I've been thinking about adding this category for a while now. And I totally admit that it's inspired by Oprah, more than a little. However, not being the Queen of all Media, I won't be giving away the items I post about here. But this blog has been pretty heavily political for a while now, so I thought it might be nice to post about something else, like reviewing stuff that I've come across and liked so much that I want to talk about it somewhere. Who knows? Maybe someday, I'll attain Oprah-like status (or even a fraction thereof) and be able to do giveaways. But for now, maybe people who read these posts will discover something they might want to try out, but haven't heard of before.
I've always been a music lover; something my extensive CD collection and the 4,000+ songs on my iPod can attest to, and something I think I came buy naturally, since my dad was an avid music lover and my brother is also. I owned one of the first models of the Sony Walkman, and since then I've rarely gone anywhere without some music pounding in my ears; from riding the bus to school to commuting to work today. Along the way I graduated t portable CD players, and finally to the iPod, and developed some related obsessions along the way.
Once I got my first iPod, I immediately found myself in need of the right iPod case, especially after my old iPod died and I got a new video iPod. An iPod is enough of an investment that it's worth protecting with a decent case. I'd read stories about how easily the screen scratched on the iPod Nano and decided not to take any chances. My preference was for a hard case, because I figured they offered more protection. I also preferred cases that had belt clips, since I prefer to carry it on my belt (especially in warmer weather, when I'm not wearing a coat or jacket.
I went through two or three cases, which fell apart after a few months of regular use —the Agent 18 VideoShield Kit and the Rhinoskin 30GB iPod Hard case — before I found what seems like the perfect case in the Sidewinder by Marware. It had everything, plus a few extras. It was a hard case, and came with a sturdy belt clip. It also had a study construction (no assembly required on my part) that didn't seem like it would fall apart after a few months of regular use. It also had a screen protector that was secured to the case, rather than removable screen protectors like some soft or silicon cases. It also had a handy "kickstand" in the back for standing it up to look at videos, and a "trap door" at the bottom so the iPod can be synced without removing it from the case. But the biggest plus was the pull-out on the side for storing earbuds when not in use (thus the name).
The only drawback is that it's made for the 30GB and 60GB iPods. Since the 60GB is thicker than the 30GB, you have to use the included insert to make the 30GB fit securely. That works very well, but you lose the slim profile of the 30GB iPod. Not a huge tradeoff for having a quality case, as far as I'm concerned, but worth noting if aesthetics are important to you.
Speaking of earbuds, I won't try to count the number of earbuds I've gone through trying to find the best quality sound. I generally tend to prefer the in-ear variety, because I want to shut out as much of the outside noise of my commute as possible. It wasn't until I read about the possible connection between iPods and hearing loss that I ratcheted up my search for the right earbuds. The hubby suggested to me a few years ago that I might have some mild hearing loss, because I often don't seem to hear things the first time. So my response is often "Huh?" Now, part of that may be due to my ADD, and the fact that while I might hear something the first time its said, I may not actually be listening the first time. But, I've been listening to music via earphones and earbuds for more than 20 years, so it's possible that I've sustained some hearing loss due to that.
So, I started looking for a way to turn down the volume and still enjoy listening to my music. (I suppose I could just do without music on my commute, but that's about the only time I actually get to listen to music these days. And I don't find the ambient noise of my commute — the sound of the traffic, the roar of the bus's motor, the station announcements on the metro, the cell phone conversations of my fellow travelers, etc. — particularly engaging, entertaining, or interesting.) I tried noise reducing earbuds a couple of times. Sony's Noise Canceling Headphones worked pretty well until the right earbud stopped working. The Philips Noise-Canceling Earbuds were cheaper, but didn't work as well as the Sony earbuds. Plus, I got tired of buying the AAA batteries required to run the noise canceling feature. And I bought a lot of them, since I kept forgetting to turn the noise canceling off when I wasn't using them.
Then, via a coworker, I learned about Etymotic earbuds, which were highly recommended by some people. So, when I found the Etymotic ER-6i Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones on sale at Amazon, I ordered a set. They are, thus far, the best I've had. With the previously mentioned earbuds, especially Philips, I'd often have to turn the volume on the earbuds all the way up, even with the noise reduction. (The volume on the iPod was already all the way up.) With the Etymotic earbuds, which don't have noise canceling, I've actually turned the volume down on the iPod without sacrificing sound quality.
In fact, I'm hearing nuances in the music that I hadn't heard before. And at a lower volume! I think it's because the Etymotic buds effectively isolate sound of the music, shutting out the external noise. The three-phlange ear-tips that come already on the earbuds (there are two more sets of two-phlange replacement tips, and a set of foam tips as well) turned out to be the right fit for me, and they seem to work by forming a seal in your ear canal that blocks out most external noise. To give you an idea, I can hear the bus going by if I have them in when I'm standing on the curb, and I can hear sirens, etc., but when someone tries to talk to me I have to take them out. And if I don't see them talking to me, or they don't otherwise get my attention, I won't hear them.
The only drawback I can think of is that you can't wear these earbuds if you can't stand or can't get used to the idea of having something in your ear. And I mean pretty deep in your ear at that. The two-phlange tips might be a better fit, but they probably still create the same kind of feeling of "suction" that the three-phlange tips cause. They're also a little tricky to take out of your ear. Pulling on the chords is the most tempting way, but is also the quickest way to damage the earbuds. The instructions say to grab the base of each earbud, twist, and pull to get them out. That works unless you have them very securely inserted. Then you'd better grab the base and the outermost phlange, because otherwise the rubber ear-tips will stay in your ear. (Fortunately, they're pretty easy to take out if that happens. Also, one reviewer on Amazon figured out another way to get the earbuds out without pulling the chords, using fishwire.)
Having gone through several accessories for the iPod, I can confidently say these two are among my favorites.