Ultra-compact studio monitors deliver huge sound

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Big sound, small package. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
Big sound, small package. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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.

Gadget Watch: New gear to trick out your iPad, your bike and your camera

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Gadget Watch: July 12, 2014

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)!

Grippine

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

SpeakerSlide

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

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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

Divoom Voombox-Ongo

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

Gadget Watch: Planes with iPad holders, bike-chain keychains and a $340 tote bag

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Gadget Watch: June 7, 2014

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.

Drone registration

Drones and HD cameras are affordable, giving everyone a chance to make beautiful, cinematic video.

Photo: DJI

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

Magnote

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

snappgrip

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

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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

Trekkertent Stealth

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

TIK keychain

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

Bluetooth bamboo speaker bangs out the beats

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

Wood. It’s just better.

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.