AIAIAI are a relative newcomer to the premium headphone scene, well I say new, they have been around since 2006 but they spend a long time researching and refining their products. Which brings me to the TMA-2 DJs, their DJ specific, bass tuned headphones. These have been refined over 10 years of development and are firmly aimed at challenging the dominance of the DJ headphone world by Sennheiser’s HD25s.
The main reason I believe them to be a challenger to the HD25s is due to their design, the TMA-2s look like an improved and advanced version. It seems that AIAIAI have used their staying power as a basis from which to build their range, making the TMA-2s modular was also a smart move. This also fits in with AIAIAI’s company ethos for longevity and sustainability, more on that in a bit.
In The Box
In keeping with the premium targeting the box and individually wrapped components present as a nice package. Making the opening and assembling of the headphones more an experience than trying to break headphones out of the usual vac formed plastic packaging you usually get.
Headband – Made from the reinforced nylon, the build is slick and highly durable, just check out the stress test demonstration videos. This makes sense given AIAIAI’s commitment to longevity. There is also a moulded silicone pad that lines the headband, although this is designed more for grip than actual padding.
Like all the components the headband has a matt finish that feels quality to the touch and plays to the sleek premium look.
Cable – The thick thermoplastic cable is 1.5 meters in length with a coiled section that stretches to a lengthy 3 meters. This makes it ideal when in the DJ booth, particularly for those that like to bounce around and dance behind the decks.
In one of many small attention to details, the jack is right angled making it harder to accidentally pull the jack out of the mixer. With a mini jack fitted as standard, the ¼ inch jack is also screwed on, to further prevent an accidental disconnect.
Earpads – Lined with PU leather, again a sustainable material, the earpads are made of memory form to create a fitted, yet comfortable seal around your individual ears. This also helps improve isolation to external out, while helping to keep powerful bass sound in.
Speaker Units – The units feel heavy when taking them out of the package, which gives confidence in their ability to produce a weighty sound. Lined with Titanium to reduce distortion although the containing cups are solid backed the driver themselves contain an internal vent to help portray the AIAIAI TMA-2’s bass tuning.
The speaker units and headband click together with reassuring pops that feel secure while still being adjustable to individual head size. All cables (i.e the main cable and headband into speakers units) click into place and then are secured by rotating to lock them into place.
The main cable can lock into either side, I am right handed so chose to put mine into the left hand side speaker unit.
Once assembled the headphones don’t feel modular at all. Due to the locking components everything feels as sturdy as if they were assembled in the factory. With the added benefit that should everything break at any point it can be easily replaced.
Fit & Comfort
The formed headband clamps the speaker units to the head without feeling too tight, especially when the height is adjusted to place the units directly on the ear. The large cushions fit cover virtually the whole ears with the memory foam completing the seal.
The combination of the two makes for a comfortable and steady fit, even vigorous shaking of the head doesn’t displace the headphones one little bit. Meaning that bouncing around behind the decks wont move them either. The fit of the headphones also makes for excellent sound isolation meaning that audio within the TMA-2s can be clearly heard.
Despite the beefy speaker units the headphones as a whole still feel light and comfortable on the head. Due to the leather finish the ears can become quite warm after prolonged wearing but this is an understandable trade off when it comes to how well the headphones are designed to fit. Given that DJ headphones are normally on and off throughout a set at no point should it cause any particular discomfort.
Testing the frequency response of the AIAIAI TMA-2s shows how they are tuned towards a bass bias. Even at the lowest frequencies the bass sounds crisp and smooth. Going up through the register the TMA-2s handle the bass with absolute clarity and zero distortion, which is handy given that I’ll be smashing mine with drum & bass.
During the treble extension test the sweeping high pitched test sound came into me at around 16 kHz. This is not necessarily due to headphones spec as it down to the state of an individual’s ears, and to be fair mine have been battered by years of loud music… and poor headphones. The true test of this will come with the track test later on.
What I like about AIAIAI is that they are very research driven and the tuning towards bass can actually protect your ears more so than headphones that shoot piercing treble sounds down your ear.
Dynamic range is a difficult one to test and not particularly down to the spec of headphones, given that it’s the audible range between the quietest and the highest sounds. I stopped being able to hear the test voice track clearly at around 72db below full scale. Again this is going to vary for individual hearing but for me the clarity was impressive and even at the top end the test audio was not in any way painful to the ears so I really am a fan of the tuning on these.
The Bass Shaker – Rattle Test
The rattle test is a simple one, the test audio passes through a powerful bass sound designed to shake the drivers so you can hear if there is any rattle within the components.
Given that the headphones were brand new they behaved as expected to the rattle test with no audible rattle or buzz coloring the sound at all. Of course this is something that is more likely to happen over time with extensive gigging but given the durability focused design I don’t see it being a problem for a long time, if ever.
Even if it does happen, the components can simply be replaced or even repaired.
The Real Test – Filthy Drum & Bass: Mr Happy by DJ Hazard & Distorted Minds
I always like using this classic track to test headphones as it has both weighty bass and variety of treble flairs to it. And put simply, it sounds amazing on the TMA-2s.
Being primarily a drum & bass DJ myself I love being able to feel the power and punch of the bass while not having even a hint of the drivers being anywhere near distorting. Meanwhile the highs were crisp and every element of the track was easily picked out and focused on as I wanted to. This comes in particularly handy when beat matching irregular tracks where you can necessarily rely on the kick to sync tracks up.
Building Your Own
The headphones I was testing was the standard TMA-2 DJ setup but a really nice feature of the AIAIAI site is that you can fully customise your headphone setup. Everything from padding on the headband through to different cable styles and specific speaker units can be specified and chosen to match the exact sound and fit your after.
In the age of customizability, AIAIAI are really showing how it should be done.
A Note on Sustainability
A core part of the AIAIAI ethos revolved around making their products as sustainable as possible. This starts from packaging and product materials which are made from as recyclable and renewable sources as possible. Ironic perhaps given that they are in an industry that relies heavily on travel but that’s by the by, and every little helps.
Where this pays off for the customers is in the longevity of the product. Aside from being built to last in the first place, every single piece of the headphones can be ordered and replaced separately. Alternatively you can actually dive in and repair components yourself with repair guides provided by AIAIAI themselves.
It is this level of care and attention to detail that, for me, sets AIAIAI aside from other manufacturers of electrical goods of any kind.
When I was looking at these headphones on their site I was expecting great things and it actually exceeded my expectations. From the lightweight, comfortable fit, with no compromise on being able to drive some seriously powerful bass to sleek finish and longevity promise, these will absolutely become my standard for DJing
If you have any questions or comments drop them below and I will respond to every single one.