes might have helped kill CDs, but it’s still a great place to buy albums rather than shortchanging yourself with a bunch of singles. There are dozens of other albums you should explore, depending on your musical tastes, but this list should remind us all how awesome albums are as a concept. You can thank us later.
VisionTek’s USB Pocket SSD gives you 120GB of super-fast storage. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac
Need bags of speedy storage you can take with you anywhere you go? With VisionTek’s USB Pocket SSD, you get a bus-powered solid-state drive that’s small enough to fit in your palm, and fast enough for almost anything.
I’ve been using one as a Windows drive for my Mac for the past few months; let me tell you why it’s been great.
The JBL Charge 2 is even better than the last one. Photo: JBL
When I reviewed the first-generation JBL Charge back in 2013, I called it a “colorful pill of a speaker that looks almost like, as an accessory, it leaped out of a new iPod touch commercial.” I loved it for its clear, crisp sound that was loud enough to shake most rooms: It delivered the sound volume of the Big Jambox in the original Jambox’s form factor.
If it’s not plenty clear, I loved the JBL Charge. It ended up being my go-to kitchen speaker for over a year, until I accidentally knocked it into the sink while doing my dishes. As a sign of its quality, it actually kept working, but never sounded quite the same.
Now I’ve tried out the JBL Charge 2. And I’ve got to say, if the JBL Charge was good, the Charge 2 is even better, fixing some of the first model’s oversights. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker that can do more than just play music.
The one calendar app to rule them all. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Update: This story has been modified to more accurately describe the sync capabilities of Fantastical 2, and we’ll have a how-to up on getting Google and iOS to play nice soon.
Readdle’s calendar app, Calendars 5, brings all the natural-language and sync goodness of other high-end calendar apps, along with support for your Google or iOS calendar, to your iPhone and iPad at the same time in one $3 app. Plus? When you add an event to Calendars 5, it shows up on your Google Calendar (or iOS Calendar if you roll that way).
Two-way sync? Natural-language event creation? iOS Reminders support? Recurring events? Invitations? Apple or Google Maps integration? Works offline or online?
This is gonna be your new favorite calendar app, if it isn’t already.
The Olloclip clipped onto an iPhone 6 Plus. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Like millions of photography fans, the iPhone is my main camera. In fact, ever since my Nikon D600 took a suicidal, lens-first dive off a cliff and into a waterfall, my iPhone has become my only camera.
I’m always trying to eke out a little extra performance from my iPhone’s tiny camera sensor with new apps, tripods and lenses. Over the last three months, Cult of Mac has been testing various lenses for the iPhone 6 in a search for the best aftermarket glass. I’ve narrowed the field down to two top choices: the new Olloclip and Moment’s mountable lens system.
Unfortunately, iPhone 6 users can’t actually use both the Olloclip and Moment lenses at the same time. But if you’ve been considering getting new photo gear for your iPhone 6, we’re ready to break down the pros and cons of these aftermarket accessories.
PicoPro projector. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Like most things that come in small sizes, pico projectors have always been a big disappointment.
Called “pico” because of their portability and battery power, the diminutive projectors in this class have typically been underpowered and underwhelming. Almost by definition, projectors need to be big and bright enough to throw a lot of light at the screen.
So it’s a big surprise that Celluon’s new featherweight pocket-size PicoPro is a heavyweight champ. I was prepared for it to suck — but was surprised and delighted when it turned my living room wall into a 150-inch cinema screen.
Each month, Cult of Mac's Lust List busts out the gear we're hot for right now.
Timberland Men's Canvas Cord Case
You know when you see a parked car and the seat belt is stuck in the door? That is what I look like when walking with my computer satchel with the cord hanging out of the bag. The sloppy look is gone now thanks to a simple, waxed-canvas bag from Timberland.
You can find the Timberland Men's Canvas Cord Case on Amazon for $38 but if you poke around online you can find it for as little as $17. Even that might seem a little steep for a tiny, one-compartment bag, but it was worth creating new space in my bag for this organizer. The large end of my MacBook Pro power cord likes to unravel as I move with the bag. I try to clip my bag shut and when I do, it's sometimes like opening the fake can of peanuts where the snake flies out. The Timberland cord bag is just large enough to loosely coil the thicker end of the cord and still fit the power brick. I even tuck in my earbuds. — David Pierini
Usually I go for something subtle when it comes to motorcycle helmets — a solid-gray full-face or a nondescript black skid lid, depending on the weather. But when the cold rain started drenching San Francisco this fall, I got a wild hair and pulled on a Naza Carbon helmet made by Kali Protectives.
The Naza Carbon comes in several bold designs, all featuring Kali's weirdly ominous, masklike logotype. The one I chose, called Curve, melds eye-grabbing black and white lines with patterned grays and a couple slashes of red. The look is distinctive, but that's not what's really important in a helmet. Luckily, Kali nails the most crucial aspects of helmet design: comfort and safety.
The Naza Carbon is streamlined and extremely lightweight, with good ventilation to blow off some steam on warm days. It comes with a pair of differently sized cheek inserts to give you more of a custom fit. And when it comes to safety, Kali's got you covered: The carbon/Kevlar/fiberglass composite shell wraps layers of cushioning foam in Kali's Composite Fusion Plus construction. Plus, they've got an actual rocket scientist on board — owner Brad Waldron — to make sure Kali delivers cutting-edge noggin protection. — Lewis Wallace
When I want to get serious writing work done on my iPad — or even my iPhone in a pinch — I turn to a keyboard that is rugged, easy to tote around in my favorite minimalist bag, and super-simple to connect to my various Bluetooth devices.
The Logitech Keys-To-Go ($69.99 list) includes all of that awesome, plus it’s almost completely invulnerable to the coffee or beer spills that seem to go hand-in-hand with my journalist lifestyle. While it’s incredibly thin and light, the keyboard itself is a delight to use, with responsive keys that feel almost as great as the ones on my MacBook Pro. The battery in this thing is supposed to last for three months at a time, a claim I can support as I’ve not charged it once since getting it about a month ago. If you need a keyboard for travel, commuting or just as a backup when you’re on the go, this is the one to grab. — Rob LeFebvre
This chair changed my life. Or at least it changed my work life. Before the arrival of the Herman Miller Mirra 2 chair ($649) at Cult of Mac World Headquarters, I was acutely aware of my posterior — all day, every day. The run-of-the-mill rump thrasher I squirmed on previously was your standard-issue, inexpensive office chair like you would find at Ikea and the like.
Setting up the Mirra 2 for the very first time was a pretty daunting task. The chair allows adjustments for seat height, seat depth, lumbar height, arm angle, arm width and the list goes on and on. The best part of having all those adjustments is it made me consider every aspect of my ergonomic situation. And after the initial setup, the chair has disappeared underneath me.
My back thanks me and my ass certainly thanks me. — Jim Merithew
When I upgraded to the new hotness of an iPhone 6 Plus, I didn't realize I'd be a second-class citizen when it came to quality cases. Sure, I could grab something off the shelf at the local AT&T store, but ever since I spent some time with a Wally wallet case on my iPhone 5, I've been spoiled for anything but the best card-carrying iPhone case around.
I think I've found that in this new offering from Mujjo. The Leather Wallet Case 80° for iPhone 6 Plus ($50.57) slid onto the curves of my iPhone 6 Plus like a lover, and it hasn't let go yet. The thin case made of supple tan leather is protective, adds very little bulk, and has a cleverly canted slot that fits a couple of cards and a tiny bit of cash. It's perfect for that night out or your daily trips to the coffee shop. — Rob LeFebvre
While it's pretty easy to pull up the temperature and weather on any mobile device these days, we typically have to settle for the official reports from weather stations that may not be all that close to where we live. Heck, I want to know what the weather is right where I'm standing, even if it's indoors.
Enter the CliMate ($69.99), a personal weather gadget from Adam Elements that measures the humidity, UVI and temperature of wherever you put it, and relays that info back to your iPhone. You can set this in a baby's room, a greenhouse or just wear it around your neck on the provided lanyard, and you'll always know what the real weather is like right where you put it. It's simple to set up and use, and who doesn't want to know what their personal climate is? No one doesn't, that's who. — Rob LeFebvre
I love me some stompboxes. In my band, I am responsible for noise. Sometimes that noise is in tune and in time and sometimes it is not. But whether I’m playing really well or really awfully, I don’t want anyone to ever say my tone was horrible. So I rely on myriad stompboxes to help me craft my racket.
When I first discovered Zachary Vex’s line of hand-painted pedals, I thought they would give me a simple way to sound interesting. But the longer I use my small collection of boutique Zvex pedals, the more I practice, the more I realize they favor the talented and thoughtful musician. The Fuzz Probe is basically Zachary’s wild and wooly fuzz pedal with a theremin attached for added tone-sculpting. Twist a few knobs, play with your guitar volume and wave your foot over the copper plate — and let the racket ensue. Just remember, if you find a tone you like you should get a picture of the settings on your iPhone or you will never hear it again. — Jim Merithew
Staying fashionable is pretty much the last thing I’m thinking about when pounding up trails in the Superstition Mountains. But for those outdoorsmen who don’t want to sacrifice fashion over function, Forsake has you covered with skate-inspired hiking boots that feel as good on your feet as they look on the street.
The Forsake Hiker hiking boot ($129.99) is designed to take a beating on the trails while looking great by bringing urban styling to the ugly world of hiking boots. The Hiker boasts full-grain leather paired with a Cordura upper and tons of detailed stitching and little touches. They’re waterproof, with a breathable membrane that I found keeps your feet from getting soggy no matter if you’re stomping through street puddles or crossing a stream. And with the fully gusseted tongue and reinforced toe bumper, you’ve got enough support to blast through rocky trails like the Juggernaut while looking 10 times more posh than the typical hiker. — Buster Hein
It seems like no one uses light meters anymore. Now that Lumu has come out with a tiny meter that plugs into the iPhone — the world’s No. 1 camera — that could soon change.
The Lumu Light Meter ($149.99) is a small aluminum bulb you can pop into your iPhone audio jack. It measures ambient light to capture the perfect exposure every time you snap a pic. It’s aimed at DLSR users who want to toss their bulky light meters, but the company also has four separate apps that make the Lumu a great tool for iPhone photographers.It’s small as a quarter, requires no batteries and weighs practically nothing. One of its only drawbacks is that it doesn’t offer flash-meter functionality, but when it comes to measuring ambient light, Lumu is deadly accurate. In my experience, it recorded the exact same measurements for ISO, shutter time and aperture as a traditional light meter.
Lumu isn’t going to replace the $500 Sekonic light meter trotted out by pro photographers just yet, but for anyone that wants a reliable and accurate ambient light meter — without the giant price tag of full-featured units — this little gadget is a snap decision. — Buster Hein
Trying to find air for your tires in San Francisco can be a nightmare. Half the pumps are broken at any given time and if you do locate one that works, you'll need to feed it a bunch of quarters if you're not buying gas. All of that makes keeping your tires properly inflated a royal pain in the butt — unless you have your own source of pressurized air.
If you don't own or need a regular air compressor, the PowerStation PSX-2 is a great way to keep your tires pumped up. It's not lightweight, but the 20-pound rechargeable tool is still totally portable and will get your rubber ready for the road far more quickly than the typical 12-volt gadgets you plug into your cigarette lighter.
Oh, and did I mention it will also jump-start your car or motorycle when your battery's dead? And provide an emergency worklight and 12-volt DC outlet to charge your gadgets in a pinch? Yeah, it's super-useful in situations that otherwise might stress you out.
Costco members might find a PSX-2 in the automotive aisle for about $75; otherwise, Amazon's got a newer model PowerStation PSX-3 for $129. Buy one now, before you need it, and you (and your thankful neighbors) will find yourself leaning on this automotive lifesaver repeatedly. — Lewis Wallace
This weaponized recliner represents sloth. But not so much sloth that you lack the energy to kill every demon you see. Photo: Deep Silver
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell is a weird game. And I’m not just saying that because it’s about two members of a street gang going to hell to rescue their boss before he or she is forced to marry Satan’s daughter. Because that’s super-weird, don’t get me wrong.
Other than that, Gat is an expansion to 2013’s Saints Row IV that doesn’t require you to own the main game but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you haven’t played it. It has a six- to eight-hour story with an additional dozen or so hours of open-world gameplay. Whether you’re new to the series or not, you’re in for its special brand of relentless fun.
Outdoor Retailer’s version of the Kodak Photo Spot is a eye-popping orange sleeping bag thingy for two. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SALT LAKE CITY — Mother Nature’s got a million ways to make your life miserable. Luckily, the outdoor industry is filled with innovators, entrepreneurs and inspired inventors working incessantly to make your adventures more epic and less stressful.
The sheer number of companies hawking advanced snowshoes, crampons and things made of Merino wool proved a little mind-numbing last week at Outdoor Retailer 2015, the industry’s largest convention.
Everything from stitch-free puffy jackets to shoes made with Michelin tire technology were on display in the giant convention center, but we waded past the immense numbers of mannequins and bowls filled with enticing fresh fruit (rather than convention-standard Red Vines) to bring you a few of the more interesting gadgets, clothing items and even a new camera strap for your micro 4:3 camera.