A few years ago, Portland resident Sam Beck built a bike-powered speaker that wouldn’t cut off when he stopped pedaling at stoplights. He accomplished such a feat with an amazing new technology: supercapacitors.
Instead of stopping there, however, Beck decided to bring his vision to the portable bluetooth speaker market, and his company — Blueshift — was born. Crowd-funded and open sourced, these gorgeous bamboo speakers charge in minutes and sound amazing for hours. The original unit, called Helium, is a big, bold bamboo speaker that packs a ton of sound.
Beck is releasing a second generation speaker called Hydrogen on crowd-funding site Crowd Supply. This new boombox is smaller and a little less loud, but it’s the same quality and design as its larger sibling, and a little less pricey.
Part of the appeal, for Beck, of figuring out this entirely new way of powering a speaker was the inherent challenge of doing something that no one else had.
“It seemed like such a good idea,” he told Cult of Mac over the phone, “I wondered why no one else was doing it. I saw that there was another way to do things that no one else was doing.”
Check out the video below for more details on this gorgeous high-tech portable speaker cabinet.
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
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
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
If you make music of any kind, or are just looking to upgrade your sound system from the decent-yet-not-audiophile Bluetooth speakers you currently use, you know you want a set of speakers that can handle the highest of highs, the deepest of lows and everything in between without sounding muddy or overly tinny, middy or bassy. You want a speaker set that can handle the deep boom of drum ‘n’ bass and the sweet, high melodies of a Mozart concerto along with any type of loop you can throw at it from your own collection.
Studio monitors are a big deal when making music, as they offer up sound that is as true to the source as possible. You want to hear everything going on in your mix so you can make sure to create the sound that best captures your musical vision, whether during the recording, mixing or mastering phase.
The Reveal 402 studio monitors from Tannoy promise to deliver unparalleled sound and fury without a huge footprint, letting you create music properly on today’s ultra-portable MacBooks. They also let you just plug in any sound source, from XLR to mini-audio jack, with ease, making these ideal for both music creation and plain old rocking out while you’re working.
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
Myro:Air AirPlay speaker
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
Rogue Safari Pop-Up Flash Booster
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
MindShift Filter Nest
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
Double-shot Filco keyset
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
Griffin DJ Connect
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
BlueAnt Pump HD
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 week’s Gadget Watch is all about getting outside. Whether you're shopping, taking photos or traveling, we've got you covered (quite literally, in one case).
From drone-based aerial photography to phone-based iPhoneography, from magnetic notebooks to overpriced tote bags, from stealthy tents to absurd iPhone cases, this week we want to get you out in that summer sun: Take a flight on a plane with a built-in iPad holder, and when you get home you can open your front door with an ultralight bike-chain key holder. Just remember the sunscreen.
Drones and HD cameras are affordable, giving everyone a chance to make beautiful, cinematic video.
Moschino french fries case
Moschino, the fashion choice for lottery winners and Russian gangsters, will sell you this McDonald’s-a-like french fries case for just $85. Yes, it probably comes from the same Chinese factory as the $5 cases in your local mall, but at least you can repurpose this as a SpongeBob case with a few licks of paint. $85
Notebook too thick? Or too thin? What if you could take that weighty-but-comprehensive paper pad and split it into smaller sections as needed? That’s the Magnote, a set of three paper notebooks that combine – Transformers-style – into one big book using magnets in their spines. What’s more, those notebooks can contain day-planner pages, plain, ruled or gridded paper, and they’re the same size as an iPad mini for perfectly pairing paper and pixels. From $29.
Monarch iPad-holding plane seat
U.K.-based budget airline Monarch has a new plane seat. It doesn’t recline (thank God), and offers more space for passengers. There’s also a bungee-cord pouch instead of those filth-harboring pockets, but the best part is the tablet holder up top, so you can slip in your iPad for in-flight movies on a Retina screen. Monarch
Add a proper shutter button to your iPhone with the snappgrip, a Bluetooth-enabled controller that slots onto an iPhone 5/s and adds not just a shutter release, but a pair of zoom rockers and a mode dial. The USB-charged gadget has it’s own companion app, and lots of third-party apps work with it. $70
Braven Mira speaker
Braven makes some of my favorite Bluetooth speakers, and the Mira looks like another winner – 10-hour battery, built-in speakerphone, proper control buttons for play/pause and volume, and splashproof. But the really neat part is the fold-out hook for hanging it up in kitchens, bathroom, gardens and workshops. The hook also doubles as a kickstand for safer spaces. $99
Hard Graft Cube Tote
Canvas and leather, brought to a carry-anything tote bag. The Cube Tote gets its name from the magnetic closure that gathers its flaps together and tidies them up top, but the bag opens out to carry your groceries, your BBQ gear or — well, or anything: It’s a big, open-topped bag. The best part? Those wide straps that sit comfy on your shoulders. $340
Lightweight, good, inexpensive. Pick two. Wait, no – pick three. The £150 Stealth from Trekkertent is like a luxury tarp. It weighs just 590 grams (20 ounces). Packs to a 30 x 10 cm roll (a foot long, like a fat sub) but includes a flysheet (that can stand alone) with sit-up room plus an inner mesh tent with "bathtub" base. $252
Yes, a keychain made from a bike chain. An actual bike chain. The TIK takes links from a Yaban SLA, a chain with “hollow, chromium carbide-coated steel pins and cro-moly steel plates,” and grafts your keys onto its pins. The result is a set of keys that weighs less than the keys alone.
You select the correct key blanks when you buy a set, and then head down to your local locksmith and have her dupe your own keys onto them. Or you could just grab a Dremel and make your own today. From $35
This portable bluetooth speaker uses sustainable bamboo to wrap a pretty great little speaker up in the warm resonance of wood. Kickstarted and made by the folks at Otis & Eleanor, the Bongo portable bluetooth is capable and beautiful at the same time.
There are Bongo designs for everyone, some with dark brown stain, some with black, and some with no stain at all. The speaker grilles come in a variety of ’60s and ’70s-inspired fabric with colors straight out of your mom’s old living room. The unit we got to spend time with comes with brown, copper, gold and red tweed covered speakers and fits in just about any decor we can throw at it around the house. It also looks stunning in a hotel room, what with its classic retro look.
This week we get ready for springtime excursions with three portable speakers that shrug off splashes and are happy to be used in the shower. Which one will you take to the lake, pool or beach? Let’s take a look.
710 byBraven Category: Speakers Works With: Anything with Bluetooth Price: $170
Braven’s 710 Bluetooth candybar speaker has a lot going for it. It’s the same size as my favorite pocket speaker ever, the Braven 650. It’s made of aluminum, it has the same battery-sharing tech as all the other Bravens, and it even fixes some of my complaints about the 650 – it has proper buttons for volume and play pause.
Hell, it’s even waterproof. But there’s one thing that isn’t quite so good. It doesn’t sound as good as the 650. Not by much, but enough that you should still buy the 650 – unless you want to use it in the shower.
Sound Freaq’s Sound Rise is an old-fashioned concept wedded to new-fangled function. It’s a clock radio (remember those?) that plugs into your iPhone and charges it while sucking the sound out of your music library or favorite streaming apps.