The Framery One Office Pod
A veritable human fishbowl so peaceful you’ll want to sleep in it
About 25 years ago, when technology made working an office job from home just about possible, your columnist went to see a London financial trader who set up a home office in a barn next to his home in England’s West Country.
The tech was rudimentary but adequate, yet the trader soon realized he couldn’t be serious about work unless he dressed the part—and went through a ritual form of commuting. So at 6:00 every weekday morning, he would put on his suit, coat, and scarf and walk across a muddy yard to the office.
We laugh now, but the idea of home-based freelancers and so on still needing routinely to go to a special place in special clothes to work is probably familiar to most of us, even if it’s just a neighborhood coffee shop and exchanging slippers for sneakers.
A soundproofed, transparent, one-person work pod for a corner of your home may, however, seem like overkill, even for those who buy into the idea of a separate workspace. But a Finnish maker of such pods, Framery, has found that the market only continues to grow after the height of the coronavirus lockdowns, which is when it really took off.
Framery’s range includes meeting pods for as many as four people, but their new Framery One is the single-occupant model most likely to appeal to those considering a home-work pod.
Being Finnish, Framery’s pods are beautifully and substantially constructed, with plenty of fresh, light plywood visible—albeit less of this in the Framery One than in their still-available older models. The height of the worktable and chair in the One can be adjusted, or you can opt for a standing pod. The lighting and filtered ventilation, which are controlled by a businesslike touch-screen panel, can also be changed.
There are power and USB ports, as well as 4G cloud connectivity, although we suspect most domestic users will just opt to hook up to their home Wi-Fi.
We can attest to the soundproofing in Framery’s pods being nearly 100 percent effective—almost spookily so—but we would remind prospective buyers, whether looking at a domestic or an office pod, to remember you are visible inside the thing, even if not audible to those outside.
If you’re tempted to have any form of illicit conversation in private, remember the fate of astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when they tried to have a discreet chat about turning off the sentient onboard computer, HAL 9000—and forgot the machine could lip-read.
The Plus Audio All-in-One Record Player
A hi-fi setup that won’t leave your head spinning
There are plenty of high-end turntables still being made for vinyl-lovers. If you insist, you can pay as much as $650,000 for a Dereneville VPM 2010-1 from Germany.
We doubt, however, that there is a single person on this planet or any other who could detect in a blind test whether a decent-quality turntable cost a few hundred dollars, a few thousand, or several hundred thousand.
But while there is a rule of diminishing returns with turntables, with all-in-one record players or gramophones—yes, such things still exist—there are, broadly speaking, garbage ones, and then this, the product of a U.K. company, designed in Milan by a Swede.
Plus Audio’s $1,800 The+Record Player has been around a few years and is one of your columnist’s favorite pieces of technology. It is, in a single, elegant box: a good-quality turntable from the Czech Republic, a fantastic four-speaker, 100-watt stereo amplifier system with an effective audio soundstage-widening mode—and it also contains all the tech required to stream Bluetooth from your phone or computer, or even wire in your TV sound output.
Yes, this is an audiophile-level gramophone that also works—matchlessly, so far as we know—as a modern, all-purpose music player.
Now, while we don’t normally cover what are known in the tech business as “new colorways,” in the case of Plus Audio’s new, limited-edition, all-white version, we feel forced to make an exception. As might be expected of a British-Italian-Scandinavian audio product, it’s irresistibly good-looking.
Even the next-best one-box streamer/amp/speaker combos need a separate turntable if you have a vinyl habit. This unique and stunning machine is truly all-in-one.
The NuraTrue Pro Wireless Earphones
If you like bass—whether at Mingus levels or Ludacris—these earbuds are for you
The extent we go to ’round here to find alternatives to Apple’s AirPods might suggest we have something against them.
Far from it. We admire AirPods, from the basic model to the fancy AirPods Pro, and think they’re an outstanding product. It’s just that there are better earbuds from less popular manufacturers, and, to be superficial for a moment, it is pleasing when you’re out and about to have something other than the same white earphones as the rest of the world.
Which brings us to Nura, a Melbourne-based headphone company which is the enterprise of a young ear, nose, and throat specialist—who also is an audio enthusiast—along with two electronics-whiz co-founders.
They introduced Nuraphone in 2017, the first in a line of unorthodox over-ear headphones that automatically measure your hearing and adjust the sound accordingly to produce a personal hearing profile.
If it wasn’t for the credentials of the inventor, along with the extraordinarily vibrant, bass-y sound Nuraphones produced, the personal-profile thing might have been dismissed. But the cans were an international hit.
Later came earbuds that, even more startlingly, do the same. The latest, just-released NuraTrue Pro are certainly the best earphones we’ve ever come across for bass-lovers.
Quite reasonably priced as these things go, they achieve a truly impressive list of electronic firsts and sound magnificent. The way they can immersively evoke the sound of a live performance is almost magical.
The slight drawback is that, for our money, they look passingly like an ear adornment that might be worn by a body-piercing enthusiast on the boardwalk at Venice Beach. Put another way, it’s hard to imagine their industrial design would worry the design team at Cupertino.
Brilliant technology nevertheless.
The CoinSnap coin Identifying App
In the New Year, stop taking your change at face value
At some point in 2023 (O.K., maybe 2024) we will stop marveling at the ability of advanced cloud-based A.I.-powered apps to visually recognize and categorize everything from plants and rocks to stars and cheese.
The latest in line to amaze us is CoinSnap, from the same Hong Kong developer behind many other such apps.
CoinSnap identifies coins from all over the world when you photograph them or feed the app an existing photo. In seconds, the online database provides more information than anyone other than a numismatist could need: the history of the coin, its designers, the supposed value to a collector, and so forth.
We started testing CoinSnap with current U.S., Canadian, British, and European coins, and, apart from a few quirks in the software (it’s very new, so they can be forgiven), it was almost uncannily accurate.
Few people, for example, know—or, to be fair, care to know—that euro coinage, although it is a single European currency, comes in as many national variants as there are European Union members. The app, however, faultlessly identified Austrian euros, which don’t give away much that’s obviously Austrian in their design.
Given a few bits of U.S. pocket change, CoinSnap also snapped to it, although it stubbornly insisted a regular quarter was a 1978 100-koruna piece (from the Czech Republic) celebrating the 75th anniversary of the birth of one Julius Fučik—and was worth nearly 10 U.K. pounds. The app gives values in the local currency of its user, and we tested it in Britain.
We threw CoinSnap some biggies, too, such as an online photo of a 1794 U.S. dollar engraved by Robert Scot (so the app says) and known as the “Flowing Hair Dollar” on account of its depiction of a Liberty with long, tumbling locks. Its U.K. pound value is put at between £55,914.29 and £641,171.88 ($65,775.33 and $754,248.88), which suggests that while coins are largely a nuisance these days, some are possibly less of a nuisance than others.
Happy New Year, and may you find many Flowing Hair Dollars in your pocket change.
Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology