iLounge has been reviewing iPods and accessories since 2001, using a rating system that has evolved over time. Early on, we used a series of three iPod icons (“excited,” “happy,” “it’s OK”) to indicate different levels of product satisfaction, expanding those icons to include “sad” before changing our ratings completely in 2004. In adopting a letter grade system, we explained that our A, B, C, D and F ratings wouldn’t be exactly like a school’s letter grades, and later noted that D- and F ratings would be reserved specifically for defective and dangerous accessories. These details, and most of the text below, have appeared in all of our Buyers’ Guides and Free iPod Books since 2004.

We know that we would make a lot of companies happy if we only said nice things about products, but we try to present as much of the iPod spectrum as we can: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Like our earlier icons, our letter grade ratings break down into excellent, good, okay, bad, and dangerous marks, as explained in more detail below. Now, using our ratings-sortable review pages, you can easily get a sense of where we think specific add-ons rank relative to each other.

If you have comments or questions about iLounge’s reviews or ratings, please address them to Phil Dzikiy, iLounge’s Editor-in-Chief.

Highly Recommended
A grades are awarded to only the very best products – ones that we highly recommend. Flat A grades are reserved for products that deliver excellent quality, innovation, and reasonable pricing. Since 2001, the number of flat A grades has decreased dramatically as a percentage of all products reviewed – mostly because of rising prices – so as of this writing, fewer than 5% of products reviewed here have received flat As. By comparison, A- ratings are more common, indicating one or two small deficiencies that limit a product’s universal appeal. What about A+? Even the original iPod didn’t receive an A+ grade from iLounge. We haven’t awarded one yet, and may never do so.
B+ and B grades are awarded to very good and good products – ones that we recommend to large but specific audiences. At the flat B level, we consider a product to be one that we would tell our friends are worth considering, with some modest caveats.
Limited Recommendation
A B- grade indicates a product that has a few medium to large issues that crimp its appeal, and qualifies for our limited recommendation. We recommend a B- product only to a niche of people who really need its functionality.
C graded products are “okay” ones that we neither recommend nor dislike. They perform all of their stated functions acceptably, but may not be attractively designed, well thought out, or appropriately priced. A C+ grade indicates that the product was a little bit better than okay, but still not “good” or “recommendable.”
Below Average
The C- grade indicates that the product was on the edge of being bad, and though it worked substantially as promised, possessed some serious design issues.
D graded products are ones that we actively disliked for some reason. This doesn’t happen often, and it has nothing to do with the manufacturer or vendor except for the choices made in designing and selling the product. Typically, the reason is that the product possessed such substantially below- average design, performance or pricing that it was nearly laughable by comparison to other available offerings.
Under iLounge’s policy on defective and dangerous products, any product graded with a D- was defective in some substantial way when we tested it, or subsequently revealed to be defective based on substantial reader input or manufacturer admission. Since most of the products we review are from major manufacturers who test their products prior to shipments, relatively few products qualify for this rating. However, problem products continue to slip through the cracks, so be careful.
F graded products were potentially dangerous when we tested them. Under our policy on defective and dangerous products, we only award a grade of F if a product contains a defect that could seriously damage itself, the attached iPod, or the purchaser. Examples of products that have received F grades include power chargers that do not properly regulate power going to the iPod’s electronic components, and a stereo that could burst its batteries when connected to both battery and AC power. For obvious reasons, not many iPod accessories quality for F ratings.