Essential iPod accessories?
August 27, 2004 1:02 PM   Subscribe

So. I'm looking at getting an iPod (probably the mini ... for running and stuff), and I'm overwhelmed by the accessories: what do you think are the essential accessories for using it by itself, in the car, and in the home (eg in the kitchen)?
posted by silusGROK to Technology (30 answers total)
By itself, a good pair of headphones. For the car, I swear by my FM transmitter (unless you've got a line-in.)
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 1:17 PM on August 27, 2004

For running I would obviously say one of the most important is the Arm Band if you decide to go Mini.

For the car, I use iTrip with some success. I live in an urban area though, and finding a good station to set it to is fairly difficult. If you can manage to make a direct connection via a cable, that's really the only way iPod in a car is excellent. If you have a BMW and love your audio experience, you should seriously consider the OEM kit.

Beyond that, any of your favorite earbuds or headphones is always a plus. Remember that iPods are also great for backups and portable storage! Keep that in mind when choosing an iPod capacity. I use mine with Apple's Backup software from .Mac all the time.
posted by travis vocino at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2004

Gotta admit I don't understand the appeal of the mini as it's not much cheaper and is a fraction of the size (drive wise) than its older cousin. I run with my non-mini. It ain't that big. :)

As for accessories, I would recommend you avoid the apple remote (if they work on minis). Though I'm sure others will really disagree, I think it's one of the worst designed remotes I've ever seen. Why? It doesn't clip onto *anything* except thin shirts. It won't clip on to any of my coats or jackets and even has difficulty with some of my sweaters. If you live anywhere that has non-summer weather, you won't be able to bring it along and it'll just annoy you that you paid for it. Perhaps someone else makes a better remote, but I haven't checked.
posted by dobbs at 1:29 PM on August 27, 2004

I'm in Boston and the iTrip doesn't work very well for me at all. No open channels at all. I've switched back to my cassette adaptor. The iTrip does work great in remote areas though (I was in Twisp, WA last week.) I'm interested in see how Griffin's earjams (!?) work. The standard ear buds aren't too comfortable in my ears.
posted by rschroed at 1:35 PM on August 27, 2004

I agree about the headphones - my best friend's a musician and uses Sony earbud ones with his iPod (he also says that when he sees people using the ones which come with the iPod, he always wants to tell them to get a better set of headphones, the ones that come with are pretty crappy-sounding).
posted by biscotti at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2004

I'm eagerly awaiting the iBoom so I can use it in other rooms in the house.
That's the first accessory I've really thought would be useful.
posted by milovoo at 1:45 PM on August 27, 2004

If you're going to be running, make sure *not* to get in-ear earphones. A), you won't be able to hear traffic, bicycles, etc. B), you'll hear your own breathing and the swish of the cords. Personally, I find the earphones that come with the iPod adequate for the situations in which I use them, mostly out-of-doors and about town. I have a set of isolating earphoens for listening intently.

If you want to use it in the kitchen, I'd recommend the Tivoli iPal. I have a PAL radio from Tivoli -- it's small, cute, sounds great, and has a robust rechargeable battery, which is very awesome for the beach or even just around the house. I can take mine into any room with my iPod hooked up and have a nice portable stereo. A really great device, and worth the money (amazingly, since it's quite pricey). I can't compare with the iBoom, but I can heartily recommend both Tivoli and the PAL.
posted by josh at 1:56 PM on August 27, 2004

I sort of disagree with dobbs: the remote is the most important accessory for me. I'm always walking around the city with my iPod, and I find I need to quickly pause it and start it up again many times a day. It would be really hard to do this -- while walking -- without the remote.

I also listen in bed, and I find that it's easier to control the iPod in the dark with the remote.

But I DO agree with dobbs that it's not designed well. But I don't think there's an alternative remote. Until there is, I say the Apple remote is better than no remote at all.

For me, the other must have "accessory" is a subscription to I love recorded books, and the subscription gets you two a month (I only download unabridged ones).

When they come out with lightweight, wireless headphones (anyone know anything about this), I'll be waiting on line. My least favorite thing about the iPod is getting tangled in the wires.
posted by grumblebee at 2:02 PM on August 27, 2004

I have a Gen1 (first generation) iPod so maybe things have changed, but this is my 2 cents:

If you have a tape deck, just get a regular cheap-o cd/tape deck connector that you plug into your iPod where the headphones go and then you stick the tape into the tape deck.

I've had nothing but bad luck with the ITrip and the Belkin transmitters (for cars with just CD players.) If you go over a bridge with lots of metal or live in a big city, it's really crappy reception and frequently breaks in and out. Also, mine buzzes a really high pitched buzz the whole time I'm using my iTrip. finally, I hate the way the iTrip software works. Really annoying. However, maybe they've gotten better with the later generations of accessories.

I also have a neoprene and rubber "suit" for my iPod that protects it from drops and bumps and stuff. I love it. I can't tell you how many times I've dropped my iPod and it bounces instead of cracking. It was part of the Gen1 arm band kit, which I thought was useless, except for the neoprene covering.

Ear buds and the iPod wired remote is key.

Also, they sold a Gen1 "connector kit" when I got mine that had a stereo connector for my home stereo, a splitter, and a tape deck connector. Don't know if they still have that. If not, you can just go to radio shack and buy your own connector for your stereo. Just get one that works for a Discman and it will work for your iPod. It's cheaper to. That's the best way to hook it up to your home stereo.

So, I'd say these three are key:
1. wired remote
2. Covering for it to protect it
3. tape deck connector kit.
posted by aacheson at 2:03 PM on August 27, 2004

I've been thinking about getting the iTrip but I already have the tape kit for my CD-Walkman, so it seems a little redundant to spend the extra money.

I find the remote control useful too, as grumblebee says, because I can keep the iPod in my back pocket or zipped inside my jacket and clip the remote onto the top of a front jeans pocket. The tricky part with the remote is that you can't use it by feel because it feels the same either way up - so when you want to turn the volume down, you end up pausing the music, or vice versa. Otherwise I think the remote is great.

Definitely get a protective pocket for your iPod (I don't know if they come with all iPods automatically but mine came with a padded cover with a clip), as I've noticed mine scratches very easily, and the chrome-style backing gets fingerprints all over it - and I'm picky about things like that. :)

I quite like the earbuds that came with the iPod, although my friend loaned me some fancy-ass ones recently and the difference was amazing. But they seem okay to me.
posted by tracicle at 2:30 PM on August 27, 2004

2nd for the iPal.

But you don't have to buy the iPal unit specifically -- It's just a marketing tie in with Apple and doesn't come with anything extra other than a $2.99 white mini-to-mini cord. I bought the regular "Pal" unit (that one comes in many colors) that is water resistant and rubberized for the beach. I love the thing and I'm listening to it right now.
posted by zpousman at 2:35 PM on August 27, 2004

The remote is a great idea, but the reason I never use it is that the cord is too damned long.
I liked the sound of the earbuds but they just fall out of my ears (which gave me a complex: are my ears weirdly shaped? I took to staring at people's ears, which doesn't really go over terribly well.)
I also agree that getting a mini is a silly waste of money.
In the car, I have a cassette player so I use a $19 cassette adapter thingie instead of the FM transmitter.
Must get, if you use more than one computer: Sharepod, which allows you to put all your music onto the iPod, then upload it to another computer.
Oh yeah, and do get a protector. I thought that was silly and now I have a badly scratched screen.
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:37 PM on August 27, 2004

CunningLinguist, you know that iTunes will play libraries on other networked computers? You can't copy music across that way, though, so I guess that's where the iPod would come in handy.
posted by tracicle at 2:53 PM on August 27, 2004

Everyone's covered most of my recommendations except one - if you take your iPod into work frequently, and your machine has the proper ports, I recommend getting a second Firewire/USB2 cable for charging at the office and/or playing your music back there.

Also, this lets you utilize Firewire Disk Mode for moving files back and forth to work easily.

(And yes, given how slim the new 20GB iPods are, I'd say the Mini is a bit of a waste too.)
posted by Remy at 3:05 PM on August 27, 2004

I just bought an ipod earlier this week and I have to say I agree with the earlier post - get different headphones. I would also suggest you pass on the mini (I have the 20 gb and the weight is insignificant) and don't bother with the docking station.

I personally love and hate the remote - It is very useful, but poorly designed.
posted by Julnyes at 3:21 PM on August 27, 2004

Just to be clear: I think a remote is a useful thing, just not the way Apple designed it. If someone did make a better one (I like the Sony tube style), I'd buy it for sure. But the one that came with it just sits on my desk.

don't bother with the docking station.

I don't agree with this at all. My docking station is permanently plugged into my stereo and I listen to my iPod thru it every day. I don't use it for charging, but the lineout is useful.
posted by dobbs at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2004

You'll find a car charger incredibly useful... It basically keeps you from having to worry about keeping the thing juiced up. Also, one of the employees at the Apple Store near me said that you get better audio out of the port at the bottom than you do from the headphone jack since the port is designed to hook into a stereo. I don't know if this is true, but Belken's car charger uses the port as the audio out (you plug the cassette adapter into the thing that plugs into the cigarette lighter). Also, as others have said, get a decent case or skin for it. And finally, if the case you wind up getting doesn't have anything to go over the screen, get one of those screen protectors for PDAs and stick it on your iPod. You'll probably have to cut it, but it will be worth it.
posted by alphanerd at 3:29 PM on August 27, 2004

I would recommend you buy an iRiver instead of an iPOD. Better batteryl life, a radio tuner, and you can record CD quality sounds or music. I'm very happy with mine.
posted by mert at 4:03 PM on August 27, 2004

I just bought Monster Cable's version of the Belkin car unit mentioned by alphanerd. Yes, the line-out from the bottom connecter is much better than the headphone jack.
posted by Monk at 4:14 PM on August 27, 2004

mert, intersting. I'm curious if you've used an iPod, though--more than just in the store. I have an iRiver CD MP3 player and it is a fantastic player. Never skips, great sound, reasonable price... but the interface is a nightmare; I can't imagine how they could have made it more complicated. I just read a bunch of the comments on your link and it seems they've carried the lack of ease of use over to this unit, as well (and the mention of 4 - 11 MINUTES to boot are insane), which is really unfortunate. The better battery life is good (as is the voice recorder out of the box, which I'm waiting for before I upgrade my iPod), but I'd be curious to read a side by side comparison of the unit with an iPod.
posted by dobbs at 5:05 PM on August 27, 2004

Dobbs, how do you plug the docking station into your stereo?
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:56 PM on August 27, 2004

Cunning, on the back of the dock there's a line-out. I just use a stereo mini-plug to RCA cable and plug it into where my tapedeck used to go.
posted by dobbs at 7:43 PM on August 27, 2004

The same methods used to remove scratches from palm pilots will probably work on the ipod.

Hobbytron sells fm transmitters that are [cough] more powerful. Imagine giving a free concert to the cars riding next to you. You could even have a special, prerecorded track to play for people who cut you off. If it wasn't illegal, that is.

Koss sells some $20 in-ear buds, but don't know how they compare to the stock pods.

Disclaimer: I don't own an ipod, but I can feel the burn.
posted by mecran01 at 6:21 AM on August 28, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone so far... please: keep the ideas coming!

: )
posted by silusGROK at 7:27 AM on August 28, 2004

Response by poster: (That's so funny that you say that, mecran01: I know the owner of HobbyTron! Heh... I'll have to check them out more carefully. Which transmitter do you suggest?)
posted by silusGROK at 7:40 AM on August 28, 2004

monk and alphanerd, the line out from the charger sounds better because it it amplified by the juice from your car.
posted by mathowie at 8:31 AM on August 28, 2004

Two more cents: *don't* buy an iPod protector. My iPod screen is scratched, but so what? At least it doesn't have nasty silicone wrapped around it, and adding bulk and weight. The chrome back of the iPod is scratched, too -- but though a cover would protect the chrome, it would also obscure it, so what's the point? To my mind the iPod is definitely a beatable-upable device, and some scratches here and there are not a big deal. It's your call, obviously.
posted by josh at 11:27 AM on August 28, 2004

SilusGrok: I don't have a favorite, I just know that a buddy at UVSC bought one there and the wattages listed are much higher than those crappy little Itrip thingies. It looks like a great store--lots of cheap RC stuff.
posted by mecran01 at 2:40 PM on August 28, 2004

As far as cases go, I have been pleased with the trade-off between protection and aesthetics afforded by the Contour Showcase. However, the detachable belt clip is worthless. Also, the case developed a couple of tiny cracks around the cutouts for the buttons and wheel, but they really haven't grown into anything larger.

My ten-year-old banged-up Sony cassette adapter sounds pretty good when I'm driving the wife's car with the tape deck. I have an iTrip for mine -- it's a very clever little design. The performance is not fantastic, but it's better than nothing. Gizmodo recently posted an article about cracking the iTrip's case and pulling the antenna out of the plastic shell to improve its performance, but that sort of ruins the simple elegance of its design. Also, note that you can't use an iTrip with an iPod in a Showcase -- the Showcase's port holes aren't wide enough.

I have found the PocketDock extremely handy, too.

I didn't gather whether you have a Mac or not, but if you do, I can make the following additional recommendations:
- Senuti [copy tracks off the 'pod]
- Pod2Go [put RSS feeds and other useful web stuff, or any text file, on the 'pod for reading on the go -- full dis: I am a beta tester for this product]

I'm sure there are Windows analogues to these packages and iPodHacks or iPod Lounge will likely have them.
posted by britain at 10:41 PM on August 28, 2004

I'm a bit late here, but I've just got a RemoteRemote. I liked the remote that came with the iPod (other than the stupid clip), but the wire on the connection came loose, and rather than pay a ridiculous amount for a new one ('cause they bundle it with earbuds that I don't want), I got a wireless keyfob remote that I can keep in my pocket out of the weather. I like it!
posted by wilberforce at 6:55 AM on August 29, 2004

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