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Earphones with short cables and stereo audio for one ear--Ask the Editors

CNET editor Jasmine France answers all of your questions about MP3 players, accessories, headphones, and more in this regular Ask the Editors feature.

I can't begin to tell you how many MP3 players I've yanked off my desk and onto to floor because the cable of the test headphones was too short to allow me to enjoy the full range of motion around my capacious cubicle. Suffice it to say that it's a lot. (And it has taught me that MP3 players are surprisingly resistant to damage when hurled onto a carpeted surface.) But that and related issues are easily remedied by employing a cord extender. What about the opposite problem? You can't very well take a pair of scissors to your earphone wiring. What you can do is purchase a pair of earbuds with a short initial cable. Also this week: find out how to get stereo audio into a single ear.

Q: I was wondering if you know any earbuds that have a short cable. The headphones I normally use for my iPod has a cable that is too long. I've looked at the Sony MDR-AS50G, but am a little hesitant to buy it as I have a big head. Are there any other options that are on par with those headphones, or will I be stuck using my primary headphone? Also, I was thinking of buying the 4th generation iPod Nano and I wanted to know if any of the lanyard-style headphones for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation Nano will work with the 4th generation. Thanks for the help.--Oscar, via e-mail

The Shure SE Line offers several earphone models with short cables. Shure

A: What you want to look for is a set of headphones with a modular cable. These sets have a shorter initial cable directly attached to the earbuds, and then often come with an extender for times when you need a longer cord. Some examples: the Sony Active Line, the Shure SE Series, and the Audio-Technica ATH-CKM50A.

As for the second part of the question, I doubt the lanyard-style headphones for previous iPod Nanos will work for the newest Nano, because they generally snap onto the bottom somehow, and so they must conform to the exact shape of the player and the distance between the dock connection and the headphone jack. These factors have been different for each generation of the Nano.

Q: I only have hearing in one ear. I seem to remember seeing people wearing a high tech "single piece" headphone in order to hear local conversation as well. Do these exist and what are they called? Do they output "stereo" in that one channel?--Chris, via e-mail

Avoid pesky stereo-to-mono conversion and get both audio channels in one ear. Scan Sound

A: I had to do some searching for this one, but I'm happy to report that, yes, there is a solution. A company called Scan Sound makes a line of earphones called 1-BUD Earbuds that mixes left and right channels so that the entire stereo signal can be heard in just one ear. It's the optimal solution for those with hearing in just one ear, but is also a great option for cyclists and joggers--anyone who needs to hear what is going on around them while still enjoying some music.

MP3 Mailbox Monday is a recurring feature where I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)