Here are my Top 5 tips for top-quality (but keenly priced) music gadgets.
1) The player: Sandisk Sansa Fuze. Yes, for once I'm not going to pick the iPod - I'm going to choose something more individual (after all, over 11 million iPods were sold in the last four months alone despite the world teetering on the brink of financial apocalypse. So you want something different, right?)
The Sansa Fuze has much to recommend it - most notably the £70 pricetag for an 8GB player (compared to £110 for an 8GB iPod Nano). It slams the iPod on features, too, with an FM radio, voice recorder and upgradeable memory thanks to a MicroSD card slot.
Like the Nano, the Sansa Fuze features video playback, too, although the screen quality leaves a lot to be desired. But hell, it's a music player, and a cheap one too.
You can read our full review of the Sandisk Sansa Fuze here, and watch our Fuze video too, but bear in mind that the price has fallen and the build quality has improved noticeably since our review. You can also get hands on with the Sansa range at this weekend's Stuff Live show at Excel in London.
Incidentally, if you do have a bit more money to spend the new 16GB Sony Walkman NWZ-S639 (£130) comes highly recommended - its sound quality is peerless and the supplied headphones are way ahead of what you'll usually get bundled with an MP3 player.
2) The mobile phone: Nokia 5310 Comes With Music Edition. (£130 pay-as-you-go from Carphone Warehouse) If you're just starting out on building up a music collection, this is the phone to help you on your wonderful voyage of sonic discovery. Not only is it a decent, slimline mobile phone with proper 3.5mm headphone jack and big music control buttons by the side of the screen - it's also the first phone to come with all the music you could ever want, thanks to Nokia's new Comes With Music service.
It works like this: buy the phone and you get a year's subscription to Comes With Music - which is a little bit like the iTunes Music Store, but you can download anything you want without paying a penny. All the major labels are involved, so you can find anything from Led Zeppelin to Girls Aloud. And unlike other subscription services, you get to keep your music even when the subcription is over. Which means you can download millions of songs from mainstream artists for a one-off £130 payment.
What's the catch? Well, the music you download is locked to your mobile phone and one PC - you can't transfer it to another player or burn a CD. But you can still plug your phone or PC into your hi-fi to listen to you music - so it's still an astonishing deal.
3) The headphones: Shure SE102. Shure has been producing in-ear monitors for professional performers for years, but has only recently started selling earphones to us mortals. Most of them are shockingly expensive, but the SE102s are the cheapest yet.
Sure, you might still balk at the HMV-exclusive £53 pricetag but it's the best upgrade you could ever give your MP3 - the sound quality is shockingly clear and because the earphones sit deep in your ear canals they cut out nearly all background noise and coccoon you in your favourite music.
One word of warning though - bass addicts might feel a bit let down by the Shure's lack of low-end heft. They really come into their own when listening to acoustic music although rock sounds pretty awesome too. You can find out if they're right for you at Stuff Live.
The SE102s are brand new, so we don't have a full review yet, but we'll have one soon. In the meantime you can find out more about the Shure SE102 earphones in this news story.
And if you're not all spent out after buying these Shures (or even the brilliant but frighteningly expensive Shure SE530, £250) then upgrade them for the ultimate listening experience by getting some custom-molded earphone sleeves (£88 from ACS). They will take your music listening experience to a new level - if you can stand having your ears injected with quick-setting gunk.
If, on the other hand, you're after cheaper earphones, check out our Best earphones for under £50 feature.
4) The speaker system: Acoustic Energy Bluetooth Speaker. Now available for just £80, this is an unbelievable bargain. It's an amplifier with detachable speakers that will play music from any audio source - just plug in your PC or MP3 player and go.
Even better, this Acoustic Energy system will stream music wirelessly from your phone via
Bluetooth. Which means you can wirelessly send all that music you've
downloaded with the Nokia Comes with Music service above.
Think about it: for a fraction over £200 you can get a mobile phone, a hi-fi and a music collection with millions of tracks. Makes me wonder why I've wasted thousands of pounds building up a collection of CDs and downloads...
5) Finally, to complete your 21st Century Music System: a Wi-Fi hi-fi: Slimdevices Squeezebox Boom (£200)
Another of my favourite audio brands, Slimdevices (now a part of Logitech) have been producing hi-fi MP3 players since before most people had heard of MP3.
The latest addition to the Squeezebox range is the Boom, which is a rich-sounding, powerful boombox for the internet age.
The Boom is designed to hook up to your wireless network to stream music from your PC or Mac, but it's just as happy sucking down music direct from the web - it's compatible with brilliant music recommendation services like Last.fm and Pandora, as well as hundreds of internet radio stations including the BBC channels.
I use an online service called MP3tunes.com to store my music - it allows you to upload all of your MP3 collection and stream it through a browser on any computer, anywhere in the world. And the Boom will also stream music from MP3tunes, which means I don't have to turn on my computer to access any of sprawling music library.
It's worth noting that the Boom won't stream music downloaded from Comes With Music - which shows up one of the limitations of Nokia's service.
But it's still a brilliant system that - like all the other gadgets mentioned above - helps us realise the immense possibilities of digital music.