Believe everything you've read about how easy the Apple iPod is to use, and how physically gorgeous it is.

My best Christmas present was an Apple iPod for Windows. Actually it was for Christmas and my birthday, and it was jointly from five people (thanks a bunch to Susan, Thomas, William, Peter, and Ann).

iPod is great. Believe everything you've read about how easy it is to use, and how physically gorgeous it is. My listening habits have now totally changed, and my music collection has been rejuvenated. I mostly leave it set to shuffle by song, and I'm rediscovering tracks and artists that I haven't listened to, in some cases, for years.

Because it's so easy to play unrelated songs back to back I've noticed a problem that doesn't seem important with CDs: the volume levels of songs from different albums aren't consistent so I have to keep reaching for the volume control.

To fix this I decided rather rashly (it was only a couple of days before I was due to leave for a business trip to Denver) that I'd try out MP3Gain on my entire collection. Fortunately it worked brilliantly and the only volume tweaking I had to do on the plane was because of varying ambient noise levels.

My Sony MDR-EX70LP in-ear phones are great in normal use but weren't quite good enough to block out all of the engine noise. It was much better than using normal headphones, though. The Etymotic ER-4P with custom ear moulds would seem to be the Rolls Royce in this category, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to justify spending £400 on a pair of earphones. When I don't need portability or noise-reduction I use my trusty Grado SR-60 headphones. They still blow away cans several times the price.

In addition to MP3Gain, I've settled on Exact Audio Copy for ripping CDs, and EphPod for synchronising between the PC and iPod. All three of these are free (in terms of cash), and are far more effective than any of the commercial equivalents I have used. Specifically, EphPod transfers to the iPod about 3-4 times faster than MMJB (which comes supplied with the iPod).

If you like music then I highly recommend the iPod.

This page is It was first published on Saturday 1 February, 2003 and last updated on Saturday 1 February, 2003.