If you’ve ever wanted to design your headphones for your own needs and listening profile, the TM2-Modular System is the answer. Just don’t expect Active Noise Cancellation or easy-to-use Bluetooth.
Have it Your Way
When you buy a set of headphones, you are pretty much relying on the manufacturer’s description along with any published reviews to make your decision. For most, that’s just fine, and many reviews are fair and descriptive enough to let you make at least some of the decisions. If you’re a bit more discerning, or just want a set of headphones tuned more to your preferences, the TM-2 Modular headphones from AIAIAI Audio is here for you.
The TM2 Modular system lets you choose the parts that comprise your headset, from the headband, which can provide a standard wired hookup or Bluetooth capability, to the speaker units themselves, and even what kind of earpads and wired cable you want.
Big Bunch of Bags
When you order the headphones, you need to parse the website and choose the components that you want to make up your configuration.
Each component of the headphones, from the speakers to the headband and the cable, needs to be selected to construct the actual headset. Each component gives you a number of choices, with descriptions of the different components available.
Parsing through the web site lets you choose the components to construct your headset.
The first thing you choose are the speakers. There are five options listed, each with a short description and a small graphic in the lower-left corner of the screen that shows the bass, mid, and treble response of the speaker you’ve chosen. The individual descriptions tell you a bit about the response as well, though terms like “Warm” and “Vibrant” don’t really do much to help you make an informed decision. What would have been nice is if the vendor had provided the same musical interlude played through each speaker type. Of course, what you chose wouldn’t sound exactly like the sample, but it would give you some idea of what the differences are between the five speaker choices.
For my headphones, I went with a middle-of-the-road speaker choice of S05 which is described as having a 40mm driver engineered with a speaker diaphragm made from stiff Bio-Cellulose for more defined high-frequency details, more pronounced mid-range, better dynamics, and more natural tonality. I tend to like a pretty pronounced bass and mid-range, so these seemed like the best choice.
For the earpads, I chose E08, which are made of Alcantara over-the-ear which have “superior” breathability. Other available choices include microfiber and PU Leather on-ear pads. The Alcantara pads were comfortable even when I wore them for hours.
Headphone parts come in individual bags. Ted Needleman / Review Geek
With the headband, you also have several choices, including six options of Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth bands. My selection was the H06 high-end Bluetooth headband with a built-in microphone (which is strangely located at the very tip of the headband below the control buttons), high-quality audio transmission, and a claimed 20 hour playback time for wireless listening.
I say “claimed” 20 hour playing time as this is what was detailed on the website. The tiny piece of documentation I received claimed a slightly shorter 18-hour playtime, and I actually averaged a bit less than that—around 15 to 16 hours. Recharging the headset with the included USB-A to USB-C cable only takes about two hours, but they can also be used while charging.
For wired audio, I picked a straight 1.5-meter cable with a 3.5mm plug on the end. The cable also comes with a 1/4 inch adapter plug. Curly cords and other choices are also available.
Once your selections are made (and paid for), AIAIAI ships you a nice black box filled with bags, with each bag containing the components you selected. It’s up to you to empty the bags and put together the pieces. There’s a one-pager included that shows how things go together, but it’s also very obvious how the phones are assembled.
The assembly itself was finished in under a minute, and after charging the phones, they were ready for testing. It should be mentioned that the actual wall-wart charger is not included, but you can use any 5-volt unit from a tablet or smartphone that you have handy.
The Proof is in the Listening
I tested the assembled TM-2 phones with a variety of different types of music on Spotify, ranging from Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast as You,” to Jane Ellen Bryant’s “Make that Call,” and various Ventures’ surf music instrumentals. In all cases, I found the headphones to deliver mostly flat performance with just a little emphasis on the bass and mid-range, which is how I prefer my headphones to sound. There was an excellent sense of presence on most of the tracks I listened to. On the Dwight Yoakam track, it was easy to ascertain what instruments were playing, and follow the guitar and organ tracking the bass line. On the Jane Ellen Bryant track, which was recorded live, there was a definite sense of being in the audience.
My testing included listening to the same tracks with the TM-2s directly connected to the music source using the supplied cable, as well as connected via Bluetooth. The Bluetooth connection sounds just a tiny bit flatter, but that’s very common when comparing a Bluetooth connection to a direct wired one.
The Bluetooth controls consist of three tiny buttons and a small LED indicator. The small 1-page document that comes with the headphones shows this as “Top”, Middle” and “Bottom” buttons, which isn’t very helpful. Next to it, is a short description of how to turn the headset on (the middle button), off (the top button), and pair (also the middle button). The length of time the button is depressed is also important depending on the function that you want to evoke.
The middle button is also used to control play/pause and forward/back track controls, with the top and bottom buttons used to raise and lower the volume. The middle button is also used to make or answer a phone call. If this sounds confusing, it is. It’s also frustrating to have to look at the scant documentation every time you want to accomplish a task.
I understand that it’s difficult to have different documentation for Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth configurations, but for a set of phones at this price, they could have done a lot better with the documentation and made using the headphones a lot easier.
Good, But Not Great
Overall, the selection of components I picked worked great for my listening taste and playlists. But to be honest, my selections were mostly hit-and-miss guesses. As I mentioned earlier, it would have been nice to have some short sound samples on the speaker configuration page to highlight the differences in the offered speaker selections.
Also on the downside, the phones don’t come with a carrying case of any sort, nor is one offered as an accessory. Also missing is Active Noise Cancellation. The earpads provide some measure of noise isolation, but it’s far from ANC, which is pretty much a standard feature in headphones at this price level. In my mind, this limits the use of the TM-2s in noisy environments, such as the subway or on an airplane.
In the end, I have very mixed feelings about the TM-2s. They sound really good and having the ability to fine-tune the configuration is a good idea. But overall, the deficiencies in documentation and difficult ease of use make it hard to highly recommend the phones, at least in the configuration I tested. If you just go with the non-Bluetooth headband and can live without noise canceling, I think you’ll find the TM-2’s a much more enjoyable experience.
Here’s What We Like
- Modular design lets you configure headset to your needs
- Extremely comfortable
- You can configure headset as wired or Bluetooth
- Great sound
And What We Don't
- No hard or soft carry case
- Configuration may be hit or miss
- No Active Noise Cancellation
- Really awful documentation impacts useability