The funniest and prettiest monoblock hi-fi system ever
Well that’s awkward. Remember how, in September, I touted the audio virtues of the magnificent R5 hi-fi to a box from Ruark? Then, in October, how did I say that rival Naim’s Mu-so 2nd Generation, while not necessarily better, certainly produced a much different, harder sound and sported a more dramatic industrial look?
Well, now I have found a third new UK machine that is not only sonically equal to the two – arguably a subtle level above the two – but it’s one of the nicer products. technology that I have seen.
Built in bamboo and aluminum, with an LED display reminiscent of an airliner’s cockpit, the iFi Aurora is sublime. If final proof was needed that this is the most beautiful hi-fi system ever made, among the reviews I have found online from serious hifi geeks, there is “the looks horribly horrible ”,“ looks like shit ”and“ an eyesore ”.
“To be insulted by you is to be adorned with lilies,” wrote Aristophanes, and, seriously, any audio product whose aesthetics deride hifi enthusiasts are likely to have real value.
The beauty of the Aurora, the product of Japanese-inspired French designer Julien Haziza, also has a function. Bamboo, which is more than decorative, fulfills the audio designer’s dream of a lightweight, exceptionally stiff, non-resonant backing which means no trace of annoying vibrations and hums. And the upward tilt of the Aurora sends its magnificent spooky spatial sound towards the middle of the height of a room, where it belongs.
Machine electronics – eight speakers, including two huge bass radiators; a preamp with a Russian 6N3P valve to add warmth to the sound; and a swarm of proprietary technology – are made by a left-wing German, Thorsten Loesch, who says he uses some techniques he learned while working in the former East Germany. A typically daring admission adapted to such an iconoclastic hi-fi system.
iFi Aurora, £ 1,399, from ifi-audio.com.
A UFO drone for young and old
For any kind of cheap stocking filler toy to be part of Selfridges’ much-vaunted tech zone before Christmas, it has to be pretty special. MyFirst Drone, by Singapore’s Oaxis, is exactly that. And, while it’s perfect for kids looking for a drone, it’s oddly entertaining for non-kids as well.
It’s a rechargeable drone without controls that floats haphazardly, like a creepy miniature UFO, around a room – or outdoors – avoiding (most) objects, walls, etc., thanks to its five anti-crash sensors.
The 11 cm diameter device also has sensors to prevent it from rising too high. The instructions say you launch it by throwing it in the air, but I’ve had more success dropping it. The rotor blades are in a cage so that’s for sure, and with a few myFirst Drones all kinds of chase and capture games could ensue. The box promises that myFirst Drone provides “indoor family bonding activity,” and I would approve of it.
Oaxis myFirst Drone, £ 35, from selfridges.com.
A silent drum kit that blends in with the air
A partner or offspring taking the drums can be a mixed blessing, even if your home is large. So my youngest daughter was cursed when her other half decided to learn and quickly went on tour in a band. The important workout kit in their living room is a bone of contention at their home.
So when I saw a startup, Aerodrums, advertising virtual drums on social media, I called a set. Yes, virtual drums – air drums that you play using only sticks.
The kit comes with a camera and LED light – you mount them on a stand and train the player, who wears reflective patches on the feet and uses chopsticks with special ends. The camera interprets the drum movements and creates corresponding real-time drum sounds. You can either channel the sound through an amplifier or through headphones.
And it works well with practice. The lights in the room need to be well off for the camera to catch all the nuances, and it takes some getting used to, but it’s a viable and likeable product – one that will delight the drummer – and, used in headphone mode. , their family.
Aerodrums kit, £ 155, from aerodrums.com.
20-in-one baking machine gets upgrade
I discovered Thermomix – the cult German cooking machine – four years ago when I reviewed the new TM5 from Vorwerk and was impressed with its ability to perform almost all cooking operations in one appliance. .
Since trying the TM5, the Thermomix cult has become well established in the UK. I have parents who say they forgot what it was like not to have any. Now there is a TM6 and there are several more advanced stage changes. The original’s small screen has been replaced with a big, beautiful one, and internet connectivity has been refined to the point where you can get step-by-step instructions for preparing 40,000 dishes. It is said to perform 20 cooking functions, and that is no gossip.
The Thermomix is a bit loud and you can’t touch it – you either take it seriously or you don’t. But, as much as I loved it in 2015, it’s even more wonderful now.
Vorwerk Thermomix TM6, £ 1,099, from vorwerk.fr.
A programmable “Mars” rover with great potential
Gadgeteer Sphero, of Boulder, Colorado, has amazed fans of robotics and playful electronics for over a decade. I made a Technopolis TV video earlier this year on its Specdrums color sensitive rings for music creation.
Now it has launched its most ambitious product to date – a programmable Mars rover-style robot, RVR, that even an adult can drive out of the box and program in minutes using its intuitive app.
The beginner level involves slipping instructions onto colored blocks in a sequence on your phone, which a six year old could do, and even I did. Watching the machine rush over to your orders is oddly rewarding. Onboard sensors include color and light detectors, infrared, magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope.
Later, you can move on to actual coding and start customizing machines with accessories like robot arms to create almost anything you want, from a device for playing with the cat to a robot that will roll around in the room. home while you are away and report on how things are going.
Sphero RVR, £ 250, from amazon.fr.