Nixon RPM review

Don't set any new standards, but they're not without merit and like to party Tested at £170

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The RPMs don’t set any new standards – but they’re not without merit


  • +

    Uncompromising looks

  • +

    snug fit

  • +

    noise isolation

  • +

    poised, occasionally exciting sound


  • -

    Not dynamic, not entirely engaging

  • -

    short of dynamic headroom

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

When a company's more renowned as a manufacturer of fashionable accessories than headphones, it's easy to be dismissive of its electronic efforts.

But, while there's no doubt Nixon knows its way around wristwatches and sunglasses, these RPM over-ear headphones are quite obviously no thrown-together afterthought.

Hefty, yet comfortable
In a heftily industrial, black-on-black kind of way, the RPMs are chunky, purposeful lookers.

They're far from the lightest or most compact design we've tested, but the Nixons are comfortable to wear. The gel-filled ear-pads are particularly pleasing, and there's a nicely damped feel to the way the earcups articulate.

The RPMs also gesture towards 'pro' use: a coiled 2m cable is provided beside a straight, 1.3m alternative that's fitted with remote and mic. Both terminate in a substantial 3.5mm jack.

It doesn't take long for the Nixons to reveal their modus operandi: they'd like to party, please, but in quite a grown-up, balanced and well-supervised manner.

Happiest with dance
They're undoubtedly at their happiest when churning out the dance-floor stuff – a FLAC file of The Roots' Lighthouse revels in exciting low-end speed and presence (even if the actual tonal quality of the bass is on the soft side and would benefit from a touch more solidity).

There's plenty of bite and drive on display in the midrange, too, which helps the definition of the machine-gun rapping no end.

At the top of the frequency range the RPMs undeniably play it safe, rolling off the uppermost information – but, as the Incase Sonic review shows, there are less sensible ways of going about reproducing treble sounds.

The soundstage the Nixons generate is decently proportioned, and when playing a dense, fairly complex recording like Kool & The Gang's Open Sesame they offer a good sense of positioning and three-dimensionality.

Specific instruments are easy to follow, even as the RPMs knit each element together to form a coherent, convincing whole.

Tentative approach to dynamics
The same song reveals a rather tentative approach to dynamics, though – the RPMs are either unwilling or unable to put the distance that the song requires between 'very quiet' and 'very loud'.

As long as you don't mind looking vaguely like a Cyberman, the Nixons are a worthwhile outdoors proposition.

They are very stable in situ and in sound, and isolate both the wearer and those nearby from unwanted sound. Over time, though, they do feel every one of their 347g.

For all of their good-mannered vigour, the RPMS are slightly undemonstrative performers overall – but they do prove that companies you might not associate with electronics can turn out diverting, authentically competitive headphones.

See all our headphone Best Buys

Follow on Twitter

Join on Facebook

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test