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"I'm officially retiring my AKG's..."
"The best DJ headphones you've never heard of..."
"DJ cans without earcups that swivel? It's like a bike without pedals."
"LOVE the lightweight design, but the headphone band's spring needs to be stronger so they don't flop off at the most inopportune times."
January 25, 2011
../ TestDrive: AIAIAI TMA-1 Review
We have quite the arsenal of DJ headphones in our FutureMusic soundlab, so when the AIAIAI TMA-1's came sashaying through our doors, there certainly wasn't a
collective "hooray" from our staffers. However, after I pulled the TMA-1's out of the packaging, there was suddenly a small crowd of punters wanting to get
their grubby hands on these new Danish DJ 'phones. The main reason is that AIAIAI (pronounced Eye-Eye-Eye) didn't pull any punches on the packaging, which
exceeds any high-end Apple product we've unboxed, with a luscious container, textured foam and a panache that speaks directly to the TMA-1's design.
AIAIAI TMA-1 Headphones sound as good as they look...
The TMA-1's are the antithesis to every existing DJ-targeted headphone currently on the market. No prominent logos, no gold, silver or aluminum accents,
nothing that comes out and say: "Hey Everyone! I'm a DJ!!" In fact, these cans reminded several of us of what a sonar technician on the latest,
bleeding-edge nuclear sub would be wearing when they were hunting for the latest "Red October" in the frigid waters off of Alaska. In the age of
all flash and no substance, the TMA-1's with their tactile, matte-rubber finish, are no flash and all substance.
TMA-1's Really Sing
While the TMA-1's tout a more pronounced bass in their sonic signature, this is nothing like the top-of-the-line
Beats By Dr. Dre,
which are so prominent, they seem to have been designed for DJ's with 50% hearing loss, or anyone who likes to put a big smiley face on their stereo's
multiband band EQ. The boost at about 80Hz is rounded and creamy without losing any detail when listening to slap bass or an upright on a proper Jazz workout.
For DJ's or electronic music listeners, this translates to a bass sound that sits perfectly positioned in the mix on a properly mastered track, from deep house
to aggressive Drum 'n' Bass, the TMA-1's really sing on any electronic-oriented material.
Apple's got nothing on AIAIAI's packaging...
Unlike some other headphones, the pushed bass does not come at the expensive of the midrange, which AIAIAI just nailed, like a tsunami pouncing on the shores of
5K land. The mids offer plenty of space and depth allowing you to hear a reverb sail into the sunset, without the tail shattering into pieces or abruptly cutting
off. The vocals, guitars, strings and lead synth sounds are incredibly detailed for headphones in this price range. Words like "precise" - "clarity" and "20/20
hearing" were used by our evaluators to describe the AIAIAI's fidelity in the mids and when we A/B's our stock of DJ cans, which included Pioneer, Ultrasone,
Sony, Senheiser and AKG, everything else sounded dull and discolored by comparison. But this quote sums it up best: "When I listened to some of my favorite tracks
with the TMA's, I thought someone had slipped into my flat, remastered my record collection and snuck out unawares."
The high-end also shines on the AIAIAI's with crispy sonics that are never biting or brittle, a problematic artifact on many DJ headphones. but never too pillowy
where the sound becomes blurred or riled. A "sweetness" in the highs often corresponds to less fatigue during extended headphone sessions, which several reviewers
noted. "The TMA-1's tonal balance allowed me to prolong my mixing sessions far beyond my Pioneer's."
The TMA-1's earcups do fall short in a few ways. First, the cups themselves are smaller than most DJ headphones, which may sit poorly on users with larger ears.
The band's strength is also weaker than most DJ cans. This could be chalked up to the TMA-1's extreme lightweight, but some evaluators noted they would have
liked "a little more pressure on my ears to make them more secure when bending down or digging through my crate." However, the most glaring deficit is the fact
that the cups themselves don't swivel. Every single reviewer marked the headphones down for lacking this attribute. Although, some purely digital DJs may not
care about this attribute, vinyl, CD or DVS DJs could find this a deal breaker, despite the killer sound.
All things considered, the AIAIAI TMA-1 headphones really deliver. The sound platform has an "overall softness" without ever lacking detail and for such a
lightweight set of cans (190 grams), are plenty loud. In fact, the preciseness of the fidelity will have you wondering if the TMA-1's could suffice for comp'ing
vocals or tackling other mixing chores and the answer is a big yes once you learn the phone's sonic signature. If you can learn to live without the swivel,
the AIAIAI TMA-1's will quickly become your favorite set of headphones. Highly Recommended.
The Future: We'd like to see a sophisticated earcup swivel mechanism, maybe even one
that "locks" for non-DJ use, but won't become fatigued under heavy use. A slightly stronger springload to increase the band's pressure would also help the
headphones stay put during sudden crate digs, or shaking your head vehemently "NO!" when someone requests "Freebird."
The AIAIAI TMA-1 are available now. More information on the AIAIAI TMA-1.