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MP3 Players

Photos: Panasonic RP-HX50 travel headphones

These ultra-compact on-ear headphones are aimed at the traveller, and for £30 they won't be breaking many banks. But are such small cans capable of delivering the hi-fi sound they boast?

For some of us, travelling in a plane is about as enjoyable as having your fingers pecked off by vultures. Leave it to music then, to calm the nerves and alleviate the fear of hijacking and crash landings. Of course, this means you need earphones or, preferably, noise-cancelling headphones. But these can be bulky. Instead, Panasonic's new £30 RP-HX50s could be a good choice -- they're extremely compact on-ear headphones and they come packed in a DVD case for flat-packed ease-of-carriage.

They could be a good choice, but only if you don't value the quality of your music. The problem with the RP-HX50s is that, while exceptionally light and compact, they sound like they've been dunked in a bowl of bloodhound saliva, rendering the high-end about as clear as a typical bathroom window. Bass performance looked promising, with its low-end response starting at a decent 12Hz. But no, this isn't that great either. Though it should be noted that if you want booming bass, compact headphones seldom fit the bill.

They're reasonably attractive though, and if you like the on-ear form factor you'll probably find them reasonably comfortable. It's just hard to take a liking to them when they produce a sound consisting almost solely of mids. You'll need to be sure to up the treble in your MP3 player's equaliser to get a more enjoyable experience, even if it does corrupt the hard work of every studio engineer on the planet.

The RP-HX50s will be on sale mid-April for £30 and if nothing else, their super-compact design and convenient folding earcups will make packing them into your hand luggage a breeze. Expect a full review soon and click through for some close-up photos. -Nate Lanxon

Here's some of that folding earcup action we were takling about just now.

And here's where you can store the 'phones after bending them into their more compact form.