Lust List: Killer gear for iPhone lovers, bike riders and ax wielders

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Lust List: March 2015

Each month, Cult of Mac's Lust List has a date with the hottest gear in the world. This time around we're talking impressive audio experiences, fantastic bicycling equipment and awesome accessories for iPhone users (which basically means everybody, right?).

Soho Wireless headphones by Harman Kardon

“Hey Jim, what are those?”

“Hey Jim, let me check those out.”

“Hey Jim, are those any good?”

“Hey Jim, I bet those are expensive.”

Never has a pair of headphones brought me such attention. To a person, everyone wanted to know what was up with the wireless Sohos. There is no denying the fact these cans look good. The design is very much in line with Harman Kardon's aesthetic, but in a petite package.

The big question on everyone’s mind is, "Do they sound as good at they look?" And the answer is, "Almost."

The $250 Soho Wireless headphones are comfortable to wear, as long as you aren't overly active. The sound quality is good in the mids and treble, but lacking slightly in bass response. And the Bluetooth is great, when it works. But using numerous devices is mildly frustrating at best and downright annoying at worst. The touch sensors on the side of the cans is a great added feature, but can’t be relied on to work consistently, as I found myself trying to pause my music with a tap over and over and over again.

Oddly, I still find myself recommending these to friends as a pleasant alternative to traveling with earbuds, but with the caveat being you have to be prepared for the limitations of the Bluetooth connection. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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BookBook case for iPhone 6/6 Plus by Twelve South

Looking for a wallet case for your iPhone that will get everyone talking? Take a look at the new BookBook for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from Twelve South. I've been asked by waiters, bartenders and casual passersby whether I’m carrying a Bible, a dictionary or a tiny leather notebook.

When I flip it open to show the capacious five-card interior and my connected iPhone 6 Plus, the oohs and ahhs increase exponentially. When I show them how the iPhone separates from the BookBook for easy access and sharing, most people are ready to go buy one.

This is one fantastic iPhone case, and I can’t sing its praises loudly enough. The iPhone 6 Plus version has six pockets, including one with clear plastic for my ID. Snapping my iPhone out of the delicious leather portfolio wallet case is a breeze when I want to take the device on a run without carrying my wallet. You can even snap half of the iPhone off the wallet and prop it up for easy movie watching on an airplane. You can’t go wrong with this for any price, but the affordable $60 makes the BookBook, available in black or brown leather, an iPhone case you’ll take everywhere. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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Giro Synthe bike helmet

Giro designed the Synthe to be a high-end aero helmet, but it's really a great everyday, all-day road helmet. Sure they claim the Synthe is some percentage more slippery, while going some mph and at varying yaw angles, but what’s really impressive is how all this aero blabbity blah doesn’t stop the helmet from being comfortable, cool and stylish.

And by cool I don’t mean hip: I mean the airflow through this helmet keeps my head temperature regulated nicely. Also, you can thank the Roc Loc Air retention system for keeping the helmet comfortable and secure against your noggin, while eliminating hot spots.

Although the $250 Synthe's looks may not be for everyone, it is clear that only aesthetics should keep you from sporting this helmet, as the fit and finish are impeccable. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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iRig PRO by IK Multimedia

I love me some saturated tube crunch more than just about anything in the world, but sometimes it is just not possible. That's when I turn to my iRig PRO and my laptop or iPad for jam time.

You can use IK Multimedia's multitude of apps, including the popular AmpliTube, but I still prefer to dick around in GarageBand on my iPhone 6 Plus, iPad and Macbook Pro. The iRig and your Apple device let you lay down a recording pretty easily, including using the microphone input with phantom power, but I mostly find myself plugging in my guitar and jamming through a bunch of preset amplifiers in GarageBand.

Whatever your software choices, the iRig works exactly as advertised, letting you plug in and jam on. And, for those looking for even more sonic possibilities, the little black box even has MIDI in capabilities. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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Spool Dock by Quell & Company

iPhone docks have never really been my thing, but the Spool Dock just begs to be appreciated. Quell & Company dock is “crafted in the U.S.A. from sustainable North American white oak, merino wool felt and a weighty metal base,” and it's quite the looker. From a design perspective, it’s also pretty smart.

The biggest issue I have with docks I’ve tried in the past is cord management. They usually make it difficult to plug the iPhone into the Lightning port, resulting in a bunched-up cable that looks messy.

Not the $65 Spool Dock, which comes in white and black metal. Its base swivels, letting you roll out the cable as much as you desire. It also lets you turn your docked device 360 degrees. Setting it up is super-simple, with removable support bars for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, 5s, 5c, iPad mini and 5th-gen iPod touch. Most normal cases will work just fine too, as long as they’re not bulky like an Otterbox. — Alex Heath

Photo: Alex Heath/Cult of Mac

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bolstr bag by Koyono

I want extra pockets without having to wear goofy cargo pants. So while perusing one of my favorite guy websites, Everyday Carry, I came across a little bag made by Koyono called the bolstr bag.

It's perfect for tooling around Chicago, allowing me to discreetly store a phone, iPad mini, notebook and point-and-shoot camera. Plus, its slim design and asymmetrical shape look way cooler than knee-level flapped pockets on either leg.

The bolstr small carry bag comes in a variety of colors and left- or right-side orientations (as a lefty, I appreciate this design consideration). — David Pierini

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

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SRM PowerControl 8

With the PowerControl 8, SRM will finally add GPS to its line of outstanding cyclocomputer head units.

This is truly a computer designed by bike nerds for bike nerds. It lets you use from one to four screens, with two to eight fields per screen. You can configure your data in so many ways it will make your head spin as fast as your wheels. The new $850 model, available for preorder now and shipping before summer, also comes with Wi-Fi and is compatible with ANT+ and Bluetooth. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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UE Megaboom by Ultimate Ears

If you think the UE Boom is fantastic, you’ll double over with delight at the newer, bigger version of the best portable Bluetooth speaker we’ve ever used. This thing is seriously loud with deep bass, sparkling highs and clear mids that will faithfully reproduce pretty much any music you throw at it.

It’s also seriously rugged, with a strong, rubberized top and bottom and a tough outer mesh cloth shell. Just toss it in a bag and go. Hell, this bad boy is waterproof to the point of still working after a full-on shower or dip in the pool.

The UE Megaboom's battery life is amazing, too, taking just a couple hours for a full charge that seems to last all day long (rated at 20 hours of play). Download the iOS app and you can remotely EQ your sound, set up a booming alarm and turn the speaker on and off. You can even connect two Megabooms for a massive stereo blast in any room. At $300, this thing is worth every penny. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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Flite 747 by KHS Bicycles

Freakishly tall bicyclists no longer need resort to modifying a smaller bike or paying the tab for a custom frame. They can just take flight on an off-the-shelf Flite 747 from KHS Bicycles.

The company partnered with the Tower of Power, Leonard Zinn, to create this huge road bike. Zinn, who has been building bicycles for big fellas for somewhere around 30 years, helped design the Flite 747. It comes in 64 cm and 67 cm frames made of Reynolds 520 chromoly, and delivers standard road bike geometry at those massive sizes. (It's so huge i couldn't even get my leg over it.)

All Zinn's trials and tribulations came to bear on this bicycle, which sports impressive 200 mm crankarms. It's allegedly plenty stiff going up and a blast coming down. Priced at $1,899 list, this is the second year the model has been offered (last year they sold like hotcakes). Big fun for big guys like Zinn. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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MiniSuit Selfie Stick

There we were, walking down the street, when suddenly I decided to snap a quick selfie of the six of us. We all hunched together, trying to jam ourselves into the frame of the iPhone that I was holding out as far as possible with my arms to make sure we all got in the picture. It was that moment when I realized that I wanted one of the more ridiculous gadgets out there, a selfie stick.

With the MiniSuit Selfie Stick's telescoping pole and Bluetooth shutter button on the handle, I could have taken a much more well-composed shot of all the people in my party, with much less effort and grunting. The included adjustable mount holds smartphones small and large, and the selfie stick has a standard tripod mount so you can even use it with a regular point-and-shoot camera.

My iPhone 6 Plus nestles nicely in the holder and lets me take photos of myself and many other folks from farther away than my own arm can handle. And, at $20, it’s hard to not grab one for a friend, too. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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VX Adventure Race mountain bike pedals by VP Components

Taking a play from their strong platform mountain bike pedal lineup, the team at VP Components has released the Shimano SPD-compatible VX Adventure Race pedals. The clipless pedal adds a giant platform for additional stability. At a reasonable 460 grams and spinning on a roller and double-sealed cartridge bearings, these trail-worthy pedals are rider serviceable and run about $130. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight

If you want to know if your smoke or CO alarm is going off while you’re away from home, the Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight could be your best option. It’s an attractive little $99 night-light that lets you customize its color, but its real trick is letting you monitor your home’s safety alarms remotely.

You use an iPhone app to connect the Leeo to your home Wi-Fi network for set up and monitoring, and if your alarms go off while you’re out and about, the Leeo will notify you right on your iPhone. If you don’t respond, it will even notify other folks that you specify in the settings. If that isn’t enough, the Leeo will monitor your home temperature and humidity and notify you if they change much. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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Lust List: Time to seriously upgrade your life

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Lust List: July 2014

A good piece of gear can make your life better. And, just as surely, a crappy bit of kit can turn an ordinary task into a profoundly irritating experience. This month's Lust List items keep us moving in the right direction.

Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C

Pushing my bike into what can only be accurately described as a head-sided tailwind and attempting to navigate the tourist-riddled Golden Gate Bridge towers, I was once again thankful to have the Cosmic Carbones mounted to my whip.

There are faster hoops. There are rims that have spent more time at the salad bar. But if you are looking to go faster, over more “epic” terrain, with nary a concern about how precious your carbon wheels may be, then the Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40C (1,990 euro a pair list) should be on your upgrade shopping list. They will get you where you need to go regardless of the condition of the tarmac or what the weatherman has in store for you.

On that recent trip across the international orange landmark, I experienced just about every microclimate and terrain known to man. The braking surface worked surprisingly well in the wet foggy conditions, the climb up hawk hill was a joy and only during the nastiest of crosswinds did I notice the Carbones’ deep rim. Mavic took its sweet time releasing their first full-carbon clinchers, but they nailed the Mavic tradition of building bombproof, lust-worthy wheels. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Goldtouch ergonomic keyboard

You know what I hate about Apple computers? The precious keyboards. They look lovely, with their sleek designs and tiny little keys, but they absolutely kill my wrists and fingers. That’s why I plug a grimy old Goldtouch keyboard ($129 list when they made ‘em) into the MacBook Air that I use for work. I even take the weird-looking A-frame keyboard with me when I travel. It’s not an elegant-looking solution, but it’s a lifesaver.

I’ve dealt with typing-related RSI for decades. While I use voice recognition when I have to write something lengthy, it’s not the perfect tool to accomplish every task in every situation. Sometimes I need to hammer away on a keyboard, and when I do, the Goldtouch makes the experience far less painful. It’s split down the center, with a ball joint that lets me adjust the angle between the two halves as well as the height at the center. And the soft-touch keys just feel good to me. — Lewis Wallace

P.S. I haven’t tried the updated Goldtouch V2 ($115) or the company’s Go!2 Bluetooth mobile keyboard, but when ol’ faithful finally gives up the ghost, that’ll be my move.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Rocket Girl

I'll admit it: I checked out Rocket Girl from my branch libraryout of a thing for cat-eye glasses and an ingrained curiosity aboutsmart women that history has forgotten about.

Even if you don't care about either of those things, pick up this biography about rocketscientist Mary Sherman Morgan. It's written by her son George D. Morgan,who found that the Los Angeles Times was unwilling to print the obit hewrote because so much of what she accomplished "couldn't be verified."So he painstakingly pieced together her story — from herhardscrabble childhood to some tendencies that today we'd probably callOCD — while tracing the history of rocket science inAmerica.

Rocket Girl ($18) reads like a novel (and, in fact, the work first debutedas a play at CalTech). The story about Mary’s now-credited invention ofliquid fuel Hydyne, which powered the Jupiter-C rocket, is super-compelling.It's a great read, whether you care that she was our first female rocketscientist or not. — Nicole Martinelli

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Garmin quatix sailing watch

Sailing at the local Friday night beer can races used to be more humiliating than fun: The dispirited crew of Baby Blu almost rechristened the boat Dead F***ing Last before I got armed with Garmin's quatix marine GPS watch ($449.99 list).

As the defacto crew tactician of the decrepit Cal 20, I followed the oldest advice from racing sailors: Start first, keep ahead, finish first. Now that I'm sporting a good countdown watch and can accurately gauge the distance and time to the start line, we are often first off the mark. The navigation aids and speedometers on the quatix help us with the “keep ahead” part, though they can't do much to cover the fact that the old lady we sail desperately needs a face-lift. The best part: I got to keep our first commemorative beer glass from the first win. Arr, thanks quatix! — Stefano Maffulli

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Vinturi red wine aerator

The first time I saw a Vinturi wine aerator in a Sonoma County tasting room, I pegged it for a gimmick. The woman behind the bar opened a bottle of red and poured some into a glass. Then she poured some of the same vintage slowly through the Twinkie-size plastic contraption into another glass and invited us to try the two side-by-side.

It was an effective demo.The flash-aerated wine clearly tasted better: richer, fuller, a little bit softer. More balanced and less brash. The Vinturi ($39.95 list) opened up the young wine, allowing its true character to shine through. Wine snobs have been decanting their vino forever, but dumping a bottle into a separate container and letting it “breathe” properly takes patience. The Vinturi gets the job done in seconds flat. The strange sucking sound it makes is air that’s getting mixed into the wine as it flows through the funnel-like device (thanks to the Venturi effect). It’s not for everybody, and not for every wine, but when you pop a cork and you don’t want to wait around, it’s a fantastic time-saver. — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Think Tank Shape Shifter Camera Backpack

The Shape Shifter and I just returned from a photo shoot in Utah. I could not have asked for a better travel companion. I stuffed two camera bodies, three lenses, a Q-Flash, various cords, cards, batteries and battery chargers, my laptop and oh so much more into this gear-swallowing beauty. And then I carried it on and stuffed it under my seat. Amazing.

I have also put a minimal amount of kit into it and zipped the compression zipper shut, so I could commute on my bicycle with this pack. It has waist and chest straps to keep it securely in place and plenty of pockets to help you organize your life.

Think Tank builds serious camera bags for serious photographers. If you like to travel light, like to work out of the same bag you travel with, or only carry a minimal amount of gear, then this thing is overkill. But if you travel with a pack of cameras, love adventure photography or just like to get your shit organized, I can’t say enough positive things about the Shape Shifter ($264.75 list). It’s the perfect bag for the photographer who likes to go loaded for bear. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

NextDesk Terra

When the standing desk craze took off, I thought it wasanother overblown trend created by the same fitness yuppies thatturned gluten into the most dangerous edible compound sincetrans-fats. Then I got a NextDesk Terra (starts at $1,497) andI’ll never go back to a boring, sit-in-your-chair-till-your-ass-is-numbdesk again.

The design is perfectly simple. The stained bamboo top is gorgeous andenormous. But the best thing about the NextDesk is how smooth andquickly it moves up and down, thanks to the 18-volt DC motors in eachleg that raise it up to a max height of 50.5 inches.

Fast-forward 18 months and not only have I cut my Red Bull dependency in half bymoving around to stay alert, I’ve become a master at typing whiledancing as Google drones through another painful three-hour keynote. — Buster Hein

Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

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Harman Kardon Onyx speaker

For the first time in my life I was hailed a DJ hero at a picnic thanks to two things: 1) I’d downloaded the great 20 Reggae Classics and 2) I brought a Harman Kardon Onyx Bluetooth speaker.

Sitting up by the Russian River in the baking sun, there’s nothing better than the incredible sounds created by Jamaica's legendary Trojan label. And the Onyx did them justice, thanks to the four speakers and two passive radiators packed into its distinctive round enclosure. The Onyx has a stainless steel handle that makes it look a ringed planet. It’s big for a portable speaker, and well-built, but it’s light and easy to carry.

Best is that it sounded great — rich, balanced and loud. It has every connection option under the sun, including AirPlay (via Wi-Fi), DLNA and NFC/Bluetooth for our Android friends. Buttons are touch-sensitive and there’s a simple, easy-to-use app that can be downloaded from the App Store. Battery life wasn’t great (five hours unwired/ eight hours wired), but it was adequate for a long afternoon’s partying. It’s a bit pricey ($399 on Amazon) but for a speaker of this high quality, well worth it. — Leander Kahney

Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

The Harman Kardon Go + Play Wireless Is A Great Sounding Boombox That Is Hard To Recommend [Review]

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Go + Play Wireless by Harman Kardon
Category: Bluetooth Speakers
Works With: Any iOS Device, Bluetooth
Price: $399.95

These days, small, pocketable Bluetooth speakers are de rigeur, but what about the veritable boombox of 80’s yore? What for the man for whom Beats are not enough, but must march across the subway platform with as big a driver as possible pulsating against is ear?

Harman Kardon’s Go + Play Wireless is for the person who wants more oomph than a Jambox, and doesn’t care if it takes up more space as a consequence. It’s for the guy who loves the boombox aesthetic, and thinks all of these pocketable speakers are losing the plot. It’s a beautiful Bluetooth boombox that looks just as good in the living room as it does blasting tunes while camping or at the beach, but a few strange design decisions might make it a tough sell to some, especially at the price.

Harmon Kardon’s Wireless SoundSticks Are A Little Bit Of Jambox And A Whole Lot Of Jony Ive [Review]

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It’s rare that you can point to an accessory and say “Jony Ive” designed that, but with the Harman Kardon Soundsticks, that’s literally true.

Back in July 2000, Apple partnered with Harman Kardon to release an officially blessed subwoofer and speaker combo to perfectly accentuate the translucent iMac G3. One of the benefits of that partnership to Harman Kardon was that Jonathan Ive undertook the design of the product. The result — the iSub 2000 Subwoofer and SoundSticks — are a classic example of vintage Ive design, all bubble shaped and translucent.

If you aren’t Apple, it’s rare to be handed an Ive design every day, and so Harman Kardon has wisely kept the shape and look of the SoundSticks line pretty much the same for the last twelve years, only improving the technology inside as they can.

The new SoundSticks Wireless system is a further refinement of the classic year 2000 design. There’s one big difference, though: the SoundSticks now do Bluetooth.