The Bottom Line
Introduction & Specification Details and Close-up
Introduction & Design
The TMA-2 Modular Headphone System is a unique approach to headphone design by AIAIAI, a Danish audio design company.
They offer a large selection of speaker units, earpads, headbands, and cables to select from to assemble a customized pair of headphones for purchase. Also available is a collection of presets, either focusing on creators or listeners, each tailored to a slightly different price point and user base. The preset reviewed here is the TMA-2 HD, which comprises the S05 Speaker Unit, E08 Earpads, H04 Headband, and C15 Cable.
Opening the box greets you with a welcome letter with contact information, links for warranty and more information, and a thank you for purchasing. On the flip side are instructions on how to assemble the headphones, the components for which come individually packaged. Each speaker unit has a 3.5mm headphone jack at opposite ends around their edges, with a red accent around the rim of one port, denoting the speaker unit for the right ear.
Jak's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero X570 (Wi-Fi) (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X @ 4.4GHz (buy from Amazon)
- GPU: EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER XC GAMING (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: be quiet! Silent Wings 3
- RAM: 16GB (2x8GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3200MHz (buy from Amazon)
- SSD: GALAX HOF Pro SSD PCI-E M.2 2TB
- Power Supply: Corsair CX Series 750 Watt (buy from Amazon)
- Case: be quiet! Silent Base 600 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (buy from Amazon)
Design Continued & Specifications
The speaker units have a channel cut out through the unit's body behind the internals, allowing the ends of the headband to slide through and be adjusted for comfort. Built into the headband are two 3.5mm connectors at the ends of two short runs of coiled braided fabric cables, which connect to one of the 3.5mm ports of the speaker units once slid on.
Again, one of the connectors on the headband has a red accent to ensure the right speaker unit is connected to the correct connector on the headband. Each connector has channels built into its plastic housing that creates a locking mechanism with the ports on the speaker units, allowing the connectors to be rotated 45 degrees after insertion, locking them into place so they cannot be accidentally pulled out. The earpads then fit on snugly by aligning the four plastic posts on their backs with the receptacles in the speaker unit.
Lastly, this leaves the 1.5 meter long 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, which can connect to either the left or right speaker unit depending on preference and the ergonomics of a given user's environment and set up, and has the same locking mechanism to prevent accidental removal at the headphone end. On the other end of the C15 cable is a thread around the base of the connector, which the included 3.5mm to 6.5mm adaptor can be threaded onto for a secure fit.
- Driver Diameter: 40mm
- Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 133 dB
- Resonance Frequency: 80 Hz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- Rated Power: 40 mW
- Maximum Power: 100 mW
- Diaphragm: Bio-Cellulose
- Magnet: Neodymium
Four speaker units options are available; the S01 with a diaphragm made from PET, and the S02, S05, and S10, which use a diaphragm that is "precision-grown from NAC Audio bio-cellulose, making it stiffer, lighter, and stronger than regular PET speaker units, and allowing the sound-producing diaphragm to vibrate without the levels of distortion found in other speakers," according to AIAIAI's website. The S01 markets neutral sound and is the cheapest of the lot at $60 for a pair, while the S10 is the most expensive at $130 and markets detailed sound, supporting Bluetooth 5.0 wireless playback in addition to wired playback.
The S02 and S05 are both $90, and both have 40mm drivers, but the S02 is marketed as having a more "punchy sound" compared to the S05's "detailed sound." The S05 is described as providing "more defined high-frequency details, more pronounced mid-range, better dynamics, and more natural tonality." They perform well in any genre, with strong but not overpowering bass, retaining good separation between different vocal and instrumental details in the higher frequencies and mid-range. Overall, a pleasantly balanced and solid sound presentation.
AIAIAI offers four wired headband options: the H01, H02, H03, and H04. The headbands feature either polycarbonate or nylon construction. The head pad on the underside is made with PU foam padding, compression-molded silicone, PU leather-covered memory foam, and microfiber-covered memory foam for the H01, H02, H03, and H04, respectively. The microfiber finish of the H04 is comfortable and pairs nicely with the Alcantara finish of the E08 earpads, and its nylon body is well-built and sturdy.
The H04 and the H03 are the most expensive options of the non-wireless offerings at $60 when bought individually. Both are described as "high-comfort," differing only in their material covering. The stem on each side of the headband has nine evenly spaced holes for adjustment, spanning a total of 6.5 centimeters (~2.5 inches), which the speaker units can easily be slid up and down over, with a satisfying click in each position to reassure you they are fixed in place.
Also available are two wireless headband options, the H06 and H10-X01. The H06 comes with a microphone and enables Bluetooth 5.0 wireless listening with an inbuilt battery supporting an advertised 20 hours of playback time, chargeable with USB-C, and supports SBC and AAC codecs. The H10-X01 includes the X01 transmitter, which uses AIAIAI's W+ Link technology to enable ultra-low latency playback with lossless audio, in addition to having Bluetooth 5.0 playback and wired playback.
Earpad options come in two varieties, the on-ear E01, E02, or E10, and the over-ear E04 and E08. All offerings except for the E01 use memory foam cushions, but the rest of the construction will somewhat alter the acoustics and overall feel. The E01, E02, and E10 coverings are made from microfiber, PU (polyurethane) leather, and REPREVE, respectively, while the E04 and E08 have PU leather and Alcantara, respectively.
The E08 over-ear Alcantara is soft and comfortable, providing a more open sound stage at the cost of lower sound isolation from your surroundings. You may want to be able to hear loud noises in your environment rather than being completely oblivious, so this is not necessarily a bad thing. The E08 is the most expensive earpad offering at $55 when purchased as a pair outside of a preset, and all of the over-ear options are more expensive than the on-ear options, which are both $25 separately.
Besides the C15, seven different cable varieties are available, five of which are 1.2-meter-long straight cables, and two are 1.5-meter-long coiled cables, stretching to 3.2 meters. All have a thermoplastic, soft-touch construction and come with a straight connector on the headphone end and a right-angle connector with strain relief at the source end.
The options that come with adaptors to different size connectors also have a thread at the base of the right-angled connector to which these adaptors can screw on. The various cables are available in black, white, neon pink, and neon yellow. However, your color choices restrict whether your purchase will come with adapters or inline controls, as the various cables to choose from are not color independent, unfortunately.
The C15 is the most expensive cable of the eight available, at $40 when bought separately, but boasts a design for "durability and reduced magnetic and radio frequency interference" to justify it. It is a black, triad hi-fi cable, the construction of which is visible through the cable's semi-transparent outer sheath, designed to reduce crosstalk between the wires inside the cable.
It is 1.5 meters in length, with straight connectors at both ends and a locking mechanism on the connector at the headphone end, as with all of the other cables. The source end has a thread at the base of the connector to accommodate adaptors. It has a black anodized metal housing with a grippy knurled section and spring strain relief. As with AIAIAI's other cables, the connectors are gold plated, and the cable has a nice, soft texture that doesn't collect dirt or allow it to get tangled.
- Threads at the base of the source end connector to support adaptors.
- The locking mechanism on the 3.5mm ports to prevent accidental cable removal.
- Upgradeability, repairability, and interchangeability owing to the modular design.
- The ability to have the 3.5mm cable originate from either the left or right earcup.
- Lack of certain features like noise cancellation or microphone support that isn't limited to inline options, restricting cable choice.
- If you don't plan on taking advantage of the modularity, other non-modular headphone competitors may offer better value for comparable features and sound.
- The features and colors available across cables could be more interchangeable in keeping with the theme of modularity.
The TMA-2 HD selects from AIAIAI's higher-end offerings and culminates in a high-quality audio listening experience, with a well-balanced sound signature that resolves detailed audio and doesn't compromise on bass.
It's a solid preset choice for the audiophile in all of us, with the option to swap out various parts down the road helping to alleviate any potential buyer's remorse. Cheaper, more barebones, or more expensive, more feature-equipped offerings are available for each component, allowing anyone to make a product that suits their budget and preferences.
The Bottom Line
AIAIAI's TMA-2 HD provides users with a very high quality audio listening experience through its balanced sound-signature. The modular design allows buyers to make a pair of headphones that fit their own custom budget.
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