At the start of summer my guitar amplifier—a Sovtek MIG-50—finally bit the dust. The amp was not without its problems, but when playing vintage equipment these are things you expect and accept. That is until the circuit board fried, leaving me with the option to repair it for far more than what the amp was worth or trash it and find something new. I agonized over the decision, finally deciding that I’d leave the vintage amp game behind and instead enter the world of boutique, hand-wired amps. After months of weighing my options I settled on Science Amplification, a Portland, Oregon company known for its signature heads and custom builds. I sent over 50 emails to Science’s founder and chief builder Alex Gaziano before I placed my order, finally landing on a 100-watt Hellhawk and a cabinet loaded with two 12-inch speakers.
Throughout the process Gaziano happily inquired about every detail of my setup and playing style, making sure that the head and cab would suit my needs. Since the rig arrived it’s become the most important piece of equipment I own, proving its versatility both at live shows and during recording sessions. The two lead channels are varied takes on the tones made famous by ’60s Marshall heads and Sunn Model Ts, but the Hellhawk doesn’t live in the shadow of these monoliths. While each channel has its own distinct voice, it’s the ability to blend the two that is most impressive. This blend never gets muddy, instead allowing for prime articulation of every note when each channel is dialed in. My move to Science proved that modern amps can provide the classic tones of vintage gear, but without having to worry about wrecking antique circuitry in the process. [David Anthony]
Like David, I’m always looking to update my audio gear. I want the best turntable, the best receiver, the best LP reissue—within reason, of course. And, until recently, I definitely wanted new headphones, especially since my old ones were pinching my head. My latest acquisition is a shiny new pair of Alpine Headphones, perfect for both listening to Serial on the bus and keeping the world out when I’m trying to write. They’re big—like Beats big—but they’re also square, shiny, and stylish, with arms that are both packed with cushion and fully adjustable. They also sync to an app on my phone that groups my music into intensity brackets, so I can pick something high-energy for a workout or something more easygoing for a Sunday stroll. It’s a little superfluous—especially considering I mostly use Rdio on my phone—but it’s a neat trick all the same. [Marah Eakin]
I’ve previously shared my affection for Jackbox’s You Don’t Know Jack (a witty, sarcastic trivia quiz) and Fibbage (a game of creative lying), and now the studio has brought these two fantastic games together in the Jackbox Party Pack. The package sells for 25 bucks on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Beyond Jack and Fibbage, Party Pack includes three other games that may not be quite as inspired but are still quite good—and all of the games improve as you add more players. Another thing I’ve said before that’s worth saying again: The stroke of genius on Jackbox games lately is that they don’t require you to buy extra controllers for your console or computer. Instead, everyone uses their own smartphone as the controller. It’s a lot easier to get people involved in a video game when they can use a familiar device instead of a strange, potentially intimidating gamepad. [John Teti]