Review: AIAIAI TMA-2 MOVE Wireless – Ay Yi Yi! The Right Combination

Spinning some tunes.
Spinning some tunes.
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With a menu full of options, are the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless a recipe for success?

Thank you to Tom and AIAIAI for providing the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless headphones for review purposes.

AIAIAI is a Danish company clearly named for Xena the Warrior Princess’ trademark war cry.

I respect that.

And if there’s one thing that I remember about Xena’s many adventures, it’s her love of assembling headphones. Ok, no. It seems the inspiration for AIAIAI’s modular headphone lineup is something other than Lucy Lawless.

Regardless of their muse, AIAIAI brings the IKEA build-it-yourself approach to the headphone industry. You can either choose a headband, driver units, ear pads, and cable to design your own custom creation, or you can choose one of their pre-selected combos and assemble it all yourself.

Spinning some tunes.
Bottom Line

The AIAIAI TMA-2 MOVE Wireless are an immensely practical set of headphones. Their simple design will complement virtually any use or situation. They have an easy-to-listen-to sound signature that is fun and non-fatiguing. With an amazing 40 hours of battery life, you won’t have to charge them often, and if you forget and the battery goes flat, there’s a wired connection mode as well.

What We Like
  • Warm and non-fatiguing sound
  • Light and comfortable
  • Cable included for wired usage
  • Modular design allows for tailoring and repair
  • Simple and classy looks
  • Long battery life
What We Don't Like
  • XE on-ear pads hurt sound quality
  • Requiring assembly may scare off buyers
  • No app
  • More fun than true ‘audiophile’ sound
  • No folding or hard case for transportation

I love headphones and I love DIY, so of course, I was stoked to try out the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless headphones.

Listen, I get it. I understand that DIY isn’t for everyone. Investing in a soldering station and wrecking plenty of parts along the path of learning doesn’t appeal to all enthusiasts. People need simpler ways to put things together.

AIAIAI has made it easy to customize and build headphones, no screwdriver or soldering iron is required.

The AIAIAI modular design allows users to upgrade their headphones as the individual’s needs or wants change or technology improves. Additionally, it’s a snap to repair or replace individual components if anything breaks. This is good for the consumer and good for the environment.

The TMA-2 MOVE Wireless feature a small LED and control joystick.
The TMA-2 MOVE Wireless feature a small LED and control joystick.

The TMA-2 MOVE Wireless consists of the S10 Bluetooth driver units, E04 over-ear pads, H03 comfort headband, and C05 1.2m cable. There is also a slightly less expensive XE model, that includes the same S10 drivers and C05 cable, but has smaller E10 on-ear pads and the slimmer H01 headband.

AIAIAI offers a choice between 4 driver units (both Bluetooth and not), 5 headbands, 5 ear pads, 8 cables, and one hard case on their site.

Let’s grab our utensils to see if the TMA-2 MOVE combination is a winner, or if some ingredient substitutions could make the recipe a little bit tastier.

Company Overview

AIAIAI was founded in 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark with the goal to develop premium products for music makers, at home, on the road, in the studio, and on stage. AIAIAI collaborates with a network of music professionals for design input.

A focus on environmental responsibility serves as a foundation, and AIAIAI uses low-impact materials, recyclable packaging, and strives for longevity and reparability to extend device functional lifetime.

AIAIAI launched its first pair of headphones in 2010.

Technical Specifications

  • Form: Over-ear, closed-back
  • Drivers: Dynamic, 40mm, bio-cellulose, neodymium magnet
  • Impedance (Ohm): 32 Ohms
  • Sensitivity (dB): 117 dB
  • Removable Cable: Yes, 150mm
  • Source Jack: 3.5mm
  • Cup/Shell Jack: 3.5mm
  • Bluetooth Audio Codec: SBC, AAC
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.0
  • Battery Life (hrs): 40 hours
  • Charging Time: 2 hrs
  • Omnidirectional Mic: 50Hz-10kHz, 2
  • Weight (g): 225g
The packaging is eye-catching.
The packaging is eye-catching.

Packaging

The entire experience of unpacking the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless is unique, as it’s centered on delivering separate parts – ready to be assembled. A striking neon yellow and black sleeve contains a simple black box. Inside the box, you will find each of the 4 main parts of the headphone individually packaged in sealed plastic bags. All are clearly labeled with a white sticker showing the name, number, and picture of what’s inside.

All components are individually packaged in sealed plastic bags.
All components are individually packaged in sealed plastic bags.

Tear open the bags and it’s time to get building!

The assembly process is VERY easy, as everything is well made and snaps together firmly. The headband slides through slots in the driver cups, while the ear pads clip on with 4 small pegs. Plug the headband cable into each driver cup and you are ready to go.

Open up the bags and see what's inside.
Open up the bags and see what’s inside.

In the box

  • S10 Bluetooth speaker units
  • E04 over-ear ear pads
  • H03 comfort headband
  • C05 1.2m, dual 3.5mm TRS cable
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Soft storage bag
  • Manual
  • Decals
Simple instructions for a simple assembly process.
Simple instructions for a simple assembly process.
Basic assembly instructions are written on the box itself. Anyone can do it.

Cable

While the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless are intended for use without a cord, there is a basic, black plastic, dual 3.5mm, TRS cable included for wired playback – twist lock on the earcup side and a 90 degrees plug on the source side. This is handy if batteries are depleted and is not something that all Bluetooth headphones support.

The ports on the bottom of the ear cups.
The ports on the bottom of the ear cups.

Design

The TMA-2 MOVE Wireless may be the ‘little black dress’ of the headphone world. They’re equally a simple but classy option that is appropriate for any situation. In fact, the entire AIAIAI lineup is almost identically constructed of satin-finished black plastic, in clean lines, unadorned by flashy logos or anything visually jarring.

Rather than looking cheap or generic, it’s this commitment to minimalism that makes the AIAIAI design aesthetic stand out.

The 3.5mm sockets on top of the ear cups are color matched to the headband sides.
The 3.5mm sockets on top of the ear cups are color matched to the headband sides.

The Bluetooth receiver, battery, and amplifier are located within the small S10 ear cups included with the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless. The right earcup has a minuscule LED to indicate battery and Bluetooth status, and a protruding nub that acts as a control joystick to play/pause, power on/off, change tracks, or adjust the volume.

The bottom of the right ear cup has a USB-C port for charging, while the bottom of the left cup has a 3.5mm audio port. There is a tiny hole for the microphone in the right ear cup as well.

The tiny joystick protruding from the right cup controls all functions.
The tiny joystick protruding from the right cup controls all functions.

Joystick button control

  • Power on/off – Press and hold for 3 seconds
  • Pairing – With the headphones turned off, press and hold for 6 seconds
  • Play/pause – Single press
  • Volume – Move up or down
  • Next/previous – Move right or left

Comfort

The benefits of an all-plastic design are always in weight savings and comfort. The TMA-2 MOVE Wireless are more comfort-oriented than the slightly smaller XE version, including the H03 “high-comfort” headband and plush E04 memory foam and PU leather over-ear ear pads.

The E04 over-ear pads (left) and E10 on-ear pads (right).
The E04 over-ear pads (left) and E10 on-ear pads (right).

Included with my test headphones is a pair of the E10 fabric on-ear ear pads so I can test both comfort and sound differences between the XE and standard model.

While I like the breathable soft feel of the REPREVE fabric, the much smaller on-ear pads are, unsurprisingly, far less plush and soft feeling. They compress less and the resulting ear pressure makes the initial clamping force feel a touch too high. Isolation and external noise suppression is also far less with the on-ear pads.

The XE version comes stock with the smaller on-ear pads.
The XE version comes stock with the smaller on-ear pads.

“REPREVE® is one of the leading, most trusted, branded performance fiber made from recycled material (including plastic bottles). The material is ultra soft to touch while having the ability to prevent excessive warmth making them the perfect choice…

By using this material in our products we have contributed to recycled [sic] over 25 billion plastic bottles. Compared to making what’s called virgin fiber, making REPREVE offsets using new petroleum, emitting fewer greenhouse gases and conserving water and energy in the process.” – AIAIAI

The E04 pads are more comfortable than the E10 pads but are warmer for long listening sessions.

The firm clamp force and light weight mean that the headband pad doesn’t really impact comfort, so if you would prefer a more svelte look, the XE’s H01 headband can likely be substituted with no drawbacks.

I like the clean design of the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless.
I like the clean design of the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless.

Internals

The 40mm drivers in the S10 ear cups are made of bio-cellulose and are rated for 32 Ohms impedance and 117 dB sensitivity.

“Precision-grown diaphragm from bio-cellulose making it stiffer, lighter and stronger than regular PET speaker units, and allowing the sound-producing diaphragm to vibrate without the levels of distortion found in other speakers. Each of these qualities results in more accurate and detailed sound from the speaker with the ability to retain clarity of sound at high volumes.” – AIAIAI

The interior of the cups are dampened with foam and most parts are put together with removable connectors to facilitate simple repair or replacement.

The S10 driver unit. Note the slick 4 peg mounting system for the earpads.
The S10 driver unit. Note the slick 4 peg mounting system for the earpads.

Bluetooth

The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is stable and functions as expected within about a 10-meter range with an impressive ~40 hours of playback time. The battery charges in about 2 hours, and, in the best way, it all just works.

While only the basic AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs are supported, this is adequate for us iPhone users, as AAC is the highest quality supported Bluetooth format. To be fair, sound quality differences between the wired and wireless connections are fairly minimal and both work great, especially for use on the go. The wired connection seems to provide a touch more low-end punch and high-end sparkle, but it’s nothing dramatic.

The dual microphones are positioned on the upper and lower right ear cup and are reasonably clear and intelligible for phone use, even though no fancy external noise suppression technology is employed.

AIAIAI TMA-2 MOVE Wireless Sound

AIAIAI describes the sound of each of the driver units differently.

  • S01 – Neutral sound (treble focus)
  • S02 – Punchy sound (bass focus)
  • S05MKII – Detailed sound (midrange focus)
  • S10 – Detailed sound (balanced)

The website provides a simple visual 3-slider moving representation when each driver is selected. The S10 is the only option where the treble, midrange, and bass sliders are equal in the middle of the range. Somewhat contradictory, the visual slider representation for the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless combo shows a recessed midrange, while the XE version shows a pronounced midrange.

The standard TMA-2 MOVE Wireless shows with slightly elevated bass and recessed treble, while the XE version shows recessed treble and elevated midrange. (From: aiaiai.audio.com)
The standard TMA-2 MOVE Wireless shows with slightly elevated bass and recessed treble, while the XE version shows recessed treble and elevated midrange. (From: aiaiai.audio.com)
My observations and comments are using the stock E04 pads on the S10 drivers and AAC wireless connection, except where noted.

This is a fun-sounding pair of headphones, providing plenty of low-end punch and high-end presence, but not as an entirely v-shaped signature that ignores the midrange. I’m not expecting audiophile, hyper-critical headphones when dealing with portable Bluetooth sets, and with that in mind, the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless do not disappoint.

The choice between the E04 over-ear pads and the E10 on-ear pads has an enormous impact on the sound. Straight to the point, the larger E04 pads are far superior.

With the larger pads, the sound has far better balance, tonality, and extension. With the smaller E04 pads, the experience feels flat and tends towards a compressed and nasal quality that I just don’t enjoy. It’s not even close. Pony up for the non-XE version if these are on your buying list.

I quickly removed the E10 on-ear pads, set them aside, and didn’t look back.

I far prefer the sound of the larger ear pads.
I far prefer the sound of the larger ear pads.
I attempted to measure the frequency response of both pad types, but the smaller, on-ear nature of the E10 pads and the stiff silicone ears on the EARS device likely skew the measurements. It all works far better with over-ear pads which make a superior seal. However, the dissimilar sound signature lines are indicative of the real-life sound difference between the two pad types.
Comparison of the frequency response graph between the E04 and E10 ear pads as measured on a miniDSP EARS measurement fixture.
Comparison of the frequency response graph between the E04 and E10 ear pads as measured on a miniDSP EARS measurement fixture.

Bass

Bass is very punchy with a mid-bass focus and a steady roll-off under around 100 Hz. Depth is sufficient to sound full for most music and the sound has a weighty and warm overall feel. These aren’t the bass-cannon fashion headphones that are currently popular with the casual listening crowd and the MOVE Wireless provide a more balanced and subtler signature that even more picky audiophiles should appreciate. I know I do.

While some hard-core electronica listeners may yearn for a bit more sub-bass foundation, the low end stays tight and controlled and deftly avoids any sense of muddiness or distortion. The TMA-2 MOVE Wireless are far from thin sounding and do a great job delivering a fun and powerful sound, without being unnaturally bass-boosted.

Midrange

The midrange gains warmth from the lower frequencies and gradually tapers off as the frequencies rise. This gives a nice vocal presence, with plenty of weight, and avoids any unpleasant harshness. It’s a smooth sound signature with a more relaxed upper end that makes the TMA-2 MOVE Wireless easy to listen to for long periods.

Things stay clear and natural sounding, although edges may be slightly blunted and rounded off. There’s good presence, but I wouldn’t describe the MOVE Wireless as crisp sounding. Enjoyable rather than critical listening.

Treble

The treble perks up a bit after 4kHz to add some air and detail, and there’s no sharpness or sibilance to be found. The high-end does well to balance the full bass frequencies. Rather than an exaggerated V-shaped sound boosting both ends of the spectrum, the MOVE Wireless provide a gradual slope downwards from the prominent low-end with a little treble uptick.

Where to Buy

Conclusion

The AIAIAI TMA-2 MOVE Wireless are an immensely practical set of headphones. Their simple design will complement virtually any use or situation. They have an easy-to-listen-to sound signature that is fun and non-fatiguing. With an amazing 40 hours of battery life, you won’t have to charge them often, and if you forget and the battery goes flat, there’s a wired connection mode as well.

Audiophiles tend to get caught up in the chase for ‘ultimate’ sound quality and are willing to make almost any compromise to achieve one little step closer. Somehow gargantuan, heavyweight, ridiculous-looking behemoths swallowing our heads are worth all the drawbacks. We tend to forget that there’s a whole other headphone market that balances convenience with sound.

Smart and simple.
Smart and simple.

At first glance, you may be tempted to write of the AIAIAI headphones as just another fashion brand. Style over substance.

But that would do them a great disservice. This is a brand founded on lofty ideals around sustainability and partnering with music professionals. And it shows. The TMA-2 MOVE Wireless balance practicality and music quality, but not at the expense of one versus the other. They’re easy to use and easy to like.

Sure, a hard case and the ability to fold smaller would improve transportability as they are a bit unwieldy to stick in a backpack. And they’re not the end-all, be-all of ultimate critical listening tools. But they don’t have to be, to be a success.

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