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iSkin Cerulean X1 Noise Isolation Headphones
One of the big advantages of being an iPod owner over the years has been sheer volume of accessories you can get to go with them. From jackets with iPod speakers built into the hood and remote controls in the sleeve to esoteric, high-end valve amplifiers, there's a little something for everyone.
One thing every iPod owner ought to do, however, before investing in any of these wacky extras, is a decent pair of headphones - the white plastic pair bundled with every iPod are nothing short of appalling. The trouble is, it's often difficult to know where to start. There are hundreds of products on the market, and all of them touting audiophile sound quality, incredible bass, crystal-clear sound and various forms of noise cancelling or isolation.
The best rule of thumb I've discovered is that, invariably, the best earphones are made by companies with a track record in the professional audio industry. We're big fans of Shure headphones, Etymotic Research and Ultimate Ears here at TrustedReviews, who all have a history in making noise isolating headphones for stage performers who want to be able to hear what they're doing on stage without going deaf.
So I was a more than a little sceptical when I was handed the Cerulean X1's to review. The company that makes them - iSkin - has a creditable background, but it's in producing stylish iPod cases and 'skins', not the audio products themselves. It's undoubtedly very good at what it does, but could it translate this decorative expertise to the hard, cold, intensely competitive world of portable audio?
On the outside, the X1s are every bit the iPod accessory. They're available in white (as well as black for those who just can't bear to follow the crowd), and new iPhone owners will be pleased to find that they come supplied with an adaptor for that device's recessed headphone socket. They're also beautifully engineered, just like the digital music players they're designed to complement. Every other pair of earphones I've picked up - even the expensive ones - feels plasticky and lightweight next to these. Hold them in the palm of your hand and they feel heavy, like pieces of expensive jewellery.