Monday, December 20, 2010

Paper PC Picks: Gifts for iPod Lovers

With the holiday gift season hard upon us and crowds of head-scratching consumers filling electronics stores, now is as good a time as any to start a series of cool gadget selections. The Paper PC Picks will be culled from newly announced products spotted at press events and from the interesting products I've had a chance to look over. So let's get started, in no particular order, with the first set of Paper PC Picks.

Gifts for iPod Lovers
A strange gadget recently made an appearance in a New York subway car: An original, first-generation iPod. It had a tiny monochrome display and the now-legendary mechanical wheel for menu navigation. In a car full of modern iPods and iPhones, the sighting of a "classic" iPod proved one thing: iPod users really love their devices. As the holiday shopping season rushes to a close, here are some gift suggestions for your favorite iPod lover.

v-moda Crossfade LP
At the high end of the scale is the $200 Crossfade LP from v-moda, a studio-quality, over-the-ear headphone which doesn't look the least bit like an iPod accessory. Aside from comfortable, well-padded earpieces and a choice of six colors, the unit offers two detachable, cloth-covered wires: one for audio only and the other with an inline iPod-compatible remote control and microphone.

Instead of multiple drivers per earpiece, the Crossfade LP uses single 50mm dual-diaphragm driver on each side, a design which, according to v-moda, allows the unit to provide deep basses and clean midrange sounds without the need for batteries. The stylish headphone, which also comes with a ruggedized hard carrying case, proved both comfortable and comforting since external noises were held at bay by the ample padding, thus allowing the pure sounds of digital music to stand alone.

Denon AH-C260R
If you damage or lose your original white iPod earbuds, you'll find that there are many alternate headsets that offer equal or superior audio quality at lower prices than Apple's replacement earbuds ($29 list) or dual-driver in-ear headset ($79 list). The $50 Denon AH-C260R in-the-ear headset is a good example.

The headset, part of Denon's Mobile Elite series, has a three-button inline iPod-compatible remote control and an inline microphone. When tested with Skype telephony software and with and the voice recorder in a second-generation iPod touch, the clarity and fidelity of the unit's inline microphone proved impressive. The earpiece shells are made of an aluminum alloy and a resin compound, a combination which, according to Denon, minimizes unwanted resonances.

Blue Microphones Mikey
Anyone who's owned an iPod for more than a few minutes knows that it can do far more than just play back digital music. For students who want to record lectures or business workers who need to record meetings or conference panels, the Mikey microphone ($79 list) from Blue Microphones turns most iPods into fairly sophisticated voice and music recorders.

The square, hinged, second-generation Mikey fits neatly into the docking port of first- to third-generation iPod touches; second- to fifth-generation iPod nanos, iPod classics and fifth-generation iPods. The unit works best when used with the Blue iPod app, readily available at no cost in the iTunes Apps store.

When tested in a large New York hotel ballroom during a panel discussion, the Mikey, when adjusted for high sensitivity, clearly recorded the proceedings.

Philips Fidelio DS8500
Earlier this year Philips expanded its line of iPod-docking speakers with the rich-sounding Fidelio series of premium speakers. In the middle of the line is the curvy $200 Philips Fidelio DS8500. Unlike boxy, clock-radio-type iPod docks, the Fidelio DS8500 is designed to look classy even when an iPod isn't docked to it. You can also connect other MP3 players and music accessories to it via a stereo input jack.

The unit comes with dual 3-inch, 15-watt speakers behind a fabric mesh, a remote control and its own iPod / iPhone app. The app, which can be downloaded at no cost from the iTunes App Store, includes an equalizer and other features that allow you to tune the sound of the unit to your ear. The app also includes an alarm clock which allows you to wake up to music from your iPod. And of course the speakers can be used for streaming music from Pandora and other Internet radio services when your iPod or iPhone has an Internet connection.

The Fidelio has a proximity sensor which illuminates the front-panel volume buttons as you approach and turns them off as you move away, thus providing more power for music and less for interference from the lights. The powered speakers come with an AC adapter and the Fidelio recharges your iPod as it sits in the dock. The unit is compatible with almost all iPods and yes, when tested with an iPod touch, the audio was warm and crisp.

An Ounce of Protection
If you think your iPod lover might like to personalize his unit, there are a number of services that let you design your own iPod case. For example, Coveroo has a deep selection of college and professional sports team logos, emblems, mascots and other images that can separate your iPod from the crowds.


The images are manufactured into the cases, so they won't wear off, according to Coveroo.

Case-Mate also offers a large line of cases for iPods, iPads and some Android-based cell phones like the Samsung Galaxy S series, also allows you to design your own case. The do-it-yourself area of the Case-Mate website allows you to upload your own design or photo and have it manufactured into a phone or iPod case. Here again the design or photo is embedded into the final product and doesn't wear off, according to Case-Mate.

And one last word here: Happy Holidays.

Text Copyright 2010 Stadium Circle Features
Photos courtesy of v-moda, Denon, Blue Microphones, Philips, Coveroo and Case-Mate

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