Welcome to my review today on the TMA-2 Modular Headphones by AIAIAI. These have quickly become one of my favorite headphones because not only do they sound incredible, but they are totally unique in the way you can customize your listening experience with the variety of components they have available such as speaker units, ear pads, cables and headbands.
Now in my unboxing and overview of the TMA-2 modular headphones, I explain how this concept works. So in this review, I’m going to explain how the different drivers sound, how they sound compared to each other. And I’ll also cover the design as well as the comfort of the different earpads and headbands.
Currently, these headphones range in price from about $150 to $260 depending on the configuration you go with.
Accessories, Design & Features
Now when it comes to the accessories, that will depend on whether you get one of the pre-built sets or not. For example, some of the pre-built sets come with a headphone bag or ¼” plug convertor. Otherwise, you’ll choose the type of cable to use with your headphones.
The cables are thermo plastic with a soft touch surface. There are 9 different styles to choose from and you can select from straight or coiled cables. They range in sizes from a straight 1.2m long cable to a coiled cable that can extend up to 6m. Regardless of which one you choose, they’re all high quality cables that terminate in a 90 degree angle connector, which is well built and substantial.
Design, Features & Build Quality
Now as I’ve mentioned before, what’s unique about the design of these headphones, is that you can completely customize them to suit your prefered listening experience.
Then once you have your preferred set-up, you can buy additional speaker units or ear pads to change up your listening experience. For example, instead of having one pair of headphones with a balanced sound signature and another pair that has punchier bass, with the TMA-2 Modular system you can just purchase an additional speaker unit instead. Then you can just swap out your drivers depending on what type of music you’re listening to or what you’re in the mood for.
The TMA-2 headphones are on the lighter side, especially compared to other over-ear headphones. The on-ear versions weigh around 195 grams while the over-ear weigh around 275 grams
The earcups all have a circular design to them and you have a choice between micro-fiber, velour and PU leather to cover the soft foam cushioning. Whichever style you choose, they all have a quality feel to them.
To make the headphones larger or smaller there are holes in the headband which allow you to slide the earcups and speaker units up or down as they click into place. What’s nice about this design is that you don’t have to worry about resizing the headphones every so often as the earcups shift up or down. Other headband designs can be more prone to this but it’s a non-issue with these headphones. Then once you have the sizing right, the earcups also provide a little bit of horizontal and vertical movement which helps make it easier to find a more comfortable fit.
You can connect your audio cable to either the left or right side as a cable input is provided on both speaker units.
When connecting the audio cables, they have a twist and lock feature to maintain a secure connection
Build quality wise, there have been some substantial improvements over the previous model, the TMA-1. While the previous TMA-1 had some durability issues with the headband, the changes the incorporated now make the TMA-2 headband one of the more durable headbands on the planet. The headbands not only hold up to normal use without a problem but you can go out of your way to bend and stretch these without breaking them.
The ear pads are made of a soft memory foam and covered in a protein leather. They’re very soft, comfortable and feel great against your ears. The ear cups aren’t quite large enough for your ears to completely fit inside, so these will rest against the outer parts of your ears.
In terms of how comfortable these are to wear, the different headbands and earcups all make a difference.
Regardless of which style you choose, there is a moderate to slightly firm level of clamping force when you first get these. I found them a bit firm in this department so after stretching them out for a few days, they were just right. The clamping force does a good job giving you a nice snug fit without overly squeezing your head.
Now what’s interesting when comparing the comfort of the headbands I found the mid-level one to be the most comfortable. While the padding on the H03 design, gives a more luxurious feel initially, over time I found they created more of a hot spot on the top of the head. What’s interesting is that even though the padding is very soft and comfortable feeling to the touch, the experience of wearing it for longer periods of time starts to create hot spots or discomfort on the top of your head. The padding doesn’t really give way or compress much, which ends up feeling a bit firm over time. So even though the H02 doesn’t have the same thick padding, it does a better job distributing the weight of the headphone and as a result, you can wear them easily for hours without any problems.
Keep in mind that if you aren’t normally bothered by headband discomfort or hot spots on your head then these should be just fine. But, otherwise that’s something to keep in mind as you’re deciding on which configuration might suit you best.
Comparing the comfort of the on-ear options, they’re all comfortable and relatively similar. However, the velour fabric is the best at preventing heat build-up on your ears. Now with all three I noticed the longer you wear the headphones, the more you can feel the plastic housing of the speaker unit behind them. If this is something you find bothersome or annoying then the on-ear option probaby wouldn’t be a good way to go.
The over-ear options are noticeably more comfortable. Now the circular design doesn’t allow your entire ear to fit inside, so part of the earcups will rest against the outer parts of your years. But because the memory foam padding is so thick and comfortable, it doesn’t create any discomfort at all. In fact, the over-ear pads make for one of the most comfortable over-ear headphones under $300.
Between the micro-fiber and the leather options, both are extremely comfortable and easy to wear for hours at a time or even all day. In fact, they’re so comfortable I found myself leaving them on even when I wasn’t listening to anything. They do a really nice job of creating a snug, cozy and comfortable experience.
So if you’re trying to decide between the over-ear leather or microfiber, think about whether you prefer the feeling of fabric or leather. Also, heat build up is a bit more with the pu leather and noise isolation is stronger with the leather earcups as well. But again, from a purely comfort standpoint you can’t go wrong with any of the over-ear options as they’re all supremely comfortable.
Regarding noise isolation, the earcups you decide on will affect the level of noise isolation. But those wanting a high level of noise isolation will certainly get it with either the on-ear or over-ear leather earcups. These do a great job of blocking out noise from the world around you. Now they’re not quite as isolating as the M50X but they’re approaching that level of noise isolation.
Next I’ll talk about the sound quality, which overall has a more mainstream sound signature but everything sounds outstanding no matter what configuration you select. Meaning, whether you prefer punchier bass, a well balanced sound or something more vibrant, the detail, clarity and ability to produce an engaging sound is always present. And whether you like a more emphasized low end or something more balanced and neutral, you can customize the sound signature the way you like it.
So first, I’ll start by talking about the S01 speaker unit, which produces a balanced and neutral sound that sounds great with all genres of music. Its particular strength is producing high-end resolution and excellent detail in the mids. This really comes through when listening to voices and guitar strumming which sounds so natural. And even though this is more of a neutral sound signature, it’s still very enjoyable and engaging to listen to.
Next, the S02 driver changes things up by giving you more clarity and punch to the mid bass. The higher frequencies gradually roll off which helps prevent listening fatigue. But you won’t hear deep bass notes quite as much as compared to the S01. Instead you get a little more feeling in the mid-bass.
Then with the S03 you have a warmer sounding driver. So you get a nice, full and rich sound where the bass is emphasized nicely, even at lower volume levels. Now even though the bass is emphasized a bit, it doesn’t compromise the clarity of the mids and highs, which still sound natural.
Finally, you have the S04 driver which uses a Japanese voice coil and a very light 40mm diaphragm which gives you a high level of sensitivity and an extremely detailed sound. There’s a nice boost in the low end so genres like electronic, rock, RnB and hip-hop all sound incredible. Everything is very clean and vibrant which makes for a highly engaging listening experience.
Now what’s great about interchanging the drivers, is you get the effect of having a whole different pair of headphones.
For example, Dark Horse by Katy Perry sounds great on the S01 driver. Everything is well balanced, the bass isn’t exaggerated but there’s still plenty to make the song sound fun to listen to. Vocals are distinct but not too forward and the highs are clear without being too bright. Then when you switch to the S02, the opening bass hits a little harder, there’s a bit more punch to it, but the deeper bass notes aren’t quite as prominent.
Then with the S03, you get the mid-bass punch of the S02 as well as a slight emphasis in the deeper bass notes as well. So even when the volume is low, you can still feel those lower bass notes in the background. Finally, when listening on the S04, you have the emphasized bass like the S03, but now it feels slightly better executed (meaning it’s a tad tighter and more controlled). The highs are also more vibrant so female voices come alive more and ultimately makes for the most exciting presentation of this song.
What you’ll find is that each driver sounds incredible. No matter which one you select, you’ll get incredible clarity, detail and a very natural sound. But different drivers can be better suited to different genres of music or specific songs. Now, if you’re not sure what sound signature you might like best, start with the S01 as it’s the perfect all-rounder that sounds great with everything.
My favorite sound comes from the S04 driver paired with the over-ear microfiber earpads. The nicely emphasized, well-controlled low end and vibrant sound presentation coupled with the wider sound-stage and slight airiness you get from the microfiber pads, makes these one of the most enjoyable headphones I’ve heard under $300.
REASONS TO CONSIDER SOMETHING ELSE
Although these have quickly become one of my favorite headphones to use, there are some reasons you may want to choose something else.
First, if you’re after a true over-ear or circumaural style headphone, then these just fall short of that. Although the over-ear pads are extremely comfortable, they don’t quite accommodate your entire ear fitting inside, so if that’s an issue then these probably won’t work.
Next, if you’re looking for something with a more flashy design, then these obviously won’t suit your taste as they have a more clean and minimalistic look to them.
And finally, if you want to be able to purchase these already assembled then that’s not an option just yet. Although these are very easy to put together, if the DIY assembly of these headphones doesn’t work for you then these won’t be a good fit, at least for now.
But otherwise, whatever configuration you go with, you’ll get one of the most comfortable and best sounding headphones for the money. And not only that, but also the ability to expand your listening experience by simply getting an additional driver or set of ear pads, which is what makes these an even better value.
Their website is extremely helpful to use as the information is not only accurate in helping you select the best configurations based on your listening preferences, but it’s user friendly as well. Meaning, you can choose based on the genres of music you like, the function you’ll want to use them for or using their configurator to see how the different components used will affect the sound.
So whether you’re looking for just one great pair of headphones to use or you want to take advantage of the modular system and like being able to interchange components, the TMA-2 headphones have earned a spot as one of my highest recommended headphones.