Sony WH 1000 XM4, Bose 700 and the Apple Airpods Max. One thing they all have in common – no user replaceable parts. So when a company promises to build truly modular headphones – they have our attention. The AIAIAI TMA-2 Move are very capable wireless headphones. But more importantly they’re also a question.
You might have heard the word ‘modular’ in the introduction and assumed that these headphones are just ordinary headphones that are modular. But but but – these are very good sounding headphones – which is kinda important with headphones.AIAIAI terms this as bass forward – we agree – but these are also very good sounding headphones. They’re probably a little on the warm side, but can be used to an extent for critical listening and maybe even mixing.
It’s important to note that we have the S10 speaker units – top of the line from AIAIAI – and yes these units are replaceable as well. They come with Bluetooth® 5.0 with +40h playback time, dual mics and USB-C fast charging. They also have a 40mm speaker diaphragm made from stiff bio-cellulose and they do support an analog cable. The one we have here is the C05, but there’s a healthy selection of cables here as well.
Back to the sound – detail levels are very good for wireless headphones. These speaker units can do bass and sub-bass quite well, and it doesn’t have an exaggerated V shape. The mid-bass is a bit more present and did unfortunately create boominess in some tracks, which is a shame because otherwise, these have a fairly neutral sound. Still – you could call this a more ‘audiophile’ set of headphones with a focus on the mid-bass and the were good at imaging and had a fairly wide soundstage. Both of the doubled guitars on Chiliwhack’s ‘fly at night’ have their own unique characters clearly audible. The Outlaws’ Green Grass and High Tides solo has its own clear place in the left channel.
While they get plenty loud for me, we don’t think these are the loudest headphones out there. Wired or wireless. And another downside is the lack of hi-def codecs. But overall, these headphones don’t have any obvious problems – no sibilance, no distortion at higher volumes and they have very good timbre representation.
If you wanna upgrade, an interesting accessory for sound is the H10-X01 headband that also comes with the W+ Link accessory for wireless ultra-lo w latency and lossless audio. What we have here is the H03 with PU leather.
And since these don’t come with a companion app, there’s no on-board EQ you can use to change the tuning if you don’t like what AIAIAI decides to give you.
While the stated battery life of 40 hours is impressive, take it with a pinch of salt, because a. These ain’t super loud and b. these don’t do ANC or transparency at all, so that’s a lot of battery-intensive work that these cans don’t have to deal with. The passive seal is ok, but there will be a little bit of leakage depending on your ear shape, especially since the clamping force isn’t very strong. And while we don’t normally review just Bluetooth headphones without ANC, we’re making an exception in this case and that’s because of one thing – sustainability.
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And the reason we wanted to review this product over the many product requests we get every month is that we care about sustainability. If you look in our drawers, we’ve got dozens of earbuds and headphones which we basically will have to throw away if they stop working. And this is just a miniscule percentage of what probably gets thrown out and ends up in landfills or oceans every day as e-waste around the world. We like to think that we’re one of the few channels that has consistently highlighted repairability and sustainability in our reviews of earbuds and headphones over the last few years. So if a company’s entire raison d’etre is reusability and sustainability, we’ve gotta talk about it. And you’ve gotta subscribe to us.
With the Right to Repair movement gaining ground in recent times, people like Louis Rossman have brought to light the fact that big companies want to seal their products with glue and you have to go to them to repair it. In fact, you can’t even go to all repair shops because bigger companies restrict them from buying parts. Indirectly forcing you to upgrade rather than repair or replace. We won’t go into details of that here, but suffice to say that AIAIAI is the complete opposite of this philosophy. They’ve been doing this for over a decade now and everything is replaceable by the user. There are full repair guides available on AIAIAI’s website.
Everything from material choice to packaging, longevity and sustainability is central to all of AIAIAI’s products and that’s something people are willing to pay for.
Build Quality and Comfort
So for something that has to be put together by the end consumer – these are surprisingly well built. Even someone with two left hands like Rohan, put these together in a couple of minutes flat. The headphones are light and there’s very little creak on them. The soft touch matte black action is very understated and… obviously Danish. We have the over-ear E04 pads here, but to us this is still kinda between over and on-ear. Your earage, of course, may vary. The cushions are plush and although they aren’t the biggest, they are comfortable for long periods of time. The top of the H03 headband that we got is also well padded and comfortable. The clamping force is not AirPods Max levels of force but does start to show after a few hours.
The biggest downside is the plastic snap headband adjustment system. It’s super clicky and looks like the plastic snap that you see on the back of a baseball cap. Now it’s not that the adjustment slips out of place or anything – quite the opposite – it stays in place very well. But if you adjust these headphones when they’re on your head, it’s a. a bit hard to do and b. very loud! So maybe they can release a new headband which you know – just replaces these? Accessory request!
We also really like the joystick control system on these. Power on, pairing, volume control and track control – all are possible very intuitively without any real learning curve.
By default you get a soft case, which is basically a flimsy cloth bag and doesn’t provide much protection to these headphones. But if you don’t like it soft, you can also get hard – for 35 Euros. These headphones don’t fold up and that will affect portability. And luckily these can be used when they’re powered off. So that’s cool – but if you’ve got it turned on, things can get a little bit confusing – the joystick controls only work with the device that’s connected to it wirelessly. So say you’re connected to your phone and plug this into the laptop, both will play with the wireless device getting priority in audio and accepting controls. The headphone jack will only be able to receive audio, so you’re gonna have to keep track of which audio is playing – which is frankly ok – you can still use it with two devices simultaneously. Without the microphones – those can only be used wirelessly.
And speaking of microphones, CLICK HERE for some test samples for you to listen to.
If you’re a ‘vakman’ using these for calls, you will be happy to know that answering, hanging up and controlling volume are all possible using the joystick. We couldn’t find a way to mute calls though.
Should you buy the AIAIAI TMA 2 Wireless Headphones?
So – should you buy these headphones? The configuration we have here costs 250 Euros on the AIAIAI website. And let’s be honest, these are pretty expensive for what you get. Especially considering you can get a top-of-the-line pair of Sony or Bose headphones on discount WITH ANC at the same price. But while these don’t compete on features, they stand out on three aspects for us – the unique build, the sublime sound quality – and sustainability. How long can we expect these to last? Hopefully longer than some of the headphones we’ve talked about here and maybe that takes the sting off the price. And if the future brings some new tech with it, maybe you don’t need to get rid of your headphones, but just replace some of the parts. How cool would that be? These are less for the price conscious customer and more for those who value audio and sustainability over anything else.
As we said in the beginning – these are headphones, but these are also a question – what if we could replace and swap out parts on all our electronic devices? And more importantly – what is preventing manufacturers from doing this if a small company can do it this successfully and effectively? Bose, Sony and Apple – your move.
You’ve been getting answers to your questions and we’ve been DHRME. Namaste!