Who said a stereo amplifier had to be expensive? If you want a "cheap but good" stereo for the dorm room, just add a pair of speakers to this little digital amp -- available for less than $25. Given the bargain-basement price, it actually sounds pretty good, too.
And speaking of speakers, you don't have to overpay for them, either. The Dayton Audio B652s are, quite simply, the best-sounding stereo speakers you can buy for around $50. (You'll probably have to pay closer to $52.) Just make sure to invest in an amp (like the aforementioned Lepai), since they're not self-powered.
With no screen and limited capacity, the iPod Shuffle should really only be purchased as a secondary music player -- one that's exclusively used while working out in the gym or jogging. That said, it's the cheapest iPod you can buy, and it does a good job fulfilling its singular mission: playing music. More-full-featured alternatives include the sub-$50 SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip (see following slide) or the $149 iPod Nano.
It doesn't play nice with iTunes -- you'll need to drag and drop your music files -- but the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip is pretty much the closest you'll get to the iPod Shuffle with the added advantage of a screen, 4GB of storage, an FM radio, and voice recorder. Not too shabby for under $50, and perfect for joggers who want to leave the smartphone at home.
Think headphones under $25 are a good deal? How about headphones under seven bucks? Believe it or not, the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120s fit the bill. You can score these in-ear models for as little as $4, depending which color you go for (at least nine, including basic black).
For whatever reason, Panasonic seems to have become the go-to choice for cheap-but-good headphones. The full-size but lightweight RP-HTX7s do a good job of blocking out external sounds, and they sound great for the price. They're available in at least three colors (black, white, and green) for as little as $32.
Panasonic has inexpensive in-ear and over-the-ear headphones covered, but for on-ear models, we love the JVC Flats. Great sound and superior comfort, especially considering they cost less than $20. (Looking for more cheap cans? Check out the best headphones under $25.)
It's lacking a few features -- no Ethernet port (Wi-Fi only), 720p instead of 1080p resolution -- but this tiny video box delivers hundreds of "channels" over the Web to your TV. That includes everything from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Crackle, and HBO Go to sports services like Major League Baseball, the NBA, among others. (Of course, most -- but not all -- of the good stuff requires separate fees.) At $49.99, it's easily the best value in home video that we've seen in years.
Haven't you heard? Docks are dead. It's time to go wireless, and the Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver is the easiest way to do it. Connect this $25 dongle to any stereo (or anything with a "line in" or "aux input" port), and you can wirelessly stream music from any Bluetooth-enabled device. That includes all iPads, nearly any smartphone, most iPod Touch models, and most new tablets.
Bluetooth speakers are more affordable than ever, and the Philips SoundShooter Wireless is one of the best. The unique "hand grenade" design delivers decent sound (with speakerphone capability) and up to eight hours of battery life, all for less than $50.
Our new go-to choice in the sub-$50 wireless speaker category is the Cambridge Soundworks Oontz. If you can look past the silly name, you get a solid Bluetooth speaker for dirt cheap. (If you want to save $10, go for the step-down Oontz Angle model).
A late addition to the list is Google's new Chromecast streaming dongle. Right now, it only offers Netflix and YouTube to all users (Android owners get Google music and video apps, too), but at just $35, it's tough to say no (if you can find it in stock, that is).