Beginner’s Guide to iPod, Part IV: Awesome Accessories for Power Users | iLounge Article


Beginner’s Guide to iPod, Part IV: Awesome Accessories for Power Users

In the previous parts of the iLounge Beginners' Guide to iPod, we've focused on the needs of Typical Users - people with limited budgets and iPod experience. This fourth part of the Guide focuses on the needs of "Power Users," pickier buyers who are willing to spend extra cash to get something nicer than the average consumer's bare needs.

While the categories of accessories are the same as those in our list of "necessary accessories for Typical Users," the Power Users list below therefore assumes that price is not as much of an issue, and focuses on top performance instead of value. With only one exception - see our Carrying Case Accessories section - these are the accessories we would choose for ourselves if money was no object.

You may notice that the Typical User's Connectivity Accessories section has disappeared from this Power Users guide, and the reason for that is simple and unfortunate: we don't have any special recommendations for cool remote controls, alternate iPod docks, or other connectivity devices. Long-awaited third-party iPod Bluetooth wireless remote control and audio transmission devices have not been released, though we suspect that Apple's recent announcement of Airport Express ($129), a portable wireless router that can transmit music to any stereo speakers, may herald the start of a wireless iPod revolution. But unless Apple or a third-party releases wireless iPod-specific accessories, we'll have nothing more to say on that subject.

Part I: So You Want to Buy an iPod?
Part II: Five Steps to Using Your iPod
Part III: Necessary Accessories for Typical Users
Part IV: Awesome Accessories for Power Users
Part V: From Photos to eBooks, Creating Content and Troubleshooting

Part IV: Awesome Accessories for Power Users (June 10, 2004)

Carrying Case Accessories

Four companies' deluxe iPod carrying cases have set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, both in price and performance. While we continue to prefer and regularly use iSkin's and Lajo's silicone rubber cases - inexpensive but resilient options we recommended in the Typical Users part of this Guide - we recognize that some users prefer more expensive materials and have special needs that only other case options can fulfill.

Our top recommendation goes to two leather cases from Vaja, the i-Vod 3G (for full-sized iPods, $49.90 and up) and the iVod mini (for iPod minis, $49.99 and up). Vaja is a deluxe Argentine leather carrying case maker, and each of its cases simply oozes class - in design, materials, construction, and even packaging. Form-fit to each iPod and customizable in color, the i-Vods are the rare iPod accessories that feel entirely worth their higher-than-average price. Though Marware's C.E.O. Glove 3G and Global Source's Deluxe Leather Case are good lower-priced alternatives, Vaja's i-Vods remain king of the hill options that you'd want to buy for yourself or a well-to-do family member. Moreover, the manufacturer has an outstanding reputation for quality developed across cases for numerous portable electronic devices, and we've been very impressed by their dedication to making iPod-specific leather cases that match Apple's design sophistication.


Vaja i-Vod 3G

The Good: Great quality leather and nicely designed. Good functionality and protection.
The Bad: Price is higher than most leather cases, but again it's the quality of leather and construction you're paying for.


Vaja iVod mini

The Good: Beautiful design, fit, and finish, including hard plastic screen protection. Optional detachable belt clip is implemented quite well.
The Bad: No Click Wheel protection, custom-colored price may deter some buyers.

STM's Cocoon is our favorite travel carrying case for the iPod - a mostly hard pouch-like case that looks great, adds only a small amount of bulk to the iPod, and wonderfully protects the iPod from drop and scratch damage. Each Cocoon includes a vinyl sleeve with detachable lanyard necklace to use the iPod in a less bulky way when it's not in transit. The manufacturer has an excellent reputation in the travel case business prior to entering the iPod market.


STM Cocoon

The Good: Looks great, feels great, protects iPod perfectly for most travel purposes, includes both hard and soft cases that fit any iPod.
The Bad: Top and bottom holes aren't zipperable, so it's not fully protective.

Matias' makes the best metal carrying cases we've seen for the iPod and iPod mini. The company's iPod Armor (for full-sized iPods, $49.95) encloses the entire device (save for small port holes) in resilient aluminum, and its iPod Armor mini (for iPod minis, $49.95) uses a combination of aluminum and plastic to achieve enclosure with transparent screen protection. Though both cases prevent users from accessing the iPod's controls and screen when inside, it also prevents anything else from harming the enclosed iPod.


Matias iPod Armor

The Good: A very well-made product that offers outstanding protection for your iPod.
The Bad: Extremely inconvenient to open the face or remove the iPod, making it not suitable for people who change their playlists often.


Matias iPod Armor mini

The Good: Looks great, protects the iPod mini superbly against virtually any type of impact-related physical damage.
The Bad: So-so rubber Dock Connector protector, no top protection. Some users may prefer full-time Click Wheel access, though we liked the case as-is.

Finally, Eroch Studios' Lilipod ($35.00) is the only waterproof iPod case currently available, and while it's not perfect, it does what it's supposed to do. Made for use during extreme sports and situations involving water, the Lilipod is missing only two features: waterproof earphones (available separately) and better iPod access while encased (not yet available). But it's one-of-a-kind at the present time, so if you need it, get it.


Eroch Studios LiliPod

The Good: Nice iPod-matching style, very protective of the iPod against water, shock, and other harm.
The Bad: No access to screen or controls (even wired remote) when case is sealed, opening mechanism exposes iPod to potential scratch damage.

Replacement Headphone Accessories

Until you've used excellent headphones, it's impossible to appreciate how much of your music you've been missing: even your first experience will reveal layers of audio you may never have known were there. Having tested a number of excellent higher-end headphones, we strongly recommend that serious music lovers owners at least try one of them to see what their favorite songs were intended to sound like.

Four of the five high-end headphones we've reviewed and liked are "in-ear" style headphones. Shure's E3Cs ($179.00) and Future Sonic's EM3s ($143.10) are the most affordable, but if you have the extra money to spend, we highly recommend (and have fallen in love with) Etymotic's ER-4 ($330.00) headphones. They look a bit odd, but sound absolutely fantastic, especially the ER-4P versions. The best audio quality we've ever heard came from Ultimate Ears' UE-10 Pro ($900.00) professional grade custom-fit earphones, but they offer less of an improvement over the considerably cheaper Etymotics than some might expect for the price difference. Our "birthday gift" pick of the bunch is the Etymotics.


Etymotic ER-4S

The Good: Supreme sound reproduction. Outstanding support/customer relations from the company.
The Bad: Expensive, but worth it if you can afford it.


Future Sonics EM3

The Good: Outstanding Sound, lightweight & portable, excellent fit.
The Bad: Pricey, but probably will come down in the future.


Shure E3C

The Good: Amazing clarity; clean sound throughout the entire range. Extremely lightweight, yet durable. New Ultra-Soft flex sleeves are much more comfortable than the old, harder plastic ones.
The Bad: Pricey for many iPod users. Bass, while accurate and clean, is not 'booming' or powerful by any means... not for bass lovers. Isolation when using grey Ultra-Soft sleeves is poor.


Ultimate Ears UE-10Pro

The Good: Outstanding audio reproduction, even by comparison with other high-end earphones, and entirely personalized individual fit.
The Bad: Exclusive pricing, Y-cable design discourages traditional neck-front use, requires custom-fitting process and potential adjustments.

The fifth set of headphones we liked is Bose's QuietComfort (and successor QuietComfort II, $299.00) ear cup-style Acoustic Noise Canceling Headset. They sound great and don't require in-ear placement, but more importantly provide active noise cancellation - a technology that lets you hear only the noises inside the headphones while screening mid- to low-pitched noises from the outside world. Though we prefer the sound and passive noise isolation of the in-ear Etymotics overall, Bose's offerings deliver very good audio reproduction for people who don't mind carrying larger headsets around.


Bose QuietComfort

The Good: Excellent noise canceling ability and full-range sound. Comfortable and lightweight.
The Bad: Cannot cancel higher frequencies. Inline headphone control box needs some getting use to.

In-Car Accessories

Part III of our Guide discussed inexpensive in-car solutions for typical users, but just as there's a world of difference between the cassette adapters and FM transmitters we've reviewed, there's an equal distance between the performance of those options and the more expensive one we're listing here. After a potentially professional installation - depending on your level of electronics expertise - Dension's ICE-Link ($149.00 to $239.00, car-dependent) integrates beautifully with your car's stereo, adding line-level audio output and recharging capability to almost any vehicle. Some vehicles' stereos will even be able to display song titles and other details from the iPod's song lists. Less expensive than replacing an entire stereo, ICE-Link can be combined with several mounting solutions (including Pro Clip's nice-looking custom car mounts, $19.95-$34.95) to place your iPod at a perfect viewing angle for long drives.


Dension ICE-Link

The Good:Does exactly what is advertised, and handles its task with aplomb. Reduces perceived distances between destinations because you're rocking out in style.
The Bad:Pricey (when you don't add-up all of the unit's strengths). Might require a custom installation, which can run you another $100 or so. Might result in additional traffic violations due to head-banging or in-car break dancing.


Pro Clip Auto Mounts

The Good: Great build quality, appearance, ease of installation and fit.
The Bad: Plastic residue traces may scratch chrome iPods, users with unusual cars may have issues, price may deter some potential buyers.

Specialty Accessories

In the fifth part of our Beginner's Guide to the iPod, we'll look at additional accessories that expand the iPod's abilities past digital music storage and playback. If you didn't know that you could use an iPod to record audio, store digital photographs, and read both books and news of your choice, get ready to learn all the exciting details!

Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the "best book about law school - ever," and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.

Part I: So You Want to Buy an iPod?
Part II: Five Steps to Using Your iPod
Part III: Necessary Accessories for Typical Users
Part IV: Awesome Accessories for Power Users
Part V: From Photos to eBooks, Creating Content and Troubleshooting

« Beginner’s Guide to iPod, Part V: Photos, eBooks, Creating Content & Troubleshooting

Beginner’s Guide to iPod, Part III: Necessary Accessories for Typical Users »

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Another brilliant article - nice to see regularly updated articles on ipodlounge

Posted by Snowy in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2004 at 1:12 AM (CDT)


The Etymotic review URL above is incorrect: it should be

Posted by John R. Daily in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2004 at 5:33 PM (CDT)


I’m dieing to see your opinion on third party ipod remotes…

Posted by Ipodinator in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2004 at 10:46 PM (CDT)


If your looking for some really really really great reviews of headphones for you Ipod I implore you to check out, quite literally the best headphone centered review/dicussion site ever. Go now!

Posted by John Lussier in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2004 at 10:46 PM (CDT)


We chose not to recommend any third-party iPod remotes. In our opinion, it’s hard to get excited given the combined high prices and functionality limitations of models we have seen, and the ones we currently have are sitting unused. We were very excited about certain Bluetooth-enabled ones we heard were coming, but they’ve never emerged.

Remote controls are one small but noticeable area where the iPod unfortunately lags behind similar devices. Maybe Apple’s ready to announce something that will change that…?

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 11, 2004 at 10:17 AM (CDT)


You should have mentioned Sennheiser PX250 headphones. Half the price of Bose QC, lighter, and sound just as good.

Posted by Dave Lasker in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 11, 2004 at 6:29 PM (CDT)


Headphone talk?! Why no talk of Grado’s headphones? And why isn’t Sennheiser’s reviewed here?

Have any of you used a hi-fi headphone with the ipod only to discover your mp3s are poor quality?

Posted by Torontian20 in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 11, 2004 at 9:29 PM (CDT)


The one thing I’d add to this section is the Altec Lansing InMotion Speaker set.  They are a must-have accessory for frequent travelers.  They function as an alarm clock, battery charger, and docking port.  They are also highly portable.  The only downside - the power adapter is just one more power cable that gets stuffed in the laptop case.  I haven’t tried to run the speakers on battery so I can’t comment on how well that works.

Posted by Chris woolley in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 12, 2004 at 9:36 AM (CDT)


I’m really curious to try the Shure headphones.  I bought the sony’s mentioned in the previous article and hated them. I’ve retired them to my desk drawer and there they will stay.  I’m sticking with a cheap pair of sony street style headphones now, but if anyone can reply to this post and let me know if they had a positive or negative experience with the Shure headphones I’d really appreciate it.  Also if you know a website where I can get them for a good price I’d be much obliged.

Posted by AJ in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 12, 2004 at 10:17 PM (CDT)


Just a note about car accessories.

Rather than spending money/wasting time with tape adapters, radio transmitters, etc., it’s much easier to get a car stereo that has a front “auxiliary in” port.  That way, you can just plug an iPod into it, losing quality only in the native volume adjustment (which can be dealt with for those audiophile freaks out there) and not wasting battery power with broadcasting.

Even though they are rare, these car stereos do exist.  The companies are afraid of these becoming mainstream because then who would buy a car stereo with its own hard drive or XM built in?  Still, this is by far the best (and probably cheapest) option for getting sound into car speakers from an iPod.

Posted by chris in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 13, 2004 at 12:51 PM (CDT)


Very good article but I concur with many of the comments.  There could be more mention of the many excellent headphones that are on the market.  I have the Sennheiser PXC 250 for travelling and this is excellent, I have also the new Sennheiser PMX 60, a very affortable and good quality headphone, both of Sennheiser together is far less $ then the Bose.  I have tried the Bose as well and they are very good.  I have tried the Apple upgrade headphone which are reasonable quality but its not that much better then the stock unit.  Also, I have seen many different brands of noise cancellation headphones unfortunately I yet to see a brand where the headphone was detachable from the noise cancellation unit, and/or the noise cancellation unit was sold separtely.  From my experience I would say a noise cancellation device is a must for a portable music system, more so then the quality of headphone.

Posted by Allen in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 14, 2004 at 12:59 AM (CDT)


Very good article.  I think all the Beginners Guide articles have been very good.  Keep up the good work.  As for headphones, I use the Grado’s SR60.  I read this review here:  This article helped me make my decision on what to buy.  It turned out to be a good buy, great quality headphones, but they do bring out the sound quality errors also.

Posted by honeybee1236 in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 17, 2004 at 3:23 PM (CDT)



Posted by billybob in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 18, 2004 at 10:40 PM (CDT)


honeybee1236 :-

The Bose Quiet Comfort II headphones do not have a seperate noise cancelling box. These 2nd generation headphones differ from version 1 in that respect.

I love them. I really do. Excellent deep base. Very comfortable.

Expensive but when you try them on on a long haul flight, they really take the stress out of background noise. It’s weird, they just do.

FYI - Bose stores in the US$300

Posted by PauloAmore in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2004 at 4:50 AM (CDT)


Major overkill I know, but some amazing not-so-portable professional headphones are the Sennheiser HD680.  I already had these awesome cans, and was amazed that the ipod even had enough power to get these up and running - boy was I wrong.  I highly recommend them to anyone looking for the ultimate music experience.

Posted by Tom in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2004 at 9:38 AM (CDT)


TOM mentioned Sennheiser HD680, a model I have not seen on the web page. Perhaps he means the HD580, which is a wonderful headphone that might be efficient enough for the iPod. Or perhaps he is talking about the Sennheiser HD600 or HD650. I have the latter, and I assure you these both suck up the power.

The iPod simply cannot cope with the HD650 unless you use an amp. (I like my tiny XIN Super Mini Headphone Amp.) Without the amp it really sounds strained. In fact, my unamped Grado 80s sound a lot better than a HD650 without an amp.

Posted by Clay in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 21, 2004 at 4:42 PM (CDT)


Does the STM Cocoon fit iPod minis?

Posted by Laura in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 22, 2004 at 6:15 AM (CDT)


I don’t no what to buy the 20 or 40 G ipod
is the 40 a good buy ? or shuold i get the 20 ?

Posted by tim in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 2, 2004 at 11:20 AM (CDT)


I bought the 20G thinking it would be enough—and am already at 10.6G (after a few weeks).  I suggest getting the 40G—it’s only a little more expensive for twice the storage (and I guarantee you’ll use it!).

Posted by mizzking in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 2, 2004 at 9:07 PM (CDT)


tim: I agree w/ mizzking. Especally if you are going to use the new “lossey” encoding vs the ACC/MP3.

Posted by JAGjr in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 3, 2004 at 7:19 PM (CDT)

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