AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones evaluation: Look ma, no latency!

We could earn income from the merchandise obtainable on this web page and take part in affiliate applications.

For years, audio creatives like musicians and DJs stood by watching wi-fi headphones and earbuds turn out to be so commonplace that audio jacks disappeared from most smartphones. But they might scarcely be a part of within the wi-fi enjoyable due to audio latency that was unacceptable when working of their studios or performing for the general public. The crippling delay between sonic motion and auditory arrival by most wi-fi headphones makes them maddeningly impractical for musical functions. With the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones ($350), which use a devoted transmitter to provide uncompressed audio with negligible latency, the await wi-fi satisfaction throughout manufacturing and efficiency could lastly be over. My quest to see if the outcomes go muster took me from inner-city Bay Space studios to the intense warmth and punishing mud storms of a barren Nevada desert.

The AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones’ design

Simply as AIAIAI has aimed to attain one thing technologically distinctive with the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones, the Copenhagen, Denmark-based firm additionally provides its headphones a signature look. Their trendy, stark look comes with supplies which might be easy to the contact. The headscarf is minimally padded, however it’s nonetheless snug and lightweight on the top. And the ear cushions, lined with Alcantara vegan suede, are gentle and really feel good for prolonged use. One other AIAIAI signature is that every one main elements—the H10 headband, S05 speaker models, and E08 ear cushions—are individually replaceable in order that if one thing wears out or breaks, you don’t have to purchase an entire new set. 

Breakage, nonetheless, doesn’t appear to be a prime concern. I’d cease in need of calling them unbreakable, however the headband portion H10 could be very amenable to twisting and bending, and its ends, the place the ear cups connect, really feel extremely sturdy. The H10 consists of three headband buttons for powering on/off, wi-fi pairing, quantity management, and—in Bluetooth mode solely—monitor ahead/backward and accepting/rejecting incoming smartphone calls. (The H10 consists of an omnidirectional mic for cellphone calls.) An LED mild below the buttons exhibits the standing of charging, and the state of wi-fi pairing with its numerous colours, and whether or not it’s blinking or not blinking. The within of the scarf additionally has a change for toggling between Bluetooth (the change might be blue) and AIAIAI’s proprietary W+ Hyperlink radio-frequency band for low-latency, uncompressed audio. 

The X01 transmitter sends that W+ Hyperlink sign to the scarf. It compares to the scale of an iPhone 13 mini or a transportable laborious drive, so it doesn’t intrude a lot in your music studio or DJ sales space house. It plugs right into a 1/8- or 1/4-inch (with the included adapter) audio supply with an 11-inch coiled cable that uncoils to about 24 inches. For wired use of the headphones, a 1.5m (5ft) coiled cable—3.2m (10.5ft) uncoiled—is included, additionally with a 1/4-inch screw-on adapter. There’s no hard-shell case, however you get a fabric carrying pouch to your travels. 

Interchangeable elements

AIAIAI has tried to embrace sustainability—or what it calls “accountable design”—in such methods as lowering the carbon footprint of its packaging and utilizing a minimum of 30% recycled plastic in its speaker models, with the objective of reaching 100% recycled plastic. However as any little one can inform you, lowering materials use and reusing supplies is best than recycling them, so AIAIAI has constructed all of its headphones for modularity. The entire numerous AIAIAI headbands, speaker models, and earpads will be changed or blended and matched with one another so {that a} buyer doesn’t have to purchase a completely new set simply to vary out a particular half. 

For instance, if somebody owns one in every of AIAIAI’s different headphone fashions however desires to improve to uncompressed low-latency wi-fi, they might buy the W+ Hyperlink Bundle—simply the H10 and X01—for $180 and use them with the speaker models and earpads they already personal. Or say if they simply want to exchange some worn-out ear cushions, the E08 earpads can be found individually. AIAIAI shouldn’t be the one firm conserving sources whereas additionally saving their prospects’ cash on this approach, however I can’t fairly categorical simply how a lot I want each electronics maker would pursue an identical philosophy.

See also  Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 evaluate: A step nearer
AIAIAI TMA-2 headphones disassembled next to a mixer
The modularity of AIAIAI headphones’ replaceable elements means you don’t have to purchase an entire new set if, say, the earpads have been subjected to a maelstrom of muck. Markkus Rovito

Getting began with the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones

Somewhat than a single product, the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ bundles a half-dozen AIAIAI merchandise right into a single field. As talked about, the scarf, speaker models, ear cushion, wi-fi transmitter, coiled cable, and carrying pouch are individually obtainable as elements, so you should buy replacements or back-ups if you want. Out of the field, some quite simple meeting is required. The speaker models connect to the scarf, which is perforated with eight holes on both sides for adjusting the place of the audio system, and headband audio cables plug into every speaker unit. The ear cushions simply connect to the speaker models, however it’s just a little stiff and tough to regulate the ear cups’ place alongside the scarf’s perforations, particularly whereas sporting the headphones. All of the items of the headphones mixed (not together with the transmitter, cables, and many others.) whole a light-weight 270g or so.

You may get going with the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ instantly with the analog cable however, for wi-fi operation, each the H10 headband and the X01 transmitter must be charged. They each have USB-C ports for charging, however the field solely consists of one USB-C cable. If totally depleted, it takes about three hours to cost the H10 and four-and-a-half hours to cost the X01. You’ll know they’re completed when the H10’s LED turns strong inexperienced, and all 4 of the X01’s LED flip strong white. As soon as totally charged, the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ claims 80+ hours over vanilla Bluetooth and 16+ hours over the W+ Hyperlink. 

After I first powered up the X01 transmitter and the H10 headband in its low-latency mode, they paired with one another robotically, however their buttons can even provoke pairing. The headphones emit indicator sounds upon powering on or off and once they pair with a tool, in addition to when their most quantity is reached or when the battery is low.

Key options of the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones

The TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones have many qualities, however one explicit trait basically will elevate the product to glory or sink it into shame: transmitting uncompressed wi-fi audio with latency so low the brains of musicians and DJs can’t understand it. Wi-fi headphones and earbuds have turn out to be extraordinarily standard for common use, however when utilizing Bluetooth headphones to look at movies, for instance, there will be some noticeable lag between the movement within the image and the sound from the headphones. That may be annoying however acceptable for informal viewing. Nonetheless, when enjoying or producing music, exact timing means every thing. If somebody works the faders and jog wheels of digital DJ gear or performs a synthesizer or e-drums and there’s latency between their actions and the sound within the headphones, it makes focus and a profitable efficiency all however unattainable. 

If musicians and DJs had been offered with headphones that solved this latency drawback, they’d lastly have the identical freedom of motion round their studios and DJ cubicles that almost all wi-fi headphone and earbud customers presently take without any consideration. No extra attempting to contort your neck and limbs to succeed in a keyboard whereas being tethered to the blending board’s headphones or worrying concerning the headphone cable being unintentionally caught within the DJ sales space and pulled out when you’re attempting to combine in a brand new track.

Wi-fi (non-in-ear) headphones which have tried to handle this drawback have additionally run into some issues with sign interference and burdensome wi-fi transmitters. AIAIAI developed the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ to handle all of the above points with a compact and user-friendly transmitter and its proprietary W+ Hyperlink expertise, which operates on a devoted radio frequency band to twin antennas within the H10—the objective being a safe and secure connection freed from interference. 

See also  Apple 12.9-inch iPad Professional (2022) assessment: Fairly and highly effective
AIAIAI TMA-2 W Link+ transmitter plugged into a mixer
This X01 transmitter will eternally bear the mark of the Black Rock Desert, however its capacity to ship low-latency uncompressed audio was unscathed. Markkus Rovito

Wi-fi low-latency uncompressed audio and Bluetooth

Bluetooth codecs transmit lossy audio, sacrificing elements of the frequency response for effectivity. However the larger bandwidth of W+ Hyperlink allows the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ to transmit uncompressed audio as much as 16-bit, 44.1kHz decision (the standard of a typical CD). Based on AIAIAI, its latency is 16ms—half the lag of the most effective Bluetooth codec for latency, the comparatively uncommon Bluetooth aptX LL codec, which fits as little as 32ms of latency. The more and more extra widespread (a minimum of on Android-friendly units) aptX Adaptive codec’s latency can go as little as 80ms. Nonetheless, each of these Bluetooth figures are the best numbers; in follow, latency instances can vary larger relying on the {hardware} concerned. Both approach, 32-80ms remains to be an excessive amount of for musical efficiency and DJing. Most human brains begin to discover audio latency at round 20-30ms. Even wired headphones have a latency of 5-10ms, so the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ has little or no margin of error to succeed. 

All this speak of aptX is finally just for illustrative functions, because the Bluetooth 5.0 connection of the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ solely helps SBC (for Android/PCs) and AAC (for iOS units) in an effort to guarantee most compatibility. And that’s high quality in a pinch if, whereas touring, you wish to preview tracks you’re contemplating for a gig. However it’s principally moot as a result of the explanation you’re shopping for these headphones within the first place is the two.4GHz W+ Hyperlink connection (the identical sort of transmission utilized by the high-speed Wi-Fi in your home or favourite espresso store, however secured in opposition to related, competing alerts). 

And I’m joyful to report that I instantly observed—or ought to I say didn’t discover—the ultra-low latency of the W+ Hyperlink. Whether or not I used to be enjoying a MIDI keyboard into my digital audio workstation, banging on Roland V-Drums, or DJing with a controller and laptop computer, the audio from the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ sounded seamless with my actions. The low-latency mode was additionally nice for enjoying PS5 video games and watching films with easily synced audio once I felt too worn out to do something inventive.

Like sands by the hourglass, so are the daze of our exams

As an added impediment, my testing interval coincided with the 2022 Burning Man competition within the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, the place I DJed for greater than 13 whole hours for the Planet Earth theme camp. Notorious for its pervasive winds that coat every thing of their path with high quality, off-white mud, the atmosphere of the short-term Black Rock Metropolis exams the integrity of any digital gear. In my seven years of DJing at Burning Man, the mud has been more likely to trigger DJ controller buttons or laptop computer keys and trackpads to malfunction or cease working altogether than to destroy headphones. But it nonetheless presents a problem that each the headphones and transmitter handed. 

Throughout my time within the desert, in addition to at residence and at my follow room, the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ carried out constantly. Its low-latency mode by no means lagged in a noticeable approach, and the audio connection by no means dropped and even crackled so long as I used to be inside the 12m (39ft) vary of the transmitter and the batteries held a cost. The headscarf’s cost, nonetheless, fell considerably in need of the H10’s marketed 16 hours; I used to be getting 10-12 hours out of the scarf, whereas the purported 30-hour battery lifetime of the X01 transmitter appeared to carry up high quality. 

The X01 solely transmits the W+ Hyperlink uncompressed sign, not Bluetooth. If the transmitter additionally had a Bluetooth mode to make any audio machine Bluetooth-compatible, that might be probably helpful, as it could lengthen battery life even when it additionally prolonged lag (and there are some instances when a suboptimal sign is best than no sign). If all of the wi-fi choices are exhausted, the audio cable plugs into both speaker unit for just a little old style wired listening.

See also  Best DJ controllers of 2022
AIAIAI TMA-2 on Markkus looking wistfully into the desert
The gentle, light-weight match of the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones’ earpads and headband was one of many uncommon comforts available within the scorching and dry desert local weather. Markkus Rovito

Sign and sound high quality of the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones

As headphones meant for music creators, the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ exhibit a principally even, unbiased sound profile that music producers and audio engineers respect. In contrast, it’s pretty widespread for headphones aimed significantly at DJs or commuters/shoppers to have a extra coloured and/or bass-hyped sound. For instance, each the Pioneer DJ HDJ-X10, the most effective DJ headphones, and the wonderful, digital encompass sound-equipped Yamaha YH-L700A headphones have pumped-up bass profiles that the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ doesn’t. As a substitute, the AIAIAI’s low-distortion 40mm bio-cellulose drivers and high-grade Neodymium magnet motor system produce a easy, well-formed bass that received’t give music mixers a deceptive impression of the frequency spectrum. 

It additionally handles stereo pictures rather well however, once more, true to the supply materials. It sounds spacious, however not artificially so like when sure headphones use digital sign processing to create the phantasm of “immersive” or “3D” audio. 

When evaluating uncompressed WAV information on the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ in each its uncompressed and Bluetooth modes, I heard the identical variations I usually detect: The uncompressed sound had only a trace of additional physique, extra presence; it maintains a veneer you lose when compression lops the highest finish off, exposing jagged artifacts. These variations, nonetheless, didn’t reveal themselves as clearly as when listening to highly effective and well-articulated speaker techniques. Additionally, there was some audible noise within the headphones’ low-latency mode that wasn’t there in Bluetooth mode, however the noise is so slight that I didn’t detect it with any quantity of music enjoying. 

That quantity, nonetheless, tops out at a noticeably decrease stage than many different headphones. Identical to the favored Audio-Technica ATH-M70x headphones for music manufacturing, the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones have a sensitivity of 97 dB. The YH-L700A headphones are very noticeably louder, and the HDJ-X10 headphones are even louder nonetheless. But the HDJ-X10, with an output stage of 106 dB, sit in the midst of the highway for DJ headphones, a few of which get at loud as 120 dB.

AIAIAI TMA-2 on a mixer in front of Burning Man's Sound City
Whereas the modular AIAIAI headphones supply a easy answer ought to one element or one other get broken, there could also be no hope for the poor, dusty DJ controller. Markkus Rovito

So, who should purchase the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones?

Lots has been made concerning the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ enabling DJs to do their factor with wi-fi headphones for the primary time. The latency is low sufficient for even professional turntablists to chop and scratch as quick as they’ll with out noticing any lag. The headphones’ considerably low SPL of 97 dB implies that it’s highly effective sufficient to DJ in a venue the place you’re not listening to the principle room’s sound extremely loudly, like when you will have DJ sales space screens which you can flip down when it’s essential. Nonetheless, there’s purpose to consider that AIAIAI has plans for a low-latency wi-fi headphone particularly for DJs, which might embrace larger quantity, in addition to different DJ-focused options. 

For musicians and music producers, there’s not a lot draw back to the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ aside from the additional cash you’ll pay for them over comparable headphones with out the low-latency uncompressed wi-fi audio. Whereas fixing the low-latency drawback could not seem to be such an enormous deal to individuals who don’t encounter the identical precision pacing issues as musicians do when utilizing conventional wi-fi headphones, AIAIAI did got down to fulfill a reasonably vital want—and I’m joyful to declare mission achieved. With the TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+, I might bounce round from an e-drum equipment to a synthesizer on the opposite facet of the room, to a mixing controller, all with out the constraints of a brief headphone cable or an extended coiled cable that will get caught and tangled on each mic stand and different obstacles in between.

Apart from an actual timing innovation whose time has come, the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wi-fi+ headphones additionally sound correct for mixing music, really feel snug for hours on finish, and work with customary Bluetooth and an audio cable when wanted. The set I examined could also be caught with a residue of desert mud eternally, however I’m joyful to be caught with it too.