AiAiAi has long been the choice of the techno and European hipster DJs and producers with their unassuming matte black colorway and clean, yet distinctive design. They understood there was a market for high quality cool-looking DJ/Producer headphones that could last. If you remember the days of the silver Sony's, you will understand why there was a bit of a backlash on "me too" flashy cans.
The TMA-1 DJ headphone started a wave of AiAiAi faithful, with their lightweight frame, tough yet rubbery build, and solid sound. Eventually, TMA-1 studio headphones arrived with swappable ear cups and caught the attention of producers as well as DJs. Fast forward to today, and we have a brand that has come full circle and rethought what headphone design should be with their complete modular system.
While the freedom to design your headphones is excellent, it can also be overwhelming, and the TMA-2s don't come in cheap; you are looking at $300 or so. The price of customization can be worth it if you know what you are looking for, and the nice thing about modular is that you can always swap different parts. So, in theory, you could make these both your DJ and your studio headphones, which is kind of cool.
We tested this configuration of the TMA-2. These are the brand descriptions:
S05 · Detailed - 40mm driver
Engineered with a speaker diaphragm made from stiff Bio-Cellulose for more defined high-frequency details, more pronounced mid-range, better dynamics, and more natural tonality. Delivered as a pair.
E08 · Alcantara - over-ear
Ultra-soft over-ear memory foam cushion covered with Alcantara. The thickness and materials give better comfort and isolation.
H04 · High comfort - Microfiber padding
Reinforced nylon headband with high comfort microfiber head padding.
C15 · Straight - Triad hi-fi - 1.5m
Straight, black, 1.5m, Triad hi-fi cable. Designed for durability and reduced magnetic and radio frequency interference.
Custom Build Options: HERE
- Speakers Units - 5 options (sealed, vented, neodymium magnet, Japanese voice coil, PET diaphragm, titanium-coated driver, bio-cellulose driver),
- Headband Options - Six different headbands including wireless
- Ear Cups - Six different ear cup variations with different sizes and materials (Alacantara, PU leather, velour),
- Cables - Four cable choices (in multiple colors/lengths).
Design and Comfort - This configuration lends itself towards comfort with a padded headband and the super-soft ear cups made with memory foam and covered in Alcantra. This soft suede-like microfiber is sultry soft to the touch and feels like velvet on your ears. The earcups also provide excellent natural sound isolation, but they do get a little hot.
As far as fit, these headphones are comfortable and light so that you will be good on extended sessions. They are just big enough to go over your entire ear, but those with larger ears might have issues.
As far as building the headphones, it's straightforward and takes all of five minutes once you get them removed from the packaging. The pieces snap together easily, just make sure you connect the right and left speakers to the right side, the right has a little red ring indicator. The build quality is decent, and they have an almost rubber-like spring to them, but enough pressure on the headband would break it, so be careful how you pack them.
How do they sound -
Considering that AiAiAi recommends a burn-in time of roughly 24 hours of play, these still sound quite good out of the box. The headphones feel nicely balanced between the bass and very dialed in mids and highs. These are great for listening to on their own, as they are well balanced and just flat enough to use as reference monitors in the studio.
I used them with house, techno, ambient, and even some tango, and they performed well with all these genres.
Note -After some longer sessions, it was apparent these indeed needed to be burned in and settle a bit. The sound tended to be bright in the highs and sometimes in the mids.
I tested with a variety of formats and players:
Astell & Kern HiFi AkJr Audio Player - These headphones shine with the hi-fi format and larger file sizes, such as FLAC.
iMac / iTunes - Decent for this type of file, AAC, and MP3. However, the compressed audio is where I heard the issue with the 'freshness' of speakers, so after the burn-in time, the mids and highs should settle a bit.
I also used a Schiit amp/DAC (Magni/Modi) set-up, which helped improve the sound of the new cans. I highly recommend this set up if you are working at a desktop computer, easy to route, and brings up the quality of your compressed music quite a bit. https://www.schiit.com/products
If you are going to enter the AiAiAi modular universe, start with one configuration and then build it from there; otherwise, it can be expensive fast. Just about anyone can find a headphone design layout that will suit their needs, and for pros, it's easy to expand your needs, from DJing to more studio-specific needs. What's nice is that you know you can always tweak your headphone and not have to go out and buy an entirely new pair. The design and construction are great, they are comfortable, and they sound excellent (at least in the configuration that we got).