The Hobbies and Products Getting Us Through Quarantine

When I’m not gallivanting around on ebikes or testing running socks, I spend a lot of time playing guitar in my basement. Problem is, my favorite guitar amp—a prototype 1965 Fender Bassman Blackface, for the fellow nerds—is 50 watts of pure tube awesomeness. Its thick, creamy tone perfectly compliments my Telecaster guitar, but the volume it takes to do so would be better suited to a small theater. Turn the volume knob past 3, and you’d better be wearing earplugs.

Enter the Universal Audio Ox, my favorite (and at $1,300, my most expensive) purchase of quarantine.

The Ox sits on top of my amp and takes its place in the signal chain between the amp and the speakers. It’s a reactive load attenuator, which essentially means it’s able to make the signal from my beloved amp much quieter without degrading the tonal characteristics that show up when it’s cranked. Better still, it’s got a headphone jack and tons of built-in cabinet simulations, so I can use my Bassman at perfect near-breakup volume at 1 am on a Tuesday.

My roommates are stoked, and the cabinet simulations are so good, I barely mic an amp up anymore when recording. It’s even got an app that lets me add compression, EQ, and reverb on the way to my recording software. I just plug the Ox into my interface, and get my Bill Frisell on. No volume warnings required. —Parker Hall

Sous Vide

Everyone has some fear about cooking meat, but before quarantine I had a pretty good handle on mine.

In fact, for the longest time, I thought sous vide machines were overkill. Sure, you can make perfectly drippy eggs, and they’re fun for cooking things in marinades, but I’d be lying if I didn’t prefer just throwing my pork chops or chicken thighs in a pan or on the grill. Then I had a nightmare about getting food poisoning during lockdown.

Ever since then, when it’s my turn to cook a weekly meal for my roommates, I’m more fearful than ever about undercooking it. That’s why I’ve started to deeply enjoy borrowing my roommate (and WIRED deals contributor) Brad Bourque’s sous vide wand.

It’s an Anova model ($181) with like three buttons. I initially asked him to help me figure it out, but quickly realized a literal caveperson could. Just vacuum seal (or ziplock) your marinade, look up whatever temperature J. Kenji López-Alt says is best (he’s always right), and wait.

No more meat thermometers, no more worrying I’m giving my house worms! Oh, and as an added bonus it turns out the pros are right: As long as you’ve got a cast iron pan a pancake-sized dollop of butter to sear it with, sous vided meats are far superior to pan-cooked ones.

Anyway, I’d rather spend the money on one of these than a Thermapen to make sure my meat is cooked. So sous me! —Parker Hall

Yamaha FG830 Acoustic Guitar

Photograph: Amazon

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