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Arturia AstroLab Review: World-Class Synths in a Keyboard

Arturia AstroLab Review: World-Class Synths in a Keyboard

But perhaps AstroLab’s best trick for finding what you need is playlists and songs. These are grouped presets that you’re able to bounce between with the push of a button. So if you need a quiet pad from an Ensoniq SQ-80 for the verse and a razor-sharp lead from an MS-20 for the chorus, you can group them into a song, which turns the instrument type buttons into direct shortcuts to specific presets. Songs are then further organized into playlists. You just press the arrow buttons below the screen encoder to jump to the next track in your set and load up another batch of presets.

If you can’t find what you need among the factory sounds or any of the countless sound packs available from Arturia, you can always design a patch from scratch in one of the instruments as part of the V Collection. Then you can save it as a preset and load it on the keyboard. Granted, this requires shelling out for V Collection, but it frequently goes on sale, and if you already own Analog Lab Pro, which is included with AstroLab, you get an even steeper discount.

World-Class Soft Synths

I’m halfway into this review, and I haven’t talked about the sound at all. This is partly because, well, it’s Analog Lab. It’s an industry staple and sounds fantastic. If you’re not familiar though, rest assured you’re getting some of the finest emulations of vintage instruments available. When you compare the price to even one of the iconic keyboards it’s recreating, the value is undeniable.

The Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and Hammond B3 compare favorably with what you’d find on a Nord stage keyboard, but for almost half the price. It convincingly delivers that percussive dizzying effect you’d get from an organ running through a Leslie and the smooth chime of a Fender Rhodes.

In addition, you get rather faithful versions of basically unobtainable synth gems like a Moog Modular, a Yamaha CS-80, or a Fairlight CMI II. Not to mention mass-market classics like the Yamaha DX7 and Casio CZ-101. Plus Arturia’s Pigments and Augmented lineup, which marry orchestral, piano, and vocal samples with a robust synth engine. You’ve got access to everything from crunchy lo-fi piano and EDM bass wubs to soaring string pads perfect for scoring a sci-fi thriller.

The only real weak spot is the acoustic pianos. They’re not terrible and have definitely improved over the years, but they still feel a touch thin and flat compared to the real thing. The chances that anyone would complain about them at your next gig, though, are slim to none.

It’s worth noting that this is currently the only way to get Arturia’s Pigments in hardware form. That’s something that gets me personally really excited. I think it’s the best softsynth on the market, and it can easily go toe-to-toe with other giants in the space like Massive and Serum.

Some will speak of things being a VST but built into a MIDI controller derisively. But that feels reductive here. For one thing, this isn’t just some bare-bones digital synth. And the hardware it’s crammed into is luxurious. The semi-weighted keys feel incredible, and they have aftertouch (though sadly not polyphonic). The pitch and mod wheels are solid pieces of aluminum, and the screen, while small, is bright and colorful. There are even some handsome wooden cheeks on the side. This looks and feels like a high-quality piece of gear.

26 Best Travel Accessories (2024): Neck Pillows, Plug Adapters, and Headphones

26 Best Travel Accessories (2024): Neck Pillows, Plug Adapters, and Headphones

Travel isn’t always as luxurious as the brochures make it seem. Sure, the destination may be intoxicatingly gorgeous, but the journey to get there is often one of cramped seats and uninterrupted noise. Traveling can be a gauntlet to be endured or, if you equip yourself properly beforehand, a mere speed bump to glide over. From travel pillows and noise-canceling headphones to luggage trackers, it turns out you actually can purchase peace of mind. These are the best travel accessories after years of traveling and testing.

Don’t forget to check out our Best Travel Bags and Best Travel Adapters guides for more recommendations.

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12 Best Couches You Can Buy Online (2024): Sectionals, Sofas, Sleepers, and More

12 Best Couches You Can Buy Online (2024): Sectionals, Sofas, Sleepers, and More

Maybe you have a hand-me-down couch or a thrifted floral confection that isn’t cutting it. Or maybe your seat cushions are sunken in and worse for wear. If you need a new sofa, you’ve come to the right place. A few of us here on the WIRED Gear team have spent several months testing a batch of couches you can order online—no need to leave the house. These are our favorites.

Much like bed-in-a-box mattresses, ordering a couch online is simpler than it sounds. You simply choose what you want, place an order, and voilà: Several boxes will arrive on your front porch. Assemble the parts and you’re good to go. But it’s important to do your research first. Many couch makers offer sample swatches of fabrics, which you should take advantage of to ensure that the color and feel are exactly what you want. Make sure to measure the area where your couch will be too, as well as doorframes and stairwells for walk-up apartments.

Updated March 2024: We’ve added two new picks and an honorable mention.

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11 Best Organic Mattresses, Toppers, Bedding (2024): Nontoxic and Natural

11 Best Organic Mattresses, Toppers, Bedding (2024): Nontoxic and Natural

You’re going to be sleeping for roughly 23 years of your life on average, so it makes sense to give some thought to what you’re lying on. These natural beds, bedsheets, and linens are easier on the environment and your health—and they feel like a dream.

Conventional mattresses often have questionable materials in them. Everything from formaldehyde and TCEP (a flame retardant) to phthalates can end up in nonorganic mattresses. How much these substances impact you isn’t scientifically settled, but one way to avoid possible harm is to get a mattress made from natural, organic materials. Most natural mattresses are made of a combination of wool, natural latex, and cotton. The construction is similar to conventional mattresses but without the chemicals.

Members of the WIRED Gear team have been testing mattresses for several years, and we have slept on every mattress on this list. We are always testing more, but these are our favorites right now. In general, we recommend hybrid mattresses with a core of individually wrapped springs because they feel more supportive and have better airflow, so they don’t sleep as hot. You may also find our Best Mattresses guide helpful. All of the prices below are for queen-size models unless specified.

Updated March 2024: We’ve added Antipodean’s organic wool duvet and sheets. We’ve also updated prices and links throughout.

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The Best Organic Mattress

The Avocado Green hybrid mattress is the only mattress my wife and I agree on. She likes a soft mattress, and I prefer a firm one. This model somehow manages to be both without being too much of either. After nearly two years of sleeping on it, there’s zero sagging or other issues.

There’s a one-year trial, a 25-year warranty, and free shipping available on all Avocado mattresses. Like other mattress-in-a-box options, the Avocado arrives compressed. If you prefer a soft feel, there’s a pillow-top option, or you can add a mattress topper, like the company’s luxurious (and sustainable) Alpaca fur mattress topper (see below).

The Avocado Green is 11 inches thick and made from organic latex, organic wool, and organic cotton. It’s also not toxic. It contains no polyurethane, fire retardants, memory foam, or chemical adhesives, according to the company. A class action was filed earlier this year against Avocado alleging that the company’s mattresses do in fact contain toxic chemicals, but the suit was dismissed and, according to court documents, “individual claims in the case had been ‘fully resolved.’” In this case, I would argue that “perfection” is the enemy of “better,” and all the mattresses on this page use fewer chemicals than conventional mattresses. That remains a good thing for both you and the Earth, as it reduces the ecological impact that manufacturing incurs.

Another Great Organic Mattress

The standard model from Birch has been our pick for side sleepers who want an organic mattress (see below). Birch’s new higher-end Luxe model is, likewise, a great side-sleeping mattress—though its medium-firm feel and structured support should make it a solid pick for most sleeping styles. The Luxe is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified organic and uses natural latex with no polyurethane-based foams.

This offering from Birch employs multiple layers of wool plus a layer of individually wrapped coils for support and cushioning. The Luxe adds a pillowy Euro top and an extra layer of blended cashmere, which gives it truly exceptional temperature regulation. The coils offer full lumbar support and are arranged to cradle your spine while maintaining a satisfyingly stiff edge on all four sides. WIRED reviewer Martin Cizmar’s sleep rings have been spinning themselves closed during his month of testing this mattress.

Best Flippable Mattress

It’s assumed that most mattress shoppers are selecting between soft and firm, or trying to find a middle ground acceptable to partners with different preferences. But what if your tastes change with the seasons or how achy your muscles are after a long, active day? The Zenhaven lets you choose a side.

Saatva’s Zenhaven is made of organic latex protected by an organic wool liner and an organic cotton cover. The two sides, labeled Plush and Firm, don’t vary as much as dedicated soft and firm mattresses, with the company claiming an 18 percent difference in the two, but it does offer a nice change of pace. Beyond that, the Zenhaven is pricey but extremely well built (and heavy—this is not a mattress-in-a-box). It has great edge support, sleeps neither hot nor cool, and will last you years.

Best Solid Latex Mattress

Solid natural latex mattresses can last for decades and strike a perfect balance between support and softness. However, because all-foam latex mattresses are solid blocks of vulcanized sap, they’re cumbersome and usually expensive. Also, because they’re so heavy, they’re often made and sold by local mattress companies that vary widely in reputation.

Turmerry aims to solve this problem by offering organic latex mattresses with three or four layers of natural foam that are zipped into an organic cotton cover. Each layer comes wrapped for shipping in a solid hunk of latex that feels like a cannonball. (Those layers are just light enough to be shipped by major carriers and for you to lug up the stairs.) Turmerry uses the Dunlop process to make latex, meaning it’s denser and more supportive than latex mattresses made using the Talalay process. The Turmerry system has foams of slightly varied firmness.

11 Best Weighted Blankets (2024): Cooling, Throws, and Eye Masks

11 Best Weighted Blankets (2024): Cooling, Throws, and Eye Masks

Most of the weighted blankets we’ve tested are worth recommending—and there are a lot of them. However, these didn’t stand out as much as the picks above.

Quince’s Knit Weighted Blanket for $150: This open-knit blanket costs less than Bearaby’s but is as high-quality and uses a recycled polyester fill. There’s just one 15-pound weight option, and it’s a bit more rigid than what Bearaby offers. I like both models, but if you want a drapey blanket, go with Bearaby. (Quince makes some of our favorite sheets.) Available in 15 pounds

Luxome Weighted Blanket for $105 to $250: Luxome makes a pair of my favorite sheets, and now I also love its blanket. I tried the one-piece blanket with one side made of bamboo lyocell and the other a plush minky fabric, but there are a few options including those with a separate cover. Lying under the bamboo was extra cooling in the best way. It comes in an impressive amount of weight options. Available in 8, 15, 18, or 25 pounds

Sleep Number True Temp Weighted Blanket for $200: This blanket comes with a cover that’s meant to stay cool throughout the night and this was pretty accurate in my experience. I found the polyester material to be just slightly scratchy, so I wouldn’t want to sleep directly under it, but I typically layer a weighted blanket over a sheet and comforter anyway. Available in 12 or 20 pounds

Luna Sherpa Throw for $68: We love Luna’s many options linked above, and this sherpa throw is incredibly soft and just heavy enough for its size. It’s machine washable too. Available in 10 pounds

Gravity Weighted Blanket for $250 to $300: The Basics by Gravity is our top pick because it’s a great blanket for a great price. This original blanket from the brand is also stellar and is available in more weights, sizes, and pretty colors, but you’ll have to shell out for it. Available in 15, 20, or 35 pounds

Gravity’s Flex Travel Blanket for $50: Gravity also makes a small 10-pound blanket that folds into its included bag. It’s a bit noisy, like the material of a sleeping bag, but if you need something on the go it’s not a bad option. Available in 10 pounds

Tranquility Cooling Weighted Blanket for $40 to $50: A lot of budget weighted blankets are disappointing. This one genuinely surprised me. It felt great to cuddle up under, and it’s sufficiently weighty with one soft side and a slinky cool side (that stayed pretty cool). Unfortunately, the one we tried is nearly always out of stock, but there are others available from the brand that might be worth a shot. Available in 15 or 20 pounds

Thera Weighted Blanket for $79 to $129: This blanket might be the softest thing I’ve ever touched, like petting a furry animal. After my first few weeks with it, however, it ripped and let glass beads take over my bed like sand. I think kitty claws got the best of it, so keep that in mind and treat it carefully. Available in 10, 12, or 15 pounds

Aricove Weighted Blanket for $170 to $200: This is a fantastic cooling blanket to sleep with solo. It’s nice and thin, so you won’t feel trapped or too hot underneath. Available in 10, 12, 15, 17 20, or 22 pounds

Casper Weighted Blanket for $169 to $189: Casper is another popular bedding brand whose blanket is classic cool cotton rather than knit or plush, which can get hot. About the size of a throw blanket, it’s dense enough that even the lightest model gives you that comfortably squished feeling, while the heaviest is like a Thundershirt for humans. Casper has frequent sales too. Available in 10, 15, or 20 pounds

Layla Weighted Blanket for $189 to $239: Our tester loved snuggling with a partner under Layla’s massive king-size blanket. It’s double-sided with one cotton and one plush side. Available in 15, 20, or 25 pounds

Yogibo Calm Antimicrobial Weighted Blanket for $159: The actual blanket is cool cotton, but the real draw here is Yogibo’s famous cotton-and-spandex blend it uses for its covers. The company says it’s insanely soft, and it isn’t lying. It’s stretchy, smooth, and machine washable (the actual blanket is not). I found that pet hair clings to it though, which is common with softer fabrics. Available in 15 pounds

Gravid Weighted Blanket for $189 to $199: This blanket comes with a plush or cooling cover (or both), and this is where it shines. There’s nothing worse than a blanket cover with only a few attachment points so that after a few minutes underneath it, everything is twisted and off to one side. Gravid’s cover attaches with a zipper that goes the entire length of the blanket. Why other brands don’t do this is beyond me. Available in 15 or 20 pounds