If you really want to do your iPod justice, you've got to ditch the earbuds that came with it and upgrade.
Ultimate Ears' triple.fi 10 Pro ($400), the company's top universal-fit, in-ear-canal model, is among the best that we've tested. Using three drivers in each ear, the triple.fi 10 Pro provides sound quality that rivals that of the company's much more expensive custom-made personal monitors, in a design that fits any ear. The downside? You may need to rerip all of your CDs at a higher quality level.
Noise-canceling headphones are a great alternative for frequent travelers or people who spend their days in noisy environments. The headset samples the noise around you and then produces an inverse audio signal that cancels out some of that sound, letting you enjoy your music at the same time. Audio Technica's ATH-ANC7 ($220) is our current favorite among noise-canceling models, thanks to its excellent noise isolation and reduction, solid build, long-term comfort, and great sound quality.
iSkin's Cerulean F1 and TX (F1 alone, $130; both, $190) let you listen to your iPod with no strings attached. The TX plugs into your iPod's dock-
connector port and sends audio, via Bluetooth, to the F1's two earpieces, which are attached to each other by a short cable that wraps behind your head. You can even control iPod playback from the right earpiece. (If rumors are true that stereo Bluetooth may come to the iPhone via a software update, the F1 should then work with the iPhone without requiring the TX.)
If you care about your ears, you should guard them by limiting your listening volume and by protecting them when you're in noisy environments. Inexpensive earplugs work well for the latter situation, but they make everything sound muffled and distant. That's why Etymotic's Musicians Earplugs ($150 to $200) make a great gift for any music lover. These plugs don't come cheap, and they require a trip to the audiologist to get custom molds made. But they fit perfectly and reduce noise levels without affecting sound quality, so you can enjoy every note of a live concert without enduring ringing ears later.-Dan Frakes