Sebastian and Alex

Sebastian's Picks

True to form, whenever afforded the opportunity to stretch beyond PC components, I will begin with a couple of peices of audio gear. Hi-Fi equipment is certainly something of a sickness once smitten, and the market can be as overpriced as retail jewelry – but there are some gems (see what I did there?) on the budget side that can make spending any more seem like profligacy. Let us begin!

The Nano iDSD LE from iFi is the "light edition" of the successful Nano iDSD portable USB DAC/amp that omits only a manual filter switch and coaxial output. This new version is very affordable at $129 considering what you get, which is a very capable external USB sound card with a solid headphone amp built in. The DAC onboard is a Burr-Brown supporting up to 32-bit, 384 kHz PCM with native single and double-rate DSD support. Remarkably for its price the Nano iDSD LE also uses separate AMR clock generators for proper decoding of 44.1 KHz and 48 KHz-based content without resampling. It sounds really good (kind of important), and it includes a built-in battery for up to 8 hours of portable use. I'm very happy with mine, and it's good enough to make me question getting anything more expensive.

This pick isn't new or particularly exciting, but when discussing a product like the above iFi external DAC/amp the conversation will natually shift to headphones, and I still haven't found anything as good as my Audio Technica AD700X at the ~$100 price. These headphones offer detail and clarity, impressively neutral frequency response, and the widest stereo of any headphone I've ever used. Bass is good but not heavy, and they do leak sound as they are an open-back design, but if you value clarity, width, and accuracy it's pretty much impossible to beat these at the price. Oh, and they are really, really comfortable with very soft earpads and a floating suspension that makes the headphone larger overall, but doesn't add to the surprisingly light weight.

Of all the keyboards I had a chance to use in 2017 this ended up being my favorite, with its combination of great feel and responsiveness, compact size, and relatively low cost for a premium mechanical keyboard. Not everyone will be a fan of the red lighting – which can of course be switched off – but as a TKL gaming option that has a fantastic feel for typing I heartily recommend it. I reviewed this TKL version with MX Cherry Red switches and I instantly became a fan – though MX Blue and MX Brown switches are available from HyperX in the standard 104-key version as well.

 

Alex's Picks

With the holiday season, around here that brings snow, and snow brings power failures. Power protection is cheap insurance against brown and black out induced hardware failures and data loss.

Also weather related, dash cams!

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