HomePod sounds great, but you’re locked in [Review]

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Apple HomePod volume controls
The HomePod is Apple's first step into the smart speaker arena, but does it emerge victorious?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

There are boatloads of smart speakers out there, but nothing quite like HomePod.

Like many Apple products that came before it, HomePod is here to revolutionize an industry. It’s certainly not first to market, but Cupertino’s plan is to make all HomePod competitors insignificant. The new Apple smart speaker uses cutting-edge technology that delivers outstanding sound quality to do just that.

You can’t buy another speaker of this kind for $349. That price tag is not exactly cheap, but if you love music, HomePod should be at the top of your shopping list.

This silicone Apple Watch band is perfect for fitness freaks [Review]

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Nomad Sport Strap review for Apple Watch
The Nomad Sport Strap is ready to accept your fitness challenge.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

While many Apple Watch bands put fashion front and center, the Nomad Sport Strap embraces the wearable’s exercise potential. This wide, black silicone strap makes the Apple Watch look less like a smartwatch and more like a hard-core fitness tracker.

Is HomePod love at first listen? It’s complicated.

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HomePod audio quality is great out of the box, and Siri turns out to be a pleasant surprise.
HomePod sounds great out of the box, and Siri turns out to be a pleasant surprise.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

High-quality audio is the signature feature of Apple’s new HomePod. Apple execs brush off “Siri so stupid” concerns by emphasizing the sound quality of the device.

So the big question is: Will the HomePod be love at first listen? I just unwrapped one of the new Apple smart speakers, and my ears now have a little bit of a crush on HomePod.

This shotgun-style microphone is perfect for YouTube shooters [Review]

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The Rode NTG4+ microphone makes our YouTube videos sound super-crispy.
The Rode NTG4+ microphone makes our YouTube videos sound super-crispy.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Since I started running Cult of Mac‘s YouTube channel, I’ve been striving for the best visuals and audio possible. Compare our latest videos with some of our earlier ones, and you should see improvements across the board.

I’ve always neglected audio, but I’ve learned over time that sound proves vital to crafting quality videos. With that in mind, I recently tried out the Rode NTG4+ microphone. Now it’s part of my essential kit for creating videos.

Check out my video review below.

Drag-and-drop the news with Lire RSS reader

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lire
Lire has a nice icon.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Lire is an RSS reader for iOS, and it just added a great update in the form of drag-and-drop. Now you can grab any news story and drag it either to Lire’s own drop-shelf (iPhone and iPad), or to another app (iPad). It really makes great use of iOS 11’s drag-and-drop, but is let down by other apps’ poor implementation for receiving dropped items.

Guitar Gravitas is the only guitar scale and chord app you’ll ever need

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Guitar Gravitas
Guitar Gravitas has everything you need, all on one screen.
Photo: Mad Harmony

Guitar Gravitas is yet another iOS chords-and-scales app for guitar players, but this one’s worth a look because the layout is so damned useful. Unlike many other scale and chord apps, Guitar Gravitas presents exactly the information you need when you have the guitar in your hands and are ready to practice. It puts as much info as possible onto a single screen, without getting cluttered or confusing.

Best iPad cases for every type of user

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pad and quill
The right case is not only protective, but functional, and even classy.
Photo: Pad&Quill

You have in your hands a brand new iPad. Now what? Sure, you can just go ahead and use it au natural. But consider: While iPads may look like hulking slabs of aluminum and glass, they are deceptively delicate. They cry out for protection.

Gauging which is the best case to safely secure your tablet is not for the faint of heart, given the myriad options out there. That’s where our iPad case roundup comes in. We’ve scoured the best reviews, including our own, and looked at buyers’ favorite cases on shopping sites like Amazon.

Then we gathered our picks into several categories, depending on how much you want to pay, what type of protection you need, and any extra functionality offered (like keyboard cases). And we’ve also put together a list of runners-up — cases that are pretty good, or even great, but just didn’t make our cut.

Embellish your wrist with a one-of-a-kind batik Apple Watch band

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batik
Clessant's Batik Apple Watch Bands are a beautiful blend of ancient Indonesian art, batik, and French leather-making. Available in red or blue.

Make your Apple Watch your own with a truly distinctive, statement-making strap worthy of a double take.

The Batik Strap from French company Clessant is a refreshing take on an everyday accessory. No two are ever alike. And, you can take a look at it now in Cult of Mac’Watch Store.

Colgate’s iPhone-controlled AI toothbrush is smart, but not essential [Review]

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toothbrush
Brushing is getting a 2018 overhaul.
Photo: Luke Dormehl/Cult of Mac

Colgate’s new iPhone-compatible smart toothbrush promises to transform the way you brush your teeth, thanks to the magic of machine intelligence.

So is the E1 Smart Electronic Toothbrush With Artificial Intelligence like having a virtual dentist at your beck and call? Here’s what we make of it after a week of tooth-cleaning action.

EvenMidi adds real knobs to the iOS-controlled effects pedal [Review]

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evenmidi
Look at all those knobs. Just look at them.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The Eventide H9 is a magical effects box for musicians, and it is especially relevant to iOS users because it can be completely controlled by an iOS app via Bluetooth, putting virtual knobs and dials on the screen of an iPad or iPhone. Today, we’ll review the EvenMidi, which is a box that does one thing — adds bunch of knobs the the Eventide H9 so you never need to touch a screen again.