The U2 Special Edition iPod -- striking in black and red.
By Columnist
updated 7/29/2005 1:15:28 PM ET 2005-07-29T17:15:28

Hi-fis and stereos were the big thing when I was in high school.  So were covered wagons and outdoor plumbing, but that’s a saga for another time.  Teenagers either wanted to own the best stereo around or be invited to listen with friends to the best stereo around.

Today, music listening is much more intimate and way more portable.  iPods are the item that every teen must own (and heavens forbid that you have a portable MP3 player that doesn’t say Apple anywhere on it. It’s just not cool.)

That’s too bad because there are a few non-iPod devices out there that are pretty good.  Look at some of the entries from Rio, Creative, iRiver and Archos.  Some are worthy rivals to their corresponding iPod/Mini/Shuffle models.

Luckily, young adults still like to get together and listen to music -– and dance.  Tough to share the experience when all you have is a set of earphones. No problem. There are many companies out there that can’t wait to help you with your iPod sharing problems.

Let’s start with the obvious. You could get yourself a high quality patch cord and hook your iPod directly to your hi-fi/stereo/home theater sound system. The wire mavens at Monster Cable sell a whole line of connectors for just that purpose. 

Monster Cable
Smack in the middle of Monster's iPod interconnect line — the MusicConnect.
Monster's Standard mini-to-RCA interconnect sells for $9.95, the MusicConnect Audio Player-to-Stereo cable is $19.95, the Interlink Portable 400 MkII Bandwidth Balanced cable is $29.95 for 0.75 meters and $49.95 for 2 meters. The price differences lie in the materials used inside each cable (copper, connectors, etc.)  Depending on what kind of hi-fi you’re connecting to -– and because we’re talking about compressed music files -- you might consider the one for ten bucks.

You could also get yourself one of those add-on FM transmitters so that your iPod music programming can be heard on an unused FM frequency on any radio or tuner.  The wizards at Griffin Technology, masters of iPod accessories offer their iTrip.  Actually, there’s a line of iTrips, white and black and one for the iPod Mini.  They’re $39.99 each. 

For the record, Griffin’s Home Connect Kit, with two cables so you can plug your iPod directly into any available line level input of most stereo receivers, or even portable powered speakers sells for $14.99.

Griffin Technology
Not your father's cassette adapter.  This one has a brain.
If your stereo system has a cassette desk (remember those?) Griffin plans on marketing something called a SmartDeck.  It’s a very, very smart cassette adapter (one end plugs into the iPod, the other end looks like a tape cassette and plugs into an audio cassette player.) SmartDeck actually determines which commands the cassette player sends to the iPod.  For instance, hit the cassette deck’s forward and rewind buttons to advance to the next or prior songs in your iPod’s playlist.  Cassette pause and stop buttons do what pause and iPod stop buttons are expected to do.  Not bad, huh?  Especially for $29.99!

Don’t want to use your home or car stereo?  There are boom boxes and speaker systems of different sizes/shapes and prices to please everyone.

At the low end of the price range there are speaker systems you can plug into that sell for less than $100.  I’ve seen and heard many of them.  Don’t even bother. 

The only one which is passable is Logitech’s mm22 system.  It’s small, extremely portable and sells for less than $50 on some Websites.  I wouldn’t want to try to fill a room with the sound from the mm22 -– not even a small room -- but it’s fine for personal use.

Next up the line is a system I was impressed with when I played with it at the CES show back in January.  I liked it so much I even showed it on TV. 

The iBoom is a compact boom box for your iPod — and FM radio.
It’s called the iBoom from DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters).  You plug in your iPod and take the sound with you.  It’s also got a built-in FM radio – if you’re still into those ancient music forms.  It runs on AC or 6 D-cell batteries.  The sound won’t fill a recital hall – but it provides you with music that sounds very balanced.  For the record, it can go loud enough to annoy others.

The iBoom lists for $149.99 and I’ve seen ads for it online where it’s selling for less than $120.

Altec Lansing’s InMotion iM3 ($179.95 list price) and JBL’s On Stage speakers ($159.95) are the next best-sounding devices for the money.   Meant for your desktop, or maybe a night table next to your bed, both these systems amplify the sound coming from your iPod to reasonable levels.

The $300 Klipsch iFi has an 8-inch subwoofer that really rocks.
In the more expensive category there are the $300 Bose SoundDock (which also tops off your iPod’s battery as you listen) and the Klipsch iFi at the top of their iPod speaker line. It’s a terrific sounding 2.1 system with a 2-way speaker for the left and another one for the right channel, as well as an 8-inch, 200-watt powered subwoofer plus a remote control. 

The iFi can fill a room and fill it well. Plug it in and you have an instant party. Highly recommended.

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