Published on October 17th, 2012 | by Kira0
AIAIAI: Clear As Ice and Just As Pretty
It is clear to see how popular the DJ over-the-ears headphones have become. Visible throughout the city, we’ve also reviewed our fair share. For anyone wondering what makes them so appealing, there are some simple answers. For starters, they are a fashion accessory. They look slick, they are urban, and often feature an artistic flare. They suggest that the wearer is serious about music, borrowing the vocabulary of disk jockeys in their design. Far better than earbuds in terms of both comfort and sound quality, the main downside is their size and bulk. But another important advantage on city streets- they are better at reducing outside noise than other head/earphones. In an area as loud as ours can be, it is refreshing to just be able to walk down the street and enjoy your beats without the hustle and bustle of the city distracting you. As long as you always keep one ear open for taxis.
We have two great over the ear Danish-made headphones from AIAIAI for you to consider today: the AIAIAI Capital flexible/folding headphones with microphone and the AIAIAI TMA-1 Studio over-ear headphones. In many ways, these headphones are very similar. They both feature impressive sound quality. Crisp, rich, and detailed sound with a well balanced but not overwhelming bass, and a deep soundstage that feels natural for most music. They are both so good that you might start noticing how poorly recorded some of your music is, or at perhaps the poor quality of the MP3 tracks on your device.
Both sets are also very fashionable- although, the Capital looks a little cheaper but edgier than the TMA-1. The Capital comes in four different colors: Midnight Black (which we have, and is a little plain), Alpine White, Desert Green, and Concrete Grey (the staff favorite). The TMA-1s are available in any color you want, as the saying goes, solong as it’s black. They also have a more “studio” traditional headphone look, with some sexy details, like the coiled cable above the ears that matches with the coiled cable that comes with the headphones. These twisty cords aren’t just for look, but are a convenient way of offering a fair bit of adjustability without long stretches of cable getting in the way.
Both models also can come with the same, fairly basic three-button remote with mic, though on the TMA-1s it’s optional and ours did not include one. We were not overly impressed by this remote. It is lacking markings on it and it is covered in a thick rubber making it somewhat difficult to use and less responsive than many- though one writer who complains about accidentally changing tracks regularly liked the change. The location of the remote is right under the chin which is pretty ideal for the microphone, meaning you always know where it is.
Also, it should be noted that part of the reason for the heavy rubber coating is because the Capitals are weatherproof. I am the type of girl who is always listening to music; I do not want to have to worry about my headphones while walking around the city in a snowstorm, which happens often enough. The other great part about the Capitals is that they folds in on themselves like the Fanny Wangs we reviewed last month, but with a better and more solid design. This makes it much easier to carry them around. One of my biggest complaints about DJ headphones is that they are so big and a extra pain to drag around when I am not using them. The Capital’s folding abilities make the set a lot easier to manage.
The biggest problem with these headphones is how uncomfortable they seemed. Both have click-in-place head adjustments that are just not precise enough to give the perfect fit. This means they may not hug the ears enough to fully block out all other sound as well, though the larger cups on the Studios worked quite well. I also found the ear cuffs and headpiece to be a little hard or dense, and the band a bit too strongly tensioned, the Capitals being worse than the TMA-1 Studios in terms of padding. One nice addition is that the Studios include two sets of ear cups, both leather and foam. A lot of us here use our audio gear for hours at a time, and unfortunately, these had a few folks reporting discomfort within an hour or so, largely because of tension. We turned on tracks ranging from M.I.A. to the new Green Day, some classic Latin jazz and some podcasts, to see how they performed- and the overall results are positive, with the Capitals being a little harsher sounding to our ears and both warming up with a bit of burn-in. They likely use similar drives (40mm, titanium).
Overall, both have excellent sound and a distinct look and feel, with great build quality and the nifty folding design on the Capitals, but they both could be more comfortable. The headband on the Studios is definitely a major improvement, with more padding and a bit of extra give on the band. We recommend seeing which one feels better on your head, and considering your needs. You may find that the TMA-1 Studios are worth the extra cost for the superior comfort, and the single cable design (versus the Capitals, which have independent cabling from each earcup). You can find the Capital for around $100, a bargain for Danish design, and the TMA-1 Studios for around $240 depending on options.