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Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120

A shiny new pair of headphones make a great gift for any music lover. And while the holidays are all about spending time with close friends and family, we all need a little escape from an awkward family gathering every now and then. We're here to guide you in the right direction.

Here we've gathered a list of our favorite inexpensive headphones in all forms: earbuds, over-ears, on-ears, noise-canceling, and more. Whether you're shopping for a loved one or need a cheap way to get your own aural bliss, you're sure to find something you like.

First up: the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120. I don't want to raise your expectations too much, but whether you're in the habit of losing things or breaking $30 to $40 earphones (Skullcandy, I'm looking at you), or just looking for lightweight earphones to use at the gym, you should definitely give these a try.

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Koss PortaPro

These headphones are the ultimate in retro chic and are guaranteed to get a few comments, but you won't hear them thanks to the beautiful symphony of sound flooding your ears. For $50, we're hard-pressed to find another set that rivals their sound quality and quirky design.

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MEElectronics A151

We've reviewed several MEElectronics headphones and generally have been impressed with their value proposition. They tend to deliver good bang for the buck and the company's A151 balanced-armature in-ear headphone is one of the better-sounding earphones in its price range.

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MEElectronics HT-21

Priced at just $40, the MEElectronics HT-21 falls into the same budget portable category as the Koss PortaPro and the Sennheiser PX 100-IIi sets, but delivers a balanced sound signature with less attention to bass despite their closed design. You can spend more for other pairs that block ambient noise, or that offer extras like a remote control on the wire, but you won't find a better combination of price and performance than the MEElectronics HT-21 headphones.

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Panasonic RP HTX7

We review a lot of headphones here at CNET and are always on the lookout for models that deliver a lot of bang for the buck. The RP-HTX7s fall into that category -- especially if you can get them for $30, their current low price online (note: you have to add them to your cart at Amazon to get that price). Needless to say, you can't expect the world from $30 headphones, but if you're on a tight budget and still want something that sounds good, this set will certainly fit the bill.

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Panasonic RP-HT21

If you're looking for a cheap pair of headphones for casual listening on the go or at the gym, the RP-HT21s, despite their generic looks, actually sound pretty decent and are fairly comfortable to wear. Sure, some people may think you swiped them from your last flight, but the good news is that if you leave them anywhere (or accidentally break them), they'll only cost you $5 to replace. There's something to be said for that.

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Philips O'Neill The Stretch TR 55LX

The Stretch, which also goes by the model number TR 55LX (or Philips SHO9567BK/28) and comes in a white model, lists for $79.99 but can be found online for less than $50. And for $50 it offers good value, particularly in the design department.

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Id America Spark

The Sparks carry a list price of $59.99, but you can get them online for $49.99 and I've seen the silver version selling for less than $40. They get strong marks for design (unique look, good comfort) and performance. My only concerns are their durability and the build quality (and sharp edges) of the inline microphone. In all, though, these are very good earphones for the money, particularly if you can get them for less than $40.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Sarah Tew/CNET
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