What do the Danish and Swedish have in common? Great sensible design and an acute ability to make things sound awesome. Just when we thought Jays had us by our ears with with their great sounding and well designed in-ear headphones, Aiaiai's latest and greatest grabs us hard by the balls with some amazingly well designed cans. Aiaiai's TMA-1 Studio headphones are the bigger brother of Aiaiai's illustrious TMA-1 on-ear headphones. The TMA-1 Studio are a pair of over the ear headphones that are geared towards professional studio mixing, DJs, and well just about anyone that enjoys ridiculously good sound. We go ears on right after the jump!
We begin with the TMA-1 Studio's packaging, which if I must say blows most competitors straight out of the water. Yes, we're looking at you Beats By Dr. Dre. Opening the robust box packaging, the headphones are presented on a tray of protective foam designed to look like a studio sound tile.
Underneath the foam tile, the TMA-1 Studio come with a few goodies worth mentioning like a set of replaceable pleather covered memory foam ear pads, a gold plated screw-on 1/4-inch (6.3mm) stereo adapter plug along with a protective storage pouch, although it isn't going to do much in protecting your investment being that it's just a piece of cloth. Lastly the included 5.25ft-long (1.6m) coiled audio cable completes the studio and DJ theme. That's 1.6m before the coiled cable extends which means you've got plenty of leg room to do what you need to do without having to worry about being tied down and restricted.
The TMA-1 Studio headphones will set you back $250, that's $50 more that you'll be paying for the on-ear TMA-1 model. For that extra bit of cash you'll be getting larger over-ear designed ear pads and a slightly more padded headband that will get you thru the day more comfortably, altered drivers for more neutral sound reproduction and a more robust 3.5mm plug. Otherwise the TMA-1 Studio are exactly the same as the original TMA-1 headphones.
Currently these Studio cans are only available in an all stealthy black color which is a shame because these would have been ten times better looking with a bit of contrasting color. Nonetheless, the TMA-1 Studio's monolithic design is absolutely brilliant and unlike anything else we've seen. Granted many other copycat brands took on Aiaiai's brilliant simplistic design and came out with similar cans, but nothing is as good as the real deal. The TMA-1 Studio share the same smooth, rubbery matte black coated finish as their counterpart which makes for a fingerprint-free, durable professional look that also feels oh so good to touch.
The TMA-1 Studio are built very well using flexible nylon headband and durable materials. Anyone that takes a look at these will be under the impression of how sturdy, and well put together they look. And that definitely holds true with one little exception, however. The massive over-ear foam pads that come pre-installed are quite delicate and not as well as constructed together as you would expect. While removing one of the pads, the poorly glued foam started to detach from the plastic mounting base plate all to easily. You need to be extremely careful when detaching these ear pads should you want to try on the pleather pads that come on the side. Fortunately, if this does end up happening you can either re-glue them together or purchase spare pads.
The heavy duty L angled 3.5mm plug while great for having a more substantial connection, has a screw-on thread for the adapter plug that's bulky and will not fit into right spaces making it less practical for portable devices. The audio cable is generously thick and feels extremely rugged. However it's a little hefty with the addition of the coiled cord.
If you're looking to find an in-line microphone or some volume and playback remote control, there are none. Even though Aiaiai described the TMA-1 Studio to be perfect for both studio and on-the-go use, however with the bulky ear cups, a cable so long you wished you left it at home and a non-foldable design - you might be better off with the on-ear version if you plan on taking headphones with you on a commute. But enough of that, there are a few notable features that include a single input audio cable which locks into to the left ear cup for a secure connection, an adjustable headband, articulating ear cups and the best of all, interchangeable ear pads.
As was mentioned earlier, the TMA-1 Studio come with two sets of over-ear, large circumaural ear pads that are designed to quickly detach from the headphones making it very easy to switch between the two included pair.
Aiaiai took comfort seriously with the Studio version of the TMA-1. The PU foam pads are one of the largest over-ear pads I've worn and do a fantastic job completely engulfing the ears while blocking background noise quite well without leaking much audio. I've enjoyed using both the included pairs of pads and found that while the great depth of the soft yet rigid shape of the PU foam pads did a good job keeping the pressure from the headphones away from my ears, they did not feature a mesh filter that should hide and add padding above the plastic driver grille, which meant that a bit of my ears did in fact come in contact with that unpleasant hard plastic grille.
On the other hand, the pleather ear cups did a much better job at completely covering up the headphone's driver grille with a built-in mesh filter and were overall much more comfortable to use for long periods of time. The big difference in the ear pads is that the pleather ones have a more of an on-ear design and feeling as oppose to the PU foam's better ability to provide a better closed seal and recessed construction that surround almost doesn't come in contact with your ears but rather with your head instead. There's a bunch of foam padding all over do insure you're comfortable. The headband has more than enough foam padding and depending on the ear pads you end up using, the TMA-1 Studio are very comfortable to use for extending periods of time.
Behind it all the TMA-1 Studio headphones feature closed 40mm dynamic titanium drivers which are easy to drive and are tuned to sound more neutral and accurate over the original TMA-Ones. Aiaiai has done one amazing job tuning the drivers to sound natural, but not the kind of natural you'd get at a boring feel good food store. It's more like the sort of perfectly sized, natural set of - well you get the idea. The TMA-1 Studio are one of the most amazing sounding headphones I've gotten to use. They have a slightly warm sound that's perfectly well balanced and incredibly realistic.
The highs come thru clearly, pronounced and sparkle with treble as if they were a pair of Sennheiser cans. Vocals sound life-like and polished to a shine. The mids are very well detailed and roll forward a spacious clarity that's unbelievably awesome. Distortion at high volumes? Not only with these not distort, but the higher you crank up the volume the more you'll fall in love with the sound performance. What's more, the mids work in harmony with the lows and highs to produce outstanding acoustics that just sound so realistic and laser accurate.
As for the bass, it couldn't have been perfected any better. It's punchy, well controlled and most likely tighter than your favorite model's ass. Further more the bass is clean and capable of pushing solid bass on the verge of satisfying bass lovers. Because the TMA-1 Studio have a well balanced sound signature, the bass isn't overpowering but has just the right amount of thumpness to work together with the mids and highs to produce an exciting enough sound that'll punch you straight in the face without apologizing.
Listen to rock much? Then you'll jizz in your pants with excitement when you get to listen to your favorite tracks with these for the first time. Rock music isn't the only thing that'll sound incredible though. The TMA-1 Studio absolutely blow away every pair of headphones we've reviewed with their ability to handle every single music genre with superior audio quality and wide sound stage. The TMA-1 Studio have such a great sound signature that they'll appeal to virtually everyone that likes they way they look.
Incase's Sonic over-ear headphones are worth comparing against the TMA-1 Studio because of their similarities in terms of design and build quality. The Incase Sonic share the same rubber coated finished, one piece construction as the TMA-1Studio and sound just as detailed with the exception of having more of a recessed, low on treble sound signature compared to the TMA-1 Studio's astounding well balanced, realistic sound signature. The Incase Sonic are still a great buy at $150 and are probably more close to sounding as good as the TMA-1 on-ear headphones but with the advantage of over-ear comfort.
Anyone who's serious about quality will find the TMA-1 Studio to be a supreme pair of studio-grade headphones.
Aiaiai's TMA-1 Studio are studio worthy without a doubt. With such great detailed and realistic sound reproduction, prolong comfort and a price tag that's justifiable, we can highly recommend the TMA-1 Studio headphones to anyone looking for a pair of cans that will deliver impressive sound quality in a well designed, fun package in exchange for $250. Aiaiai wanted to improve on its notorious on-ear headphones with the TMA-1 Studio with better comfort and better sound. Suffice to say they've succeeded. If portability is not an issue for you, spend the extra $50 and go with these. We enjoyed the TMA-1 Studio headphones so much that we think they're worthy of our Editors' Choice award.
Update: It seems that the pair that we've reviewed were some kind of pre-production model. Aiaiai has sent us a finished retail version with revised foam ear cups. Lo and behold they've got mesh filters covering up the plastic audio driver! They already feel much more comfortable to wear and we love that.