While the iPod and its many imitators are amazing little gadgets, sadly the same can't be said for the headphones accompanying them out of the box. To get the most from your portable pal you'll almost certainly need a better pair - fork out a few notes and you'll be rewarded with greater comfort, better sound isolation and crucially, increased audio performance.
With a huge range of upgrade cans on the market, we've gone for the big guns; six in-ear models in and around the £100 mark. Which offers the biggest audio bang for your buck?
Audio Technica ATH-CK9
Svelte and stylish in either black or white, the ATH-CK9 sits at the top of Audio Technica's in-ear range. The light, slimline design makes for a comfortable fit, and like Shure's model, has the wires going round the back of the ear - though with much less fuss required. Sound isolation is very effective too.
Sonically these are pretty much the polar opposite to Denon's C751; while trebles are tight and crisp, we struggled to get sufficient bass response with any of the ear-tip sizes. Cranking up the volume didn't solve this nagging problem, either. Their saving grace though is a fantastically wide sound stage, and for more delicate acoustic stuff, the ATH-CK9 makes for a subtle and rewarding listen.
These are more than decent headphones, but considering the cost they really ought to do more justice to your music library.
Wide soundstage, fantastic presence, comfortable fit Minus points
Chronic lack of bass
The latest incarnation of Denon's top-end model now ships with a handy travel pouch; otherwise it's as you were - the familiar bullet-shaped buds look great in either brushed metal or black. A choice of three ear-tip sizes makes for a comfortable fit, though they're not quite as secure or effective at blocking noise compared to say, Shure's foam buds.
While lacking the tonal accuracy and presence of Etymotic's similarly-priced ER-4P, on the flip side, these offer a warmer listen, a potent midrange and lashings of thundering bass. It's very much a matter of taste as to which is preferable, but what's certain is if you like your music to pack a punch, these 'phones are more than up for the fight.
The only big sticking point is price; at nearly £140 it's fair to say they don't offer the best sound per pound of the group.
Fantastic bass response, stylish, comfortable Minus points
Not as well-balanced as similarly-priced models, not a water-tight fit, expensive