While iPod accessories run the gamut, headphones are still the most common upgrade. All iPod models come with Apple Computer's headphones...

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While iPod accessories run the gamut, headphones are still the most common upgrade.

All iPod models come with Apple Computer’s headphones, and virtually any alternative with a standard jack will work.


There are a lot of options, from a basic $10 pair found at RadioShack to higher-end versions for audiophiles with prices that exceed that of the iPod.

I’ve been testing several models over the past few months and have come to a simple conclusion: The Apple-issue headphones are tough to beat for the price.


But there are certain instances — such as a plane trip — where other models are a better choice.

Two models from Koss (www.koss.com), the QZ Pro ($60) and QZ50 ($50), for instance, are what are known as noise-reducing headphones. In the simplest terms, the noise-reduction technology drowns out external noises, such as crying babies or a truck rumbling down the street.


For the most part, both Koss headphones do block out sound distractions, but the pricier QZ Pro model is superior.

Still, there are other considerations.


First, both headphones require AA batteries, not a good feature because users — at least this one — will forget to turn the headphones off, draining the batteries.

Second, they don’t pass the cool test. The QZ Pro set is as big and bulky as the Koss headphones I used in the 1970s while listening (very loudly) to vinyl. Similarly, the smaller QZ50 set sticks out quite far from your ears (they need to hold batteries, after all) and look goofy.


Another problem with the QZ50s, which wrap around the back of your head, is that they put so much pressure on the skull that I started to get a headache.

As for sound, both units provided rich tones that were marginally better than the standard Apple headphones. A colleague, however, thought the sound of the QZ Pro was far superior to her Apple headphones.


Unless you are sitting in your living room or on an airplane, these headphones are too cumbersome for everyday iPod use. Yet there is one key advantage to the Koss models: The big headphones scream “leave me alone.”

Another noise-reducing product comes from Griffin (www.griffintechnology.com). The $15 EarJams snap directly onto the earbuds of Apple’s headphones and extend the sound directly into your ear canal.


The EarJams boosted the bass but also deadened the overall sound quality. To compensate, I used the bass reducer setting in my iPod, but that only made the music flatter.

The sound did improve by turning off the iPod’s EQ setting or by boosting the treble, but that may be due more to my personal tastes.


Also, jamming things deeply into your ear takes some getting used to, but once you are, the EarJams are reasonably comfortable. They come with three different size ear pads to help you get the right fit.

They did reduce external noise as well as the more expensive Koss units. Ambient noise, such as gossipy commuters or noisy co-workers, was significantly reduced without sacrificing the cool factor.


For the price, they might be worth a try — particularly if you like more bass in your music. But the overall loss of sound quality makes these affordable add-ons hard to recommend.