With this update of the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio, the manufacturer once again does everything right: The wearing comfort of these updated over-ears gives no cause for criticism and the new S05MKII driver capsule ensures a modern bass range. The new TMA-2 Studio also handles the mids and highs with aplomb.
Modular headphone system
Almost exactly ten years ago, Danish headphone company AIAIAI launched its TMA-1, the first complete modular headphone system. The headband, drivers, ear pads and connection cables could be freely interchanged. Thus, these system headphones can basically be configured for every conceivable scenario from DJ booth to home hi-fi corner. Initially, some people may have had doubts as to whether the concept – as good as it is – would be sustainable. In other words, whether the company and its components will be around long enough or whether it is just a quick fix. However, these doubts should vanish into thin air with the introduction of the follow-up series TMA-2: The TMA is here to stay.
Since not everyone has the desire, knowledge or time to find the combination they want from the range of what is now more than twenty individual components, AIAIAI now offers new combinations – AIAIAI call them “pre-sets” – at regular intervals.
Differences from the first version of the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio
Here we test the new Studio pre-set version of the AIAIAI TMA-2. Five years ago, there was already a combination with this title (here’s our review). At that time, however, it was only equipped with the S03 capsule. The current studio pre-set, on the other hand, comes with the new S05MKII capsule, which has increased its peak level considerably compared to its predecessor and now reaches the eardrums with a maximum of 117 dB SPL (previously 107 dB – according to the manufacturer’s specifications).
Headphones with modular design
The package contains familiar components: the H04 headband with memory foam, the E08 earpads with Alcantara cover, as well as the C02 spiral cable with a length of 1.5 metres (extendable up to 3.2 metres) and angled plug. In terms of design, AIAIAI remains absolutely true to its minimalist appearance. From the black plastic of the drivers and the headband to the cable and ear pads, everything is done in serious black, and the design dispenses with superfluous flourishes, which naturally means that the results are pretty chic. In their new model line, AIAIAI even had the bags in which the individual components are packaged made of black recycled plastic, so our ecological conscience was appeased. In principle, the design of the TMA-2 is quite sustainable: if other headphones have a defect outside the warranty period (broken headband, defective driver, broken cable, etc.), the only option is often to dispose of them as electronic waste, as repair doesn’t usually have a reasonable cost-benefit ratio. With the TMA-2, you can simply buy and replace the defective part, keeping your beloved over-ears in use – great!
Alcantara or polyurethane – the two current variants of the TMA-2 studio pre-set
If you browse AIAIAI’s catalogue, you will find two versions of the TMA-2: “Studio” and “Studio XE”. Both versions use the S05MKII capsule, so their sound is largely identical. The frequency response of an epic 10 Hz to 40 kHz and the closed design, which provides a relatively high passive ambient noise shielding, are also the same. A small difference lies in the headband’s earpad. The studio version that we tested had the somewhat “leatherier” Alcantara ear pads, while the XE version has a smooth polyurethane cover. And while the XE version uses a nylon headband with virtually no padding, in the version tested here, your skull is cushioned by just under half a centimetre of memory foam. As a result, these headphones feel a tiny bit snugger and cosier when worn for longer periods, while the XE version hugs the head a bit tighter and – due to the smooth PU cover – is less susceptible to dust.
Sound of the new AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio
Ever since the first TMA series, all the drivers – except for some minor subtleties – have had common traits. I once referred to this elsewhere as the “club in the head” sound. A slight emphasis in the low-mids is responsible for this and it makes the overall sound very stable and tight. And the new S05MKII driver seamlessly continues this tradition. So the kick here is not so much “oomph” or “boom”, but more “punch”, which is extremely positive and especially noticeable in spacious electronic productions like John Tejada’s “Year of the living dead” (2021, Kompakt) and it makes the overall sound quite modern.
The TMA-2 Studio also handle the upper reaches of the sound spectrum with aplomb. However, this is always done with a certain urge to show off, which you may or may not like. This is particularly evident in the stereo image, which is relatively narrow and compact, resulting in a slightly more “in your face” and somewhat less wide-walled sound. This is due to a slight restraint in the sparkling treble range (from 12 kHz upwards), which invariably provides information for spatial location. Whether one likes this or not is clearly a matter of taste. Personally, I like the muscular and tight sound of AIAIAI a lot – this is particularly relevant if you are primarily into electronic music, either when DJing, producing or simply listening to it because the TMAs seem to be made especially for these purposes.
Conceptually, AIAIAI continue to do everything right with the new TMA-2 Studio: The design is still timelessly beautiful, the components can all still be interchanged without any problems even after five years, and the wearing comfort of the pre-set we tested gave us nothing to complain about. The new S05MKII capsule also retains AIAIAI’s compact and modern sound signature, which works particularly well when the music is also muscular and straightforwardly produced – as is often the case with electronic music. I hope that a future MKIII capsule has an extra half a decibel of treble sparkle, as this would push their score up to the full five stars.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)10 - 40.000 Hz
- Impedance83,4 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)97,17 dB
- Pressure averaged from big and small head720 g
- Weight with cable280 g
- Weight without cable206 g
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box
- S05MKII capsule
- H04 headband
- C02 coiled cable
- E08 ear pads
- 6.35 mm stereo jack
- Individual components can be exchanged as required