Welcome to our new, continuously-updated First Looks - a collection of previews showing brand new iPod, iPhone and iPad accessories that we’re currently in the process of testing. Here’s what’s hot right now:
Based upon earlier cases for the iPhone 4 and 5, Incipio's new Stowaway Advance for iPhone 6 Plus ($35) combines a curvy, co-molded rubber and plastic case with a small rear compartment designed to hold credit cards or cash. Film is included to protect the iPhone's metal back from getting scratched, and the compartment has a kickstand in the center which can flip out to position the iPhone 6 Plus for video viewing without compromising the cards held inside. However, despite promising enough space to hold three credit cards or an ID card with two other cards, Stowaway Advance's rear compartment comfortably held only two credit cards in our early testing.
Best known for its in-car audio systems and high-end iPod/iPhone integration units, Alpine has entered the iPhone/iPod headphone market with a new pair of headphones named... Headphones ($300). The industrial design is obviously Beats-influenced, with a mostly plastic frame and glossy metallic accents atop heavily padded, diamond-shaped earcups. What's extremely unique about Headphones is the role Bluetooth plays here: rather than using the wireless standard for streaming audio, Alpine instead pairs Headphones with a free Level Play app that lets you adjust the bass, mids, and treble of the twin 40mm audio drivers, as well as analyzing your music library to play songs in intensity-based groups. While the app's grouping functionality isn't ultra-compelling from our standpoint, the ability to tune the headphones' sound output is definitely interesting, and the result of including a 24-bit DAC and amplifiers inside the headset. Alpine includes a fabric-coated three-button remote and mic cable for the audio connection, as well as a matching USB cable to charge Headphones' battery; a carrying bag was supposed to be in the package, but was MIA on our review unit. We'll have more to say in our full review soon.
We've just received Apple's new iPad Air 2 Smart Case ($79). Despite being simply labeled as "iPad Air Smart Case" on the packaging, the case is made solely for Apple's redesigned iPad Air 2. The new case is similar to the previous Apple iPad Air Smart Case, made of the same aniline-dyed leather with inner microfiber lining, and the cover both folds into a stand and activates the sleep/wake function on the device; this is the Product (RED) version of the case. Look for a full review later.
Admired by headphone obsessives for its value-focused audio gear, HiFiMan has debuted RE300i ($50), a budget-priced earphone model targeted at iPod, iPhone, and iPad users. Featuring an integrated three-button remote control and mic unit, RE300i's glossy white all-plastic construction and sparing collection of pack-ins have a distinctly OEM-style first impression. But the inclusion of extra filters — the little parts between the earphones and your ear — and the oversized, not-particularly-case-compatible 3.5mm headphone plug make RE300i stand out as designed with extra durability. We don't really review $50 earphones any more, but we'll be adding some brief impressions of the RE300i along with the 1.5-year old RE-400 Waterline ($100), the well-regarded black and silver model also shown here. RE-400 lacks a remote but has a more compatible headphone plug, titanium-coated drivers, and metal housings. While RE-400 comes in a small box without a carrying case, it appears that HiFiMan is bundling the case — plus two sets of Comply eartips and a large collection of rubber tips - with orders.
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