Retractable Headphones for IPods

I adore my little iPod. I love him so much that I named him Charlie, after the main character in Flowers for Algernon. He and I travel everywhere together, but the headphones that came with him are a bit inconvenient: the cord gets tangled and mangled when Charlie’s in my pocket or in my backpack. In fact, I used to spend several minutes each day lamenting the annoying process of unsnarling the cord to Charlie’s standard issue iPod shuffle headphones. “If only someone made retractable headphones for iPods!” I thought, actually believing for a second that my idea was novel and fresh. Well, I should’ve known that plenty of companies have already recogized the problem of tangled cords and created retractable headphones for iPods, computers, and other devices.

In general, the retractable headphones on the market are earbuds whose cords are coiled inside a plastic case attached to the nub that plugs into the headphone jack. None of these little cord collectors are been cumbersome or large. In fact, they resemble the retractable ID badge contraptions that some offices give to employees. At any rate, the user simply tugs on the earbuds to get the necessary length and then clicks a locking mechanism, much like the kind on a tape measure, to keep the desired amount of cord slack out. When done, the happy headphoner can watch the cord on the retractable headphones roll itself up, tangle-free. Thanks goodness for small wonders.

The companies below make retractable headphones for iPods. Because sound quality varies on earbuds, buyers can spend anywhere from $10 to $30 for models on par with the standard iPod headphones that come along with a shuffle like Charlie – or any of its big brothers.

So, shop around and get the retractable headphones that fit your preferences. Chances are that the differences have very little to do with the actual retraction mechanism and far more to do with the sound quality.

1. BoxWave sells retractable headphones in black and in white. Their $28 model comes recommended from a friend of mine who insists that they are NOT tinny and sound slightly better than the earbuds that come with an iPod. Though twice as expensive as some other models, these “miniBuds” are allegedly worth it. From www.boxwave.com.

2. Brookstone (the maker of devices that are sometimes nifty and sometimes superfluous) comes through on this occasion. They have a pair of retractable headphones for iPods that retails around $20 and includes noise buffers and three feet of cord. Go to www.brookstone.com.

3. Proporta sells “retractable tangle-free stereo headphones” that can go from just 4 inches to a maximum length of 41 inches. Selling for about $17 at the time of this writing, these white earbuds resemble the standard issue Apple iPod headphones. See www.proporta.com.

4. Phillips offers retractable headphones for about $9 in black/silver, but the quality is questionable. (I’ve never encountered a good pair of Phillips headphones.)

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