These Astro 38s are easy to pair, last for hours, sound amazing. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
I typically try out a new product for review without reading any of the documentation or media relations stuff that the folks who send us such things want us to look at. I want to have as pristine an experience as possible. Sometimes that leads to little surprises.
I put these new Astro Gaming A38 Bluetooth headphones on my head last week, and paired them with my iPhone to play a little music. After a few songs of various genres, I stopped the tunes and took these off my noggin. I suddenly realized that my girlfriend had been blending up a protein shake in the nearby kitchen. It was surprising because I honestly could not hear it with the headphones on my head and playing music at a relatively low volume – and our blender is really loud.
While they’re great for music, these are also fantastic sounding headphones that help you immerse yourself into any game on your iPad or iPhone, cutting down on the auditory distractions from the outside world when they’re powered up.
Beats has been beaten — on the football field, at least.
Bose just laid a major smackdown on Beats, courtesy of a new deal with the NFL which bars any non-Bose headphones from being shown during interviews on NFL broadcasts.
The wide-ranging agreement covers TV interviews during training camps, practice sessions and, of course, game day — extending from prior to kickoff through 90 minutes after play has finished.
Beats has already responded with a statement, noting that, “Over the last few years athletes have written Beats into their DNA as part of the pre-game ritual. Music can have a significant positive effect on an athlete’s focus and mental preparedness and has become as important to performance as any other piece of equipment.”
Ever since the Lightning Connector was first announced two years ago, we’ve known it could do more than just sync-and-charge: it could also play music. So when Apple bought Beats earlier this year, many assumed that it would be Apple’s new in-house headphone brand who would release the first Lightning-connected cans to market.
But nope. As it turns out, the first headphones to connect via a Lightning port to an iPhone, iPod, or iPad won’t come from Beats. It’ll come from Philips, who have just introduced their Fidelio M2L headphones featuring the funtionality.
Who needs to go out outside this week? Not us: We have headphones, a home-monitoring video camera, a robot to clean the floors and a keyboard that sleeps on your desk, all ready to play with your iDevices. Determined to leave the house? Take the GoPro PowerPole with you and then offload the footage to a new wireless, battery-powered hard drive from Western Digital.
Forget fiddling with those little magnetic iPhone lenses – the Sony QX1 puts proper E-mount Sony lenses onto your iPhone or iPad. It’s actually a tiny camera that clips onto your iDevice, complete with 20.1 MP sensor and even a pop-up flash, and works in concert with the iPhone via Wi-Fi and a companion app. $400
You could buy these new B&W cans and never switch them on, they look that good. But they should sound good too, with huge drivers that “work like those in a hi-fi speaker” (whatever that means), a sweet padded headband and some shiny silver parts on the outside. The Series 2 even comes with a detachable cable with an inline mic for your iPhone. $300
Now you can buy the best paper notebook anywhere in the world – almost. The Baron Fig Confidant notebook now ships internationally, so anyone can enjoy its superior design, from the cloth-bound cover to the clever dot-grid paper to the fold-flat design that stays open on the table to the slightly wider aspect ratio for more comfy writing and sketching. And still just $16.
Dyson’s first robot vacuum cleaner uses a panoramic cyclops eye up on top of the mercifully muted body to map out your rooms to the millimeter. A full-width brush teases dust out of carpets, and the cyclone separates dirt and dust. It runs for up to half an hour before returning to its dock to recharge, and you can even remote control it from iOS and Android apps. $TBA
It’s called the PowerPole, but that’s not even the best thing about it. The PowerPole takes the useless space inside telescopic 17-30-inch GoPro mount and fills it with batteries, enough for eight continuous hours of shooting. The aluminum pole also has a pair of USB ports for charging other gear. $119
The Logitech K480 is a different take on keyboards for mobile. It sits on your desk, waiting for your devices to dock in its slot, and then performs double duty as a stand and as a Bluetooth keyboard. A twisting knob selects between three paired devices, and the K480 has keys for Windows and Mac. The slot is big enough for a tablet and a phone together and it runs on a pair of AAA batteries. $50
The only way the Shutter Button could be more minimal is if it ditched the fashion stylings and came in plain silver. It’s a Bluetooth remote shutter release for iOS and other devices, and it works by masquerading as a volume switch. Therefore, no companion app is required – any camera, even the built-in one, can work with it as long as the app allows you to take a photo using the iPhone’s own volume switch. From $29.
This 1TB/2TB USB 3.0 drive packs a Wi-Fi radio and an SD card slot, making it the most useful pocket hard drive, like, ever. It works with your Mac of course, but also your iPad and iPhone. You can connect up to eight devices, use it as an Internet-sharing Wi-Fi hub and even stream movies to your iPad. The battery lasts six hours for video (20 hours on standby) and you can back up photos direct to the drive using the SD card slot. From $180.
Withings has long been able to track your body with its smart scales and health monitors. Now it tracks your home with this Internet-connected camera. The Home records 1080p video and can alert you to movement via the iPhone app. It works as a security camera, but also as a life-cam, with a timeline mode that lets you make a video diary. It even monitors the air quality inside your home, and works as a baby monitor. If it made breakfast too, I’d marry it. $220
Whether the weather is wet or dry, we've got you covered this week. Waterproof headphones and speakers, and some nonslip bike pedal covers, will let you carry on in the rain or in the lake. And a flash-booster, replacement keycaps and a big twisty knob will keep you entertained indoors. Don’t forget your umbrella (or sunglasses)!
Got slippery bike pedals? You need Grippine, a silicone sleeve that slips onto any old platform pedal and sticks to your soles. These colorful covers stretch over the pedal and stop it from getting slippery in wet or dry weather. They’re also soft on shoes, but I’d like to test some to see how long they last. €26
AirPlay – who doesn’t love it? It always, always works, never dropping out or requiring that you set the speaker so close to the wireless router that you may as well have just used a cable. And who won’t love the Myro:Air, an AirPlay speaker whose only fault is that colon in the middle of its name? Even that is a totally cool and positive thing, because we all have a colon inside us, right?
The Myro:Air packs optical output, two-way AirPlay control, RCA outputs and even an RS-232 port for connecting up to – well, anything. It’s also pretty reasonably priced, as these things go. Oh, and the thing looks frikkin' awesome. $600
The pop-up flash on your DSLR is only good for one thing — triggering bigger, better flashes. But what if you really want to use the weak little unit that Canon or Nikon grafted on there as an afterthought? Then you need the Rogue Safari Pop-Up Flash Booster from ExpoImaging.
It’s a 2-ounce polycarbonate widget that clips into your hotshoe and puts a lens in front of the pop-up flash unit, concentrating the beam for up to 8x more light (you’ll need to use it with a lens of 100mm or longer thanks to the narrow, concentrated beam). $35
A few years and 90 degrees at a time, Apple is slowly moving the iPad’s speakers into a spot where you can hear them. Right now they are located on the bottom edge of the iPads Air and mini, but the SpeakerSlide skips an evolutionary step and points those stereo speakers forward.
The polycarbonate peripheral sticks onto the bottom of the iPad, by shoving a proboscis into the Lightning port, and then reflects the sound forward. If you want to charge the iPad while using the SpeakerSlide, you just pop out its plug and thread the cable through the hole. It’s ingenious, and has an advantage over other options because it works in stereo. $20
Protect your camera filters with the new Filter Nest from MindShift, a two-part nylon case that mounts on your belt so you’ll look really cool. Really, really cool. The padded, zippered outer shell protects the removable inner, which has color-coded slots for your filters. The design lets it mount to several of MindShift’s camera bags, but the belt-mounted option is both the easiest and – by far – the coolest-looking option. $45
The best keyboard I’ve ever used is the keyboard I’m typing this post on right now. It’s the Filco Majestouch with Cherry Blue keyswitches, and it clicks and clacks reliably every morning and every afternoon of every day. But apparently – eventually – the letters wear off the keys, and some folks don’t like that. This replacement set of keycaps (the plastic parts you hit with your fingers) is a “double-shot” set, which means the white lettering runs all the way through the plastic, like the letters in a stick of rock.
The caps are also taller, heavier and rounder than the standard caps, and will only fit Filco keyboards. £39
It’s a knob! A $100 knob that turns your iPad or iPhone or even your Mac into a lean, mean, dual-output DJing machine. The DJ Connect packs a pair of line-level RCA outputs on the back and a mini headphone jack on the front. Hook it up to your iDevice via Lightning or your Mac via USB and fire up Algoriddim’s djay app, and you can cue up tracks through the headphones and blast them out the back through the line output. That big knob on top lets you control the headphone volume. $100
It used to be that if you saw some ill-kempt man in the street muttering to himself, you could be sure you’d just seen a crazy person. Now, in the age of Bluetooth headsets and in-line microphones, you can never know. So how do you spot a nutter? That’s easy: transistor radios. Next time you see the local nutjob cruise by on his bike with like 50 rear-view mirrors on the bars and his dog in a basket, check to see if he has a battery-powered tranny on his dash.
What he won’t have is a Divoom Voombox-Ongo, which is a Bluetooth speaker for sane people: a water-resistant, shockproof speaker with an eight-hour battery life, two 1.5-inch drivers and an included bike mount. $70
Even if you sweat like Steve Ballmer working himself into a developer-devoted lather, you won’t break the BlueAnt Pump HD headphones. These waterproof Bluetooth buds wrap over your ears and play for up to eight hours in even the wettest conditions, and on-ear controls let you leave the iPhone safe in a pocket. $130
This morning Beats revealed its replacing its popular Beats Solo headphones with the new Beats Solo² that not only offer better sound, they’re the most Apple-like set of cans we’ll see before Jony Ive gets his team on them.
May the fourth be with you on Star Wars Day this year.
The droid-loving folks over at SMS audio (a company majority-owned by rapper 50 Cent) have put out a set of surprisingly good on-ear headphones based on the company’s entry-level Street by 50 on ear wired headphones.
Each set boasts a Star Wars-themed logo on the ear cups (see below) with associated fan service pack-ins like stickers and a poster.
Listening to your favorite music through a good pair of stereo headphones can make it sound like you’re hearing it for the first time. With the Bluetooth-enabled Air-Fi Matrix2, take that experience anywhere.