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 2 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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For those about to rock, this universal mic clip is essential kit

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iKlip XPand for iPhone, iPad. Photo: Rob LeFebvre, Cult of Mac
Two models of iKlip XPand will hold iPhones, iPads or most other mobile devices. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

If you use your iPad or iPhone (or both!) onstage when you perform, you know how hard it can be to find a good place to put them. Putting your iPad on a flimsy music stand just won’t cut it, and leaving your iPhone on the floor near your guitar pedals is just asking for a stomped-on smartphone.

The solution, for me, has always been iKlip iPad stands, which connect right to my mic stand. The new versions, including a sweet new iPhone mount, keep my iPad and iPhone safe from all musician-based harm, and always at the right height and angle to get at my lyric sheets, set lists and guitar effects.

Lust List: Gear so great we can’t stop talking about it

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Lust List: August 2014

You know you've found a great piece of gear when you can't wait to tell your friends about it. "Check this out," you gush, eager to share the latest thing you just can't live without. "You've gotta get one of these."

That's what Lust List is all about, and this month we're all abuzz about gear for music, grooming, eating, getting organized and maybe even saving your life.

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag

I'm a photographer, not a bike messenger. This flashed through my mind when the Snoop Camera Messenger Bag by Timbuk2 arrived at my door. Yes, it is more stylish than the standard, drab canvas bag that usually slings my gear, but the only cool that matters to me is a state of being while trying to meet the demands of editors.

As if it sensed my skepticism, the bag immediately began to show off. I customized the camera compartment and stuffed the bag with a body, lenses, notebooks and my laptop. It felt balanced and comfortable and stayed up on my round right shoulder. Two hours later, I found myself in a downpour at a baseball game. I bagged one camera and continued shooting. But I was distracted because I was in awe of the rainwater beading on the Snoop's nylon exterior and rolling off.

The ump finally called the game and as I sat soaked in my car, I found everything in the bag dry. Always in search of a better bag, the hunt had ended. Comes in three sizes and two color combos: extra small ($129), small ($149) and medium ($169). — David Pierini

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clippers

I'm through with those cheapo nail clippers you get for a buck at the drugstore: They're always rusting, getting dull or, worst of all, slipping out of alignment and chewing up the end of your fingernail. I've always dreaded clipping my nails for these reasons, but for some reason I never thought about upgrading the tool I use for this mundane weekly task.

When I finally got wise, I bought a pair of Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clippers ($18 list), a Japanese grooming implement that costs more than your typical throwaway clippers but cuts nails quickly, cleanly and reliably. Buy them for the utility; admire them for their quality craftsmanship, reassuring heft and sleek, Mac-like sheen. It's time to start clipping your nails like a samurai. — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Evernote Notebooks by Moleskine

This might be the best pairing since Batman and Robin: digital organizer Evernote plus classic Moleskin notebooks. Fighting your messy mind and your terrible tendency to carry a torch for paper, the notebooks make it easy to keep yourself together. You can sketch or take notes with the Moleskin, then harness the camera of your iPhone or iPad to log it digitally in Evernote. A cute set of smart stickers help you tag your scribblings so you don't end up with a digital slush pile (the standards are: home, action, travel, and work rejected and approved, but you can also customize them). Also, a three-month premium membership is included with the $29.95 price, putting extras like searchable text from images at your fingertips. Holy agility, Batman! — Nicole Martinelli

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Snark SN-2 All Instrument Tuner

If you don't have a dedicated roadie or one of those robotic tuning guitars, there's no easier way to tune your ax than with a Snark. Just squeeze the thumb-size mount and slide your headstock between the rubberized grips. Then press the little button on the front of the Snark's colorful LCD readout, pluck a string and get your instrument ready to play.

Lightweight and accurate, the Snark SN-2 All Instrument Tuner works with acoustic or electric guitars and basses, mandolins, banjos, whatever. It's perfect for situations like in-studio radio shows, where you don't want to drag around a stompbox tuner or a large amp that might have one built-in tuner. It also boasts pitch calibration, which lets you tune to something besides A-440, and a metronome that I can't complain about because I've never used it. The Snark SN-2 is a great buy at $39 list (and a steal at Amazon's price of $12.99). — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Libratone Loop

I was on the hunt for a good AirPlay speaker for months before I came across the Loop by Libratone. The company makes some other great speakers at different prices, but I've been loving my Loop. Its sleek, minimalist design fits in with just about any kind of decor, and the included wall mount is super-useful and easy to install. Pairing is easy enough over AirPlay after the initial setup with the Loop's companion iPhone app. Once you set up, you really don't need to touch the speaker again.

I've been using my Loop in the kitchen while preparing delicacies such as cereal, eggs and macaroni and cheese. The sound is really quite impressive, especially the bass. Pro tip: Place this speaker as close to a wall as possible, because it bounces sound off the surfaces behind it, creating insanely deep bass. It will blow you away the first time you crank up the volume. The only major downside to the Loop is that it's incredibly pricey at $500. It's not an impulse buy by any stretch of the imagination, but if you've been saving up for a nice AirPlay speaker, I definitely recommend the Loop. — Alex Heath

Photo: Alex Heath/Cult of Mac

Standard Horizon HX300 radio

Even when Bay Area waters are calm sailing, there's one piece of tech you always need: a decent VHF radio. Your iPhone and iPad might be handy navigation tools, but nothing beats the ease-of-use and reliability of a waterproof, handheld radio like the Standard Horizon HX300. It repaid the $130 list price during a midnight cruise when the crew threatened mutiny for fear of running aground on the Berkeley Shoal. (Thanks to the radio, the boats ahead guided us to safety.)

The HX300 comes with a standard USB charger, cutting down on the kit you need to keep it running; compact and relatively lightweight, it also floats. And, if it goes overboard, a red strobe light will help you scoop it up. — Stefano Maffulli

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The Barbecue Bible

Holy smoke! If you savor the magic that happens when meat cooks over an open flame, The Barbecue Bible should be one of your sacred texts. The book contains 500 recipes, countless tips on grilling techniques and loads of engrossing stories drawn from author Stephen Raichlen's globe-hopping jaunts to the world's barbecue meccas. Classic American fare like steaks and ribs gets plenty of ink, as do the fundamentals behind various types of live-fire cooking, but the real treasures here are the exotic international recipes that will take your next cookout from a polite "Good burgers, man" to "Oh my God, how did you make this?!?"

It's not just red meat, either: You'll find plenty of super-flavorful preparations for vegetables and seafood in this must-have manual, which simply brims with delicious side dishes that will augment the awesome main courses. Instead of potatoes slathered in boring mayo, try serving up a Korean "three hots" salad or spicy Japanese bean sprout salad the next time you fire up the grill. If you are interested in expanding your smoke-filled culinary horizons, this fun-to-read and easy-to-follow book ($22.95 list for paperback) will launch you on many worthwhile journeys. — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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Cuisinart PerfecTemp Cordless Electric Kettle

I've been a coffee guy ever since I tried my first mocha back in the heady days of my undergraduate degree (psychology, since you asked) at UCLA. These days I use a basic French press set up to get the best taste out of the coffee I have every morning. While I used to just boil water in an old kettle on the stove, when I found this sweet Cuisinart electric water kettle, I had to have it. I mean, just look at it: sleek lines, bright blue light-up panel and a clever little pedestal that plugs into the wall, letting the kettle itself ride free when you pour the heated water into your cup or coffee press.

The Cuisinart electric kettle I use has a fast-heating 1,500 watts of power with six different temperature options and a Keep Warm setting that will hold your water at a specific temp you set. This all seems ridiculous until you become a tea geek and realize that white tea works best at 185 degrees, oolong tea is best at 190 degrees and green tea tastes best warmed to 175 degrees. It's all very exciting to be able to press a button and get the best tea experience possible, especially when you hit the fancy tea store and buy your tea in little packets that recommend these exact temperatures.

I can't imagine my morning life without my coffee, and my afternoons without a cuppa to keep me rolling. This Cuisinart electric kettle is the best thing in my kitchen, next to the actual coffee and tea itself. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers

When I work at home, much of my day is spent sitting at my iMac, listening to music or public radio through iTunes. A couple years ago, I was looking for a small, powered speaker system with a neutral, natural sound for hours of listening. The Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers are stylish and sonically satisfying — they fit the bill beautifully.

B&W has long specialized in high-end audiophile loudspeakers, but the company also offers a line of smaller systems for computers and portable devices. The MM-1s are compact, two-way enclosures, about 7 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide and deep. Black cloth wraps completely around the units, complemented by a brushed-aluminum top and band around the middle. The right speaker houses all the electronics. Thanks to the magic of amplification and advanced digital signal processing, the sound is surprisingly full and rich, despite the small enclosures and the lack of a separate subwoofer. These speakers won't fill an entire house with sound but have a depth of field and overall detail that's rarely heard from desktop computer monitors.

Both USB and mini-phone-jack analog inputs are provided; the USB inputs allow digital sound directly from the computer to speaker, and works with the Mac's own Sound Preference Pane and system volume controls. A small, egg-shaped remote control is included. The black-and-silver styling complements modern Apple aluminum desktops and laptops quite elegantly, with a minimum of desk space required. The MM-1s aren't cheap ($499 on Amazon), but the company's high-end heritage doesn't disappoint. These puppies are well worth the price. — Adam Rosen

Photo courtesy Bowers & Wilkins

Mega-pedal serves up soaring vocal harmonies, impressive guitar effects

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I’ve been playing music for coming up on 30 years now, and I’ve tried a ton of music gear. These days, I run a fairly bare-bones setup, with a smaller amp for those close venues, a couple of dual-effect pedals (Visual Sounds’ Route 66 and H2O), and a Boss VE-20 vocal harmony box to thicken up the background vocals in my disco band.

I’ve always had a thing for multi-effect boxes, though, running through my share of a few complicated ones that never quite gave me what I needed in terms of both effects sounds and onstage ease-of-use.

When I heard about TC-Helicon’s new VoiceLive 3 mega-stomp box, with a huge range of guitar effects and amplifier modeling, an amazing vocal-harmony processing system and a stage-quality looping feature, well, I had to try it out.

iRing lets you rock mad beats using only your hands

Photo: Jim Merithew, Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Sliding two distinctive iRings between my middle and ring fingers on each hand and then conducting the bouncy electronic beat coming out of my iPad mini and into my big fat headphones made me feel less like a conductor and more like an awkward boxer, punching at a touchscreen.

Once I relaxed into it, though, the music started to flow and my hands began to dance; this is one cool iOS music-making peripheral.

The iRing is made for making music, but the potential here is stunning: Imagine a video game controlled with your hands, a webpage that scrolls at a speed you define with your fingers, or an e-book that turns pages with a swipe through the air. This is a truly innovative new product.