Who said a stereo amplifier had to be expensive? If you want a "cheap but good" stereo for the a bedroom or den, just add a pair of speakers to this little digital amp -- which costs 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. 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 for many of us, not having to boot up iTunes is actually a feature, not a drawback. 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.
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.
The Moshi Mythros are some of the best in-ear headphones you can buy for $30 or under. Unlike many supercheap models, the Mythros includes an inline microphone for taking calls. (Looking for more cheap 'phones? 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 more than 1,000 "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 $50, 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 8 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).
It's got some caveats -- it natively supports just a handful of services (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and YouTube, plus Google music and video apps for Android owners), and you need to use your smartphone or tablet as the remote -- but at just $35, it's tough to say no to Chromecast.