On June 4th, I was invited by AIAIAI in Copenhagen for the launch of its brand new high end headphone aimed at hipsters or DJs who want to look stylish and refuse to be billboards. One of the most interesting things about this device is the design process: AIAIAI, helped by label Tartelet Records, music production firm Manhandle, communication agency TYFC and product design studio KiBiSi, defined a user driven process and collected feedback from top international DJs to deliver a state-of-the-art product. I am no audio expert, I used the headphone briefly on an iPhone and on my computer, the sound felt clear and crisp to my ears, but I am having a pre-production unit tested by DJ Mrs Blythe. So far, she found the sound amazing compared to her Pioneer HDJ-1000 (bought 2 /3 years ago for 300 euros and now retailing for $130) and she loves the design.
TMA-1 stands for Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-1, referring to the apparent magnetic irregularity found at the Tycho crater on the Moon’s surface by American astronauts in Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. A black Monolith buried 40 feet below the lunar surface causes the anomaly: the look, the extremely long life-span and resistance of the monolith relate to the AIAIAI headphones. The TMA-1 will be available worldwide in August at www.tma-1.com for $199 or 170 euros.
Check out the specifications, the design process and the DJs list in the complete article.
Editor’s note – Disclaimer: AIAIAI paid over half of my traveling expenses from Paris to Copenhagen.
Design firm KiBisSi and music production company Mannhandle (producer of the Raveonettes) defined a set of requirements for the TMA-1 months ago. They had strong ideas and high standards specifications regarding the device’s size, handling, flexibility, durability and… sound. When they started the project, AIAIAI founders had two reference headphones in mind: the Beats by Dr Dre and the Sennheiser HD25.
KiBiSi design concept was to “strip the product from all unnecessary details” to give the device a sleek and minimalist look, additionally, the AIAIAI logo is hidden inside the headband to fulfill the DJs’ desire not to display free advertising while they spin. This is quite an underground approach to marketing! The swirl cable on both sides allows users to adjust the headphones to their head, and the choice of this particular shape is reminiscent of the old sound cables. The unique feature is the removable cushions that offer various listening conditions: the leather cushions are more suitable for spinning in a club due to better ambient noise isolation than the foam ones. The device has been designed to be highly flexible making it very comfortable to wear over a long period of time and the durability has been increased by having most of the parts easily replaceable for reasonable prices (according to AIAIAI) .
The user driven process was managed by Tartelet Records and TFYC who spent quite some time meeting with the top 25 DJs all over the planet to collect their feedback. At the presentation, they showed some of the DJs’ comments made about the alpha and beta versions, before the feedback implementation in the almost-final product that was demoed on June 4th (pre-production unit). See the photo gallery with some of the quotes. Jens Martin Skistebed explained that it is not easy to combine high standard design choices with multiple users’ feedback in a design process: usually good design is made of strong choices without compromises.
The list of DJs who tested the product is as follow:
Tiga , James Murphy (LCD), Hot Chip, DJ Koze , Philip Jung (M.A.N.D.Y), Booka Shade, Erol Alkan, Claude Von Stroke, A-Trak, 2 MANYDJS, Prins Thomas, Ellen Allien, MSTRKRFT, Trentemoller, Matthew Dear, Seth Troxler, RJD2, Brodinski, Pilooski, Hudson Mohawks, Flying Lotus, Kode9, Michael Mayer, Superpitcher, Luciano.
- Driver Unit Size: 40 mm
- Impedance: 32 Ohm at 1 KHz
- Operating Power: (Nom/Max) 0,1 / 0,2
- Total Harmonic Distortion: 1KHz / Nom. Power Max 0.8%
- Buzz and Rattles: 1,76V at 100~2KHz Sine wave
- Sensitivity: (0dB=20uPa) At 1 KHz 1mW IEC318 Coupler 114+- 3dB
- Weight:190 grams
What’s in the box:
- 1 extra set of ear pads
- carrying pouch
- 1.7 meter cable
- 6.3 mm stereo plug converter