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Replacing crappy earbuds--Jasmine's Tech Dos and Don'ts

Get schooled by CNET editor Jasmine France. This week she gives advice on getting rid of the terrible stock earbuds that came with your MP3 player and upgrading your listening experience.

Jasmine's Tech Dos and Don'ts

Regardless of whether you elect to upgrade your iPod to one of the newest models or decide instead to purchase another MP3 player, one thing is undeniable: the earbuds that come packaged with your new device aren't going to provide the best possible listening experience. To that end, I've compiled several tips aimed at helping you ditch crappy headphones in favor of a pair that will treat your ears the way they deserve to be treated.

First things first: DO pay attention to the design of a headphone. For those who want ultimate portability, earbuds are going to be the best bet. However, some may be averse to sticking objects into the ear, in which case an on-ear model is a better choice. The key is to find a suitable balance of comfort and portability, and that may take some trial and error.

To that end, DON'T trust a headphone review when it comes to fit. The best way to find a great pair of headphones is to go into a store and try them in person. Of course, this isn't always a possibility, and reviews do offer excellent guidance when you must order online. But DON'T get discouraged if you have to send something back before you find the perfect set for you--it's out there, and it will be worth it in the long run. A good rule of thumb is to order from a site or company that has a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy that lets you try out the product before committing.

The perfect fit is music to my ears. Ultimate Ears

Unfortunately, fit is only half the battle. Audio quality and cost are the two other important factors, and they do have a tendency to be inversely related when it comes to earphones. Still, DON'T feel like you have to shell out a hefty wad of cash to find a decent-sounding pair. There are several great sets earbuds to be had for less than $100, and some even come in under the $25 mark.

That being said, if you're extraordinarily picky about sound and money is no object, DO consider investing a nice chunk of change for a truly superb pair of headphones. Although not particularly suitable for on-the-go use, the Grado PS1000s provide phenomenal audio and an ultra cushy fit. On the more portable side of things, you have the Klipsch Image X10 and the Westone 3, both of which provide stellar audio, good sound isolation, and excellent warranties. Or if you want a truly custom experience, take a trip the audiologist to get fitted for the Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitors

Finally, you may want to give some thought to durability. DO glean this bit of information from user reviews, which often provide good real-world feedback on how long a product lasts and how companies handle returns (and customers in general). Also, DO pick a pair of headphones with a 2-year or better warranty. Even better, go for a pair with Kevlar-reinforced cables, a new feature found in Shure and V-Moda earphones.

Oh, and if you're looking for a stereo headset for your phone, DON'T overlook our roundup of headphones for music phones. Similarly, iPod and iPhone users may want to check out these headphones with iPod controls.

Last week: iPod upgrading