Proving there’s no rest after a weary week at Macworld Expo, Playlist Reviews Editor, Dan Frakes, has cocked his unfailing eye at a slew of new products including a sturdy (and attractive) new iPod mini case, two iPod docks designed to save you money, an international AC power adapter less expensive than Apple’s offering, our new favorite headphone splitter, a somewhat awkward shuffle-based portable speaker system, and updates to a couple of popular Sennheiser headphones.
Agent 18 mini shock case, which merits our coveted 5-play rating, is hardly the first iPod mini case we’ve seen to feature a two-piece design: a wraparound front piece that protects the top, bottom, front and sides of your mini (leaving the Click Wheel exposed and accessible), along with a second piece that covers the back of the iPod. It is, however, the first case with this kind of design we’ve seen that adds significant shock protection.
The plastic sides of the case feel a bit sturdier than those of the similar cases we’ve tested, and, more importantly, the top and bottom edges, along with four “bumpers” on the inside of the case, are made of shock-absorbing rubber. It doesn’t provide as much shock protection as
Speck’s mini ToughSkin, but it still offers very good protection in a sleeker, more attractive design.
Apple makes money not only on its iPods but also the accessories that make them better and finer music players. But there’s a price to pay. Apple charges a premium for some of these accessories and, by shopping around, you can save a few bucks. One product that will help is PodsPlus’
Dock with Video Out. At $40 it’s the same price as Apple’s photo dock and features the same dock-, S-Video-, and line-out audio connectors. Unlike with Apple’s dock, PodsPlus’ dock includes an AV cable, an S-Video cable, and an extra USB-to-dock connector cable. Separately purchase the two of these cables offered by Apple (the AV and USB-to-dock cables) and you’re looking at a price of $77 for the cables and dock (and you’d still need to purchase an S-Video cable).
Kensington’s $90 Stereo Dock for iPod
can also save you some money (particularly if you can find it for its street price of around $65). This all-in-one docking station for your home stereo provides a dock that features an AC jack and a 1/8” stereo audio output (minijack-to-RCA audio cable included). The dock also includes a handy, backlit remote control that lets you play; pause; skip and scan forward and back; and raise and lower the volume.
Unfortunately, as an IR-based remote, the Stereo Dock requires line-of-sight transmission; unlike the
RF-based remotes we’ve tested, you won’t be able to control playback from around a corner or from the next room. However, we were able to control our iPod from approximately 20 feet away in the same room, which should be adequate for many users.
International AC Power Adapter for iPod
is exactly what it claims to be—a power supply that accommodates plugs for the US, UK, and European Union. Apple’s World Travel Adapter Kit, which costs $9 more, includes more kinds of plugs but doesn’t include the power adapter itself.
Dan also examined BTI’s $15
Headphone Splitter, a splitter unique in that it includes a rotary volume control for each of the two headphones jacks, allowing each listener to choose his or her own volume.
Dan’s full review of the $60
praises the iPod shuffle-based portable speaker system for its compact size, decent sound quality, and ability to charge a shuffle when the speakers are AC-powered, but he found that the adapter required to dock a shuffle could be easily lost and that the exposed speaker drivers could be damaged in transit.
Finally, Sennheiser earns a couple of Playlist Pick badges for its $60
PX 100 “over the head” headphones
MX 500 earbuds. Both are white-colored versions of existing Sennheiser models. Dan thought the white color scheme lent a less-than-high-tech feel to the ‘phones but white or not, he concluded that they sound just as good as the originals and are, therefore, worthy of your consideration.