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Sol Republic Tracks Ultra on-ear headphones - $179
If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you probably also have a kickin' iTunes library. But why waste it on a pair of dinky white earbuds that don't do your tunes justice? If you spend any amount of time listening to music (or podcasts) on your iDevice you owe it to yourself to ditch the stock Apple earbuds and invest in a quality pair of headphones. My favorite are the Tracks Ultra on-ear headphones from Sol Republic.
You might recognize Tracks as the headphones of choice of a certain gold medal winner from the U.S. Olympic swimming team. I reviewed the Tracks HD headphones after watching the 2012 Summer Olympics in August. The Ultra models crank it up a notch by offering even better sound and deeper, richer bass courtesy of the company's V12 Sound Engine speakers. The Ultras are finished with a gorgeous, spun-aluminum finish and super-soft speaker pads.
All Tracks headphones come with a practically indestructable headband and interchangeable cable with omni-directional microphone, volume controls and a 90-degree angle plug. And if the Ultras are too luxe for your budget, Sol Republic offers Tracks headphones starting at $99.
Mikey Digital microphone for iPhone and iPad - $99
Even iPhone and iPad is also a very capable voice recorder, capable or recording meetings, letures and interviews. The problem is the whimpy microphone that's built into Apple devices. It's servicable at close range but terrible for recording anything far away. That's where the Mikey Digital microphone from Blue Microphones comes in.
Mikey Digital is a cardiod condenser microphone with two custom-tuned Blue capsules for stereo recording, a line-input, rotating 230-degree design, and USB pass through. It works with the iPod touch (4th generation), iPhone 4 and all iPads (newer devices require Apple's Lightning adapter). It records to Apple's Voice Memos app for iOS although I recommend recording with GarageBand for iOS ($4.99, App Store) for best results. iOS recognizes Mikey Digital as a microphone in any app except phone and Facetime.
It's an ideal solution for field recording and includes three gain settings from everything from a loud concert to a quiet conversation. List is $99, but you can find Mikey for around $82 on Amazon.
Nest Learning Thermostat 2.0 - $249
The father of the iPod is at it again and he's developed something for your house that can save you money this winter. Tony Fadell, former SVP of Apple Inc.'s wildly popular iPod division has turned his attention to something more pedestrian: home thermostats. The first Nest thermostat (my May 2012 review) revolutionized home HVAC systems allowing you to control it via the Nest Mobile app from just about anywhere.
The Nest concept is brilliant: install it then turn it up and down like you would on amanual thermostat. Nest learns from your patterns and notices that you like it at 72 degrees when you wake up at 7 a.m. and 70 degrees when you arrive home at 5:30 p.m. Nest is also smart enough to know that no one's home from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will automatically set itself to "away mode" saving you money.
The second-generation Nest Learning Thermostat hardware is 20 percent thinner, even easier to install, and compatible with 95% of low voltage heating and cooling systems and whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers (you can check compatibility here). But the biggest changes come in the Nest 3.0 software, which was pushed to every Nest device.
The updated software includes enhanced Auto-Away mode, more languages, Auto-Schedule in Heat/Cool mode and new System Match technology that automatically activates specific features like True Radiant, Heat Pump Balance, Early-On and Filter Reminders. Although it's spendy, after you use it for a week, you can't live without it. As a bonus Nest emails you a monthly Energy Report that details your energy usage with tips to help you save.
For more information read the CNET review.