Aiaiai TMA-1 Professional DJ Monitoring
With the headphone market saturated with cookie-cutter models, it's difficult for a single model to stand out, but Aiaiai's TMA-1 is the exception to the rule. Inspired by the design of the Sennheiser HD 25, the $200 headphones cut a stripped-down physical profile with no joints to weaken their structural durability. Their solid construction is backed by a detailed headstage that makes them an excellent candidate for any DJ shopping for a stylish headset and neutral tonality for mixing music.
Design and features
The TMA-1 appropriately apes its name from Arthur C. Clark's "2001: A Space Odyssey," referring to a magnetic irregularity found on a crater on the Moon's surface caused by a giant monolith buried below. The monolith's long lifespan and extra-tough density are features that the Scandinavian designers at Aiaiai compare to their omni-colored black headphones.
The aesthetic of the TMA-1s appear to be a fading silhouette of other flashier headphones, and the blacked-out finish adds a distinctive touch. The nylon headband is approximately an 1.5-inches wide, with none of the springs and small metal joints that are commonly found in modern headsets. Aiaiai's idea is to minimize the amount of materials that go into the construction to reduce the risk of mechanical failure.
The audio cable is hidden underneath the band with a small visible rubber coil section, and there's no visible branding except for a small logo cut out of the underside of the headband. Our only critique here is that there's zero padding between the headband and the top of your head. We had to take frequent breaks to alleviate the pressure, which we can imagine becoming an issue for DJs over a long night.
The TMA-1's modular design extends to the ear pads, with two interchangeable cushion sets so you don't have to buy an entirely new pair of headphones when the padding wears out. Four nubs snap firmly behind a cushioned plate that protects the 40mm drivers powering the headphones, and the pads are small enough to fit comfortably on top of your ears.
DJs demand specific physical attributes out of their headphones, which everyday listeners never think about, and Aiaiai doesn't miss out on any of those details. The detachable rubber cable is 5.5-feet long with an extra 15-inch coiled section toward the top that allows even more free movement. The company also includes a threaded 1/4-inch adapter for plugging into mixers. One interesting section to note is that you can't fold the TMA-1s for travel, nor do they have rotating ear cups for single-sided listening. Instead, the notched headband adjuster allows the user to remove the entire earpad section for storage in the bag included in the package, and the resistant ABS material is malleable enough to allow for plenty of bending and moving without risk of snapping.
The TMA-1s are closed-back headphones, so they won't leak sound to those around you if you're listening to music in a public place. Closed designs are also well-suited for mixing engineers and DJs who need the sound isolation to concentrate and compete with other loud noises surrounding the booth. The fit of the TMA-1s will vary from user to user, but the flexible headband and lightweight balance gave us very little ear fatigue. If anything, we found ourselves repositioning the headband from time to time, but it wasn't a big deal.
As mentioned earlier, the on-ear shape means you won't be as engulfed in sound as much as with circumaural (full-sized) headphones, but you won't likely notice the difference, thanks to the balanced sound signature that approaches audiophile-quality. Unlike many headphones we test, the TMA-1s sounded considerably forward right out of the box, with crisp detail and extra attention paid to bright vocals and thumping bass.
In particular, we also notice a natural, wide depth of sound while listening to music with natural music instruments like jazz and classical, and a realism that's tough for other cans to reproduce. That's not to say that electronic, hip-hop, and rock listeners are left out of the fun; The TMA-1s' rumbling low-end punch and precision balance are complimentary to any music genre, and the loud volume level gives us no reason to doubt their performance in a nightlife environment.
With an even helping of tight bass, level mids, and sharp high tones, the TMA-1s complimented every genre of music we pumped through them, so we won't limit our recommendation of them to DJs alone. The tough constructions and efficient sound isolation means that students, mixing engineers, commuters, and office jockeys will all enjoy their stand-out performance.