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Comparison/Review: AIAIAI TMA-1 vs. Audio Technica ATH-M50 (Shure SRH840 on the side)

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by brsxignition, Feb 2, 2011.
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  1. BRSxIgnition
    This is a review of all the headphones I owned so far, since I began getting into higher end music and sound. I have owned the ATH-M50's, SRH-840's, and TMA-1's in the past, as well as the Beats Studio (Sorry...) before those. I currently own both the ATH-M50's and TMA-1's. As you can probably tell, I stick to closed headphones mostly, as I do not live alone, and don't want to disturb those around me. (This being the main reason.)
    I wanted to see which of the headphones I have owned was the best to my ears. I have owned all of them, as I have said, but never all at one time until now, due to my rather restrictive spending habits. So recently, when I was recommended by a fellow head-fier to check out the Headphone Bar in Vancouver, I agreed. It was the first audio/headphone store close enough to me to travel to regularily, (apparently the only headphone place in Canada) and I stayed there for a while comparing the SRH840's to the AIAIAI TMA-1's and M50's, and I saw some key differences.
    I am comparing these as Closed headphones, since yes, I know that one is meant for DJ's and the other 2 are meant for Studio use.
    Comfort & Build Quality:
    Even though the TMA-1 pads themselves are much softer and more comfortable than the 840's or M50's pads, the later two are around ear, rather than the AIAIAI TMA-1's on-ear design. The 840's and M50's are both comfortable for my head, but the 840's headband tends to get flat when being worn, and as a result, it pressed against the top of my head far more than it should. The M50's however, retain their curved headband shape, and pressure is equally applied along it.
    When it comes to clamping force, the M50's have the most, this is not uncomfortable though. Both the M50's and 840's have around-ear designs, so the pressure of the clamping force is equally distributed around the ear. The 840's have slightly less clamping force than the M50's, but they are not loose by any means.The M50's padding however, is wider than the 840's, and as a result, less pressure from the pads is exerted on your head, and is more evenly displaced around the ear. 
    The AIAIAI TMA-1's are an odd beast, due to them having an almost entirely one-piece design. As you wear them, the clamping force of the TMA-1's lessens slightly, and being an on-ear headphone, it adds to the comfort as it does. However, as a result, it relies less on the pressure against the ears to hold the headband up, and it starts pressing against my head much like the 840's. This usually ends up in a headache if I wear them for too long. (1 hour or more.)

    The TMA-1's also felt slightly weaker, probably because of the rotating/sizing mechanism of the cups and the one-piece design. The cups are basically barely touching the parts of the headband they are on, and are held there via holes in the headband and the wire that you can see above the cups. For example, if you shake them around, they will jiggle. The M50's are the best built and most durable out of the three, with the 840's in second, and the TMA-1's in third. 
    If ranking + scoring them, it would go accordingly:
    In order of Durability and Strength, I'd say:
    1. ATH-M50 - 9.5 / 10
    2. SRH-840 - 8.75 / 10
    3. TMA-1 - 8.25 / 10
    In order of Portability I'd say:
    1. TMA-1 - 9 / 10
    2. ATH-M50 - 8.75 / 10
    3. SRH-840 - 6 / 10*
    *I would never recommend using the 840's on the go. Ever.
    In order of Comfort I'd say:
    1. ATH-M50 - 9 / 10
    2. SRH-840 - 8 / 10
    3. TMA-1 - 7 / 10
    Sound Quality:
    This is where the TMA-1's differ most from the 840's, and the M50's play a sort of middle ground. When it comes to sound quality, the TMA-1's and 840's are meant for completely different purposes.
    The 840's had a much larger sound stage, and more balanced sound overall, since they are meant for studio use. No frequencies stood out to me, when playing trance, rock, club, and orchestral music. Also, the pair I used was burned in quite a bit, since the demo pair they had was almost always connected to a dvd player or ipod. These cans are detailed and analytical, if you have bad quality music (Anything under MP3 320kbps) it will show you the flaws in it. The bass extends just as deep as it does in the TMA-1's, however, does not pack the punch of the TMA-1's.
    The TMA-1's, had a much harder hitting bass than the others which I loved, and this is a big part of them being DJ cans. These fared better than the SRH840's and M50's with the Club, House, and Techno music, as I assumed they would. However, for genres like acoustics, rock, and others, I (and probably most people) need/will need to have the treble booster setting (Or other treble-enhancing EQ if on PC) ON, because otherwise, the sound would be too muffled for me, and the treble would be too recessed for my tastes. With the EQ at treble booster (or PC/amp equivilent) however, they are amazing. Detailed, crisp, and the bass still hits as hard and extends as deep as it did before. They are not quite as detailed as the SRH-840's, but a very very slight step up from the M50's in detail.
    The M50's
    I see the M50's as a very very litteral middle ground to both the TMA-1 and SRH-840's. They are more portable than the 840's, due to their twisting cups, and smaller overall size, but they still retain the around-ear design. They have much more soundstage than the TMA-1's, but slightly less than the 840's. The bass hits almost as hard as the TMA-1's, but the treble and midrange are not affected to do so (Ex: Do not need EQ'ing at all.) They are not as detailed as the 840's, but more detailed than the TMA-1's. These are terrific "do-it-all cans", as they sound fantastic with many many genres of music. I have noticed that the "white box" M50's which I received, and the old M50's I used to have, have a slight difference. The Bass is slightly punchier on the newer "white box" version, as well as the mids being much more forward. I will add more after I reach the 50 hour burn in mark.
    I am currently burning my M50's in more as I have received them two nights ago. My M50's are the "white box" model, and these impressions are with only 5 hours burn in. 
    If ranking + scoring them, it would go accordingly:
    In order of Bass (Punch, extention, detail):
    1. TMA-1 - 9.5/10
    2. ATH-M50 - 8.95/10
    3. SRH-840 - 8/10
    In order of Mids (Vocals, clarity, detail):
    1. SRH-840 - 9.3/10
    2. TMA-1 and ATH-M50 -  8.95/10
    In order of Treble (Any Simblance? Quantity, Quality):
    1. ATH-M50 - 9/10
    2. SRH-840 - 8.75/10
    3. TMA-1 - 6/10 (With EQ: 8.5/10)
    Overall Scores*:
    Sound Quality Overall**:
    ATH-M50  - 8.96 / 10
    SRH-840 - 8.68 / 10
    TMA-1 - 8.15 / 10
    Comfort & Build Quality Overall:
    ATH-M50  - 9.08 / 10
    TMA-1 - 8.08 / 10
    SRH-840  - 7.58 / 10
    Final Overall Scores:
    ATH-M50  - 9.02 / 10
    SRH-840  - 8.13 / 10
    TMA-1  - 8.11 / 10
    Please ask any questions if needed. All comparisons done between the 840's, M50's and TMA-1's were done AB-style, side by side. Treble Booster was only used on the TMA-1's, and used mostly the entire time.
    *(I recommend you actually read the review, do not base choices off these scores alone)
    **(These scores are averaged from the three in the main review, remember, this is by my ears, and my opinion.)
  2. BRSxIgnition
    Added a bit more info, M50's should be coming this coming week.
  3. classakg
    Nice review man, i have been learning towards the aiaiai TMA-1 lately, considering to purchase a pair. 
    Look forward for impressions/comparison with the M50's. 
  4. joelpearce


    I think they've been the victim of some initial flavour-of-the-month style hype, which has led to a bit of a backlash.  At the same time, they are an interesting headphone worth checking out.
  5. BRSxIgnition


    Yeah, I got drawn in by it as well, I have to admit. Not regretting it by any means, but I got drawn in nonetheless. It had been a year since my last pair of good headphones before I got these, so I got rather excited about them when I received them.
    Anyway, now that that is all out of the way, I wanted to tell people what to expect from these rather new phones, by comparing them with some well-known headphones that I have also owned.
  6. joelpearce
    Which is exactly what we need--I hope you didn't misunderstand me.
    I think it's useful to get some more rational direct comparisons going for these.
  7. BRSxIgnition
  8. BRSxIgnition
    Full Review/comparison finished! M50's are here. I will update when fully burned in. 
  9. BRSxIgnition
  10. weirdwilli
    Would you recommend the M50's for bassy music like drum and bass and hip hop?
    Great review!
  11. BRSxIgnition


    Depends, if you want something for moving around and alot of portability, the TMA-1's will give you that, and the deep, punchy bass you want.
    If you want something more comfortable with a bit more detail, but a bit less punch, and slightly (barely..) less portability, get some new "white box" M50's. It would cost a bit less as well.
    840's are best with classical and less bass-focused music, so I recommend the two above. Don't take them as the only recommendations for your needs though, find out what else might suit you, if you'd like.
  12. weirdwilli
    I really like the look of the M50's which is why I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of bass to go for them really, but how portable are they?
    How big are they on the head also? Been trying to find a photo of them on the head, but can't find any to really judge their size!
    Will be for using to go to school/walking into the city for example, so they need to be sensibly sized
    Think I may just go for the M50's, many great reviews as well as yours must make them a great pair no matter what!
  13. BRSxIgnition


    Sorry about the quality, but this is a pic of them (them being TMA-1 and M50) side by side on my laptop.
  14. winma
    Interesting review, each one of them have interesting aspects. 
    Would you consider the TMA-1's as a nice upgrade over the M50's? 
  15. wyffels
    I tested out these three pairs against each other as well, for a two week period. I could not find a winner against the M50. The AIAIAI was too bassy, recesseed mids and highs (although they have an indestructible design) and the Shures were close but lacked the liquid range of the highs down to the lower end of the M50. Try Yo-Yo Ma's Bach Cello Album, song #2.
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