The 2003 Products of the Year 2003 Editor's Choice

2003 Editor's Choice

Apple iPod

Not much needs to be said about my choice for 2003. The admission may not earn me any points in politically correct audiophile circles, but Apple's cute little iPod was the product I most enjoyed using this past year. Its large-capacity hard drive and ability to play back uncompressed AIF and WAV files pushes it ahead of run-of-the-mill portable players, while its intuitive, playlist-based interface is a harbinger of how all of us will be surfing our recorded music libraries in the near future.

Barry Willis said it best in a private e-mail: "The iPod is a groundbreaking device, a paradigm shift of the first magnitude. A designer can do anything with a big enough development budget and unlimited number of chips. While the result may be impressive, it is not really a great leap forward, given the prohibitive retail cost and cumbersome implementation. Packing the iPod's level of performance, accessibility, and ease of use into such a small, sleek package ranks right up there with some of the great inventions of all time."

I'll give Chip Stern the final word: "As the stalking dawg for a new class of audio products, the iPod represents part of a long-term survival scheme for two-channel audio."

Amen to that. Hook up an iPod to a pair of in-the-ear headphones like the Etymotic ER-4s or the new Shure E5cs, and you have true high-end sound to go. Now if only it had an S/PDIF digital output!