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Players & Accessories for MP3 Lovers
A guide to finding the perfect gift for music lovers

By Eli Spalter

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Finding the right MP3 player for yourself or a loved one can be a difficult and somewhat overwhelming task. We've tried to simplify things for you with this quick rundown of popular MP3 players and accessories.

MP3 Players for Audiophiles
For years audiophiles have complained that the compression used to create music files for portable players destroys the sound quality. The folks at Cowon iAudio have the answer. The iAudio X5, available in 20GB, 30GB and 60GB capacities, produces what is arguably the best sound available in a portable media player, and supports high audio quality OGG and FLAC files. The X5 also has a slightly more expensive older brother, the X5L, which offers an astounding 35 hours of continuous play on a single charge!

MP3 Players for Active People
Are you looking for an MP3 player that won't skip or be susceptible to water damage? The Sony NW-S203F S2 Sports Walkman MP3 Player, available in 1GB and 2GB capacities, may be just the ticket. The NW-S203F does more than just play music; it is the personal trainer of the future. The NW-S203F sorts your music by tempo and chooses what songs to play based on the pace of your movement, all the while keeping track of the distance you have traveled and the calories burned. Sony placed this MP3 player in a seamless, water-resistant aluminum body, ensuring that perspiration and water splashes won't send your Walkman to MP3 heaven.

The Sony S2 Sports Walkman MP3 Player

Regrettably, the NW-S203F doesn't record this data in a way that lets you keep track of your workout progress. If you are looking for something that will keep track of all that data, you might want to check out the Nike + iPod kit for the iPod nano.

MP3 Players for Commuters
Commuters generally are looking for a simple, affordable MP3 player to make that long ride to work go a little faster. Sandisk has the perfect option for you, the Sandisk Sansa. The Sansa is a simple to use, compact and most importantly affordable MP3 player that is ideal for commuters or anyone on the go. With capacities ranging from 512MB to 8GB, the Sansas are a great way to take a good chunk of your music collection with you wherever you go.

The Sandisk Sansa line of MP3 Players

The Apple iPod
Of course, there's always the most popular MP3 player ever to hit the market to consider - the Apple iPod. The iPod's often imitated click wheel has never been equaled, and is arguably the easiest interface ever paired with a media player. Its stylish cut and trendy looks made the iPod an instant favorite. The iTunes library and music management program is currently the largest, online, non-subscription, media library out there, with one of the easiest auto-sync systems available. Simply add the music, photos and videos of your choice to you iTunes library, and the very next time you connect your iPod to your computer all that media will be added swiftly and easily.

The iPods

But what truly makes the iPod a cut above all other portable media players is the astonishing number of available accessories. No other MP3 player has nearly the same amount of accessories as the iPod, and whether it's making your iPod look or perform better the accessories have become an integral part of the iPod family.

Accessories for MP3 Players

The first thing you want to do is protect your player with a case. Scratches, bumps and bruises can ruin the appearance of your media player and, more importantly, damage it or cause it to lose data. The cases can be stylish like the Lamborghini cases, clear like the GGi Cases or sporty like the DLO Action Jackets. Any way you go, it is crucial that you protect your player.

MP3 Cases

The music you listen to is only as good as the headphones you listen on, so here are a few headphones that will help you get the most out of your music:

For those of you on a budget, the V-Moda Bass Freq noise isolating headphones offer great sound and cool colors, without breaking the bank. Although they may be a bit bass heavy for audio purists, the Bass Freq's offer some of the most competitive sound for the $40 earphone field.

If you are willing to spend a little bit more than that you may want to take a look at the Bose In-Ear Headphones. These headphones use proprietary TriPort acoustic structure to provide greater low-frequency output than most conventional earbuds. An innovative electro-acoustic design creates natural, lifelike sound reproduction with more range, clarity, and fullness than most would expect from an in-ear headphone.

Shure produces some of the best sounding in-ear headphones on the market and the E4c's are no different. These earphones revolutionized the market when they came out in 2005 in that they made industry grade headphones available to consumers at a (relatively) affordable price. In addition to the great quality sound, these babies come with a $100 B&H Photo Gift Card!

From L to R earphones from Shure, V-Moda and Bose

Power Supplies
Nothing ends the party in your head quicker than running out of power. Although the PowerBlock by Griffin Technology is designed for the iPod (it comes with an iPod dock to USB cable), it can charge any MP3 player that uses a USB port to charge. Plug it in to an outlet, connect to your player and voila - you're back in business. If you need a charge in the car, the GGI iCharger Car Charger provides power and charges your iPod while you travel.

FM Transmitters
One of the most popular accessories for portable players is the FM transmitter. Listening to your earphones is great but sometimes you want to share your music with family or friends. The FM transmitter lets you send your music wirelessly; simply tune to a radio to an empty section of the FM band and enjoy your music over a home or car audio system. The DLO TransDock is a great option for iPods, while the Belkin TuneCast IIM works well with all other portable media players.

Speaker Docks
There are so many excellent speaker docks on the market that I hardly know where to begin - here are a few of my favorites:

Let's start with the basics. The iHome iH5 System for iPod with Remote Control is one of the best sounding speaker systems below $100 - its simple elegance and powerful sound make this table-top music station a great choice.

The iWoofer

The Rain Design iWoofer is one of our most popular speakers for children and teens. Its alien dog design and powerful bass and down-firing subwoofer are pleasing both on the eyes and ears.

Imagine waking up to one of your favorite songs, and not the usual radio babble or alarm clock ringing. If this sounds appealing you might want to consider the JBL On Time Alarm Clock for iPod.

The JBL On Time Alarm Clock for Ipod

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the audiophiles amongst us. The Bose SoundDock brings Bose's legendary audio expertise to your home, with a stylish iPod speaker dock. You won't believe your ears when you hear the quality of sound that emanates from a speaker system this small. The Bose SoundDock digital music system was specifically designed to expand and enhance the iPod music listening experience. The included remote gives you full control of the SoundDock system from across the room. Another excellent sounding dock to consider is Altec Lansing's iM7.

Finally, if you're looking for a gift that will have everyone talking (and that brings new meaning to the term "rock and roll") check out the highly original iCarta speaker dock.

I hope this helps you choose the perfect gift for friends, family and, of course, yourself. Happy holidays!

Still not sure? Try these related gift categories:

- MP3 Players
- MP3 Player Accessories
- FM Transmitters for MP3 players

- Audio Speaker Systems for MP3 Players
- Cases for iPods, iPod Mini, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, Ipod Video
- Cases for the Microsoft Zune
- Cases for other MP3 Players
- Headphones and Earphones
- Portable DVD Players

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