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 A business colleague had the Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and I borrowed them for a test drive. I have simply never before put on a pair of on-ear or around-ear phones that could provide this level of background noise isolation and still be so easy to wear over long periods.

The earpieces employ a cushy memory foam that conforms to your ears nicely, and they do a better job than you’d think of passively shutting out noise (see box). Maybe it’s just me with my admittedly small cranial cavity, but I hardly know they’re on. Turn on the power and the ambient noise really does melt away, whether you have music playing or not.

The first thing I noticed when I plugged the QuietComfort 3s to the iPod was the bass: it’s rich, warm and plump. The result is an overall warm sonic character that wasn’t as crisp in the highs as speakers, but most songs that I cued up merely sounded rich without being overly thumpy.

To achieve its compact size, the QC 3 uses a rechargeable, lithium-ion battery: about 20 hours before a recharge. Bose packages the QC 3 with some nice extras. The storage case is quite impressive on its own, with its cloth-covered moulded insert that perfectly fits and protects the phones and accessories. There’s also a slick two-hour battery charger with flip-down AC prongs, an airline adapter for plugging into armrests, a quarter-inch adapter for home stereo use, and a five-foot extension cord. The primary, 4.5-foot cord unplugs from the left earcup so you can use the phones just for noise reduction without unsightly dangling—a nice touch.

Bose may charge a lot for its technology, but whenever I pull them out on the plane amid all those losers with generic white earbuds, I can’t even tell you what that's worth. Rs18,900,

Cigar-sized, like a fine Robusto, the Sony Walkman NW-S200 is equally desirable. It’s also quite light, weighing in at just under an ounce (about 30gm). The flash-based DAP is available in 1GB and 2GB capacities. The unique, cylindrically shaped MP3 player is packed with features including a calorie counter, pedometer, stopwatch and a built-in FM tuner with programmable presets. Create playlists for your levels of exercise activity and the Music Pacer will switch playlists based on your pace—if you’re walking, it will choose, say, Michel Buble, while hard-charging runners will receive a much more up-tempo soundtrack like the White Stripes. Finally, the Shuffle Shake feature. Turn on the shuffle feature simply by shaking the player three times, just like Mom did with a thermometer while checking our fever. Gym rats who need a little extra motivation while exercising will love the Music Pacer, which switches playlists based on their pace.

The included SonicStage software is used to transfer tunes to the device and Sony has included support for MP3, WMA and AAC formats as well as their proprietary ATRAC format.

Navigating the device is pretty straightforward and intuitive. The mode button takes you to the main menu, where you can select from several icon-based options. Twisting the knob flips through the selections: search, sports mode, stopwatch, all songs, FM, playlist, and settings. Unsurprisingly, the NW-S200’s audio quality is top-notch, and the rated battery life is similarly impressive at 18 hours. The 1GB player is available for Rs8,990, while the 2GB model costs a grand more.

As the name indicates, the design is both mini and fun. Even though it’s called a thumb drive, the Mini Fun is less than half the size of an adult thumb, about the size of a Lego piece. This mini-sized device attaches to your keychain or mobile phone to store data such as your favourite documents, photos and music. What makes the Kingston Mini Fun unique is what is inside the drive. It comes with two installers for games from—Magic Vines and Atlantis—to add to the fun. Although it is much smaller than comparative thumb drives, my rather rudimentary tests showed faster transfer speeds than other flash drives in the same price range, especially when plugged to a USB 2.0 port. The Kingston DataTraveler Mini Fun sells for Rs1,050 and comes with a five-year warranty.

Software included: Big Fish Atlantis, Big Fish Magic Vines

OS required: Microsoft Windows 2000/XP, Apple Mac OS X 10.x or later(Write to Harsh Man Rai at

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