AIAIAI headphones are synonymous with DJs and Producers, drawing in some of the most revered artists in the world like Mall Grab, Bonobo, Charlotte De Witte, Marcel Dettman, and Skream who’ve all opted to use a pair. Making music requires a decent monitoring environment, and traditionally this has been at a mixing desk in a music studio. However, more and more producers are making top quality tunes in their bedroom, or on the move while touring. Hence why a decent set of headphones are invaluable to an artist. While wireless headphones are not new, there has never been a pair of wireless headphones designed specifically for music creation before… until now.
Step up the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wireless+. Designed and developed for more than 3 years in collaboration with techno heavyweight Richie Hawtin and a global network of professional artists, they allow creators to finally break free from the cable and expand their creative freedom.
Note: While the Danish brand has been on the forefront of audio equipment for music artists, they did recently release the Move and Move XE aimed toward consumers who may not necessarily be in the creative industry, but still want a high-fidelity listening experience. If that’s you, check out our review of those here!
Available: Now, since January 2022
Closest competitor: None
For those familiar with AIAIAIs modular design ethos, the Studio Wireless+ will feel instantly recognisable. Opening the box, you’ll receive many packets (recyclable) filled with each component – speaker units, pads, headband, W+ receiver, cable, etc which you put together yourself.
The modular aspect of the design means you can swap parts in and out if they become worn, or if you want to use a different set up, like the DJ edition. The headband is noticeably thicker, although this is to be expected for a wireless unit. Separate to the headphones is the W+ wireless receiver (not a power bank!) and a small yellow coil with 3.5mm (aux) and 1/4″ jack connectors.
The AIAIAIs come in just one colour, black, and follow the same minimalist rubberised design as their other headphones. This makes for a very aesthetic, durable, and eco-friendly set of cans. In comparison to the DJ version, the Studio edition’s speaker units have enhanced comfort with Alcantara® over-ear memory foam cushions – ideal for longer sessions. The sound representation is clear and crisp, with lovely warmth in the bass. When DJing though, I’d switch to the smaller pads and bass heavier speaker units to lock in that sound more clearly.
Set up and battery life
Once set up and charged, the headphones are incredibly simple to use. They operate in three ways; Bluetooth, W+ Link, or cabled. There is a small switch on the band to toggle between bluetooth and W+ Link. To use cabled you simply plug a cable in separately. I did wish that a full length yellow coiled cable was included for this purpose.
With over 80 hours of use via bluetooth, these headphones are great for streaming your favourite records or podcasts. Switch to bluetooth mode, connect your phone or laptop and away you go. You won’t be able to stream in complete lossless format unless you use W+ link via the wireless receiver though.
Pairing is pretty much instant, and all you need to do is plug the receiver into your usual headphone output on your mixer/soundcard to connect the audio. Via W+ Link, the battery life is significantly less – around 16 hours, although this is more than necessary for a day’s worth of studio/mixing time. The headband and wireless receiver charge via USB-C, and the W+ receiver has around 30 hours charge time. If you needed more battery, you could order a spare headband and just switch them out when one runs out.
So what is W+ Link?
This is the flagship feature of the Wireless+ headphones. Unlike the wireless technology used in Bluetooth, W+ link has been developed to provide a stable, low latency, robust connection and uncompressed audio. It uses 2.4GHz wireless (modern WiFi signal), which allows it transmit fully lossless audio up to 1,500kbps with practically no latency.
For reference, a FLAC file runs about 1,411kbps. AIAIAI state the latency is 16 milliseconds, just at the cusp of humans being able notice. I didn’t notice any latency when recording my voice – although some users have reported hearing a minor delay in that specific use.
These are a very capable set of headphones, and considering their modularity – this opens up various customisable avenues. Designed for studio use, the Studio Wireless+ give a crystal clear, flat sound – perfect for monitoring and mixing. The Alcantara over ear cups are very comfortable when used for hours on end, and the thicker headband wasn’t noticeable. For basic listening via Bluetooth, the dynamics are clear and enjoyable to listen to, however these are not really what the Wireless+ are designed for.
With a 16 metre distance on W+ Link, I could move about the room without worry about losing connectivity or latency, great when playing synths and drum machines set up on other sides of the room. I was impressed with how precise the sound was without fatiguing my ears. Even better, is when being used for DJing ( I did swap out the speaker units and pads for the DJ version for a bass-heavy sound) – the freedom to move without worry was liberating.
There is one thing to be said though in W+ Link mode – a hissing sound, even when not connected to an audio device. AIAIAI have come up with a solution, to turn the volume down, but that isn’t always practical especially in loud environments and as there is no noise cancelling function. On occasion, we did notice a bit of signal dropping when using DJ equipment, but this was infrequent and did not affect the flow of mixing.
Richie Hawtin, co-collaborator on the headphones said:
“In 2021, it feels archaic to be wired to a piece of hardware just to guarantee pristine audio quality. The TMA-2 Wireless+ headphones give you the freedom to step further away from your devices allowing you to capture creative and expressive ideas while immersed in perfect sound. Disconnect and dive deeper intoRichie Hawtin (Artist, TMA-2 Studio Wireless+ Co-Developer)
your moment of creativity.”
If you’re a music producer or DJ, and want to ditch the wire but not the sound quality – these are the headphones for you. No questions about it. There just simply isn’t anything else like it. The modularity of AIAIAI is one of the most-loved features of the brand and being able to swap out parts as necessary means you have a truly customisable set of headphones everywhere you go. What’s more, if you break a component, there’s no need to buy an entirely new pair of headphones, you just order the part you need.
If you want to use them for noise cancelling on a train/plane, then these are not for you. If you want them just for general bluetooth listening, at £300 there are other alternatives like the Sony WH-1000XM4 which have a smaller profile and more ‘exciting’ sound (as they are not designed for music creation).
Overall, these are a truly revolutionary headphone, and we look forward to seeing more and more artists move toward the wireless world.