When it comes to headphones, AIAIAI has been in the market for quite a while now, where its TMA-1 has been a favorite amongst professional DJs. However, in 2015, the company launched its TMA-2 headphones that kind of turned the industry on its head thanks to its customizable modular system.
This means that users get to “build” their perfect pair of headphones where depending on how you plan to use them, you could buy different modules that are better suited for different needs, thus creating a pair of headphones that are truly unique to you.
The company has since followed up with the TMA-2 HD Wireless, which they were generous enough to send over for review, and here are our thoughts about it.
With the TMA-2 HD, AIAIAI has introduced brand new modules that when put together, results in the TMA-2 HD. This includes the use of the new S05 speaker units which according to AIAIAI, features a diaphragm that is made from grown bio-cellulose.
The company claims that the use of this material has resulted in a stiffer, lighter, and stronger component compared to your more standard PET speaker units. In turn, this is said to result in less distortion compared to PET speaker units.
There is also the inclusion of the new E08 earpad which is made from Alcantara, which looks pleasing to the eye and is also comfortable (more on that later).
Other than that, the rest of the TMA-2 HD will come with a C15 cable, and with the wired version of the TMA-2 HD, the H04 headband, while the wireless version will come with the H05 Bluetooth headband.
Design"A PAIR OF VERY SLEEK AND MINIMALIST HEADPHONES"
AIAIA’s headphones have always been rather striking in a subtle kind of way.
The company has shied away from flashy designs and obvious branding, something that I can truly appreciate, resulting in a pair of very sleek and minimalist headphones that you can wear out in public without drawing attention to yourself. The TMA-2 HD easily continues that tradition.
When it comes to the build quality, we are slightly disappointed that the headphones do not feature parts made from a metal like aluminum or stainless steel, which we think definitely adds to the overall design and aesthetics of the headphones. But this does not mean that they are flimsy.
In fact, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the build of the headphones, especially in the headband, was rather sturdy and did not offer any creaking or cracking noises when flexed.
According to AIAIAI, this is because with the TMA-2, they opted to use Polyamide TR90 for the headband which is supposed to be more durable and flexible.
They have also improved on the design to make for a more even distribution when it bends. This was done in response to customer complaints about the TMA-1 where some customers experienced their headbands snapping.
You can actually take a look at the video below to see stress test that AIAIAI put the headband through.
I’m not sure how many of us would actually put the headphones through such extreme use, but basically the idea is that you shouldn’t need to worry about the plastic snapping when taking it on and off. Of course, this is just in theory and in practice, we be 100% certain.
Another upside to the use of mostly plastic is that it makes the headphones relatively lighter, so if you plan to bring them with you on the go or wear them for extended periods of time, this is definitely an advantage.
While the sound quality is clearly the mark of a pair of great headphones, comfort is also of extreme importance as it is the difference between you picking that pair of lesser-sounding-quality pair of headphones for your 12-hour flight over your audiophile-grade-but-incredibly-uncomfortable pair of headphones."THE MATERIALS COVERING THE EARCUPS ARE INCREDIBLY SOFT TO THE TOUCH"
When it comes to comfort, Boss’s QuietComfort 15 is the benchmark I use, and I have to say, AIAIAI’s use of memory foam and Alcantara material comes very, very close.
The materials covering the earcups are incredibly soft to the touch and the memory foam makes it feel like I’ve put some cotton wool over my ears.
Something to note about the use of Alcantara is that it is produced with sustainability in mind. This is actually something that AIAIAI prides itself on where they try to create products that minimize the brand’s environmental impact.
It is also one of the reasons why the company has gone with a modular design with the TMA-2 series, where broken parts can simply be swapped out and replaced, instead of having to replace the entire headphones.
The resistance of the headband isn’t too tight either, but this may vary depending on the size and shape of your head, but overall it held on pretty well without slipping off, but at the same time it didn’t feel like my ears were in a vice grip.
Putting what I felt to the test, I decided to watch Netflix’s The Irishman with the headphones on (which runs for over 3 hours, and it’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already).
I did take the headphones off every now and then as my ears did get a bit hot and sweaty, but at no point did it ever feel uncomfortable.
Now that we’ve talked about the design and comfort of the headphones, it’s time to get to the most important part: sound quality. In this regard, I have to say that the overall sound is rather balanced.
I initially listened to music and watched movies with a flat EQ to get an idea of how the headphones would sound without any enhancements."MIDS ARE WHERE THE HEADPHONES SEEM TO EXCEL VERY WELL AT"
The bass was nice and punchy without sounding artificially boosted, while the highs were also very crisp and clear without sounding too sharp.
Mids are where the headphones seem to excel very well at, where it ties all together rather nicely, where the vocals on songs came through nice and clear.
If you’re something of a basshead then we think that you might benefit from using an EQ that boosts the bass. Personally, I prefer my bass to sound more natural and unboosted and the TMA-2 HD’s deliver that, but for those who want something tight and in your face, especially when it comes to electronic music, then you might feel that the bass on the headphones are a tad lacking.
According to AIAIAI, the TMA-2 HD’s are supposed to offer up to 16 hours of battery life. While I did not count the exact number of hours they lasted, I did use them on and off for an entire week for a couple of hours a day and it kept going.
By the end of the week, there was still battery left and I imagine that I could have easily gotten one and a half weeks worth of usage before recharging it.
Your mileage may vary depending on how often you use it, but for the most part it the battery life on these headphones are impressive.
Now, the downside to wireless headphones and batteries in general is that over time they tend to degrade, but this also highlights the modularity and sustainability of the TMA-2 HDs, where if it ever gets to the point where battery is simply too poor, you can just swap out the Bluetooth headbands for a new one instead of having to buy an entirely new set of headphones.
While the overall build, design, and sound quality of the TMA-2 HD is great, there are some small quibbles that I have with it. First of all, kudos to AIAIAI for using USB-C for charging as it is a great way to future-proof devices.
However, the fact that the USB-C port is on the inner part of the headband, it can be a bit tricky to get to, and I can’t help but feel that due to the way it is angled, over time it could damage the port or maybe the cable that comes with it.
Also, pairing the headphones with your device isn’t exactly intuitive either. The controls on the headband don’t tell you what they do and you’ll have to refer to the manual in order to learn how to pair it and how to use it.
We get it though, given its minimalist design, putting markings on the headband could be distracting and maybe even ugly.
One could also make the argument that that’s why manuals were created, but at the same time, wireless speakers and headphones aren’t new and we shouldn’t really have to refer to a manual to do basic things like pairing and controlling media playback.
Also, while the Alcantara material feels great to the touch, I do have some concerns about it potentially getting stained over time with sweat. Lastly, a carrying pouch or case would have been a nice touch too as due to the Alcantara material it started picking up a fair bit of fluff whenever I had it inside my bag.
Apart from the minor issues I had with it, the AIAIAI TMA-2 HD are fantastic in terms of sound and design. If you’re after something a bit more understated that doesn’t draw too much attention to yourself, then they might be worth checking out.
We can appreciate features like the use of USB-C, and also how it supports both wireless and wired connectivity, which at least gives users the option of how they want to connect it.
At $350, the TMA-2 HD isn’t exactly cheap or affordable, but this is an ecosystem that you’ll be buying into. We imagine that the company definitely has plans to continue churning out new modules so, in the long run, you could end up saving money as you would only need to replace certain parts and not the entire headset.
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