Review: iSoundCap iSoundCap for iPod nano/shuffle
Pros: A set of baseball caps that range from neutral colors to more aggressive designs, each with an integrated iPod holder and cord manager that keep your wires and iPod out of your hands and pockets. Useful for active iPod use, still wearable without an iPod inside.
Cons: Look and concept aren’t right for all users; iPod holders remove tactility of their respective shuffle and nano controls. iPod nano version’s Click Wheel cover is misaligned. Price is a little high.
Updated: In December, 2006, iSoundCap provided us with updated versions of its same-titled baseball cap offering, one model compatible with new second-generation iPod shuffles and the others merely new colored versions for second-generation iPod nanos. Photos of both new versions follow; our original August 31, 2006 review of the iSoundCap follows below.
Original Review: iSoundCap
Some iPod accessories we test are firmly in the “love ‘em or hate ‘em” category, and iSoundCap ($30) from the same-named, Florida-based company is seemingly one of those items. The idea is simple - it’s a baseball cap that keeps your iPod and earbud wires on the back right side of your head, dangling just enough cord for each bud to reach your ears. And because iSoundCap comes in two versions - one specifically for iPod shuffles, one for iPod nanos - there’s so little added iPod weight on your head that you don’t realize it’s there.
According to the company, the design is intended to do one major thing - radically reduce wire interference - and there’s no doubt that it does a very good job at that. Your headphones are wound around an included plastic cord manager to prevent unnecessary wire dangling, and the manager is then inserted into an elastic compartment next to an integrated iPod holder. For the company, this was probably a smarter move than trying to build headphones into the hat - you get to use any headphones you own, even ones with big headphone plugs, and there aren’t any washability concerns if the hat gets dirty.
The company has also done a better than average job of anticipating users’ fashion needs. iSoundCaps are currently available in three colors, two of which come in “plain” and “structured” alternatives. Structured is more of a man’s hat, with Nascar fan-style white or black tattoo graphics embroidered into the alternately-colored front and left sides, while the plain versions are unisex, single-colored caps in white, black, or pink. Though additional colors and graphics would no doubt expand the appeal of the iSoundCaps concept, the plain-colored first offerings are neutral enough to be inoffensive to any possible user, and expand enough thanks to a Velcro rear strap that they’ll fit pretty much any head out there. As fans of baseball caps, we were generally impressed by the workmanship and feel of these designs, and found that it was really difficult to have either model of iPod slip out of its respective hat model.
That said, additional improvements could make the iSoundCaps better. We’re not going to suggest that head-mounting any iPod is a brilliant fashion idea; only because of the iPod’s relative obscurity on your head does it look better here than it would when mounted inside Macally headphones or a headband. The size and shape of current model iPods in our view makes these hats more likely to be functional purchases for runners and indoor exercisers than for anyone else - due to theft and other reasons, having your iPod on your head but out of sight probably isn’t a great idea in other public venues.
On a related note, our other major concern involves iPod usability. Leaving aside the issue of whether you want to access your iPod’s music without reference to a screen - of course, unless you’re willing to take off the hat and earbuds to look at it - the controls of each iPod are too difficult to use inside. iSoundCap’s iPod holders consist of two parts, a fabric iPod sleeve and a clear protector designed specifically for one iPod, the nano or shuffle, not both. This protector covers the shuffle’s Control Pad or the nano’s Click Wheel, while the color-matched fabric covers at least two-third of each iPod’s body. The shuffle holder removes all tactile connection to the shuffle’s controls, while the nano holder’s Wheel cover does the same, and surprisingly doesn’t quite properly align with the nano’s controls; the Menu button is largely obscured. Similarly, nano volume control is still possible, but requires a little extra pressure. Better sleeve designs would really help here. And finally, the $30 asking price isn’t crazy, but could stand to be a bit lower to attract further interest.
Overall, our feeling is that iSoundCap is a pretty good first-generation stab at a new accessory concept that isn’t inherently as weird as some people would make it out to be. Like any iPod armband, there will be times and places when wearing your iPod like this is a good idea, and others when it’s awkward - in our view, iSoundCap does well in both environments. Especially in the neutral-colored versions, it looks good enough when not carrying an iPod that you can still enjoy wearing it, as we have, and works well enough during active applications that it serves its purpose. Further tweaks could improve the iSoundCap experience to make it even more universally appealing, but in our view, this is well-done enough to qualify for more than a limited recommendation: if you aren’t put off by the idea, you’ll like how the company has executed it here.