I get a lot of people asking me what kind of MP3 player and headphones I use to listen to my music with. When I tell them to steer clear of iPods, I get a lot of confused looks. After reading this, I hope you get out there and get some nicer equipment and learn the true meaning of sound quality. Let’s go…

ZUNE HD 16GB ($219) | This is my main player. Besides a luxurious design, sound quality on this device is top notch. The mids, highs, and bass are all evenly balanced through the Wolfson audio chip. While this player has yet to receive a customizable equalizer through a firmware update, the presets are actually usable. The touchscreen is as responsive as the iPhone and iPod touch. HD Radio is amazing too. Imagine hearing your favorite stations in CD quality. This player also features a Tegra processing chip. What does this mean? PSP-level graphics for games and video. Everything about this player exudes quality, speed, and intuitiveness.

Like the iPod uses iTunes, the Zune HD uses the Zune Marketplace software to transfer your music to the player. Let’s all admit it - iTunes sucks. The Zune Marketplace is better organized and just looks beautiful. Give it a spin at Zune.net. While you’re there, check out the various colors for the Zune HD.

Sansa Clip+ 4GB ($49) | This is my player when I’m on the go (school, work, etc.). It features FM radio, custom EQ, voice recording, and a microSD slot perfect for upgrading your memory up to 40GB. For $49, this player is a steal, especially considering its sound quality nearly rivals my Zune and completely trounces all iPods in terms of price and features. The clip on the back of the player is priceless. Clip it on and go. It’s a sturdy, portable player. Also, the voice recorder comes in handy for class lectures. Everyone that I know who has a Clip+ absolutely loves it. Can you say “stocking stuffer”?

Ultimate Ears MetroFi 170 Noise-Isolating Earphones ($60) | 60 bucks for earphones? I know it sounds expensive, but in terms of quality, build, and did I mention quality? Wow! Everything is crystal clear when paired up with my Zune HD or Sansa Clip+. Nothing sounds muddy or distorted, even at higher volumes. The thicker-than-average silicon tips provide excellent sound isolation allowing you to hear your music without any ambient noise interfering. On a side note, you have to “break in” these earphones. After 20 hours or so of play at 60% volume and they’ll be taking your breath away. Pop in any other pair of earphones you have with your player, listen for a while, then switch over these babies. You’ll be thinking, “best $60 ever spent.”

Lastly… everyone that has taken my advice on MP3 players and earphones are much happier with their music collection. They’re enjoying music like never before, because they’re hearing details and intricacies they didn’t know were there. Sure, Apple is the leader in terms of sales for MP3 players, but there’s a vast selection out there. If you don’t like what I’ve posted here, give the Samsung P3 or Cowon S9 a try. Also, check out AnythingButiPod, a great site on finding the right MP3 player for you.