Extreme sports and music go hand in hand, so it's not surprising that companies such as Skullcandy and Nixon take advantage of this relationship to market headphones to teens and young adults with an interest in such activities. Now you can add Roxy to the list. The female-centric surfwear maker has teamed up with JBL to offer a line of stylish earphones aimed at young women. The middle-of-the-road model is a canalphone called the Reference 250 earphone that sells for $40. This reasonably priced set offers the best value of any of the headphones in the Roxy line, and sound quality isn't half bad.
Like their cheap earbud sibling, the Reference 230, the Reference 250 earphones offer a conspicuous design that is available in two color combos: orange and pink or green and blue. In either case, the earbuds are decked out in one color while the cable is coated in the other. The outside of each earpiece features an external speaker shaped slightly like a radiation symbol, beneath which the JBL logo is stamped in white (along with an L or an R designating which ear each 'bud is for). The earphones are quite tiny and feature a squat appendage to which you attach one of two sets of silicone eartips. We're a bit surprised Roxy didn't included more than two sets, as this limits the amount of people who will be able to achieve a secure and comfortable fit. For our part, we had no issues after more than 2 hours of wear and found that the earphones offer a good amount of passive noise isolation.
Descending from each of the Reference 250 earpieces is a thin, rubber-coated Y-cable that terminates in a silver-plated straight plug. The cord is quite tangle-prone and may not be long enough for tall users, as it measures just less than 4 feet long. The right cable features a cute, square module that is stamped with the Roxy logo and contains a mic and call-answer clicker for using the earphones with a music phone. The package also includes a stylish, zippered carrying case that has two internal pockets and is large enough to fit most flash-based MP3 players and the earphones. We're surprised that such a nice case comes standard with a set of earphones in this price range; it's definitely a pleasant touch.
The Reference 250's audio quality is also not bad for a $40 set, though these 'phones are not going to satisfy truly picky listeners. There's a good amount of bass that doesn't muffle or overpower other sounds, but it's not as tight and thumpy as what we get from the Klipsch Image S4 (keeping in mind those cost twice as much). High frequencies come through clear and are reasonably bright and detailed, but they may not twinkle enough for some. Vocals, especially of the French male persuasion (a la MC Solaar), sound particularly smooth and warm, and the midrange in general has a nice richness to it, though it seems overly forward in certain tracks. All in all, however, we're impressed with the Roxy Reference 250's style, features, and sound quality for the price. These earphones are a solid buy.