Return The Gift

You’re back at work, or you’re stealing time from overbearing aunts at your dysfunctional family reunion; either way, congrats kid — you’ve made it through the tough stuff of holiday season. We hope the gift fairies got you sweet stocking stuffers to enrich your musical lives. And if so, what was the best gift you got? Sending anything back for exchange? What did you give? (Hope y’all didn’t let Tower employees convince you that “store credit” was a good option.)

We know this comes a day late, but before Xmas we meant to suggest the perfect gift for your iPod obsessed cousin: headphones! The MP3 format compromises fidelity and most of us gladly take the hit in service of convenience and easy-hoarding; but that don’t mean we can’t appreciate how fucking amazing Kid A sounds coming out of sound-isolating, premium phones. Or that we can’t appreciate how awesome it is to effectively drown-out yapping subway car companions without causing permanent eardrum damage. It’s the perfect gift for kids of all ages!

Starting at the bottom, then. The standard headphones that come with iPods are that sweet compromise of horrible sound and shit fit, and the Apple in-ear upgrade is no better (let’s just say using ‘em on a treadmill can be a shocking experience). After Apple, our experience is with the Bose noise-cancellers and the awesome Shure in-ear sound-isolators. The Bose were good times, but bulky in that over-your-ear-for-all-to-see sorta way. The Shures, they’re compact and fantastic.

Dropping over $200 on headphones ain’t for everyone, we know. But if you’re looking for something to wrap around your Nano with rich bass, pristine treble, and detailed sonic reproduction, go Shure E4. (We got ‘em last year, had puppies eat ‘em, and replaced ‘em the next day; that’s how hot these things are.) We thank the gods of audition with each listen. Maybe one of you could help fill in the gaps on the midrange headphone market. What’s a good buy at less than $100? Never too early to start figuring gifts for ’07 — or things you could have bought with that Tower store credit.