Review: AIAIAI TMA-2 HD Wireless modular headphones
Want more customization in your headphones? These may be for you.
When you start looking to buy a new set of headphones, there’s a dizzying array of options on the market. The thing is, whatever headphones you end up choosing, it’ll be the “best fit” rather than what you actually want. That’s because you’re at the whims of the manufacturer, who has a tricky proposition in choosing parts that will go well together while also keeping an eye on their bottom line.
What if you could pick and choose your own pairings, so that the headphones you end up with are customized to your preferences? That’s exactly what AIAIAI thinks you should be able to do, and today we’re going to be looking at their flagship, the TMA-2 HD Wireless.
Will it become more than just the sum of its parts?
Wait, these are like LEGO?
Yep, just like LEGO, you can clip together your perfect headphones. That’s the beauty of AIAIAI’s TMA-2 range. There are over a thousand configurations to choose from, as everything from cables to headbands to pads to driver units can all be put together to your liking. If you get bored of one part, grab another choice from the list and try that instead. It’s all down to you.
That means that, in theory, you can find your perfect headphones. In practice, you almost can, with the notable exception of any active noise-canceling options. There are five driver options, from the S01 with its PET diaphragm to the S05 with its bio-cellulose diaphragm that comes with the set we’re looking at. There are four earpad options, depending on if you prefer thin or thick pads, both of which have options for different cover materials.
Then there are six options for headbands, which change depending on toughness, padding, and if you want wireless. The set we’re looking at has the H05 headband, which has Bluetooth with the HD AptX codec, and 16 hours of battery life. Note that you can also use any of AIAIAI’s headphones as wired cans, as all you have to do is plug in a cord to the speaker unit on either ear.
The last piece of the puzzle is the cord, and there are a massive twelve options here. There are the standard options for lengths here, plus selections for coiled or straight, or if you want inline mics for using with your smartphone. You can even go neon if you want, which really pops against the matte black of the rest of the headphones. Lastly, there are options for USB-C and Lightning connectors, also with three-button inline remotes and a mic.
One last thing to note before we get to the sound, AIAIAI’s program to update the Bluetooth headband wouldn’t work for me on Windows 10. Installing the Mac version on my MacBook had me updated in seconds.
So, how do the AIAIAI TMA-2 HD Wireless headphones sound?
Okay, so AIAIAI suggests that this configuration is pretty balanced between bass, mids, and treble. It’s pretty close to that in use, although the scratching over the seminal A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It? was a little bit too bright for my liking. Then again, the rest of the frequency range was nicely separated and the TMA-2’s kick out some pretty tight bass compared to the recent crop of headphones I’ve listened to.
The precision afforded by the bio-cellulose diaphragm was perfect for Kraftwerk’s Electric Cafe, with the genre-influencing innovators at their best. There’s no distortion at all at full volume, although the best position I’ve found over the last few weeks is firmly mid-volume, so the peaks at the higher end of the frequency response don’t get fatiguing.
Now it’s time to go Back to Black, with Amy Winehouse’s trademark nasal voice cutting straight through the backing track and into my soul. The TMA-2’s are simply outstanding at reproducing jazz and soul, and will likely find a happy home with anyone who loves music where vocals are the focus.
Then it’s time to give them a torture test, with Aphex Twin’s Bucephalus Bouncing Ball. This insane track shows off any weakness in roll-off or precision and has made lesser headphones cry. I’m really impressed here with how well the TMA-2’s handed things, with insane clarity and every single drumbeat clear, which is no small feat with the composition.
So, should I buy them?
Well… yes, but maybe not this exact configuration. After all, the whole point of the modularity of AIAIAI’s headphones is that you can tweak their properties to your liking, instead of being bound by the decisions made by the manufacturer. If you’re bored with your current cans and want a set that you can change with your moods or wallet, this is the headphone for you.
Even the Bluetooth headband isn’t enough to add appreciable weight to the sublime speaker units, and the promise of easy repairs, upgrades, and swap-outs is fantastic.
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