AIAIAI TMA-2 modular headphone review: You’ll pay a steep price to build your own headphone

Imagine how cool it would be to custom-build your headphone by selecting the drivers, headband, ear pads, and cable that best suit your sonic preferences and budget. You can—to an extent—with AIAIAI’s new TMA-2 headphone. And you can swap out or upgrade those components down the road. But modular designs have quirks as well as benefits.

Build your own headphone

AIAIAI offers two ways to buy your headphones: You can purchase a pre-selected bundle, or you choose exactly which modular parts you want using AIAIAI’s online TMA-2 configurator.

And the TMA-2 headphone configurator is cool. It lets you visually assemble your headphone with your choice of speaker units, ear pads, headband, and cable. Photos of the different modular parts and easy-to-understand descriptions make the process a breeze—even for the novice headphone consumer. You’ll see a real-time pricing updates as you make your selections. You can also buy the components on Amazon.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best  headphones, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Once you’ve chosen your modular package, you can review your finished headphone on a summary page with a non-technical explanation of the headphone’s sound and features. Scrolling down, you’ll find detailed specs, including a frequency response curve of the drivers you’ve selected.

My TMA-2 headphone bundle came with the following parts: The H05 headband with Bluetooth and aptX HD; the C15 3.5mm cable; the S05 drivers that sport a bio-cellulose diaphragm; and E08 over-the-ear memory foam ear pads wrapped in Alcantara. Alcantara is a durable, synthetic microfiber with a suede-like feel. This bundle retails for $350.

AIAIAI module packets are what you get in the headphone box. Theo Nicolakis / IDG

AIAIAI module packets are what you get in the headphone box.

When my TMA-2 headphone arrived, I was surprised to find that there was no assembled headphone in the box. What I found was a series of clearly labeled gray pouches. Each pouch contained the parts of my review sample, requiring me to build the headphone.

Fortunately, assembly was a straight-forward, tool-less endeavor. That’s good, because the tiny, fold-out user manuals accompanying each component look as though they were quickly thrown together using Microsoft Word.