Ultimate Ears has been making in-ear monitors for professional
musicians for nearly 15 years. The company was founded by Alex Van
Halen and Jerry Harvey, a sound engineer for the band--a couple of dudes
who know what they’re talking about when it comes to audio. Musicians
rely on UE’s monitors during performances, and now you can bring that
pro-level tech home in the form of earbuds. Even if you’re just
listening to “Panama” while you’re walking the dog, rather than
pounding it out on the skins in a packed arena, Ultimate Ears can make
your iPod rock that much harder.
Earphones are a personal thing. Everyone has different criteria for
what makes a good set. Some might be looking for bass, others might be
more interested in noise reduction. Certain people might only be
interested in ’phones that come in standard-issue “iPod white,” while
someone else is looking for something a bit more interesting,
Dictate comes with a USB headset. Dictation programs act as your personal typist, transcribing words as quickly as you speak—theoretically, anyway. Initially, Dictate did an excellent job transcribing our spoken phrases into onscreen text. And it even let us control menus, edit text, and access other functionality in the open app, so we kept our hands off the keyboard with great success. Dictate impressed us with its quick, accurate performance. However, we hit a wall almost immediately. In its initial release, Dictate can’t improve its accuracy when listening to your corrections. If it thinks you mean “racket” when you say “wrecked,” it always will until MacSpeech releases an update.
As I write this, I'm listening to 311's "Large in the Margin" using iSkin's Cerulean F1 Bluetooth earphones. The Cerulean F1 uses Bluetooth to wirelessly connect between the (whoa, track change - now I'm listening to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms." Yup, shuffle's on) earphones and your audio device, which in this case, is an iPod. Since the iPod doesn't have Bluetooth, you need to connect a Bluetooth transmitter. I'm using iSkin's Cerulean TX, part of the Cerulean TX+RX package. (Track change: Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." Hey Apple, how 'bout getting Led Zeppelin in iTunes?)
The newest version of Wi-Gear’s iMuffs, model MB210, include an adapter that connects to your iPod’s dock port and lets you listen to your tunes wirelessly. The iMuffs resemble street-style headphones, with a curved piece of plastic that goes around the back of your head. The plastic is flexible, but those with large heads may find that the headband twists when you stretch it to fit around your melon. If that happens, it’s hard to get the earphones to lie flush against your ears, leading to lots of sound leaking out and annoying your fellow commuters. The headphones are light and easy to wear, though, if they fit your head right. It would have been nice to be able to adjust the headband.
The m100 earbuds are good for music. We like the m250 over-ear clip-ons for games. Music producers routinely sit around and bemoan the fact that as a result of the 44.1kHz sampling rate of CDs—and the rise of iPods and earbuds—a producer's efforts are wasted on sonically inept listeners. While this is not nearly as true as they'd like to believe, there are complicating factors: The places where we listen, and how and what we listen to, change almost from song to song, leaving manufacturers scrambling to be as many things to as many people as possible. Which brings us to the Pro|Tone m100 earbuds and the Pro|Tone m250 headphones, Razer's two lower-end offerings.
Lookin' good, soundin' good. iPod earbuds are instantly recognizable - they also instantly tell the observer that you're using an iPod. V-Moda's Vibe earphones may not convey such status (which might be a good thing), but they certainly are eye-catching. And they sound as good as they look.
Was your iPod nano meant to be seen and heard? That's your call. Macally's mTune-N headphones have a slot for your iPod nano, so instead of hiding in your pocket, it's out and about for everyone to see - on your head. Accessing the nano's controls is a little tricky if you decide to leave the mTune-N on. The headphones have a 3.5-millimeter jack, so you can connect a male-to-male cable (included) between the headphones and the headphone jack of an iPod or Mac.