Macworld Gear Guide

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High-Tech Ear Protection ($12 a pair; Etymotic Research )

The most important asset for any music lover is his or her hearing. As much as you love to see your favorite band in concert, you may dread the wear and tear of deafening decibels and clamoring crowds. Protect your ears with Etymotic Research’s ER-20 High Fidelity Earplugs, which reduce noise levels while replicating the ear’s natural frequency response. For less than the cost of a CD, you can protect your hearing without making it sound like you’re enjoying music from inside a sealed plastic booth.

Over Your Shoulder ($99; Delarew Designs )

If you’re a woman in search of a stylish yet practical way to tote your iPod, Delarew Designs’ Delapod AccessPak may be the perfect solution. This hip leather backpack comes in your choice of five colors, is convertible from one strap to two straps, and features a clear window through which you can view the screen and access the controls of an iPod stored inside (a handy cable hole lets you connect headphones). Best of all, the iPod window faces in, so your bag won’t give your iPod away.

Perfectly Portable ($150; Logitech )

When it comes to portable iPod speakers, even the best models trade sound quality for size. But Logitech’s mm50 provides a near-perfect compromise: a system that sounds surprisingly good and includes all the features you want—remote, dock connector, computer connectivity—in a package that’s small enough to fit in your bag. And the internal rechargeable battery means that you can just plug in the mm50 when you get home, and both it and your iPod will be charged and ready to go the next day.

Get the Hookup ($180; Belkin )

Hooking up your iPod to your home stereo is a great way to listen to your favorite tunes out loud, but it also means that whenever you want to change tracks or playlists, you have to walk to your stereo and access your iPod directly. You could buy an iPod remote, but that doesn’t give you all the control you might want. Belkin’s TuneStage (pictured) takes the opposite approach: it sticks a Bluetooth audio transmitter on top of your iPod and connects a corresponding receiver to your stereo. The transmitter sends your iPod’s audio wirelessly (and static-free) from up to 30 feet away, and you get the best iPod remote of all—the iPod itself.

Drive My Car ($200 plus installation, some cars require an adapter; Harman Kardon )

The magic question for iPod owners is, how do I play my iPod through my car stereo? Although you’ll find several options out there, Harman Kardon may just have the best answer yet with its Drive + Play system. It can connect directly to your car stereo’s rear inputs or transmit over an open FM frequency, but the best features are its screen and controller. The backlit five-line display mimics your iPod’s interface, and the system’s five-button circular controller mirrors the iPod’s controls: forward, back, menu, and play/pause buttons flank a large select button in the middle. Instead of scrolling through menus via a Click Wheel, you rotate the knob itself.

Audiophile Express ($750, plus satellite speakers; Focal-JMlab )

If you’ve got a discerning ear, a penchant for stylish design, and a bulging wallet, you won’t find a better way to listen to music through your iPod or AirPort Express than Focal-JMlab’s iCub. Combining a powered subwoofer, a remote-controlled integrated amplifier, and a digital-to-analog converter in a compact and attractive cube, the iCub pairs with high-quality satellite speakers (not included) to serve as the center of a high-end digital audio system. And you won’t want to hide this subwoofer behind your couch, unlike most.

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