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As a music enthusiast and music writer by profession, I spend majority of my days with my ears locked into a set of headphones, with everything from in-ear buds to over-the-ear cans lined up at my desk for sound changes throughout the day. So when AIAIAI and Young Guru joined forces to reinvent the classic TMA-1s, and essentially to recreate a music-professional’s headset through the eyes of a music-professional, I immediately cleared way for the newest addition in my arsenal. A pioneer in audio engineering and a tech essential for producers from around the world, the AIAIAI TMA-1 is a favorite for the likes of A-Trak, Boys Noize and Diplo. As the Denmark-based audio engineers reworked their most popular over-ear headphones at the hands of one of hip-hop’s most renowned producers, the response was bound to be thunderous. A Grammy Award-winning producer and a prominent figure behind several of Kanye West, Beyonce and Jay Z’s most prolific tracks, Young Guru brought a new look and complete new sound experience to the TMA-1 Studios. At the heart are advancements extending from aesthetic and wearability to bass balance and a crisp, clean sound.
Maintaining AIAIAI’s signature minimalist silhouette, free of overbearing logos and flashy season-dependent colorways, the Young Guru edition of the TMA-1 Studios features a crisp black matte finish highlighted only with red spiral cord detailing at the ear pieces. The cans are a smidgen bigger and bulkier than the standard TMA-1s with the Japanese memory foam finish at the band and ear area, adding significant trimmings to the already bold headset. Nevertheless, the Young Guru edition does still manage to maintain a clean look. With the smooth finish of the foam being a well-suited fit for the matte black frame, the additional padding is a welcome exchange from the TMA-1′s usual small but shiny earpiece cushion, making the bulkier build of the headset a welcome development and adding a cohesive look to the product. Where their successes in frame and earpiece design are apparent, the minimalist design may have also been at the cost of attention to detail, with AIAIAI having overlooked the potential of small and intricate design developments, namely at the cord. The move to include two cords — one for studio use and one for regular wear — does add ease of use for the wearer, but the eye-catching red/black pairing is only continued with the studio cord, while the daily wear cord is limited to a black-only option. A minute, yet visually important detail as the all-black daily wear cord would be better suited in a highlight color.
As someone who’s never far detached from a set of headphones, the generous padding of silky Japanese memory foam is a fresh and welcome design development, affecting not only the look of the product, but also its feel and long-term wearability. Taking the listening experience from an everyday task to an admittedly luxury experience, the super-soft cushion fits snugly around the ear while the lightweight padding at the band is so light (the set only weighs 180g) that the upper portion of the headset actually becomes barely noticeable. Successfully designed for a professional audio experience, I’ve managed to pull through nine-hour days with the set securely fixed over my ears without any strain or stress in wear, and the subtle band adjustment locks at the side make precise sizing a simple task.
The biggest audio engineering development for Young Guru’s edition of the TMA-1s is the change from a set appropriated for a DJ environment into a product designed entirely for a studio environment. Designed to showcase one clean line of sound, the solid audio balance that streams from the TMA-1 Studios makes even the most minimal sound changes noticeable, with the slightest acceleration in a bassline or light clips at vocal edits not going unnoticed. With consideration in eliminating intrusive environmental sounds and to block interference with the user’s listening experience, Young Guru’s TMA-1s not only successfully isolate sounds but also minimizes the listener’s own audio leaks. Having tested and blasted everything from mellow acoustic tunes and hip-hop-heavy tracks to bass-jacking electronic beats, the TMA-1 Studios definitely do manage to elevate the sound of each tune and genre. And although bass-hungry users might prefer to revert to the DJ-appropriated original TMA-1 set, the Young Guru edition definitely provides all-around easy listening and a clean audio cruise.
“Successfully designed for a professional audio experience, I’ve managed to pull through nine-hour days with the set securely fixed over my ears without any strain or stress in wear…”