The Only Gadget You Need to Make Your Travel Headphones Sound Amazing

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We’ll be giving away a free DacMagic XS to one lucky reader!

Did you know that computer manufacturers spend as little as $2 on the sound cards in many modern laptops? Which explains why their cheap headphone jacks frankly suck. They’re simply not good enough to get the most from your headphones.

Which leaves you with two options: buy a high-end (read: expensive) pair of better headphones with built-in processing. Or buy a DAC (digital audio converter) headphone amp with which you can use any pair of headphones you like.

I much prefer the latter option which is where Cambridge Audio’s new DacMagic XS headphone amp comes in.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS Headphone Amp (connected)

The Skinny

In their own words, the DacMagic XS is:

… an instant upgrade to any computer’s sound output. It connects quickly and easily to any USB port and allows you to hear your favourite music and movies with every drop of detail, exactly as the artist intended.

Here’s the gist:

The Traveler’s Take

The first thing I love about the DacMagic is the size: about the size of a matchbox and only 100g, it’s insanely small. The case is also constructed of durable, brushed aluminum to boot so it’s built to withstand the rigors of the road.

Straight out of the box, the one-sheet quick start guide provides installation instructions that took less than a minute to complete. On my Windows 8.1 laptop, I simply plugged the unit into an available USB port, plugged the headphones into the DacMagic and … that’s it.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS Headphone Amp (closeup)

I tested the unit on a variety of different music genres (including talk/podcast, EDM and of course some Bieber) and in my opinion this thing sounds great! I admit that I’m no audiophile, but it kicks out some seriously loud sound from my budget RHA earbuds. Cambridge Audio promises a boost of up to 10 times more power than most laptop sound cards manage. While I haven’t access to an audio lab to prove this claim, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Like most travelers, I often find myself in loud environments on the road: coffee shops, airports, trains, and of course planes. An ultra-portable device like the DacMagic is perfect for being able to crank up my headphones to drown out all of the ambient noise, especially when I’m working.

As an added bonus, the unit features dedicated volume controls so there’s no need to fiddle with the ones on your laptop.

If there’s one thing I’d love to see is a similar unit for smartphones, as that’s my primary music device when traveling.

Pricing + Availability

Available now in black for around $200 USD from these Cambridge Audio dealers.

The post The Only Gadget You Need to Make Your Travel Headphones Sound Amazing appeared first on Vagabondish.

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Nicaraguan Food: Typical and Traditional Cuisine

Specially-seasoned Nicaraguan pork with tajadas (fried plantains), rice and beans, salad by the wonderful chefs at Monty's Beach Lodge

Specially-seasoned Nicaraguan pork with tajadas (fried plantains), rice and beans, salad by the wonderful chefs at Monty’s Beach Lodge

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Maria Laborde.

Like in many Latin American countries, Nicaraguan food goes back as far as pre-Columbian times, being transformed and influenced post the Spanish Conquista.

This is evident not only in the name of some of its dishes, but also the ingredients and spices used in them.

Most of the traditional Nicaragua menu is known as “criollo,” which is how Indian-Spanish fusion cuisine is also called throughout most of the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Vigoron

Vigoron: cabbage salad known as curtido (chopped cabbage, tomatoes, onions, chili pepper marinated in vinegar and salt), boiled cassava & chicharrones (fried pork with skin or with meat) wrapped in banana leaf.

A Brief Overview

There is a major difference between the Pacific, Atlantic/Caribbean, Northern and Central Nicaraguan foods—particularly the type of vegetables and spices consumed.

Yet, there is one omnipresent base ingredient: corn.

Its wide usage goes back to ancient indigenous cultures in the Americas, particularly Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, etc.

Furthermore, this ingredient is not limited to food, but also used in a variety of traditional drinks such as Pinole (pre-Columbian drink with cocoa, cinnamon, toasted ground corn), Chicha (fermented corn beer) and other fruit-based nonalcoholic beverages.

Nacatamal: the Nicaraguan answer to tamales, popular all over the country. Made out of mashed corn and lard, stuffed with either chicken/pork seasoned with tomatoes, onions, garlic (photo: H.C.)

Nacatamal: the Nicaraguan answer to tamales, popular all over the country. Made out of mashed corn and lard, stuffed with either chicken/pork seasoned with tomatoes, onions, garlic (photo: H.C.)

When it comes to other ingredients, those typically found in the tropics triumph here as well.

These include fruits such as mangoes, jocotes, papaya, plantains, avocado, and tamarind; in addition to starchy root vegetables such as cassava and quequisque (also known as Malanga or yautia).

Herbs and spices include others well-known around the world such as garlic, onions, tomatoes cilantro, oregano, achiote (annatto), cacao, cinnamon.

They portray how well seasoned, yet non-spicy, Nicaraguan cuisine is. Moreover, how the mixing of the sweet, savory, and sour is the norm—especially when it comes to seafood (in order to kill that “fishy” taste and smell).

Other unique features of Nicaraguan recipes are animal innards such as tails, stomachs, brains, testicles, skin (particularly of pigs), feet, and even blood (to make the traditional moronga).

Nicaraguan food, Quesillos

Quesillos on a plate. The traditional way is to have it in a plastic bag. (photo: yellow_magpie on Flickr)

Central and Pacific Cuisine

The inhabitants of the Central and Pacific regions of Nicaragua prefer simple gallo pinto (rice and black beans, fried in cooking oil) with either beef, chicken, pork or (particularly on the coast) seafood—alongside fried snacks and dairy products. Sample dishes include:

Indio Viejo

Indio Viejo is a thick chicken or beef stew, made with corn flour “masa,” garlic, onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and a squirt of sour orange. Use of achiote or annatto also gives the dish an inviting deep-orange color.

Quesillo

Quesillo is a thick corn tortilla with soft cheese, pickled onions, sour cream.

Tajadas with fresh local cheese – NOM! Special thanks to Ometepe Secret Adventures for such a great introduction to Nicaraguan cuisine.

Tajadas with fresh local cheese – NOM! Special thanks to Ometepe Secret Adventures for such a great introduction to Nicaraguan cuisine.

Tajadas con Queso

Tajadas con queso are fried plantains, sliced thin or thick, with salty local cheese & repollo (cabbage salad) as toppings.

Caballo bayo, already served. Photo: Jorge Mejía Peralta, Flickr

Caballo bayo, already served (photo: Jorge Mejía Peralta, Flickr)

Caballo Bayo

Caballo bayo is the Nicaraguan twist of Mexican fajitas: many ingredients typically served in clay pots, from which guests pick their favorites to make their own tortillas.

Fillings and toppings include fried/shredded beef or chicken, mashed beans, creole chorizo, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, moronga (pork blood sausage), chicharrón, green & red sauces.

Guapote

Guapote, an Ometepe specialty, lightly breaded in delicious Spanish spices — topped with a sweet and salty mango tomato sauce. Thanks to Ometepe Secret Adventures for such introducing me to such delicacy.

Local Fish with Tropical Fruit and Vegetables

Local fish dishes such as guapote are typically seasoned while cooking with savory ingredients such as garlic, black pepper, cilantro, onions; but topped upon serving with sweet tropical fruit sauces that may include, say mango and tomatoes (as pictured above).

Nicaraguan food, Caribbean seafood

Nicaraguan seafood, Caribbean influence: fried plantain cups filled with seasoned shrimp (photo: Jorge Mejía Peralta, Flickr)

Atlantic and Caribbean Cuisine

On the other hand, Nicaraguan food in the Atlantic coast is heavily influenced by Afro-Caribbean spices and flavors, particularly coconuts, chiltoma (sweet peppers) and chilies accompanied by roots such as yuca (like cassava), malanga.

Moreover, coconut oil is typically used for cooking instead of lard or cooking oil.

These combinations give ‘Nica-Caribbean’ cuisine a distinct flavor.

The most popular dishes on this coast include seafood: lobster, shrimp, crab, you name it.

When it comes to fish, it is eaten either dried, fried or in soups.

Rondón

Rondón is a creamy coconut milk-based stew of turtle meat or fish with beef or pork, originally from the city of Bluefields.

It is seasoned with sweet peppers, chilies, onions, plantains, yuca, quequisque, and an herb named nargan.

We recommend you opt for the fish variety though, as turtles are endangered.

Gallo pinto con Coco

Gallo pinto con coco is just like the traditional Nicaraguan rice and black beans dish, but cooking oil is substituted by coconut oil when frying.

Pan de Coco

Likewise, pan de coco is bread whose flour includes ground coconut. It is the perfect accompaniment of rondón.

Gaubul

Gaubul is a traditional Caribbean-Nicaraguan drink, little known even in the Pacific coast of its own country. It is the mixture of cooked, mashed green plantains with fresh cow milk, coconut water, and sugar to taste.

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