For the past five years I’ve been using Etymotic ER6i Isolator earphones. I’ve used them with my original 2nd gen iPod, my iPod nano, and now my iPhone 3G. Unlike the standard Apple earbuds, the Etys are in-ear earphones, which means that they also act as earplugs, isolating outside noise (like terrible coffee shop music). In fact, the tighter the outside noise isolation, the better the fidelity and bass response of the Etys. I love these things.
Etymotic has a long history of making high-end earphones as well as superior hearing protection. I bring a pair of Etymotic ER-20 earplugs with me to every concert, and I end up using them about half the time. They do an outstanding job of lowering volumes by about 15db without any of the muffling effect you get from regular foam earplugs. Wearing them is a great way to enjoy a concert and avoid damaging your hearing or aggravating evil tinnitus.
Both the earplugs and ER6i earphones use a triple flanged eartip to isolate noise. However, ear canal shapes vary widely among people, so Etymotic offers several eartip options. In my case, I found that the beige foam eartips did the best job of isolating sound by expanding to the shape of my ear canal. Compared to the flange eartip, I hear much deeper bass with the foam eartips installed.
I hope my Etys last another five years. And if they don’t, I’ll buy another set in an instant.