If you ever spot Spam (either in the forums, or received via forum direct message) please use the Report button at the bottom of each post to make sure a Moderator can handle it quickly. Thanks for your help in keeping things running smoothly!
The answer is the iPod, hands down, if you're majoring on music - it simply sounds the best of any player out there (as long as you chuck the headphones, which are dreadful, and buy some replacement buds/phones).
The Creatives are typically a close second, but are PC only (if that matters to you) and the software/controls are nowhere near as usable as the Apple gear. Great discounts to be had, however, and look out for the models with replaceable batteries - great for carrying spares for long journies, and for potentially extending the life of the unit.
If you're into watching video, too, check out the larger-screened Creative and Archos players as well - make the iPod screen look puny (though it is a superb-looking screen).
We've got a test of video portables - including all those mentioned - in our next issue, out 26 July.
Sennheiser's CX300 are a good starting point (list-price £40, but you can buy them for half that - just make sure you buy from a reputable retailer, like Amazon, as there are some fakes around).
A step up from that in terms of both noise-isolating and performance (though also potential ear-ache - not everyone likes the super-snug fit) are Shure's E2C in-ears - list price £60, again avaiable for half that. They're about to be phased out, so you might bag a real bargain here.
The Beyerdynamic DTX50 (also £60 - available for £45) pair are also snugly impressive and definitely worth trying.
Beyond that, you get into the pricier Shures - the best of which we've tested are the outgoing E4Cs (£200).
We're testing some new headphones - including in-ears, over-ears, on-ears, clip-ons and neckband-style! - in our October issue, out August 23rd.
i agree - as someone who hates going with trends I went against it at the time and bought a creative zen nomad 40gb . It wasnt really any cheaper than the Ipod, and whereas the IPOD still looks good, the zen looks completely dated.
Note the amount of "kit" that is being designed for the ipod - proper hifi docks etc. Its definitely here to stay. You can protest against it all you like, but it is definitely the winner.