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 surf wear maker has teamed up with JBL to offer a line of stylish earphones aimed at young women. At the bottom end of the spectrum are the superaffordable Reference 230 earphones, a standard earbud model that lists for $20. While they hit the Roxy style on the head, these earphones probably won't fit all people well and the sound quality leaves something to be desired.
The Roxy Reference 230 earphones are certainly eye-catching. Like their on-ear sibling, the Reference 430 headphones, this set comes in a choice of 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 the Roxy name and logo stamped on in white, while the inside is wrapped in a black rubber ring. The overall look is cute, and surfer girls with a taste for sunny colors will likely see the appeal. Even the included travel pouch--a tiny black thing with a Roxy graphic splashed across it--has style.
Still, the design is far from perfect. While the rubber ring around each earpiece is likely designed to help the wearer achieve a more secure and comfortable fit, we found that it failed at the latter. As with most standard earbuds, the Reference 230s put an uncomfortable pressure on the cartilage of our ears after about an hour of wear. To their credit, however, they did stay in place despite plenty of tugging and movement. As for the cord, it's not very tangle-prone, which is nice, but the Y portion is quite thin and it seems fragile where it attaches to the earpieces. Also, the pink rubberized cable coating dirties easily, picking up dye from our much-washed jeans in no time flat.
Further, audio quality is nothing to write home about, though we didn't expect much different from a set that costs just $20. That being said, the Roxy Reference 230 earphones do not sound terrible by any means and are a step up from stock 'buds, though the difference is not as noticeable as with many in-ear sets we've tested. Specifically, bass is lacking with the 230s, which is a typical problem with earbud-style headphones. Also, music in general sounds slightly tinny and digital. Still, audio is clear with no background hiss or distortion, so you could do worse. If you're searching mostly for Cali style on a tight budget, the Reference 230 earphones fit the bill.