Not everyone cares about audio quality. In fact, there's some evidence to suggest we're raising a generation that actually prefers the sound of MP3s over higher-fidelity recordings. Still, there will always be people who obsess over sound quality--just as there are always people with discerning taste in food, or an eye for fine art.
There was a time when fidelity fanatics wouldn't touch an iPod with a 10-foot pole, and clung tightly to formats like vinyl, CD, and SACD. Things have eased up over the years, though, as the devout have begrudgingly come to terms with the fact that the iPod isn't going away anytime soon.
Fortunately, the iPod isn't impossible to adapt to audiophile sensibilities. Over the years, online communities of like-minded souls have shared hundreds of tips on how to squeeze the best audio performance from the iPod. This collective wisdom ranges from simple steps (encoding music as lossless or higher bit-rate AAC files), to extreme measures such as replacing some of the iPod's internal components.
When you boil it all down, there are five accessories that come up again and again when people talk about getting the best audio from their iPods. We've collected them in the following slide show as a kind of iPod audiophile 101.