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Pimp my iPod

As with any product as popular as the iPod, there are all kinds of items on the market to help make it run better.

I’ve used lots of audio products, from the days when RealPlayer wasn’t riddled with advertisements through Winamp and other shareware and freeware. iTunes is not only the gateway to easy iPod use; it is one of the best interfaces for organizing and playing music through your computer. As with any product this popular, there are all kinds of items on the market to help make it run better.

Keep on running

Battery life is always an issue with portables. The iPod is rechargeable, but what do you do about powering up between home and your hotel room? A great first addition to your player is a car “cigarette lighter” adapter that handles power and charging duties. Belkin makes a really good one. It even includes a place to plug in your cassette adapter and a volume control for use while it is doing its job.

Speak to me

Another item that powers and charges the iPod is Altec Lansing’s In Motion speaker system. It also serves as a traveler’s replacement for the third-generation iPod dock. Find a wall plug and listen to the In Motion’s surprisingly crisp little speakers and you’ll charge your unit for boarding the next plane at the same time. I don’t know how they provide such deep bass in this unit, but it works very well in a medium-sized room. Plus, you can run it on batteries if you can’t find a wall socket.

What do i hear?

Even with the best-recorded music, there is a lot you can’t hear with the little white headphones that Apple includes. Sony’s MDR-EX71SL Fontopia Headphones are a good first step for you if you want to try the in-ear type of ear buds without investing a lot of money. They keep out some of the surrounding noise and provide pretty good fidelity. They are a noticeable upgrade from the regular type of phones I was accustomed to. Their drawback, and it is a big one, is that the cord is so short that it requires an extension unless you’re planning to carry the iPod in your shirt pocket.

There is an extension cord included (wouldn’t it be cheaper to make the cord a reasonable length in the first place?) but the one in my package was defective so I can’t say if it works well or not. The extension that is included with third generation iPods of 20GB or more works with the Sonys but it is heavy unwieldy and weighs the earphones down unless you clip the remote control to your clothes. Also, the Sony ear buds have differing lengths of wire attached to them that can’t be changed so that there is extra wire hanging in the way unless you put it behind your neck. All of this is too much trouble to go through just to hear a few tunes. If you don’t mind investing, say, the price of a second iPod in your ear buds, you can have a truly magical experience with the Shure E5Cs. I’ve been an audiophile and a headphone fan for decades, and these are simply the best product for reproducing sound that I’ve ever heard. Many listeners report that they hear new elements in recordings that they know and have heard dozens of times.

Radio sweetheart

Belkin makes another item called the Tunecast II mobile FM transmitter. There is competition out there for this little gem but this is the only one I’ve tried. It is very flexible and works well indoors. It attaches to the iPod and sends a radio signal to nearby radios tuned to the same frequency. Changing the frequency and setting a few in memory was very simple.

I used the transmitter to listen to the iPod on a pretty decent home stereo and on the Bose Wave radio. In both cases the fidelity was as good as the FM receiver could deliver from across a large room.

My experience in trying to use the Tunecast II in the car was far worse, however. There was so much interference that the transmitter provided an unlistenable result. Then it was back to the cassette adapter for me. This may be because I’m in a large city with a crowded radio spectrum, though. I’ve heard happier reports from some of my country cousins.

Another drawback is that the unit is powered by two AAA batteries which don’t last very long at all. It can be powered by another Belkin item, but would be much better if it were rechargeable.

Voice vote

Belkin has built a clever voice recorder that has a self-contained microphone and plugs neatly onto the top of the iPod. I found it to be good for keeping track of table conversation with my study group. It records .wav files that you can transfer back to your hard drive.

Last, and maybe least

Dr. Bott has made an iPod player that is built into a big white purse. They call it the Groove Bag Tote Speaker Purse for iPod. I haven’t heard the unit but do want to suggest that they change the name to The Boombag.

Alan Thornton owns Decatur Computer Help (www.decaturcomputerhelp.com), an on-site technical support business in the Atlanta area. Write him at: [email protected]

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