Too often, we either pay too much for a set of headphones that doesn’t quite meet our needs, or just spring for the cheapo brands sold next to the bubble gum. That’s why we’ve assembled a collection of premium ear-pleasers that’ll meet any preference or budget. Looking for waterproof and workout ready? Wireless and noise canceling? Durable but with studio-quality audio? You’ll find it here, and at a nice discount.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
Opening a new Apple product for the first time is pretty close to a holy experience. Part of that is because Apple spends so much time perfecting product packaging so it’s simple, elegant and secure without compromising on intuitiveness.
However, it’s a mistake to think Apple is the only company that pours thought and care into something as basic as a box. In light of the recent rumor that Apple will be working with third-party accessory makers to co-design packaging for their products in Apple retail stores, it’s clear many other companies care as well. It’s about being eye-catching without straying from uniformity, it’s about being simple yet still adorned.
With this spirit in mind, take a look at some of the other electronic companies out there getting extremely creative with their product packaging. The goal for these seems to be making the boxes as gorgeous as the products themselves – and they succeed.
Each month, Lust List rounds up the products that made us ride like the wind at double speed. This time we've got all kinds of stuff to make a grown man cry: earphones, wallets and even a (stolen) backpack.
Nyne TT Bluetooth speaker
Designed for the music lover on the go, Nyne's TT Bluetooth Speaker ($150) comes with a neoprene carrying case that lets you sling this music box over your shoulder and take your music on the run.
With a charging station for your phone and a built-in microphone, the TT is designed to be your ultimate musical travel companion. I found it to have excellent battery life, and it paired nicely with my iPhone to give my hotel rooms in Portugal the little slice of audio hominess I like while on the road.— Jim Merithew
I've heard the questions so many times that I brace myself when I take out my wallet: "What is that?" people ask. Or, "Is that a woman's wallet?"
The aptly named Bison Rogue Wallet has that effect on the beholder. It's a leather wallet made in Maine by some guys who went into the billfold business after they gave up trying to find the perfect front-pocket wallet.
Such things are especially smart for guys living in crowded cities, and this one is designed to follow the shape and cut of the inner pocket. Rogue even protects your debit and credit cards from digital pickpockets with a special liner to prevent RFID skimming.
Mine is made of bison leather, but Rogue also sells front-pocket wallets made from other leathers, ballistic nylon and canvas. — David Pierini
Handmade in the U.K. from injection-molded stainless steel, the RHA T10i earphones not only sound terrific, but they look great, too. Their fully adjustable over-ear hooks make them comfortable to wear and secure enough to work out with, and their built-in mic and remote lets you take calls and control your music when you use them with your iPhone.
The T10i comes with three sets of tuning filters that allow you to customize the frequency response for more powerful bass or greater treble. But no matter which one you use, the T10i’s dynamic drivers deliver supreme sound, particularly if you like bassy audio.
Vocals sound clear and crisp, and the balance is fantastic. The T10i provide a warm, rich sound that, coupled with their impressive noise-blocking abilities, immerses you in your music.
The T10i also come with a whole bunch of tips in different sizes that are organized neatly in a stainless steel holder, plus a nice carrying case. They take a little bit of getting used to because they’re pretty weighty, and they’re not cheap at $200 — but their outstanding sound and build quality make them well worth every penny. — Killian Bell
Against my better nature, I've become a backpack snob. I want a simple bag to carry my MacBook, a change of clothes (for the gym) and some chargers and accessories.
Not too much to ask, right? And yet I've found it hard to hunt down a bag that has less, not more. All too often, today's backpacks are loaded with too much Velcro, too many pockets, and too many annoying straps and buckles.
Enter Booq’s latest urban-oriented commuter backpack, the Cobra squeeze. With its distinctive teardrop shape, the Cobra squeeze is simple — and it's just the right size for my daily carry. The shoulder straps are comfortable. I really like the leather carry handle. It has 13 compartments, including a pair of roomy side pockets that are good for easy access.
It is well-made and stylish. You'd never guess it's half cotton/half recycled plastic. Priced at $195, it ain't cheap, which is why I was so upset when it recently got stolen (with my MacBook, iPad, etc. still inside).
If it had been lost, I might have got it back. The bag has a unique serial number, tracked by Booq's Terralinq service; once registered, it might have helped me get the bag back. Alas, some scumbag's got it. — Leander Kahney
A friend got me these awesome headphones, and they've completely changed how I run my TV. I live in an apartment, and sometimes the upstairs neighbors get really loud. Instead of just sitting there and letting the hatred build up inside me, I put on the PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset and watch a movie. It's great for gaming, too, because Sony built a dedicated app for the PS4 and PS3 that lets you load up preset equalizers for the second channel (the first channel is an all-purpose default mode).
Presets include general things like "Action" and "Horror" settings for movies, but sometimes you can get one specifically made for a particular game. When I'm playing Bloodborne, for example, all of the game world's creepy noises and atmosphere go directly into my head, blocking out everything from the outside thanks to the headset's noise-canceling capabilities.
The PlayStation Gold ($100 list) runs from a USB dongle that you plug into the console, but it also has a standard jack and a cord so you can use it with other devices. It's easily the best set of headphones I've ever owned because you can do pretty much anything with them.
So if I use these and my Flippi at the same time, everyone is safe. — Evan Killham
Jeans designer Ulrich Simpson likes to say he makes jeans for everybody. And when he says "everybody," he really means "every body."
The biggest problem with premium jeans is finding a pair that fits. They tend to come in a very narrow range of cuts and sizes. Not so Simpson's UBi-IND jeans, which are available in five styles and sizes from 29- to 48-inch waist.
They'll fit any body type, from skinny skateboarders to Olympic speed skaters with grotesquely overdeveloped quads (see the Athletic cut). In fact, Simpson's customers range from NBA stars to surfers and cowboys. Simpson's jeans are 100 percent made in the USA from premium Cone Mills denim. — Leander Kahney
This “small-in-one” inkjet printer keeps your money in your wallet (thanks to a retail price of $99.99) and also works surprisingly well for a such a tiny unit. It may not have higher-end business features like an automatic document feeder, but you can still use this baby in your home office or dorm room thanks to its tiny footprint and low weight.
You can print in full color wirelessly from your Mac, iPhone or Android device, or via a USB cable you’ll need to supply. There’s even an SD card slot to print directly from your camera’s SD media.
This baby prints super-fast, especially for text pages (up to eight pages a minute), and delivers quality prints on all kinds of paper, from glossy photo to the plain copy stuff. If you need a small, useful printer with great print quality, easy setup and a low price, you can’t go wrong with this one. — Rob LeFebvre
I travel a lot to gaming and tech conventions, and I’ve always got to have my various chargers, devices, backup drives and tons of wires along with me. I’ve used minimalist backpacks, voluminous messenger bags and even shaving kits to keep track of all this digital ephemera, all to less-than-satisfying results.
WaterField Designs, however, has found the perfect solution: a travel gadget bag that’s not only rugged and useful, but incredibly good-looking. The Gear Pouch comes in four colors — black, brown, burgundy and navy — and three sizes to match your gadget carrying needs (priced between $40 and $50, depending on size). The medium one I tried out was perfect to fit my Lightning cables, Apple Watch charger, spare battery pack, backup hard drive and even my PlayStation Vita cords, plus a bunch of business cards for giggles.
The Gear Pouch zips right up into a beautiful little zippered pouch (with another zip pocket on the front) and stows quite nicely into my backpack or carry-on luggage. No more digging around the bottom of my bag to find the cable I need. — Rob LeFebvre
My Cult of Mac co-workers knew when the first hot day was this year — it was the day I was even more hostile than usual. Once I finished apologizing, I ventured out into the sun-scorched world to find something that would make things a little more tolerable for me (and everyone else).
After wandering up and down the aisle with all the fans, trying to figure out my needs (How large should it be? How many speeds should it have? Holy shit, should it oscillate???), I saw the Flippi v6 by Vornado just sitting up on a shelf all unassuming. It's a smaller fan, but it has a pretty great vertical range of motion. The entire center section with the fan part in it rotates 180 degrees so it can point straight up, straight down or anywhere in between. Plus, it was like $18, and I get a nice kind of R2-D2 vibe off of it, so that was a quick sale.
It's sitting on my printer right now, blowing much-needed cool air on me. And I'm sure everyone around me is feeling the difference. — Evan Killham