Despite their name, the earpuds that come with your iPod are not exactly friendly to your ears.
Cheap earpuds almost guarantee the same tin-can-on-a-string fidelity as when Alexander Graham Bell started the MP3 era with the words, "Watson, come hereI want you to hear this Gnarls Barkley download.
Hold the calls. In previous dispatches about alternatives to stock iPod' buds, I invariably invoked comparisons to the Grado SR60 best-in-its-class headphones but obviously too bulky, and dorky, for extensive mobile use. But now Grado, a family-owed operation from Brooklyn, NY, that has been producing headphones and phono cartridges (still!) for more than 50 years, has come up with a mobile version of the SR60 called the iGrado.
You can tell by the letter preceding the family name where this is headed. With the iGrado, it's no longer a fashion faux pas to lug around the signature Grado sound on the train, subway or downtown stroll. The iGrado are still headphones, not earpuds, but they're sufficiently discreet for the street. These are open-air, over-the-ear headphones anchored behind the neck with semi flexible plastic.
The earpads are spongy black foam, backed by silver plastic grilles. The iGrado, available in iPod-matching white and black, is lightweight (3 ounces). A 40 inch cord allows ample movement, if needed, away from your iPod.
The iGrado's sound? Pure Grado, though there are some differences from the SR60's, likely because of the latter's more substantial earcups, thicker wiring and better build quality. On KT Turnstall's "Silent Sea" for instance, the iGrado accentuated the midrange, pushing Turnstall's vocals up front, creating an enjoyable immediacy through me Nano.
The SR60 presented more balance: a little more body, more relaxed, with slightly better lows, more extended highs and greater depth. Yet the headphones were obviously from the same family. Comparable sound from earbuds would likely cost twice as much as the Grado.
The iGrado delivers superior sound while being more fashion-friendly and mobile.
At its price, the iGrado hits a mobile-music sweet spot.