headphones that are barrel-strength
Bushmills x Grado Labs, $400, www.gradolabs.com
Grado Labs has built a strong reputation for its specialty headphones and phonograph cartridges. Audiophiles laud the Brooklyn, N.Y., company’s headphones for their warm, pristine sound, spending $1,700 for the flagship set, the PS1000.
Believing that quality speaks for itself, Grado Labs has eschewed ads and celebrity endorsements. So it was unusual to hear that the company was producing headphones in collaboration with Bushmills Irish whiskey. And in another surprise, actor and Bushmills spokesman Elijah Wood and his D.J. partner, Zach Cowie, had a hand in the design.
The limited-edition on-ear headphones, called simply Bushmills x Grado Labs, are made of wood from barrels used to age whiskey. That may sound like a gimmick, but it’s not so far-fetched; Grado uses mahogany in its higher-end headphones, which helps produce its signature sound.
The handcrafted construction is gorgeous. The wood grain of the ear cups and the leather headband give a distinct, rustic look. Even the packaging suggests a wooden crate.
video chat app invites a party
Spin, free, www.netpowerandlight.com
Not everyone can be home for the holidays, and although technology offers a solution, video conferencing with family and friends seems a little sterile. But a free iOS app, Spin, offers a kind of video conferencing that is less formal, simple and more fun. It’s like a souped-up version of Apple’s FaceTime.
What Apple managed with FaceTime was to make video chats simple: Press a button to see and hear the person you are calling. The Spin app has made it nearly that easy, but instead of calling one person, you can have a group of up to 10. Once you are all connected, you can see and hear one another, and also share photos and videos from your phone’s photo collection, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr or Instagram.
What makes the app stand out is how easy it is to use. To invite people, you drag their picture down from the list of contacts at the top of the page to the center — your friends have to sign up to appear in the queue. A pulsing symbol lets you know who is available online. To share pictures or videos, drag them up from the bottom. Everyone on the call can see what you share, but private photos remain private.
NEW YORK TIMES