Audio is a tough business. Most of the largest and most powerful brands today come from a long-earned reputation. Bose, Audio-Technica, AKG, etc. have an expected level of quality and performance without even looking at the specs. With hundreds of headphone brands, how do you stand out? Luckily, AiAiAi (pronounced eye-eye-eye) found a way with the TMA series.
The original TMAs weren’t bad, but they had some minor durability issues which gave them a slower start than they had hoped. What the TMAs did succeed in, however, was proving that AiAiAi was on to something special. Just like the original TMAs, the TMA-2s are completely black. Branding is only found on the inside of the headband. It’s not the best for visual brand awareness, but I can assure you owners are doing the advertising on their behalf.
What Makes the TMA-2s Special?
I am happy to say, a few things make them special. The primary, and most unique, aspect of the TMA series is the modularity. When you buy a set online that says HD, HD Wireless, DJ, etc., those are all presets. Presets are pre-selected components to build a particular headphone. Every piece is replaceable, customizable, and interchangeable.
You can choose which headband (6 styles), which speakers (5 options), which ear cups (currently 4, but I’ve seen 7 styles listed before), and even which cable to connect to your source. The HD version, the one we have for review, comes with the H04 headband, S05 speakers, E08 Earpads, and C15 cable. To me it’s one of the best configuration options you can have, although if I were building one today, I’d switch out the headband for the H05 which gives you Bluetooth with AptX HD 24-bit codec support and 16 hours of battery life. Even with the wireless headband, you can still use the headset with a traditional wire connected to a high end source if you really want the best. For a $50 upgrade, that kind of versatility makes this headphone a true jack of all trades. AiAiAi offers the HD Wireless preset here ($350).
This is easily the best sounding headphone I’ve ever reviewed. The S05 speakers with Alcantara ear cushions provides such an amazing sound stage and rich tone that I have started listening to old albums again just to hear what I missed before. It’s a transformative experience, but only if you set it up right. Here’s what I mean: The TMA-2 HD is flat. I said this before, but it’s important to reiterate because most people’s definition of good sound includes strong bass and bright highs. The TMA-2 HDs are capable of this, but you will need to customize your EQ and provide good power to the headphones.
This is critical to know because I think some people will buy these, plug them in to a phone or tablet via the headphone jack and be disappointed. That’s not to say they sound bad. Phone amps just aren’t that powerful or rich sounding (traditionally) to make these headphones really shine. A less expensive pair of headphones with punch bass and more highs could sound better so some. Once you start giving this headphones proper power and EQ that matches your preference, the TMA-2 HDs sound nothing short of amazing.
If you like the idea of TMA-2s, including the style, modularity, etc., but do not want to drop $300, there are sub $200 configuration options available as well. This leads us to our final discussion point.
AiAiAi Web Store and Builder
If you want to truly understand what to expect (price, sound characteristics) from your own pair of TMA-2s, check out their website configuration page here: https://aiaiai.audio/headphones/tma-2-build-your-own/s02h02e02c02
This builder is perhaps the most exciting method of buying any pair of headphones online, period. You can select which speaker pair you want, which ear cups, the headband, even the cable. They all offer advantages and trade-offs, price included. If you want to learn about how each selection impacts your price and audio characteristics then be sure to visit their site. Lastly, because of this, I recommend purchasing directly through AiAiAi. Having the option to spec out a perfect headset for your needs is something that shouldn’t be ignored and I think the TMA-2s are the one of the best headphones for the money I have ever heard. They came out of no where for me (I never heard about AiAiAi until last year) and now they are a front runner in a crowded and competitive market which says a lot.