Levi’s RedWire DLX jeans for iPod

I’m here to tell you about Levi’s RedWire DLX jeans, the first ‘Made for iPod’ jeans on the market and one that certainly shows promise.

So does this mean Steve will be wearing a pair of DLX RedWire jeans to January MacWorld? I should think so, because the RedWire DLX jeans integrate a remote control system where you would normally find your right pocket. Using a circular joystick style control system, the remote has a five way system that lets you skip forward and backwards, control volume and play, pause or sleep your iPod.

The system itself is compatible with the entire iPod range and I think it’s the perfect accessory for it. After all, jeans for many people are the most worn item of clothing and combining two of the most iconic brands in the universe today can only be a recipe for success.

I’ve been testing the RedWire DLX jeans for about a month now and I think I’m ready to tell everyone about the time that I’ve spent with something I wear everyday and how that has integrated in to something I listen to every day.

Levi’s have hit something really important here, by complementing one of the most successful brands in the world. The styling of the jeans themselves has white stitching, white buttons and even the white Levi’ label on the back. These jeans are screaming to match the iPod’s white colour.

How does it all fit together?
The jeans come complete with a set of iPod cradle and dock connectors to fit all size iPod’s from 3rd generation and upwards. A red ribbon cable to the iPod-white joystick, manufactured by a company called Fibretronic, attaches the actual dock connector part. This carries both the audio and the data signal from the joystick to and from the headphones.

Speaking of headphones, the RedWire DLX not only comes with the remote facility to control your iPod but also comes with the retractable headphones. The headphones again come in iPod-white and the cabling for it can be pulled to extend or if you push the button on the container box for the headphone cable, then it retracts it.

How does it work?
Simply dock your iPod in to the cradle and it’s ready to use. You can store your iPod in the pocket that’s directly below the remote, or alternatively, if you feel gutsy, you can take that red ribbon cable across to the other leg where there is another pocket. Some of the Levi marketing pictures show this, but I think for most people, they’ll want to keep as much of that red ‘look at me’ cable hidden away.

From a far, if you saw this joystick on someone you’d think it’s a white nipple on his or her jeans, however on further inspection you’ll find it’s a joystick. This is the hub of the control system, allowing you to do the usual playback functions such as volume, play and skip. The dock also carries the sound to the on-board headphones. These are attached to a white box that allow a tangle free headphone experience, especially when you’re on the move and need to put away those headphones. Take the earphones out and press the button on the box and the headphone cable retracts in to the storage box. The other end of the box is a 3.5mm jack, which connects straight in to the jeans. The designers have obviously thought this through and decided against making the supplied headphones mandatory, since many of us prefer to use headphones of all shapes and sizes, if that is the case, then you can simply remove the headphone systems altogether and plug your own in to the 3.5mm jack which pops out just above the pocket.

Comfort and form
As far as jeans go, Levi’s have a proud history of making stylish and comfortable jeans for its wearers. It’s only natural for this to continue in the ‘Made for iPod’ range, these RedWire DLX jeans are evolutionary to the Levi brand. I wore the RedWire DLX every time I wanted to wear jeans, which was nearly every day. They’re easy to slip in to and they ‘work’ with the rest of my wardrobe.

I found some issues with the headphone box that has a clip built in to it, the jeans have its own special place for it to clip in to, but I just found in some cases too easy for it to be knocked off. So after using it for review purposes for a few days, I switched to using my Razer Pro Tones that I reviewed a few weeks ago. Other than that minor issue, the joystick remote control system works fantastically well. Perhaps more so than then fabric control systems that I’ve been testing on the Kenpo and Koyono jackets that I’ve also reviewed recently.

There’s no lock to the controls, so they’re accessible at all times, they’re not touch sensitive so there’s no issues in it being accidentally activated and the ability to control the iPod is great. One minor problem I found with the joystick system is the volume control. It seemed to move up and down in stages rather than take full control of the iPod volume system. The ability to just reach down and push the joystick to skip to the next track or skip back is great.

It’s never been easier for me to get access to my iPod. I found the system to be great in the car when driving, because I don’t have to reach over, I just flick the joystick and I can return my hand quickly to the steering wheel, and all this without having to look down to figure out where the buttons are.

Sound quality from the headphones wasn’t fantastic. For me, there just wasn’t enough bass to make it a pleasurable experience. They aren’t the worst I’ve ever heard, but the headphones that came with your iPod will fare better than the ones that come with the RedWire DLX. Perhaps that’s a future improvement that Levi’s will make in the second revision.

One great thing that I can say about the headphone unit is the ability to retract. It ensures that your headphones don’t get tangle or messy when you’re using or not using them. A future suggestion would be to shrink the size of the unit and make it look more discrete, because although it’s not massive, it’s uncomfortably clumsy to have something like that hanging from your side.

Well it appears to me that Levi’s don’t want many people to buy this product, either that or Steve Jobs has bought up the entire stock of them, because it’s damn near impossible to find any shops made of brick or online that stock these jeans.

The Levi’s web site lists some online shops that stock Levi products but out of all of the ones they listed, I could only find two that actually stocked the RedWire DLX. Doing a Google search turned up one online shop but they were going for £150. Prices ranged from £111 to £150 depending on where you look.

Dig deep because you’re going to need to, in order to afford the price premium. These jeans will set you back as much as an iPod itself and in some cases more. It all depends on how desperately you want that convenience and style.

It’s pure marketing bliss for both companies and one can only hope that this relationship continues in to the future. The major problem I would have with the RedWire DLX right now is the lack of availability in the shops, online and it’s retail price. At £150, this is a difficult sum to chew. However, if you’ve got the money to spare, then there are no other jeans like it. Levi’s has made some really good design choices with the RedWire DLX and of course, as with all Levi jeans, you get nothing but a quality product.

The jeans are stylish, well fitting and the quality of the finishing is flawless. The seamless design, integration and functionality with the iPod work great. This no quibble operation with your jeans makes it a great accessory for iPod lovers and gadget collectors, but at this moment in time, I can’t see it catching on with the mainstream. But then again at £150, I don’t suppose it’s meant to.

Perhaps one day we will all have iPod controls in our clothing?

2006-12-22 Onwah Tsang

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