The waterproof UE Roll doesn’t float, so it comes with an itsy-bitsy life preserver (if you order direct).
SAN FRANCISCO — Not content to conquer the Bluetooth speaker market with tubes and bigger tubes, Ultimate Ears made its latest portable audio device look like a lily pad. They made it waterproof, too. The only problem was, the UE Roll sank like a stone.
“As life would have it, it doesn’t float,” said Rory Dooley, Ultimate Ears’ senior vice president, during a visit to the Cult of Mac headquarters.
The solution? Create a tiny life preserver for the UE Roll, and give it away to anybody who orders the hottest speaker of the summer directly from UE’s website (while supplies last).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Anything goes at International CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
LAS VEGAS — Walk the halls of the massive International CES trade show and you’ll be bombarded by an outrageous number of pitches for products with radical new features.
You can glimpse the shiny happy future of consumer electronics at the show, although some of the innovations on display are clearly destined for the dustbin of gadget history.
At the biggest booths, reps for big companies like Sony and Samsung — but, sadly, not Apple — talk up the latest additions to their product lines. At smaller booths, inventors show off prototypes for products that may not ever roll off an assembly line. There’s a nonstop blitz of “world’s first” products.
It’s impossible to see everything, but it’s a blast trying. Here are Cult of Mac’s picks for the best of CES 2015, from Lightning-enabled headphones and massive TVs to drones and self-adjusting belts.
UE Megaboom bluetooth speaker. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — It’s easy to see how the UE Megaboom could become your favorite way to listen to music. The new Bluetooth speaker packs great features into a rugged cylindrical package that won’t go tits up if you drop it or leave it out in the rain.
The UE Megaboom is bigger and louder than its predecessor, the similarly shaped UE Boom. It delivers glittering, precise highs and satisfying bass. It’s lightweight and boasts a 20-hour rechargeable battery. All in all, it’s a perfect device for the way we listen to music in the streaming era.
When I received the UE Boom in the mail and opened the mailing box, I thought maybe the PR rep had secretly slipped me a bottle of Scotch. Not that I would have minded, of course.
UE Boom by Ultimate Ears/Logitech Category: Bluetooth Speaker Works With: Any Bluetooth Audio Source Price: $199.99
It turns out that this ruggedized little portable Bluetooth speaker by Logitech-owned Ultimate Ears (UE) comes in some slick packaging that I’m loathe to get rid of, it’s that cool. The cylindrical speaker fits snugly in the center portion of the box, and each side has a cute little compartment where the bright yellow power plug and flat premium micro USB cable fit in, each with its respective symbol printed on a little flag. It’s striking packaging, which should go over well with consumers.
Luckily, the actual speaker here, a smallish cylinder made to be set on end vertically as well as on its side horizontally, is a fantastic sounding Bluetooth speaker, with a full, clear tonal spectrum that’s surprising in something so small. The bass response could be a bit punchier, but I don’t find that to be an issue at all, and actually prefer the more balanced tonal approach.
When one company swallows another, it’s common for a slow shift in rebranding and design to occur as the two entities thrash out their roles and relationship. The latest shift in the Logitech-Ultimate Ears story — Logitech purchased UE in 2008 — occured a month or so ago, when Ultimate Ears was rebranded as Logitech UE and launched a suite of high-end, blue-tinged soundware, with a product selection that reached far beyond the in-ear monitors the company has thus far been known for. In fact, out of seven new gadgets, just one new IEM was introduced: the Logitech UE 900 ($400), a quad-armature earphone that now sits at the pinnacle of UE’s non-custom earphone line.
The UE 900 has lineage, of course; we loved the snug fit, solid build and amazing sound of its antecedent, the TripleFi 10. But the TripleFi 10 is gone, and the UE 900 has stepped into its place with new ergonomics, a new sound — and a lot of blue.
So far it’s been pretty consistent: Each time we review a set of Ultimate Ears ‘phones, the bar leaps up a few notches as our expectations regarding the outfit’s offerings rise. After reviewing the 350, 700, and especially the 600vi — which garnered a best-in-class verdict — we were expecting the TripleFi 10 ($400) to slay vampires and cure cancer.
Of Ultimate Ears’ more serious offerings — and by serious, I’m referring to UE’s armature-equipped models, which start at $100 — the TripleFi 10 is by far the most serious, with three drivers and a crossover in each ear, pro-level detachable leads, the thickest cable we’ve ever seen on an IEM, Comply foam tips (the best tips, period) and a sound signature that’ll have you madly running through your entire music catalog with a big, gleeful smile plastered all over your face.
Almost all mic-equipped canalphones that can be had for about $100 use moving-coil drivers to produce sound, as is the case with all the previous IEMs in this review series. But the Ultimate Ears 600vi ($120) are different — this set employs a single tiny armature in each ear. Armatures generally allow for a more neutral sound with better definition than their moving-coil brethren, and that’s exactly the case with the 600vi. In fact, this set uses pretty much the same excellent drivers as in the now-discontinued, $180 SuperFi 5vi we reviewed early last year.
And yes, apart from the V-Moda Vibrato, the 600vi is $20 more than the other earphones in this review series — but we think the extra Jackson is worth it.