DJ headphones come in many shapes and sizes, and I’ve manhandled every one of them. And just when you think you’ve seen them all, along comes a brand not that well know to the DJ scene with a signature product that is actually different enough to distinguish itself from the very crowded market.
RCF is a name better know in the pro sound industry. But as owners of db Technologies and having a fair slice Beyerdynamic in their portfolio, as well as the new Mixars brand, it’s clear that they know a thing or two about sound. So when an RCF branded pair of cans come along, I take notice. And given that RCF is an Italian company, it comes as no surprise that they call upon Italian DJ Benny Benassi to put his seal of approval on them.
IN THE BOX
First thing — I got sent two boxes, one black and white, named Pepper and Angel respectively. As previously mentioned, I have a massive field of reference from which to draw first impressions. And I’m happy to say that the one made by the RCF Iconica is excellent. Regulars will be aware that I have little time for lavish packaging. The buyer pays the premium for it, and it ultimately ends up as expensive land fill, unless of course it can be recycled.
But it does look good, and shelf appeal matters with headphones, because they’re a product range that people still like to try out for themselves in bricks and mortar shops. So peeling open the heavy and monochromatic cardboard box reveals a matt finish hard case, and ensconced within are the headphones and extra accessories. Pulling that out reveals the necessary manual and hopefully ignored warranty document.
But what you really want to know about are the bits and bobs right? Well you get a 1.5m straight cable with integrated volume control and mic, a 1.5mm cable with a short coiled section, and the obligatory jack adaptor. They don’t lock in place, but do require some serious pulling to dislodge them.
One thing to note about the adaptor — it’s an Iconica-specific one and should you forget it, the regular screw fit ones won’t fit. And I found the cables easy to get tangled around the headphones in normal use. They’re rubber, but lack rigidity found in other headphones. Some thicker ones would really help with this.
The actual headphones themselves feel and look great, giving a great first impression the moment you open the box, which is exactly what RCF wants from the Iconica headphones. Job done. Let’s get into the detail.
Despite their compact form, the Iconica headphones have some weight to them. Not neck-achingly heavy, but certainly reassuringly so. The Iconicas are a mixture of predominantly metal and hard plastic, and feel like they’ll last a good while without joints snapping or bits falling off. My only concern is the finish the hard plastic — it’s a semi-matt finish that very easily gets knocked, and leaves shiny marks. They look great now, but in the hands of a busy DJ, they’re likely to start looking well used in no time at all.
But they do feel solid. A lot of headphones, including the ones put on a pedestal, often feel like rattly bags of plastic in a short time. But I’m pretty sure that these won’t. And even having pivots on the ear pieces, and hinges on the headbands, I’m confident of these taking a good beating.
Firstly, the Iconica headphones are loud. This is probably down to the low impedance of just 16 ohms, making them suitable for mobile devices and DJing too. As I’ve said many times before, headphones have to be suitable for our ever-changing lifestyle, so the Iconic can be used for every part of your life, a fact reflected in the different cables that come with them.
As for sound quality… do I need to state the usual disclaimer about all the different factors that affect the perception of sound quality, not least personal preference. So wheeling out the flowery verbiage… the sound is full and tuned for DJs with an emphasis on satisfying the bottom and mid range. It doesn’t sit in the Beats or V-MODA bass in your face space, nor is it the more linear production end of the spectrum. I found them to be good all-rounders, working best as a pair for DJing and casual listening. They didn’t fatigue my ears at all.
A sticky point for some, but not for the Iconicas. As mentioned previously, they’re very loud which will suit some people, but not those around them. Luckily because of the firm clamping onto your ears and sitting on them they do a good job of keeping sound out as well as in. So it’s a win-win for those wanting to use the Iconicas for everything.
The snugness and on-ear fitting makes them immediately comfortable, especially with the rectangular fit. The ear pads themselves are squidgy and forgiving to any shape of ear too. The pivoted ear pieces also naturally help the Iconicas find the right spot on your head too, and that’s also helped by the generous head band strip too.
I do however have an issue with how tight they are. They do have around 35mm of adjustment per side, but generally feel like a small person’s headphone. And while initially comfortable, I found that they have quite the vice-like grip on my head, meaning that I couldn’t wear them comfortably for extended periods. That said, they do absolutely stick to your head like glue (which apparently is the plan so that they can be used for physical exercise too), and the full 180° turn of the ear pieces definitely helps with longer term comfort.
And on the same subject, DJs are used to casually draping these around their necks, but I found that to be uncomfortable, as the aforementioned tightness did give me some discomfort. Not quite strangulation, but enough to make me not want to do it often. I do have a thick neck and a small head though, which does exacerbate it.
I like that they come in a hard case. They’re not that big anyway, but the tendency is to wrap the cable around your headphones and cram them into your impossibly full bag. And these definitely wouldn’t take up much space at all as they do fold up to a degree. But trust me — the case is essential, especially given the aforementioned easy of scuffing.
Now here’s an interesting experience for me. The Iconicas arrived as an unknown quantity — I hadn’t heard of them and had no PR, but set about reviewing without even looking at the price of them. I usually factor in the wallet at the end anyway, but had no idea of how much these cost.
Given the overall quality of the package, and premium level feeling, I was expecting a price approaching £200. So imagine my surprise at discovering that these have a street price of just £125. That definitely puts then right in the middle of the V-MODA and Sennheiser bracket.
In use, the Iconicas tick many boxes, but there are a few dents in the otherwise shiny armour here. I worry that they’ll look cosmetically beaten up quickly, the cables tangle too easily and require a specific adaptor, and most importantly they squeeze your head just a tad too much for my liking.
All that being said, I’ve been using them on and off for a month and I’m really quite happy. The overall package is great, is highly specced, and comes with everything you need for DJing and everyday use too. For the money, the RCF Iconicas should definitely be on your shopping list. As Benny Benassi would say, they give me satisfaction.