BitDepth 468 - April 12

Some iPod accessories are useful, others are out there.
What goes with iPod?

Griffin Technologies' iTalk in action on a third generation iPod. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

What becomes an iPod most? After two years of travelling almost daily with the music player, I've come to understand quite clearly that the device that comes out of Apple's lushly appointed box is only the beginning.
It's possible to use a "bare-bones" iPod, but that isn't as much fun as shopping for goodies for it. Third parties have agreed enthusiastically, flooding the market with such abandon that Apple has now instituted a "Made for iPod" programme that's designed to add some quality control to the iPod accessory madness.
It's no good just kitting your iPod out as if it were a high-tech Barbie though. All those add-ons exist to enhance your listening experience, so before you get seduced by all the slick knick-knacks on show, think for a moment about how these extras will enhance your life instead of merely decorating it.

For home listeners, a range of products is available, ranging from Bose's fan-like Sounddock, into which you can snap any recent iPod, to mobile speaker systems like Altec Lansing's slick and foldable inMotion. Old school portable system junkies will adore the iBoom, a flashback in white and gray to the shoulder mounted sound systems that preceded the iPod's pocket-sized sleekness.
My iPod gets its workout in my car, pacing a daily two-hour commute and after flirting with Griffin's iTrip, an FM Transmitter that links the iPod with your car's radio receiver and a cheap tapedeck adapter, I did the ultimate accessorizing, tearing out my in-dash receiver and replacing it with one with an auxiliary jack that plugs right into the iPod's headphone jack. That was months ago and I'm yet to use either the CD player or the radio that came along with the package.

Mobile listeners may want to check out Xtreme Mac's miniscule iTrip competitor, the Airplay or Griffin's new solution for car cassette decks, the SmartDeck, which allows new iPod owners to use the forward, rewind and play buttons of the deck to control the iPod.
My ageing iPod is sheathed in a rubberized plastic skin that's served me well when the device went bouncing around on the floor of the car, but any serious survey of iPod cases would be a column all on its own. Let me just single out two protective cases you may want to consider for iPods in extreme conditions, Speck's Toughskin and the Otterbox for iPod and leave it at that.

Finally, you may want to make use of your iPod beyond its capacity to play audio files. Some enterprising users might have made use of the built in calendaring and contact storage, but you can do more.
Xtreme Mac offers quite possibly the only software product ever created for an iPod that I would seriously recommend, the iLingo translation helper (US$14.95 for a single language) which allows you to toss a simple language translation guide onto your iPod, allowing you to look up translations to common phrases and listen to them spoken so you don't sound like a complete idiot when you use them.
Griffin's iTalk turns the iPod into a dictation machine with files you can transfer to your computer and listen to at your leisure, but be warned that the iPod's sample rate for recording is intentionally crippled.

Now you'd think that a device called the iPod Photo might have been built with one eye on the large numbers of digital images on cameras everywhere, but it wasn't until last month that Apple released a connector that allows digital camera users to transfer their files from their cameras to an iPod Photo, making it finally field storage that rocks. Older iPod users can try the Media Reader and Digital Camera Link from Belkin, but those products have a shaky history.
Users of older iPods need to look carefully at compatibility, since many newer iPod accessories make use of a port that's only present on the last two revisions of the product. Whether your accessorizing is done for practical purposes or simply for aesthetics, there's probably a product out there for you.

Obscene solutions
Klipsch's iFi, showing the remote receiver/dock and one satellite speaker. Photograph courtesy Klipsch Audio Technologies.

There's a time for excess and there's a time for wretched excess. If money is no object, have a look at these devices, which can double or even quadruple the cost of your iPod investment.
Klipsch's still unreleased iFi is a lush 2:1 (two sattelite speakers, one subwoofer) system from the company's reference speaker line paired with an iPod dock and an RF remote. Expect to spend US$399.
Want to listen privately? Try Bose's Quiet Comfort 2 noise canceling headphones, which utilise technology derived from their headsets for airline pilots. Put these US$299 babies on and flip a switch and not only will the music on your iPod be faithfully reproduced but the buzz of the world will fade away.

Still not impressed? Try Ultimate Ears' UE10 Pro, which require a visit to an "audiologist" for ear impressions to be made. The in-ear buds are then made to fit your ear canal precisely. Now I hate earbuds, but at US$900, I'd probably like these.
For those of us with champagne tastes, BMW, Mercedez-Benz, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have announced auto-audio systems that mate directly with the iPod.
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