There are lots and lots of headphones to choose from, but if you prefer substance over style, then you’ll definitely want to check out the TMA-2, a clean and minimally designed set of headphones from Denmark outfit AIAIAI. With a focus on sound quality, comfort, and usability, the TMA-2 has the unique distinction of being modular as well.
You can either go with AIAIAI’s pre-configured headphones like the TMA-2 HD or the TMA-2-HD Wireless, or you can custom-build your own using the modular components that they sell individually. There are a variety of speaker units, earpads, headbands, and cables available so you can outfit your headphones to your liking.
I’ve been testing out the TMA-2 HD, which come with their top-of-the-line S05 speaker units, sturdy H04 headband, and plush and comfy E08 Alcantara earpads. Fully outfitted, they come with a high quality C15 straight triad cable, which offers great insulation, durability, and flexibility. This combination offers the best in sound quality and comfort, but if I wanted to swap out any part, it’s easy. I could even upgrade them to wireless by switching over to one of the available Bluetooth headbands.
Since the TMA-2 is modular, it ships unassembled, but putting the parts together is a simple, snap-together process, and takes less than a minute. Just slide the speaker units onto the headband, attach and lock the speaker connectors, snap on the ear cushions, and plug in. Most of the major components are built using reinforced nylon, which is extremely lightweight and durable. The H04 headband offers great comfort, with its microfiber-covered padding. The Alcantara-covered memory foam ear cushions are as comfortable as any I’ve worn too. Between their light weight and excellent cushioning, the TMA-2 HD is great for long listening sessions.
With the S05 speaker units in place, they sound spectacular, offering a natural tone with just the right amount of crispness in the highs, and a nice amount of low end that isn’t boomy or overbearing. Using neodymium magnets and bio-cellulose diaphragms, they’re among the best drivers that I’ve heard short of high-end electrostatics. I have a pretty extensive list of tracks that I use for testing audio gear, and from the rousing electric guitar strains of Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole to the subtle piano key taps and plucky bass of Oscar Peterson’s C-Jam Blues, they didn’t flinch, handling a wide variety of musical styles with aplomb. Even Run the Jewels’ bombing bass thumps on Call Ticketron cranked up to 11 didn’t cause distortion. They also cleanly replicated frequencies below 20Hz all the way up to 22 kHz using Audiocheck’s Ultimate Headphone Test. I haven’t had a chance to try any of AIAIAI’s other available speakers, but I probably wouldn’t want to now that I’m spoiled now by the high-end units.
I had been using a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros as my daily headphones for quite some time now, and they’ve been retired and replaced by the TMA-2 HD as my new reference pair. They sound that good.
The TMA-2 HD sells for $295, while the TMA-2 Wireless is $350. The entry-level TMA-2 All-round can be had for as little as $145. Of course, you can build your own model by selecting individual components on the AIAIAI website.