Although wireless audio products are now saturating the consumer market, most of the professional audio world has remained resolutely wired when it comes to monitoring and recording. There are two reasons for this: bandwidth and response time. The vast majority of wireless headphones and earbuds use Bluetooth to communicate – a protocol that was never designed for the highest possible audio fidelity. As powerful as Bluetooth codecs have become, they all compress audio before sending it. From a producer’s point of view, this means that you don’t hear your recordings as accurately as possible. Why record at 96kHz, 24bit just to listen back in at meager bit rates?
The second issue is more problematic. Developers have spent years eliminating lag in recording systems so that there is no delay between playing or singing a note and hearing it again through headphones when recording. Anyone who struggles with latency knows that it makes live recording soon impossible. Use Bluetooth monitoring even with a high-end system and you’ll reintroduce that response time. Designed in collaboration with acclaimed electronics producer Richie Houghton, AIAIA’s TMA-2 Studio Wireless + headphones work around both of these issues.
The TMA-2 Studio Wireless Headphones+ uses a dedicated wireless transmitter to create a wireless connection with a much higher 2.4GHz bandwidth between cases and a computer or synthesizer. Fortunately, it’s completely independent of any computer wi-fi networks, unlike some tech products that require you to switch away from your broadband to get something done. They also have Bluetooth and wired capability, with SBC, AAC, and W+Link Lossless codecs.
The headphones come as a set, packed in separate plastic envelopes. The company’s philosophy states that if any component needs replacing this is easy to do without replacing the entire package. It only takes a few seconds to assemble and the design is elegant, with a smooth yet solid finish. They are lightweight at only 270g, grip your head firmly but gently and are comfortable for long listening sessions. The ear cups are made of extra soft Alcantara.
The X01 wireless transmitter and headphones both charge via USB-C and there is a USB-C to USB-A cable provided, although a C-to-C cable is not included. The reported battery life is 30 hours for the transmitter when charging 3 hours and 16 hours for headphones on wi-fi on a 2 hour charge, or up to 80 hours when used in Bluetooth mode. Plug the included coil cable into either of the ear cups and they work just like regular wired headphones.
Setup is very simple after a quick read through the manual. Pressing the button on both units pairs – although the review model appears to have already paired itself – with a small switch on one side of the phones to switch between wi-fi and Bluetooth modes. Bluetooth pairing uses the same method as any headphones. The transmitter connects to the headphone output on your computer, audio interface, or mixer with a short audio cable and you’ll get 1-inch adapters to meet all possibilities. Visual feedback is basic but practical, with LEDs on the transmitter showing battery level and pairing status, and a light on the band indicating battery, mode, and pairing status. The bracelet has three buttons that are used to control the volume and media playback.
The company states that it achieves 16 milliseconds of latency thanks to the W + Link audio codec and uses two antennas to broadcast to the headphones multiple times in parallel, which helps ensure a lag-free connection (for all intents and purposes) but is also robust with no dropouts, a range of 12 meters. It also switches radio bands automatically and unlike Bluetooth, it’s a one-way connection that makes use of the full transmission bandwidth, allowing uncompressed audio to be streamed at up to 1500 kbps to phones. The bit rate for a CD, for reference, is 1411 kilobits per second.
In practice, this works very well indeed, and we were pleased to be able to move around the studio freely while still being confident that any recording done via a microphone, guitar, or other instrument (via a DI box) would not experience a monitor response time. . You’re not limited to being as far away from the blender or computer as the headphone cable allows, which is of course the point here.
One of the initial problems was that in wi-fi mode the headphones showed some background hissing when raised to a high level that wasn’t present in either the Bluetooth or wire modes. The company recommends turning off the phones on the body to the point that it disappears, and then increasing the volume of the source accordingly. This worked, although in BT modes and wired mode we could pump the phones volume controls to the max without getting any hiss.
Internally, the drivers are the same as the normal TMA-2 Studio model, which means 40mm neodymium drivers with a sensitivity of 97 dB, an impedance of 32 ohms, a range of 10 Hz – 40 kHz, a rated power of 40 mW and a maximum power of 100 mW. Acoustically they are as you might expect very similar with a rich but balanced volume, a powerful yet reassuring bottom end that is tightly controlled and even, and a very precise character.
How well you hear higher bandwidth on wi-fi depends on your source material. Play from iTunes or Spotify, your source is already compressed. The watch is from Logic or Cubase but the bitrates are much higher, and there’s definitely more depth and more sparkle at the higher end. The general sincerity is that the thing is noticeably more noticeable. Then there is the extremely low latency while still maintaining freedom of movement, which is very welcome.
one of a kind?
This is $100 more than a wired studio model only so you’re not only adding Bluetooth but also the unique wi-fi element and transmitter. There are a few precious solutions made specifically for producers, with most 2.4GHz models aimed at gamers or home cinema enthusiasts. As such, if you crave freedom of movement while recording or mixing, and break free from the office while still enjoying high-resolution, latency-free monitoring, this is an excellent choice.
- SBC, AAC, and W + Link Lossless codecs
- Ultra-low latency of 16ms in wi-fi mode
- Bit rate up to 1500 kb/s in wi-fi mode
- 2.4GHz wireless transmitter
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 1.5m coiled cable
- modular design
- Bio-cellulose diaphragm motors
- Battery life 15-80 hours depending on the situation
- USB-C charging
- 350 dollars
- Contact AIAIAI
- Buy: Amazon, The DJ Shop