Tech

Audio

Review: Blue Sadie Headphones

The successor to Blue’s Mo-Fi over-ear headphones, the Sadie updates and refines the unique-looking — and unique-fitting — set of over-ear cans. This pair, which sits above the planar magnetic Lola and below the amp-devoid Ella in Blue’s lineup, is primarily targeted to mobile users (read: just about everybody who listens to music nowadays) relying on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets as the primary source of music, since all these devices lack dedicated amplifiers and thus require external outboard ones to optimally power HiFi headphones. But more than that they feature a Formula One-inspired articulating frame for improving fit in a way an extending band never could. We finally got a chance to test a pair ourselves over the past few weeks so if you’re curious keep on reading.

Design

Sadie may look big in online images but the pair is even bigger in person. Two oversized circumaural earcups press into your head and surround your ears, simultaneously insulating sound while avoiding putting any pressure directly on your ears. The earcups feature a bit of elegant-looking plastic in the form of a shell covering most of the outside, but almost every other visible part on the set is made of metal. That includes the race car-influenced suspension frame. The general frame design is shared with the Mo-Fi, albeit refined, though it’s still got three articulating joints on either side, expanding in width, height, and angle to fit a variety of head shapes and sizes. They do feel quite sturdy thanks to the use of metal but as a consequence this increases overall weight to just over one pound, nearly twice as much as some comparable pairs.

Below the left cup there’s a 3.5mm input for plugging in one of the two included cables, one plain vanilla at nearly 10 feet long and the other at four feet with three buttons and an inline mic in an enclosure that appears to be made of the same dark, anodized metal as most of the frame. The headphone jack input also sports a textured silver ring around it that switches the headphone amp between its three settings: off, on, and on+. More on the nuances of these settings in the sound section. Besides this there’s a MicroUSB input to charge the inbuilt rechargeable battery. The outgoing Mo-Fi had a tension switch; there’s none of this on the Sadie, though we didn’t really miss it. There’s no on switch anywhere either: instead, put the pair on your head and they’ll turn on automatically; take them off to have them shut off. The frame detects the earcups being pulled apart and knows to turn them on, and you’ll know it yourself thanks to a subtle glow coming from behind the Blue logo on either earcup.

Appreciating their almost mechanical black-and-silver aesthetics is more or less up to individual taste. Minimal they’re not but we think we’d be hard pressed to find anyone thinking they didn’t look good, not to mention well-built.

Comfort

If they weren’t comfortable the suspension frame wouldn’t be doing itself any favors. Fortunately they are, and this despite their size and considerable weight. Thick memory foam padding on both the earcups and headband certainly help dissipate both the weight as well as the clamping pressure of the suspension, which isn’t insignificant considering it needs to be enough to solidly hold these hefty bad boys on your noggin. We definitely wouldn’t say we could forget we’re wearing them, especially when turning your head or making quick movements and feeling the headphones follow suit a fraction of a second later, but the fit feels tailored, and it basically is considering you’ll naturally (and effortlessly) customize both the fit and angle of the earcups every time you put them on. Even during prolonged wear our head and ears remained surprisingly comfortable.

Sound

To the good stuff. Inside they’ve got the aforementioned 240mW audiophile amplifier as well as 50mm fiber-reinforced dynamic drivers and a rechargeable battery capacious enough for about 12 hours of playtime. If you don’t want to use the amp, or if the batteries are dead, switch the dial to off. If you do have it on though you’ll be rewarded by an enlarged soundstage that gets loud. In fact we recommend, as Blue does, to not only start at a low volume and crank it up as it’s playing to figure out optimal volume levels and avoid blasting your eardrums accidentally — and same goes when switching between modes, just in case.

While the drivers are the same as on the outgoing Mo-Fi they’re tuned slightly differently. And when compared to headphones with smaller drivers we found the sound really shone when volumes were set a little higher. Our experience suggests that the sound isn’t skewed towards the popular bass-heavy profiles of many other modern headphones like those from Bose and Beats, something we appreciated. Sound was warm, rather crisp and clean, and with perhaps just a very slight skew towards lower frequencies. Overall the sound is natural and powerful without tiring out your ears.

If you need more bass switch them to on+ mode. This boosted bass specifically while leaving treble and mids largely unaffected, but still not to Beats levels so if you’re really craving over-the-top booming percussion you’ll need to use a software-level equalizer on your device to address that.

All of this isn’t to say that they don’t sound good with the amp off. On the contrary, it results in sound that’s not dissimilar from when it’s on, if you crank the levels up appropriately considering the amp does give it a fair volume boost. Turning it on does extend the range slightly but noticeably, and our preferred general listening mode for as variety of tracks was not on+ nor off but rather on. Tastes vary, though, and different tracks can easily sound subjectively better in one mode or another, most often either on or on+. It should also be noted that while they’re devoid of active sound cancellation the foam and closed-back (and likely higher-than-average listening volumes you’re likely to set) block out ambient noises fairly well.

Conclusion

To wrap up, the Sadie delivered when it came to sound with the amp both off and on, likely to be appreciated by most music buffs looking for a mid-to-high-end pair of over-ear headphones. Its solid sound is less likely to be a point of contention compared to their size, weight, price, and design. They’re certainly distinctive in appearance and fit us quite comfortably despite the above but listeners perfectly content with traditional extensible headphone bands and cheap-feeling but lightweight plastic might question the necessity of the overbuilt articulating frame that detracts from portability. Others, who’ve rarely if ever found a perfect fit that stays comfortably in place over long stretches of listening, are bound to absolutely love it.

Learn more at Blue or grab a pair at Amazon – $400

GET IT: $400

Tech

Lantern Platinum+ Multifunctional Light

The age of the incandescent flashlight is over. No regrets, either, considering flashlights like the Lantern Platinum+ Multifunctional Light do much more than just light the way. Of course this it does well thanks to a CREE XM L2 U3 LED that outputs as much as 1,000 lumens, comparable to one of your car’s headlamps. But the torch is also equipped with a 4,800mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a USB port to charge other devices, a power indicator, and a removable cone-shaped diffuser that’s handy when harsh, direct light is too much. Also included is a mount with which to use Lantern on your bike — practical since it’s probably several times brighter than the light you’re currently using on your commute.

Grab one at BiteMyApple – $90

GET IT: $90

Audio

Marshall Stockwell Bluetooth Speaker

The smallest amp-lookalike speaker in Marshall’s lineup, the Marshall Stockwell Bluetooth Speaker still weighs in at about 2.65 pounds — probably because they just had to make it the loudest speaker in its class. Behind the insigna-adorned grille it’s got dual 2.25-inch woofers and two 2.25-inch dome tweeters powered by a two-channel Class D amp, plus a rather large battery that powers the rig for about 25 hours on a charge. Bluetooth 4.0 assures wireless play but you’ll need to adjust volume using an analog knob (it just goes to ten and not eleven, but there’s room to scribble it in), which sits alongside two other similar knobs for controlling both bass and treble. All three retract for travel, and the optional multifunctional flip cover doubles as a stand for the speaker when deployed.

Grab one at Amazon – $230 [via]

GET IT: $230

Tech

Apple iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition

It’s powered by the same A10 Fusion chip and boasts the same 12 megapixel wide-angle camera, water resistance, and overall specs as the models released last fall. The main difference is that each purchase of an Apple iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition throws some money at the global battle against HIV and AIDS. Oh, and the phone itself comes with a fiery red aluminum color on its rear plate to show for it, also matching Apple Store logos worldwide come International AIDS day in December.

Available Friday. Grab one at Apple – $750+

GET IT: $750+

Tech

Colorware iPhone 7 Plus Retro Edition

While indispensable for many of us now, the first Macintosh computer was a luxury for most. As is the Colorware iPhone 7 Plus Retro Edition. The included iPhone 7 Plus goes through Colorware’s meticulous deconstruction, careful painting, and then reconstruction process, this time styled like an OG 1984 Mac in beige with darker beige vent stripes and a rainbow Apple logo. The first 25 were numbered though they’re already long gone. It’s by no means cheap but at least they didn’t skimp out with the underlying iPhone: it comes with 256GB of storage, or about 640,000 times more than the floppies the original machine used for memory.

Grab one at Colorware – $1,900

GET IT: $1,900

Watches

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch

Last week we saw Tag Heuer’s latest take on the smartwatch. This week we meet Montblanc’s first. The Montblanc Summit Smartwatch pairs the brand’s classic design with a 400 by 400 pixel AMOLED display (that’s shielded by a domed sapphire crystal lens) and tech-heavy features that let it do a lot more than just time telling. A suite of features streamline use and include Google Assistant, Global translator, voice-to-text messaging, and Google Maps for navigation — perhaps no surprise considering the Summit runs the latest version of Android Wear. The 46mm diameter watch also tracks activity levels and boasts a surprising amount of sensors including a heart rate monitor, e-compass, and barometer. Each also comes with various analog-looking Montblanc faces to adapt to any occasion — or any outfit.

Learn more at Montblanc – $890

GET IT: $890+

Tech

Joto Drawing Robot

It’s not written by hand, nor is it a static print. The Joto Drawing Robot is instead a sort of whiteboard that you’ll never need to update by hand since an integrated two-axis mechanical arm is glad to handle that for you. Telling it what to draw is accomplished with a computer or mobile device, which lets you type it out, trace it by hand with your finger or a stylus, or put up illustrations, either your own or others’. Then Joto gets busy, cleaning the board with its replaceable eraser and drawing again with its flush-fitting custom dry-erase pen. It’s also got a variety of practical uses only limited by your imagination including functioning as a to-do list or for reminders, doubling as a calendar, or as a sign in your small business.

Find it at Kickstarter – roughly $200

GET IT: ~$200

Audio

V-Moda Remix Bluetooth Speaker

It’s about time they got a wireless speaker on their books, but the V-Moda Remix Bluetooth Speaker is unique in that it’ll double as a headphone amplifier when you’re not using it to openly blast beats. The speaker features glass fiber dual-drivers and a passive bass reflector that together produce an immersive three-dimensional soundstage consistent with the brand’s on-ear offerings. Or plug in your full-sized high-end headphones, V-Moda or not, to drive them with added power — 83mW per side to be exact — sparing the need to purchase a separate dedicated headphone amp. It also comes in silver aluminum (shown) or black leather, works with Amazon’s Alexa, wirelessly daisy chains with other Remix speakers for even bigger sound, and in typical V-Moda style can be decked out with a variety of 3D-printed custom accessories including bespoke ones made of platinum or gold that cost a pretty penny.

Learn more at V-Moda – $300

GET IT: $300

Home

Samsung The Frame Television

Samsung’s Serif is one unconventional TV design that stood out from the spartan slim-framed black rectangles we’re used to. Now the Samsung The Frame television is another. While most sets strive for thin or nigh-nonexistent bezels, The Frame embraces its, well, frame, to look more like a work of art, and adds to this with an “Art Mode” that displays custom-designed art to liven up your living room. It also boasts Samsung’s Invisible Connection (a thin, partially transparent cable that separates the TV and its inputs/power) and No Gap Wall mount so you can hang it nearly flush with the wall just about anywhere without cables mussing up the view.

Coming sometime in spring. Read more of Samsung’s press release here – $TBA

GET IT: $TBA

Tech

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Smartwatch

Smartwatches all run more or less the same operating systems, be it watchOS on the Apple side and Android Wear for just about all others. And the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Smartwatch is no different in this respect, running the latter. Where it sets itself apart is modularity, since this latest gen model lets you swap out parts — and not just straps, either, but the buckle, lugs, bezel, or even the watch’s core module itself, when warranted. The module that’s included now though is already amongst the best in the market, boasting a 1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, an Intel Atom processor, 4GB of onboard storage, and a battery of sensors and wireless radios that notably include GPS, NFC, a mic, and even WiFi alongside Bluetooth 4.1. And like any good Swiss timepiece it’s also water resistant to 50 meters despite its far techier inner workings.

Learn more at Tag Heuer – $1,650+

GET IT: $1,650+

Tech

MMT E-Strap

Any smartwatch-owning watch lover faces a dilemma that repeats itself on a near-daily basis: wear a classic timepiece or slap on a [comparatively dinky-looking] smartwatch? Fortunately, you soon won’t need to choose with the MMT E-Strap. The device’s brains are contained in a tiny buckle extension that’s nearly completely hidden by the strap itself, monitoring activity, sleep, delivering alerts and notifications, and doubling as a discreet vibrating smart alarm. Android and iOS apps provide an interface and the E-Strap’s battery lasts for a week per charge — far better than your tech-laden smartwatch — and it’s water resistant to 3ATM to boot. Several leather and finish options also match the straps to your favorite timepiece.

Available in April. Learn more at MMT – $TBA

GET IT: $TBA

Sports & Outdoors

In/Out Tennis Line Call Device

Like a ref that takes subjectivity out of shot calling, the In/Out Tennis Line Call Device is likely to save a few friendships of ultra-competitive but casual tennis players. It takes about a minute to install the GoPro-sized device to a net post before it starts calling the shots, auto-calibrating to the court in question and analyzing every ball with 99% accuracy. The impact of each ball with the ground is recorded and analyzed by the device in real time to be later viewed on any Android or iOS smartphone or tablet, and closer calls can be re-examined as it records them in HD. And since it lights up green or red at every shot that’s in or out, respectively, with a sound to signal those out of bounds, it eliminates a lot of ambiguity and assumptions from the game.

Find it at In/Out – $200

GET IT: $200

Audio

Tivoli Model One Digital

Near-term, maybe, but the future of FM radio, as it stands, is anything but guaranteed. Though it won’t matter much with the Tivoli Model One Digital, a future-proofed version of its classic Model One radio that adds WiFi and Bluetooth streaming alongside the auxiliary input and FM options of the latter to conveniently stream from your own music collection or your Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, and other cloud music playlist. The radio boasts a furniture-grade wood cabinet in white, black, ash, and walnut, with a Gabriel fabric speaker grill that altogether make it look a cut above the ocean of plasticky Bluetooth speakers you’ll find elsewhere. It pairs nicely with Tivoli’s Cube (and other speakers) for making a stereo pair and controls via either their app or a single brushed aluminum dial that turns the unit on by pushing and holding, increases volume by turning, and switches between sources with short clicks.

Learn more at Tivoli – $300

GET IT: $300