» What they are: Folding headphones that you can design on the Internet.
» How they work: Visit EarPollution’s website and select from an array of colors and designs, including flowers, a butterfly, a family crest, initials and others.
» The good: As travel phones they work well because the earpieces are hinged to fold up toward the headset. Having broken two pairs of pricey rigid headphones already, I was eager to see whether these could stand up to months in a briefcase, suffering the stress of books and bottles resting on top. They withstood all the jostling I could bring to bear. What I wasn’t counting on was all the 20-somethings asking me where I got them. I don’t know whether it was the designer ear cushions or the lime-green frame or what, but they seemed popular.
» The bad: The NervePipes are not noise-canceling headphones, and the bass was a tad anemic. So I inserted earplugs and presto: Not only did I not hear any sound beyond the tunes from my mp3 player, but the plugs also enhanced the bass, making it surprisingly rich. Whether you buy new earphones or not, that’s a good trick to remember; apparently the plugs filter out higher pitches.
» Cost: $29.99
» Available from: ifrogz.com/earpollution
Ross Werland, www.chicagotribune.com