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HolidayBuyer's Guide

iLuv City Lights in-ear headphones review:

Lots of bass, little clarity for seven bucks

While the Panasonic HJE120s have an L-shaped plug, the City Lights have a compact straight plug that will be easier to fit into more smartphone cases but may not be as sturdy as an L-shaped plug.

The City Lights' cord is more tangle-resistant than the ultraslim cord found on the ErgoFit RP-HJE120, but it's not as much so as the the flat, linguine-style cord found on some in-ear headphones.

Three different sized silicon eartips are included; that's it as far as extras go. Sarah Tew/CNET

Today's contemporary listeners like bass, which probably explains the plethora of favorable user reviews of the City Lights. And while there's no doubt they deliver lots of bass, the earphones' high-end (treble) performance is decidedly lackluster. They lack clarity and sparkle, and come off sounding fairly dull ("muddy" would be a more critical way to say the same thing).

I don't expect a whole lot from $7 in-earphones, but some of these are sub-$10 models like the Panasonic and JVC have helped raise the bar in the ultrabudget category, so I've started to expect a little more. These iLuvs don't sound bad, but they really are all about the bass, so if a bass-dominant headphone isn't your thing, this won't be either.

The cord terminates in a compact straight plug. Sarah Tew/CNET

The City Lights and these other other ultra-inexpensive headphones cost about the same as some of the fancier coffee concoctions at Starbucks, so it's hard to be too picky when reviewing them. However, while the City Lights are comfortable and attractive looking, and seem to be built reasonably well, they wouldn't be my first choice as a cheap headphone. But my tastes run toward better balanced, more accurate-sounding headphones, and these just push the bass a little too hard at the expense of clarity.

Of course, your tastes may be different, and if you like bass, you may want to give these guys a shot. The price certainly is right.

What you'll pay

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