Liberate your iPod

When Akio Morita came up with the idea of the Sony Walkman all of his colleagues at the thought he was completely insane. The general consensus was that people wouldn't want to walk around the streets wearing headphones. Everyone thought the idea was ludicrous and that it would never catch on.

That was in the late 1970s. By the early 1980s Morita's vision had proved inspirational. The Sony Walkman became the iPod of the day and it was hard to walk down a street, travel on a train or sit in a waiting room without seeing someone with a pair of headphones on. And this wasn't just restricted to trendy young things. Middle aged people and elderly people also got the Walkman bug.

Quarter of a century later and headphones haven't changed that much. The current craze, started by iPod, is for white in-ear ones, but if you look closely enough you'll still see lots of other colors and varieties adorning people's ears.

But what happens if you want to hear your music without the aid of headphones? What if you want to share your music with the world at large, or maybe just your friends and family?

Well, thanks to a burgeoning band of accessory manufacturers you can now get speakers (and other gadgets) to cover almost every possible situation. Whether you want to use your iPod as the audio focal point of your party or just want to enjoy some Puccini on the beach - there is sure to be something to suit your specific needs and requirements.

At the very top of the tree, in terms of price, is the SoundDock from Bose. Since the 1980s Bose have really made a name for themselves for making high quality small footprint speakers, and their offering for the iPod is an extension of this philosophy. At a touch less than $300 this might not be an affordable option for everyone, but if you have the money to spare and top class sound quality is important to you then the SoundDock is certainly an option worth considering.

If portability is important to you then iSoundz have several options worth a closer look. The iSoundz Wallet offers a practical solution that incorporates a rechargeable speaker and a place to store your iPod whilst on the move. All of this is in a neat leather wallet. The unit comes with all the necessary cables and will cost you less than $50. The sound quality is distinctly mediocre and so this might not be the right solution for serious music lovers.

Altec Lansing offer several options under the inMotion label. These provide superb quality sound at a price that is not the cheapest, but won't cause too much damage to your credit card. Like the Bose SoundDock, the Altec Lansing InMotion system will also recharge your iPod whilst you listen to music.

Speakers are not the only alternative to headphones. You could also consider buying an FM transmitter. These will allow you to transmit the audio from your iPod directly to any nearby FM radio.

Probably the most popular of the current batch of FM transmitters for the iPod is the iTrip from Griffen Technology. This is a very small unit that plugs directly into the headphone socket on your iPod. Select the frequency you wish to transmit at via the iPod display and then just tune in a radio to listen. It takes its power directly from the iPod itself so be warned. If your batteries are not charged or your unit is not connected to a charger you will run out of power quicker than usual.

The iTrip is not the only option. You'll find quality FM transmitters from Belkin, Kensington and many other accessory manufacturers. Prices range from around $20 up to about $100.

I hope the above information will help to release you from the confines of your headphones. Listening to music needn't be a solitary occupation. Using any of the tools above you can liberate your ears and share the contents of your iPod with friends, family, colleagues and anyone else within earshot.

Ivan Gregor is the founder and webmaster of the popular and highly informative the-ipod.com web site, which specializes in all things iPod related. If you are thinking of purchasing an iPod or want to get the most from your existing iPod visit http://www.the-ipod.com today.

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