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10 Cool (and Weird) Tech Products That We Tested This Month

Ranging from high-performance speakers to $30 AirPod knockoffs…

kef ls50 wireless speakers gear patrol lead full
Hunter D. Kelley

We’re all about product discovery, curation, testing and culture. Basically, we look for the coolest products, either new or old, and find out how we can use them — e.g. for travel, work, fun or leisure — and how they fit in the greater product landscape. It’s the end of July 2018 and with it, here’s a look back at the tech products we’ve recently tested.

Sonos Beam Soundbar

Sonos is known for not being complicated, however. You just plug in its speakers, follow the in-app instructions and they just work. So instead of looking the Sonos Beam as this ambitious speaker for the home, even though it could turn out to be just that, I think it’s better to look at what you’re guaranteed to get out of it. And that’s an audiophile-grade smart speaker, rivaling the Google Home Max or an Apple HomePod, and that’s a terrific entry-level soundbar. Throw in the fact that it’s going to be able to work with most future smart devices, and $399 is a pretty good deal. If you have an Amazon Fire TV, it’s a steal. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $399 (Amazon) Read the Review

Audeara A-01 Headphones

The Audeara A-01 headphones are engineered to allow you to hear all the frequencies that you normally miss when listening to music since your hearing isn’t perfect. I’m admittedly not an audiophile, but what these headphones could do for me was pretty impressive. There are richness and details in tracks that you didn’t know exist, and many songs sounded very different while wearing the Audeara A-01s. That said, they’re not the most feature-packed headphones and the ANC isn’t as great as other headphones in its price range. Plus, the app can be frustrating. I’m guessing that most people want headphones that they can just turn on and song perfectly, and these headphones require more work than that. For audiophiles or people with declining levels of hearing, however, I imagine that the Audeara A-01 headphones would be quite fun. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $380 Read the Review

Anker Soundcore Space NC Headphones

The Anker Soundcore Space NCs are some of the most comfortable over-ear headphones that I’ve ever worn. They have a killer battery life. If you can get over the generic aesthetic and sometimes frustrating swipe gestures, these are a real no-brainer buy. They’re good wireless over-ear headphones, with decent noise-canceling abilities, at a ridiculously affordable price. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $99 Read the Review

The Evri Charger

Remember when looking for a plug was a major headache at an airport or hotel room? Well now we need three or four depending on the devices we have with us and what needs to be charged. This Evri Charger aims to fix that by offering four quick-charge 3.0 USB ports and a USB-C one as well so your laptop and four other devices can be juicing at the same time. I used this on a field shoot in Phoenix a few weeks back and it was brilliant because I could connect my phone, the director’s phone, a portable battery pack and a GoPro all charging via one wall plug; bonus, the quick-charge ports filled all the devices up during our lunch break. — Bradley Hasemeyer, Contributor

Buy Now: $75

BlackBerry Key2 Smartphone

At its core, the Blackberry is a very good mid-range smartphone. It’s fast, dependable and has a more than an adequate camera. Most importantly, it’s fun to use — a flash from the past. However, it’s really designed as a productivity weapon for business folks and doesn’t offer the supreme specs that are found in all today’s best flagship smartphones. The display isn’t big or beautiful, and it lacks features that have become ubiquitous, such as wireless charging and water resistance. If you want a second phone for business, or you’re just a big fan of Blackberry, the Key2 is a great choice. Otherwise, for $650, you can buy another midrange Android or an older iPhone and probably be happier. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $649 (Amazon) Read the Review

KEF LS50 Wireless Speakers

$2,200 might seem like a lot to spend on a pair of bookshelf speakers — and it is — but the KEF LS50 Wireless offers so much more than your average high-end bookshelf speakers. They’re an engineering feat all in themselves, fitting individual amps, DACs and other electronics inside a cabinet that’s essentially the same size as the older LS50 speakers. They can be used as desktop monitors or an all-in-one hi-fi speaker system. And, best of all, anybody can use them: the app and a wi-fi connection allow Tidal tracks to play in all their high-resolution glory, or with the tap of the Bluetooth button anyone can play whatever they like — no instructions needed. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $2,200/pair Read the Review

Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds are exactly as advertised: more sweatproof versions of the Jabra Elite 65t truly wireless earbuds. Essentially, these are the perfect truly wireless earbuds for the active professional. They sound better than most other alternatives, with accurate midrange and highs, and they’re able to produce a sound that feels big, which is partly due to their snug fit and natural noise isolation. They work well for taking calls and exercising, too. Some people won’t like their very snug fit, but I’m guessing most people will actually like it since there is less likelihood of them falling out. If you like the style and the fit of the Jabra Elite 65t, and are cool paying the extra $20, which is essentially just an insurance policy against sweat, then these are great. Otherwise, you could buy the non-active alternatives and love them just the same. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $190 Read the Review

Shinola Bookshelf Speakers

Shinola’s latest offering is a beautiful and excellent-sounding active speaker system, but it’s pricey. The lack of wi-fi connectivity and companion app is both a blessing and a curse, meaning that the system is easy to use — the addition of Bluetooth and a USB Type-C port means that anybody can figure out how to play music on them — but updating the speakers requires a manual update. Still, if you love the look of these speakers, as well as the sound (you will), these are lifestyle speakers worth paying for. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $1,500 Read the Review

Fake AirPods

These are the outliers of the list — don’t buy them. We pulled the trigger and bought three pairs of fake AirPods — you know the ones that you see on Amazon for around $30. So are they stack up to the real things? Not well. First of all they’re huge. Second, their battery sucks. Third, they lack the easy pairing that comes with the W1 chip. The one thing they have going for them? Price. But being really cheap can’t save these hilariously awkward earphones. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: ~$30 Read the Review

Gravity Touch

The convenience of wireless charging for your smartphone means you can leave a flat pad on your desk or dresser and simply place your phone on it. The downside, of course, is that now you have something visible for everyone to see so it better look good. The Gravity Touch from Fuse Chicken solves this issue with your choice of bamboo or leather both framed in aluminum. I’ve been using the bamboo one for about two months now and it does exactly what you want plus the LED charge light lets you know for sure the phone is charging. I was skeptical about why a wireless charger is better than plugging in, but it is really nice to simply set your phone down when you enter a room and pick it up when you leave. — Bradley Hasemeyer, Contributor

Buy Now: $40

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