- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

A little more than one month remains until Christmas Day and the beginning of Hanukkah. It’s time to start shopping.

IPod accessories dominate. Or so it seems. The first few pages of the Sharper Image catalog have all sorts of IPod accessories; announcements of new items are a daily feature in my e-mail inbox.

One of the nicest items I’ve seen — and one that lives up to its billing — is the $80 Boostaroo Revolution from UpBeat Audio of Grand Haven, Mich. The device is a preamp and three-channel “surround sound” unit that sits between your IPod (or other audio source) and your headphones, if the latter have a greater than 60 ohm impedance.

I tried this out with a pair of Sony MDR-XD200 headphones, rated at 70 ohm impedance, and the result was impressive, just as it also was when plugged into the headphone jack of a Hewlett-Packard Media Center PC m7160n.

There is a difference, and for the better, when using the Boostaroo Revolution device. The Sony headphones, which retail for between $21 and $30 online, are impressive on their own; add this unit and you’ve got a great companion for a road trip or an afternoon’s reading. The battery-operated Boostaroo has two headphone jacks, so you and a friend can rock out together. More information can be found at http://www.upbeataudio.com/.

Among other good sources for IPod accessories, I’ve found, are Digital Life Outfitters of Charleston, S.C., http://www.dlo.com, and Belkin Corp. of Compton, Calif., http://www.belkin.com. Both make a wide range of accessories for the IPod, and each firm offers some interesting designs. The same can be said for Griffin Technology of Nashville, http://www.griffintechnology.com, whose RoadTrip device is a personal favorite.

Give the gift of the leading Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Leading VoIP telephone service providers will be happy to activate a VoIP-compatible router or phone purchased at Best Buy or a similar store and give to someone else — or even yourself, for that matter.

The genius of VoIP is simple: It utilizes your broadband connection to place and receive voice telephone calls using a regular phone connected to a special router. Recipients can be on a cell phone, another VoIP phone or a regular phone line, here or around the world. I’ve got an excellent VoIP plan that lets me call the United States, Canada and Western Europe as much as I want for a reasonable monthly charge under $25; my calls to Australia are superlow-priced, too.

Among the providers to check out are Vienna, Va.-based SunRocket; Sterling, Va.-based AOL; McLean-based Lingo Inc. and New Jersey’s Vonage America Inc. A Google search will provide Web addresses, while a trip to local electronics retailers will point you toward the hardware needed. This is a great gift if you have a teenager — and a broadband Internet connection — at home.

Oldies, but still goodies. I’ve mentioned, briefly, the Jabra SP500 Bluetooth speakerphone before, which will let you speak hands-free on a cell phone. You can find it in stores for under $90.

Apple’s Mighty Mouse is a $49 wonder that offers great navigational tools and a more sensitive operation to users connecting to an Apple Macintosh, but also to a Windows-based PC.

• E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit http://www.kellner.us.

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