Great if you like minimal on-ear headphones and sounding fine too, but a little overpriced against the others in the same range considering what you get in the box.
First Impressions / Setting up
While Ghostly International has put its name to this version, the only sign that the organisation is collaborating on it is the rather cute Pacman-esque Ghostly icon on the outside of each earcup. It’s black-on-black, and frankly you’d have to look for it to find it, so whether or not you’re a fan of the Ghostly label (and all its other artistic endeavours), you can safely consider the headphones on their own merits.
To recap what these are all about, then: They’re a minimalistic, black headphone of the on-ear design, with iconic spiralled cables connecting the earcups to the headband. The design is transparently simple (no big hinges where the earcups join the headband, for example) and the quality feels high (pleasing matt finish on the plastic, real leather earcup covers). The cable, which connects to the left-hand cup, has a locking mechanism to save accidentally pulling it out and a plug size converter in gold on the other end, and they’re cushioned across the inside of the headband with leather-clad foam.
One of the differences between this edition and the original DJ TMA-1s is that in this version, the internal cabling (the coiled parts joining earcups to headband) and the coiled DJ cable are fabric covered. Another difference apparently is that the drivers are tuned for slightly reduced treble and clearer, louder bass, for more comfortable long-term listening. Unlike the original version, they don’t also have a straight cable, and they don’t come with a pair of interchangeable synthetic earcup covers, just the leather ones.
They’re very comfortable, applying just the right amount of pressure to effectively cancel out the majority of background noise while not clamping your head too much, and I have to say the real leather is a touch of luxury that I wish more headphones manufacturers would use. The locking cable gives a feeling of security (I have actually on many occasions accidentally yanked the cord out of my headphones when DJing), and with a coiled cable, it doesn’t compromise safely as of course the cable itself will “give” before the lead yanks out and damages either itself or the headphones.
I no longer have the original TMA-1s here to test sound against (one of our writers pinched them and is happily using them to this day), but the sound quality of these did indeed reflect what AIAIAI says, being somewhat bass-heavy, clear, and comfortable over time. Speaking of “over time”, the company suggests you sonically break them in as the audio characteristics change as they bed in; I’ll do that, and if it changes substantially, I’ll update this article accordingly.
If you like the on-ear style of headphones, and have always cast a longing glance at AIAIAI’s take on this style, this may the pair to finally sway you. I much prefer the fabric-covered cables to the originals, and personally wouldn’t miss the fact that the company hasn’t included the synthetic earcup covers or the straight lead with this version, although it does beg the question why they cost more than the originals for what appears to be slightly less (RRP €230 against €180). Maybe there’s a commission going to Ghostly, or those drivers genuinely do cost more, or there’s a “limited edition” premium.
Anyway, it’s all much of a muchness and you can get basically this same headphone in all kinds of styles (they’ve done them with Carhartt and Beatport, for example, too), so just do a bit of online window shopping before making your mind up, as the prices vary a lot so RRP may not actually mean too much. For me, though, this is the nicest looking and feeling variant yet, and they sounded mighty fine to boot, too.
(It’s worth mentioning that while we never encountered any issues with our test pair, which have had a bit of abuse already, we have heard some reports in the past of the headbands on TMA-1s breaking easily. Having said that, we’ve heard none for a while, so I’m guessing the company has solved any issues it may have had in that area.)