LONG REVIEW: The HeadRoom iPod Bag
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eric343

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[size=small]A REVIEW: The HeadRoom iPod Bag[/size]

ASSOCIATED EQUIP. :
META42 in Pac Tec HML (single 9V) case
IPod (5GB)
Etymotic ER-4S Earphones
Three week European vacation

DESCRIPTION:
The HeadRoom iPod + Airhead bag (iBag) is Headroom's most recent gear-carrying product, and is designed to carry an Apple iPod MP3-player, AirHead or Total AirHead, and Etymotic headphones in style. The iBag attaches to the user via either a detachable shoulder strap or a belt clip, and is available in two colors, grey or black.
The first thing I noticed when I got the iBag was its big, large and elephantine rubber grommet at the top right. This massive grommet allows the headphone cable to escape, and is large enough to accommodate the largest of plugs (so Grado fans need not worry) and even the shaft of a Panasonic EVJ volume control mounted to the META42 board. The second thing I noticed was the clamshell design- a piece of fabric at the top connects the two halves of the bag; the front half holds the iPod and the back half the AirHead. During use, the two halves are sealed together by an oversized black metal zipper, turning the bag into a single unit.

FIT AND FINISH:
How does bloody amazing sound? I can tell it's Hand Made In America using Genuine 100% Slave College Stu- err, well-paid workers. The stitching is neat and straight, and in places where it has to be, often quad- or quintupled. There aren't any loose threads, and it looks every bit of the $50 I paid for it.
Attention to detail is excellent. For example, the underside of the top bit is leather, so the interconnects, iPod, and AirHead tops are further protected. Also, since the user sticks their finger under the top bit to operate the AirHead's thumbwheel volume control, it provides a soft, smooth, and supple surface for the finger to rub against (as opposed to the comparatively rough ballistic nylon type stuff that the outside of the bag is made of).

SECURITY:
The iBag follows the standard design of many iPod bags, in that the front is clear with a cutout for the jog dial. This design makes it very easy to see what track is currently playing and even easier to control the iPod while it is in the bag. However, this means that Jane Pickpocket or Joe Mugger can also see very easily that you've got a $400-500 piece of beautifully designed Apple MP3-playing hardware ripe for the picking. According to Ivy, HeadRoom is considering a front flap that would solve this problem... Unfortunately, the thickness of the iBag makes it damn near impossible to hide under an un-tucked in (tucked out?) shirt without looking like you have a rectangular, three inch thick bump on your hip. Because of this, I kept it in my messenger bag (along with the laptop I'm writing this on) while we were walking around Paris and its subways. (Paris is notorious for its professional pickpockets.)
HeadRoom has done a number of things to mitigate this effect. First of all, the clamshell design and very tough zipper keep anyone from yanking your iPod out of the bag. Secondly, the mounting points of the bag are rather securely attached to said bag, to keep someone from grabbing the whole bag and running. The D-rings that the strap clips to look to me like they've been triple- or quadruple-sewed on, and the nub on the back that latches to the belt-clip is actually part of a 1.5" long plastic strip that occupies its own special sealed pocket in the back. (although pocket may not be the correct term, since it is permanently sewed shut and only about a millimeter thick) To prevent snatch-and-run theft, the shoulder strap (in addition to being quite large for a bag this small and this cheap) uses some heavy-duty hardware on the ends. Somehow, I am reminded of action-suspense films where the hero is dangling above certain death by a camera shoulder strap or something similar, and the hardware that connects the strap to our hero is slowly failing... Well, if the hero had been caught using this strap, he could eat lunch and would still have time to fashion a crystal radio transmitter from convenient nearby mineral deposits. In addition to the protection against brute-force attacks, HeadRoom has made it so that you need to turn the whole thing 90º and press down on the release button in order to detach the iBag from the belt clip; you cannot just pull it out and you cannot just press down on the button.
In fact, I have only one misgiving about the bag's security: The shoulder strap is attached to the bag via standard "push in the metal strip" snap-hooks. While the hooks are quite strong, I would imagine that a good pickpocket would be able to separate the bag from the shoulder strap without too much difficulty. Which is why I use the shoulder strap in combination with the belt clip...

EASE OF USE/USEFULNESS:
No Manual Needed. It is obvious (to me) what everything does, and what bit goes where. 'nuff said?
Well, being a DIYer, I cannot possibly do a review and fail to mention its DIY-compatibility. (or Tangent would cut off my lifeline supply of EL2001s...
) Fortunately for everyone involved, the bag is quite versatile and DIY-friendly. For example, the META42 pretty much needs 18V- two nine-volt batteries. Now, the standard Pac Tec HML case only holds 1 nine volt, and anyway, the battery case in the Pac Tec is needed to hold the RCA plugs if you use RCA jacks for the META42's input, as I did. (this has a rather major disadvantage; the Radio Shucks RCA <-> Mini cables are a bit long and need splicing, not to mention that the mini-plug is a bit too long, so I can only use the amp with the case unzipped on my knee; alas I did not have time to remedy this before I left home) So, I used the Etymotic pouch on the back to hold the nine-volt batteries- and they fit perfectly. What is really nice is that there is a gap between the top of the bag and the end of the zipper on the right side, originally meant so you can easily change the volume. This gap, of course, makes a really nice hole to run power supply wires through from the Ety pouch.
DIYers take note- using the Pac Tec HML case, one needs to have a very low-profile faceplate, otherwise the bag will not close easily (or without breaking off whatever is protruding, for that matter). No long-stick toggle switches allowed; preferably the only things on the face plate would be the volume knob, the headphone jack, and the power switch. And the power switch should be either a toggle with a shortened stick or a slide switch... Bonus points if you can find a volume control with integrated power switch


THE BELT CLIP:
One of the most major- and one of the most used, for me- features of the iBag is the belt clip. It swivels, it detaches, it does the dishes... As I mentioned earlier, the detaching function requires you to turn the bag 90 degrees and press down on a button on top of the clip, and only then can you pull the bag up up and away. It's surprisingly handy....
Unlike many belt clips I have used in the past, this one is actually quite comfortable to wear- I keep it on my belt all the time, and don't notice that it is there unless I'm using it. (even then, I forget sometimes) The plastic that the clip is made out of is quite strong, and I am not at all concerned about it coming off.
A few people have wondered about how the clip works with oversize belts. The maximum size the clip seems to be designed to accommodate is about 1.5" wide and three or four millimeters thick. Any wider, and the lip that secures the belt clip in place vertically will be resting on the belt, as opposed to under the belt. Any thicker, and the lip will not be able to curve around to the inside of the belt. As you might guess, width of belt is more important than thickness...

SUMMARY:
The biggest feature of this bag is that it turns your messy portable rig with wires spewing out at all angles into a cohesive unit that can be easily carried around without the need to set-up or take-down. It has enough versatility that it doesn't limit you to HeadRoom's AirHead line (although that is hardly limiting, since they're great amps), and accommodates a number of DIY amp cases including the Pac Tec HML and the Serpac, and would probably do well with an Altoids tin if the controls and jacks of said tin were laid out correctly . The Etymotic pouch on the back, in addition to holding Etys very well, is a great battery compartment for more advanced DIY amps that require more power or more space inside the case. The construction is **really** durable; I carried it around France and Germany for the last three weeks and it still looks brand-new (with one exception; there is a two inch long tear in the plastic iPod front cover that I don't know how it got there. ). Also, the bag is well laid-out and easy to use, enough so that I find myself doing far more portable listening than I used to.
In other words, HeadRoom has another winner. Go Tyll! (and Todd, and Ivy, and Danny, and Griffdog...)

SPECIFICATIONS:
About three inches thick, six inches tall, and four inches wide when packed with iPod, amplifier, and 9V batteries in the Ety pouch.
$50, http://www.headphone.com
Number of distributors: 1
Frequency response: N.A.
Various other arcane and mysterious graphs: N.A.
Overall Rating: **** 1/2 (five if the front panel hadn't developed a tear; this is probably not a flaw of the bag, but it might be, and nobody looks at these ratings anyway)
Price / Performance: $50 is a bit higher than many other iPod bags, but it's well worth it.
 
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eric343

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Posted to HeadWize.
 
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matics

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...and currently on sale for $39.95
 
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Sweet Spot

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Yummy. It looks like it could possibly hold the IHP series as well. I don't see why not.
 
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eric343

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Quote:

Originally posted by matics
...and currently on sale for $39.95


The review is well over a year old...
 
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