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Great gear you may have missed

Dan Frakes | Jan. 20, 2014
As the editor who coordinates most of Macworld's iOS- and Mac-accessory coverage, I'm inundated with miscellaneous cables, connectors, chargers, and other "minor" products that don't necessarily warrant a full review or article. But, as I wrote back in late 2012, that doesn't mean they should all go unnoticed. Some of these products are interesting or useful enough that they're worth talking about; or they're things that, though they may not have impressed me at first, have since earned a spot on my desk or in my bag.

Audio accessories
Chances are, you've already got some good speakers or headphones for listening to your favorite music. Here are a few accessories for that gear, as well as a couple portable speakers that offer interesting features.

Outdoor Tech Buckshot: It's not tough to find Bluetooth speakers these days. It's not even difficult to find inexpensive Bluetooth speakers any more. But the $50 Buckshot has a couple things most of its budget competitors don't: versatility and durability. For starters, its compact design — it's a small cylinder, 3.5 inches long and 1.5 inches across — makes it easy to toss in a bag. But you don't have to keep it in that bag: The Buckshot is IPX5 rated, which means it's both waterproof and dust-proof, and its rubber exterior gives it protection against bumps and drops. It's also got a microphone and speakerphone functionality; and a nifty, rubber mount lets you quickly attach the Buckshot to (and remove it from) anything with a handlebar, including a bike or a stroller, without having to purchase an expensive mount separately. It doesn't offer high-end sound, and it obviously won't play as loud as larger speakers, but it's tough to beat the Buckshot's portability, ruggedness, and flexibility.

The Nest Earbud Case: Each year, we see many products that are overly gimmicky, questionably useful, or just plain bad. When I first received the $10 The Nest, I quickly set it aside, thinking it was one of "those" products. But a few months later, I was packing for a trip and wanted to bring my in-ear headphones without getting their earpieces dirty or their cables tangled. I remembered The Nest and decided to give it a try. Much to my surprise, it was pretty great. You flip The Nest open, place your earphone's earpieces in the center well, wrap the cable around the built-in spool, and then flip the outer lip closed around the spool. When you're ready to listen, just grab the headphone plug and give it a gentle tug, and the cables slide neatly out of The Nest, followed by the earpieces. The Nest even fits my custom-earpiece in-ear headphones, which are too bulky for similar products I've tested.

Damson Twist: Another product that surprised me, the $70 Twist speaker, available in black, blue, red, or silver, is deceivingly dense: It's just 3 inches tall and 2.3 inches across, but it weighs nearly 12 ounces thanks to a rugged, aluminum body. Pair this Bluetooth speaker with your phone, tablet, or computer and hold it in your hand while you stream music, and the Twist sounds, well, tinny and weak. But set it down on any flat surface with some resonance — a wood table, a desk, or even a cardboard box — and suddenly the sound opens up, bass fills in, and you've got a decent speaker. As with the Buckshot, above, this isn't great sound (the Twist didn't make our list of recommended speakers for a reason), but it's listenable, and with the right surface, the bass is much bigger than you'd normally get from a speaker of this size. In fact, because the Twist is essentially using the surface on which it's sitting as a speaker radiator, audio is at times quite spacious. The Twist also makes for a cool demo. (My kids loved running around the house with the Twist, seeing what it would sound like on various surfaces.)


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