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HolidayBuyer's Guide

JVC Flats review:

Inexpensive headphones that sound great for the money

As far as extra features go, there really aren't any. They don't come with a carrying case or have an inline remote with microphone. The headphones are all you get, and while they don't fold up, as their name implies, they do fold flat. They're designed to be slipped into a bag, but I advise you to keep them in some sort of cover or case if you want them to last a while. The glossy finish on the earpieces -- they come in multiple color options -- will get scuffed up over time and the headband doesn't seem incredibly sturdy. But to reiterate, I paid a little over $12 (with tax) for the Flats, so I wasn't expecting too much.

The Flats come in multiple colors. Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from their price, the best part about them is their sound -- for the money, anyway. These sound as good as many $30 to $50 'phones I've tried. Their sound is well balanced -- they don't push the treble or bass -- and they're fairly clean and detailed. The bass isn't huge but it's ample. I was able to wear them for an hour without experiencing any listening fatigue, which I consider a good sign.

The headphone cushions are nothing special, but the headphones are comfortable. Sarah Tew/CNET

The headphones do have their limitations. You'll get a little distortion in the high and low ends, especially when you crank the volume. In other words they're not that clean-sounding. But hey, for $12 they sound pretty darn good.

Steve Guttenberg, our resident audio guru, agreed. I had him try the headphones (without telling him the price) and he said he liked them. After I told him they were $12, he was shocked. "That's all?" he asked. "That's all," I said.

No carrying case is included; nor is there an integrated microphone for making calls. Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're someone who's on a very tight budget and wants headphones that sound decent and are relatively comfortable and lightweight, you can't miss with the JVC Flats. They're also a good choice for kids and people who are prone to losing headphones. Cosmetically, I like them better than the Panasonic HT-21s, which are also a good low-budget pick at $5; the Flats also sound a little better. By contrast, the MEElectronics HT-21 Travel -- another 4-star, $20-ish pair of headphones -- offers sound quality similar to that of the Flats, but isn't quite as comfortable.

To be clear, however, the Flats don't have the sound or build quality of more-expensive headphones that cost closer to $100. But at $12 to $14, depending on the color, they're definitely a bargain. I may just pick up a second pair.

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