Editorial sponsored by HP. Your Entertainment. The way it should be.
We don’t know about you, but we refuse to leave home without our iPods. I mean, how do you expect us to face our days without sixty gigabytes worth of jams? The ability to have so many songs at your fingertips is kind of a double-edged sword in some respects, though – everyone knows about the shortcomings of the .mp3 file format, which compresses audio so much that often 90% of the musical information is missing. However, you don’t have to start downloading FLAC files and solely listening to vinyl or make the tough decision between convenience and quality – there are plenty of ways to still glean a great listening experience from the compressed material on your iPod, if you have the right equipment. We tracked down some high-quality headphones and speakers that’ll help you (or whoever you choose to gift them to) make the most out of the stuff you download this holiday season.
First get rid of the white earbuds that come with your iPod! You can quit wearing them sideways or backwards or looped over your ears or whatever uncomfortable, inconvenient tricks you’ve had to recourse to in order to try and get better sound. You don’t have to resort to giant ‘80s radio DJ headphones to isolate external noise and recreate your favorite concert experience, there are plenty of in-ear variations that’ll do just that.
There are actually several of great pairs of earbuds in the sub-$100 category, but leading the pack are the NuForce NE-700Ms, which boast an "Audiophile-Grade" experience. While we can't say many true-blue, self-identified audiophiles will agree with this particular marketing ploy, the $69 NuForces are an exceptional piece of hardware for the price; highly recommended for buyers looking to escape the world of SkullCandy – or worse, generic iPod buds – for the first time.
We get that for many, style is just as important as sound quality, so here are a few other affordable, stylish and worthy buds we like:
+Shure's SE215s offer enhanced bass and a slick, sound isolating design available in clear or, our favorite, translucent black.
+Thinksound's ts02s are unique and beautiful in that they are made out of wood (cherry or chocolate!), while still earning themselves rave reviews from experts and customers alike.
+Urbanears' Bagis' probably won't sweep you off your feet like the NuForces or the Shures will, but at a jaw-dropping $35 each, you can own a pair to coordinate with essentially every color in your wardrobe while still noticeably improving your listening experience.
+Klipsch's Image S4s are oft-mentioned contenders for a reason.
Now that you've upgraded your aural accessories, for heaven’s sake, stop DJing parties with your computer speakers! The speakers that are built into your MacBook are pretty much incapable of doing justice to any music with rich bass – there goes your dubby dance party. And cute portable speakers may be convenient, but they’re often lacking in quality. High-quality speakers you can connect to your iPod are definitely worth the price – and the price doesn’t even have to be that high.
On our Holiday Gift Guide, we suggested AirPlay-ready speakers be on everyone's list this year. Like we mentioned, "the latest version of iTunes comes with AirPlay, a technology that allows you to stream your tunes throughout your home, wirelessly. More often than not, these speakers also allow you to stream from music services like Spotify and Pandora." We chose three exceptional mid-level speakers: the Sonos Play:3 ($300), the gorgeous Bowers & WilkinsZeppelin Air ($600) and the warm and effective Libratone Live ($700).
For those looking for a more entry-level, but still satisfying experience, we give you the very good-looking Altec Lansing Octiv 650, which allows for the deep bass and balanced mids you need for all those Lana Del Rey remixes you have on your party queue. Bonus: you can connect it to your TV and watch your videos with enriched sound. We know some of you use YouTube when your iTunes library doesn't suffice.
So ask for Amazon gift cards this year, kids. We are putting those white earbuds to rest for good. If you want to delve more into next-level audiophile gear, check out HeadRoom’s list of top-class recommendations.