Under $400 Holiday Buyer’s Guide Part 3: Other Stuff

Welcome to your completely unnecessary and wholly unsolicited Part-Time Audiophile guide to the holidays, Part 3 of a bazillion. You’re welcome.


Got books? Chances are, you’re spending all your money on LPs, but on the off-chance you’re not all one-note, here are a couple of things for your bookshelf. And no. They’re not all audio-related. [Gasp!]. Sure, some are, but not all. And no, I didn’t go looking for those “how to be a better listener” or “how to burn your face off with a soldering iron” or “how to pad your cell to suck out that last bit of life”. You all can find that stuff elsewhere.

Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give A F*ck

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook ($15)

Thug Kitchen is a classic. And by ‘classic’, I mean it came out last year. And it’s awesome. I got my 20-something nieces each a copy last year for Christmas and they spend the rest of the day reading aloud and laughing hysterically. It’s … colorful. And the photos are fantastic.

The good thing? I mean, besides it being funny as all f***, is that the food is pretty damn tasty, too. A word of warning — the recipes are all vegan. Get over that s*** and move on. Chances are, you’re old and fat and need all the help you can get — and this motherf***ing book will Save Your Life.

Buy it now. Or die horribly. Or at least fat. Something. Food, b****es!

Baby Steps to Better Health

I’ll admit, Thug Kitchen may be a little … harsh. But not the language — you need to nut up around that. No, I mean the lifestyle. Making a radical change — even if it’s a matter of doing it for your continued prosperity or hope for reasonable longevity — is hard. Changing your dietary habits? Really hard. Even when your diet is actively harming you.

So, my wife (time for some nepotism!) and her sister started picking away at their bad habits several years ago, and blogging about it on their site, My Sister’s Pantry. The insight they had? That “healthy eating” wasn’t something they had flipped a switch on. It took them years. With quite a few setbacks along the way, as certain family members (ahem) were not always … thrilled … with the whole project.

Let’s say that, now, “I get it”. And as a result, we all eat healthier. I don’t necessarily eat less, but we do go to town, the damage is minimal. And that’s huge.

The paper-back binding just came out. And yes, the art on the cover was done by my then six-year-old daughter, aka, Miss Picky-Pants.

Schiit Happened

Schiit Happened: $15

I somehow missed this when it came out, but Jason Stoddard of Schiit Audio wrote up the story of his little start-up that could.

Why should you care? Well, there are only a few people in audio’s high-end that I wish I could poach just for their sheer skill with the written word.

Jason is one.

His Schiity little brand ain’t so bad, either. Definitely worth a look-see. Kindle-Edition, here I come.

What If?

What If?

XKCD, unfortunately, doesn’t really render on Kindle — so it’s hard-copy time.

Don’t know XKCD? Are you damaged?

I’ve put this here because I REALLY want to know. “Know what?” you ask.

I am so glad you asked!

“How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?”

“What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% of the speed of light?”

And more.

I’m getting a copy. If you don’t, I’ll be smarter than you. Either way, works for me.


Ahh, the meat of the post!

Some of you may know that I’ve been collecting watches lately, but what you may not know is that I’m not a big fan of expensive watches. No, I wouldn’t kick a Panerai out of bed, and if someone gave me a Jaeger La Coultre I probably wouldn’t pawn it. But that’s all boring stuff. Me? I like the value in my wrist watches.

Truth be told, I’ve spent a fair penny on watches. I think my most expensive was after the shock wore off after discovering that I was going to be a father. Wanted to get it in there before all hell broke loose on my checkbook, I guess. Whatever. No more. And, as the savvy audiophile knows, there’s really no need. You can get a fantastic piece of jewelry timepiece for a fraction of what those mega-brands are asking. Hell, you can get a fantastic watch for less than you’d pay in tax for some of those well-known brands. Here are a couple, courtesy of my favorite horology blog, Worn&Wound.

Gerlach Navigator

Gerlach Navigator

Made in Warsaw, the Gerlach watches are tough, elegant, and extraordinary values. My favorite is the Navigator, which features a dual-crown case, which is weird for what is essentially a dive watch. On the dual-crown, the top knob rotates the inner bevel, which allows you to mark off minutes — just like that spinning dial on a big, clumsy diver most men seem to favor these days. The dual stems are interesting to look at, too, and the big knurled knobs are easy to use and feel good.

The watch is a about $380 US, when you opt for the off-center date and massive leather band — and that latter, I have to heartily recommend. It’s big. It’s chunky. It’s supple. I think I’m in love with this band.

This is my favorite daily-wear watch, and as long as I’m not wearing a suit or all Bauhaused up (Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance), it works.

Review here.

Orient Bambino

Orient Bambino v2

I have a thing for antique-ish watches, and this retro watch has retro all over it’s retro little self. Big dome, turn-of-the-century styling (nope, the other century), and a look/feel that screams vintage. Maybe even expensive. But definitely vintage. This is your great-grandfather’s watch. The watch that Indiana Jones’ dad would have worn. It’s sexy.

It’s also cheap. The Bambino retails for $260, which is a scream for an automatic, right up until you realize that it is routinely available for 30% off. Worn&Wound has a discount code that I’m going to make you go look for, as it’s only fair, since they organized the discount.

Many of the Bambino variations (metal, face color, &c) seem to be out of stock (as of this writing), but hopefully they’ll be back. Interestingly, and happily, Orient also makes a ton of other designs, so feel free to wander about. Amazing value for this brand.

Oh, this is a buy-one-get one free brand, too. No, the freebie is not the same model, but still, it’s a free watch — and you get your choice. I picked a lovely ladies piece to match. Pretty sure the more you spend, the better quality the freebie, but I haven’t spent enough over there to check.

Makara Sea Turtle

Makara Sea Turtle in teal

I’ve seen a bunch of watches in the Panerai-zone that have been quite tempting, but I’m not sure the Makara fits that bill. No, this watch is something else entirely. Something crazy.

The case is massive and gigantic and enormous, so if you have little girly wrists, this is not your watch. But it is made out of bronze, so if you’re Achilles (or have other, similar, delusions of grandeur), this may be right up your alley.

The faces are available in a variety of colors — feel free to wander around to check ’em out — but my favorite bit on the Sea Turtle is the domed crystal — it’s huge.

Anyway, this watch is guaranteed to start conversations that it’ll leave to your glower to shut down or your charming disposition to float.

If I didn’t already have a bronze-case watch with a similar layout (that cost rather more, unhappily), I would order one of these even though I do have girly wrists as my delusions would clearly balance that equation out.

Review here. $395.

Kent Wang Bauhaus v4

Kent Wang Bauhaus v4

Another one of those “I already have this watch, and spent way more for it” selections, the Kent Wang is about as upscale chic as I’m likely to get in a watch without totally faking it with a nouveau/retro thingie.

The $395 Bauhaus v4, which is different from the v3 that Worn&Wound reviewed, has a slimmer bezel and an overall more streamlined look-and-feel.

White dial, blued hands, with date complication, this automatic is sexy-time. In a suit.

Oh yeah.

Melbourne Watch Company

Melbourne Portsea

Melbourne Watch Company has a slew of affordable watches, most of them launched via Kickstarter. I have several of their watches, but my favorite was and still is the Portsea (reviewed here). Prices range from about $350 to $650, but those are Australian dollars.

Available in a simple configuration, or with complications that can include date, day, and month, the Portsea has several “layers” inside the case that make it visually striking.

While I’m not a fan of their mecha-quartz Carlton, the open-heart Avalon, with its giant black dial and orange-lumed hands, is also quite nice.

The blue-banded, gold-case, white-faced Portsea is my dress-casual watch.

Other Stuff

Just because there’s more to life than … whatever isn’t included in the below. Yeah.

American Giant Hoodie

Best Hoodie Ever? American Giant!

Yeah, I know, I know. A sweatshirt? Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

I know, “best sweatshirt ever made” is a big claim and kinda a weird one. It’s like saying “the best underwear” or “the best pencil”. There’s more than a little of you saying, well, even if it is “the best”, why on earth would I care?

Because comfort, silly.

The American Giant hoodies, full-zip jackets, and baseball jackets, are all made using the thickest weaves I’ve ever even heard of, much less seen or worn. No poly blend static-monster here, this is all cotton, and stitched hard.

I know. Weird. I’m getting worked up about my sweatshirt. But it’s great. It’s so comfy. The thick material feels really good, and lux, when worn — but it’s cotton, so it breathes. Zippers/buttons are all over-built and nutty-strong. The fit is “tailored”, so keep that in mind. I got an XL, and yes, it fits, but the structured build is very slimming. You like your fit a bit more classic (i.e., loose), order accordingly.

Made in the USA.

AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank

AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank (16,100 mAh): $32.99

MoFi‘s Jon Derda turned me on this sneaky little brick. My phone was completely dead after wander the floors at Capital Audiofest this year, and he took pity on me, handed me his Power Bank. An hour or so later, I was back up to full strength, no hovering near a wall-jack required.

Multiple USB Charging Cable Adapter Connector: $7.99

Available in a variety of “sizes” (charge-holding), this is a full-function portable recharging station. No more “drat, my digital audio player crapped out and I have 5 more hours of the flight left!” No more “my iPad is dead, how am I going to Netflix and chill?” No more “honey, I couldn’t call, my phone was dead.”

This little sucker is a life safer. All you’re going to need at this point is a better USB charging cable. The one that comes with the Power Bank is just a mini-USB; get yourself a nice multi instead.

There are quite a few of these out there — I got a freebie as a giveaway at a trade show. I figure, if it has a 30-pin for my old iPad, a Lightning cable for my current iPhone, and a mini-USB for everything else, I’m golden.

And it has been so!


TASCAM DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder: $84.95

I don’t really record things, but my wife is a singer & guitarist, so I got her one of these high-res capable recorders from TASCAM.

I’m pretty sure she hasn’t used it yet, but I do still get to feel rather superior for having purchased it for her, even so.

No, I have no idea why she won’t use it. She keeps using the damn iPhone “memo” app instead. [Sigh].

Stereo pickups and USB out, it’s exceedingly compact and the sound is the best I’ve heard outside of a studio. It’s also extremely compact and easy to use.

CREE-XML T6 Waterproof Flashlight

CREE-XML T6 Waterproof Flashlight (2000 Lumens): $22.55

Let there be light!

Everyone needs a good flashlight. Especially a cheap one. One that can fit in the car or in a jacket pocket. Like this T6.

Of course, given how compact the T6 is, this model will not double as a blunt-instrument suitable for self-defense or zombie dismemberment.

The lens is adjustable, which takes the beam from 120° or more down to something closer to 10° — that is, “narrow”.

It’s also 2000 lumens. Gulp. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, think “daylight” and “won’t that vampire be surprised”. No, really, it’s B-R-I-G-H-T, and to a degree that seems impossible to believe.

Mine took a little over a week to arrive, from China I assume, but be patient. The build-quality is excellent and the beam is magnificent. It comes with a rechargeable battery and charger, but a AAA adapter also ships with it.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1R Mark 2

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R M2 Premium Digital Camera: $3,299

Okay, so that’s about it for the inexpensive stuff. I’ve been good so far, so I thought I’d close out this wish-list/shopping spree with an entry that has absolutely nothing to do with “affordable”, “reasonable” or even “rational” — the new Mark 2 version of the RX1R from Sony.

What makes this camera awesome is the 42MP sensor. That’s big. Low-light sensitivity is awesome. It’s a prime fixed-lens camera, so there’s no futzing about with zoom or extra lenses — you gets what you get and you work it out.

DPReview has a quick comparison overview of the camera and what it is and isn’t, but what it is … is sexy. And it stacks waaaaay up there in terms photo quality. While I wish it had in-body optical stabilization, but for a super-high-end portable, this camera may be unbeatable.

I wants it! I wants it!

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