iLuv iHP636 ReF headphone review: Strong bass and design, but short on clarity

Overall, the construction seem sturdy, and the cord is cloth covered (it looks like a shoelace and is tangle-resistant) and terminates in an L-shaped plug. That cord should hold well, but if it rubs against your clothing, it can make some noise. That bothers some people more than others.

In terms of extra features, you get an Apple-friendly inline remote/microphone that's compatible with iOS devices but won't fully function with Android and other phones (you should be able to still make calls using the microphone, but the remote's features probably won't work).

The headphones fold up. Sarah Tew/CNET

One side note on the design: Lately, iLuv's been doing a good job with the designs of its products; they're sleeker and more eye-catching. And even though it's gradually inching into more premium territory as a brand, the problem is that people still tend to associate it as a value brand. So I'm not sure abut the allure of stitching the company's logo prominently onto each earcup. For some buyers, that might be a negative.

The Apple-friendly three-button inline remote. Sarah Tew/CNET

Sound quality
As noted, the ReF is a bass-heavy headphone. It sounds decent enough, but just isn't terribly tight or clean sounding. I don't expect too much from headphones that cost less than $100 -- while the list price on these guys is $129.99, they go for significantly less online -- but the ReF lacks sparkle in the highs and midrange. I'm all for more laid-back, warm-sounding headphones, so having too much sparkle -- I refer to these as fast, bright headphones -- isn't good. But I was hoping the ReF would be a bit more detailed and have a bit more punch to it.

The earcups are canvas covered. Sarah Tew/CNET
Conclusion
There's a lot to like about the iLuv ReF. It seems well-built, offers a comfortable fit for an on-ear model, and includes an Apple-friendly remote/microphone and a tangle-resistant fabric covered cord. It also delivers a lot of bass, but its sound overall could be more refined. There's a lot of competition in the $75-to-$100 price range (see a full list of our best headphones under $100 here ), so just being decent isn't necessarily good enough anymore.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov. 12, 2012
  • Color black
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Additional Features L-shaped plug
  • Type headset
  • Headphones Form Factor ear-cup
  • Connector Type mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm 4-pole
About The Author

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable e-reader and e-publishing expert. He's also the author of the novels Knife Music and The Big Exit. Both titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, and Nook e-books.