When I first thought of writing a review about Aiaiai’s TMA-2 was “how many improvements were done since the previous version“. When the company first came out from a club at the top of a building in Copenhagen in 2005 they tinkered around with different type of gear eventually finding their forte with modular headsets which you can customise according to your tastes and budget. This whole concept of personal customisations came about with their release of TMA-2 headset which has close to 840 different possible combinations from various colours of cables to different sound sensitivities available for every type of keen listener. Admiteadly this concept is enticing.
As you can see the name is “TMA-2”, it’s because there was an earlier version, “TMA-1”, one that I previously owned for over 5 years. While the TMA-1 was designed for fans of ‘bass-heavy sound’, the TMA-2 is a chameleon, which adopts different personalities according to the customer’s preferences. All of this sounds phenomenal as its previous version suffered with some design faults, mainly the headband had its tendency of cracking in half under light pressure, AIAIAI’s customer service had a lot of work replying to countless number of customers struggling with such problem. The company overcame the issue, replaced customers’ faulty headphones by sending out new pairs headphones, the whole operation should have be applauded.
Now with the new version, fans have the ability to change their headband accordingly, everything is freely detachable and you can either go for the ‘dj’ feeling back from the TMA-1 or the ‘all-around’ headphones for various types of genres. Whether you choose one of the preconfigured headphones or carefully select components, you will receive a bunch of gray sachets blooming right out of the box. The assembly of the various components is as simple as putting together your +8 LEGOs set, and it must be admitted, the whole process is rather satisfactory.
The look of the TMA-2 is quite unique. The first thing that strikes you is its total lack of branding. There are no references to a AIAIAI, no flashy colors, neo retro design. Its unique design is due to its lack of superfluity. Like the best DJ headphones, it’s clear that the TMA-2 has been designed to be durable, much improved since its predecessor. The removable headphone cable, which fits into the lower part of the left or right earpiece, is sturdy, tangle-resistant, and provides a grip-like feel, preventing it from slipping, which is a great feature.
The headphones are completely matte black with a non-slip texture that gives a feeling of elegance and robustness. It also seems totally insensitive to fingerprints and scratches. Which turned out to be the case during an involuntary crash test on a sidewalk. The TMA-2, had no trace of my clumsiness.
The pads themselves, are very soft, and insulated well from the outside. Your ears will definitely adjust well to long listening sessions. The pads are easily clipped on the headphones, so you can change them when they are worn, or if you prefer to opt for another type. Both earphones are connected by a cable wrapped in a matte plastic, this is where things get interesting and AIAIAI have learnt from their previous problem and added a 3.5mm jack which allows you to disconnect the headband and exchange it if necessary. Sadly it seems that the issue of breaking headbands hasn’t been completely eliminated and it still happens occasionally even under small amount of pressure.
This is where AIAIAI really strived, previously AIAIAI were continuously compared to Sennheiser’s HD-25 series due to their dj-friendly sound, with TMA-2 the range evolves to music producers and everyday music enthusiasts. Range begins with S01 headphones (priced at €65), they deliver a very flat and neutral sound. Bass is softer, treble is raised and when sibilants are strident, the music is far from being entertaining when you have a range of instruments. AIAIAI’s “good-for-all” approach is in fact good for nothing.
S04 (priced at €100) are much more convincing with their “Japanese coil” and their “ultra-light diaphragm titanium”. Fast and precise, they offer a rich and detailed sound. The bass is raised, the midrange and treble aren’t low, quite the contrary. Here we find a “modern” sound signature, which certainly will not suit the purists, but is rather well executed. The speakers are delivered “bare”, ie without pads. Thus, the TMA-2 is neither a headset over-the-ear nor a circum-auricular headset, but one or the other depending on the chosen pads. These cling to the speakers with simple plugs, a solution certainly less elegant than a magnetic fastener, but just as effective.
Wide range of pads comes along, EO2 (€35) really turn these into super headphones. Perfectly mastered thickness of the pads isolates external noise and also keep your ears warm. Such confinement increases the low frequencies, it even makes S01 somewhat bearable.
TMA-2 is definitely heading in the right direction, AIAIAI learnt from their mistakes and delivered a product which is both comfortable and durable, ready for heavy usage. All parts are well made and will last hundreds of hours. Although there are many combinations, we have always returns to H03 + S04 + C02 and E05, and I guess AIAIAI push their “ready to listen” models with S01 way too much with the range that they offer, sadly if you aren’t aware of the different types you may end up with crappy sound. Overall, our selected combination compares well to the HD-25, industry standard for DJ headphones, and if bass is what you’re looking for, then AIAIAI should be your pick over the HD-25s.