With a deceptively simple design that manages to be at once iconic, utilitarian and seductive, the TMA-1 has instantly become our favorite headphone on the market. Stripped of extraneous decoration, the design champions the essential over the superfluous. It’s a product worthy of the phrase: less but better.
The TMA-1 headphone has been tested and tweaked by 28 of the world’s most skilled DJs (including Ghostly’s own Matthew Dear and Seth Troxler), designed by the inimitable Danish design-firm KiBiSi and further developed by Tartelet Records, Mannhandle and Thank You For Clapping. All of which means that the TMA-1 is one carefully considered piece of equipment.
We spoke with the guys at AIAIAI about the project.
Tell us about the motivation behind this new project TMA-1 for AIAIAI.
We had been doing different headphones for a while, mainly in-ears, but had an idea of doing a robust, high-quality headphone aimed mainly at DJ’s. There are of course quite a few out there, but among them we especially liked the Sennheiser HD 25. Both the look and technical aspects of it. Through friends who dj at different levels we heard same story, though, the Sennheiser would break to easily during gigs and travel. So we thought we would give a shot, and make something really sturdy. From a design point of view, we wanted to move away from the very colorful, and try to do something that alluded to the idea of the dj-headphone. You know, if you take a pair of headphones, be it Pioneer, Sennheiser or Monster and hold them in front of a bright light, the shadow they cast on a white wall looks quite similar. You can’t see the logo’s, colors and other little differences. We wanted to work with that shadow image. The robustness of the TMA-1 was also a factor when designing – the less you put on
it, the less can break. In that sense, the TMA is thought of, and build as a tool.
The name of the project is worth talking about- can you tell us a bit more about this?
The name TMA-1 is taken from Arthur C. Clarkes’s science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. TMA-1 (Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-1) refers to the apparent magnetic irregularity found at the Tycho crater on the Moon’s surface by American astronauts. A black Monolith buried 40 feet under the lunar surface causes the anomaly.The monoliths are extremely long-lived and reliable machines and resist destructive testing beyond the theoretical limits of material strength. We found this to be a fitting name for a sturdy, all black DJ headphone.
Who is involved, both design wise and musician wise? And why did you choose to collaborate with them?
On the design of the TMA-1 we’ve worked with Lars from KiBiSi. We’ve worked with him before on other projects, and we are quite aligned when it comes both aesthetics and functionality. The only challenge in working with Lars is that he is stoned out his mind most of the day… So half the times he were presenting us with new ideas, it would be a design for a hat or new type of wheelchair, – he had simply forgotten that we were trying to do a pair of headphones? But we’ve found a way to work around that, and now we couldn’t be more pleased with the end
result. On the music side of things we had two different approaches. We’ve worked with the label Tartelet Records and the producers MannHandle on sound and spectrum, and then we have consulted 28 of the world’s most respected DJ’s on issues concerning the fit, durability, usability and of course also the sound of the headphone. So we hope to have covered most angles.
What are the three most important factors when designing something new for a device that is so technical? And on the other hand, what did you feel you needed to achieve in terms of aesthetics?
Well, to begin with we wanted to keep it simple, no joints that could break, not too many technicalities that could bruise and distort the sound, so a big part of the new comes from this process. This idea has been central both on the technical and design aspects, and out of that approach grew this new stripped-down aesthetics. We hid our logo by carving it into the headband, so that wouldn’t be a distraction either. As I mentioned earlier we wanted to move towards an iconic idea of a headphone. And the funny thing is, when you hold the TMA’s in front of a bright light, the shadow you see on the wall is still the TMA-1…
I think it is great that brands are being very active about getting involved with the community and having a personal interactive environment. What do you see as the benefits for this project in relation to that?
Well, there has been, and is a lot of involvement. Both from the kind of family structure we work within, from the many dj’s who’ve tested the TMA’s and now from people who hear about it. On TMA-1.com we try give a full picture of the entire process and hopefully give something back to the many people who have helped us along the way. On the site you track the dj’s around the globe and see where they are playing and when. Co-creation is definitely the way of the future. Letting people do what they are good at, and helping each other out whenever it is
possible… The benefits are plenty and hopefully goes in both directions.
What is the overall goal for this for you guys personally?
To get rich, or die trying…..
When will it hit the shops and where?
The project will actually launch exclusively today (4th of August) on the Ghostly web store for US orders and on The-Glade and our own AIAIAI web store for EU orders. These three online stores will be the only ones offering the TMA-1 over the next week and it will be selling at an introduction price if you have a promo code. I think we’ve
released a code on the AIAIAI Facebook page somewhere …