I first read about these through a Ghostly International email newsletter and was immediately intrigued as my second pair of my favorite headphones, the Sennehiser HD 25-1, started to give way to a distorted driver and a short in a cable and rather pay to replace the parts and prolong their inevitable replacement I decided to buy into a new pair. I spent a good year or so searching and listening to every pair of headphones I could get around my head. I remember a visit to NAMM out in California one year and spending half my time there wandering every audio company making a pair of headphones.
As a frame of reference, I consider myself a little to picky for my own good when it comes to headphones. For me they are the gateway into the music I love. My personal listening space. On the other hand, however, they also need to be constructed well enough to hold up to heavy use and being thrown in and out of bags and work in all sorts of different environments. I work in live audio production and events and their locations vary greatly. Not to mention they should be able survive being turned up unnecessarily loud without blowing out the drivers.
When it comes to the audio fidelity I don’t like headphones or speakers that have a lot of color to them, I really would much rather have a nice solid performance throughout the lows, mids, and highs. I really have never liked headphones with huge dips in the highs and big boosts in the low end. I like them to have a nice solid punch in the lows but not to the point where it drowns out the rest of the sound and I prefer a closed back as opposed to many “high fidelity” audiophile style pairs. The closed design also allows for much greater reduction of outside noise/sound which is also a must for me.
So that out of the way I can move into the headphones themselves. It was a tough call whether or not to get this pair as the previous pair I bought from AiAiAi (the company making them) was an overly styled pair of in ear phones that were greatly underwhelming to me. To be honest, this time around I bought into their marketing hype and the simple fact that they were road tested by DJ’s and producers around the world, many of which I have a lot of respect for. It seems the first and foremost these headphones were made to stand up the the daunting needs of a DJ in a dirty loud club. I will say that the first thing you clearly notice is that their construction is nothing short of perfect really. The minimal design they chose keeps things to a minimum and the lack of rotating points and fragile cable elements is really perfect for a pair of headphones like these. The semi-flexable headband is perfect for quick monitoring with one ear while they lay around my neck. The lack of marketing and flashy logos is a really nice touch and good to see a company can release something like this with enough confidence not to need logos plastered all over them. It adds a lot to their first impression appeal.
One of my favorite aspects of the design is the fact that a simple 1/8″ plug fits into the left side of them which is great for two reasons. First, should you step on the cable it will just pull out of the headphones, not jerk them apart or rip off one of the drivers, they just come unplugged. Second, the simple fact that, if you chose to do so you can easily replace the cable with a shorter one or in the future, a new one should the supplied one give out eventually. with the quality and weight of the cable supplied I could not imagine that ever happening really. They also ship with a screw in 1/4″ adaptor and a nice simple zippered pouch to transport them in.
Now, for the sound of them. Coming straight off a pair of Sennheisers with a nice solid high and mid range I was caught off guard by the weird frequency curve/tuning/color of the Tma-1′s. Way heavy in low mids and deep low end with huge dips in odd places in the high end. Clearly these were designed to punch in the common places club music hits and leave the highs behind in compromise or in an effort to not seem to harsh on your ears when you listen at higher volumes. The reason I like a nice well rounded sound personally is because I like to use one pair of headphones for my personal listening as well as at work and these are defiantly more suited for work than leisure, at least for my ears. After having them for a couple of weeks now I feel I have gotten used to the sound of them and Im sure we will get along just fine in the long run.
Remember what I was talking about function versus form? These were a compromise based on my needs rather than my desires for the perfect sounding pair of headphones and I am more than happy with that compromise. I have a feeling these will last me for a long time to come and I could easily recommend these to someone who enjoys a nice big punch in the low end really solid construction that will no doubt hold up in even the most demanding of circumstances. Not to mention they are gorgeous with their minimalist, non branded design and matte silicon type finnish.
One last note about the design, the padding is removable which makes for easy replacement if they wear out (although they don’t seem to have replacement parts available yet) but also allow for you to use an alternative padded pair of covers which are made of that light porous foam not unlike your standard old pair of headphones. I can honestly say that they totally ruin the sound of the headphones. The high end does come through higher with them on and they have more of an open sound but makes the overall sound absolutely horrible to me. These drivers were clearly designed for the padding it ships with as it allows for the sound to resonate within the space of each capsule and really, the alternate covers are useless to me and will live in the box they shipped with.
As an added bonus to the review I have put together a pack of wallpaper images of all but one of the review photos seen above in desktop, iPad, and iPhone resolutions. To grab the zip simply click or right click here and enjoy!