I’m a sucker for cool items that have multiple uses. Having one pair of headphones that I can use both in and out of the DJ booth is appealing to me, and I’m happy to report that the AIAIAI TMA-1s fit the bill pretty much perfectly. The sound quality is excellent, and they look great. They’re a highly desirable headphone, especially if you are someone who finds some DJ headphones a bit boxy, attention-drawing and/or generic in appearance.
First Impressions / Setting up
They’re nicely packaged in a suitably stylish display box, which contains the headphones, the two cables, an instruction manual, a soft bag with a jumbo zip, and some replacement earpads. The earpads pull off easily enough should you want to switch them, but are nonetheless firmly attached otherwise. There are actually two designs of earpad: very fine, soft synthetic-style ones, and more traditional leather. Frankly when they were on my head, I couldn’t tell any difference.
The phones are similar in feel to the similarly minimal Sennheiser HD25-1 IIs, which is to say “bendy” plastic, lightweight, and quite compact. The cables attach to the left earcup via an easily removed 1/8″ plug, so were you to accidentally yank the cable, it comes away without damage.
The earcups are adjusted by pulling up and down, whereby they clip into place on your chosen ratchet hole on the (one-piece) headband itself. Meanwhile, the cabling to each individual earcup is coiled and heads up into the headband, which gives a distinctive appearance – I loved it but my partner said it made me look like a Cyberman (with apologies to readers who aren’t familiar with the Dr Who TV series).
The only branding is an understated “AIAIAI”, tucked out of the way in the rubber on the underside of the headband, with the “A” letters as heart shapes. Ahhhhh.
I tested these in two situations, being as they’re a design that’s obviously meant to be used both in and out of the DJ booth. Firstly, I fitted the straight, iPhone-enabled cable and used them running errands around town, plugged into my iPhone – very usual for me, as it’s where I get to audition most new music for my DJ sets.
I found the 40mm drivers to be instantly engaging, with just enough isolation from the outside world for the audio to shine. The bass is deep and punchy, the mids clear and tonal, and the highs felt ever so slightly rounded off while still cutting through – I liked that, as it made the sound easy on the ear over time.
I particularly enjoyed having the little built-in remote control / microphone on the cable, which has three buttons (you need to push them through the rubber using your fingernail as they’re quite hard to activate). These are the usual play pause, volume, scrolling and call answering functions, familiar to anyone with standard iPhone headphones.
The straight cable, by the way, is rather long for an “on the body” cable, but it’s made out of a high quality, non-tangly material which meant I rarely had to untie knots in it over the week or so I was using the headphones with that cable attached.
Due to the relatively small size of the earpads, they tended to “wobble” backwards and forwards on my ears when walking, although curiously, once I got used to this it wasn’t too noticeable, and they never actually needed repositioning. I’ve worn more comfortable headphones, though; the in-ear Sonomax Eers) and bigger, more stable-on-the-ear Ultrasone DJ1s), out of those we’ve reviewed recently, spring to mind.
For my second test, of course I took them to a gig, swapping out the straight lead for the coiled one (which comes with a 1/4″ converter, that curiously won’t fit the straight cable). The cable again is high quality, and there are no kinks in the coiling as you often find with cheaper cables. Somehow they’ve managed to make it weigh very little, which is excellent as the weight of it doesn’t pull down on one side of the headphones as much as it might have had the cable been more standard. A little thing, but I liked that a lot.
There’s no issue with volume from these, even using a low-level input (I was feeding from a Vestax VCI-300 Mk I, known for its quiet headphones output). While the isolation is not as good as some bigger-cupped headphones, all you have to do is apply a bit of hand pressure on your monitoring ear to get plenty of isolation for manual beatmatching.
There is no way of twisting the second cup out of the way for one-ear monitoring. Maybe surprisingly, I didn’t find this an issue at all – they’re so light, you can just move the unneeded earcup back a bit on your head, the headphones remaining comfortable. But this also means they don’t fold up into themselves, so they don’t go as small as some other brands when it coms to stashing them.
The only thing I noticed over time is that (maybe due to the shape of my head), the headband sits quite hard right on the top of the head. It’s not made of forgiving material, being pretty hard rubber – so while not exactly uncomfortable, you do notice it after a while.
I’m a sucker for cool items that have multiple uses. Having one pair of headphones that I can use both in and out of the DJ booth is appealing to me, and I’m happy to report that the AIAIAI TMA-1s fit the bill pretty much perfectly.
The sound quality is excellent, and they look great (as long as understated is your thing, of course. Aerial7s they ain’t!). They’re high quality and modular, and the cables are similarly practical and stylish. In short, they’re a highly desirable headphone, especially if you are someone who finds some DJ headphones a bit boxy, attention-drawing and/or generic in appearance.
If it weren’t for the curiously overlong street cable that I kept having to tuck away to stop it flapping everywhere, and the unforgiving headband that made its presence known on the top of the head after long sessions, they’d be just about perfect. As it is, they’re close enough.
Incidentally when buying, check you’re getting both cables – the Mac store lists them as an “exclusive” with the iPhone cable. Worth checking if you buy them at Amazon or elsewhere, should you want to use them with an iPhone as well as in the DJ booth.