I have always considered myself a bit of an Audiophile and since working in various HiFi shops when I was younger, I have used some of the best audio equipment around. Over the years I have used and owned headphones such as the Grado SR80's, Shure SRH-840's, Bowers & Wilkins P3's plus a fair few more. I use my headphones with a dedicated Beresford USB DAC, and have a HiFi set up consisting of Monitor Audio BR2's and Arcam amp. So basically I have a fair amount of knowledge when it comes to HiFi and headphones. However I recently sold my old Shure's and wanted to replace them with something that sounded great, looked very nice, had a mic in for an iPhone, and were on ear so I could use them at work without shutting everyone else out.
Trying to find a headphone that fullfills all these aspects is surprisingly hard especially when looking for sub £100 headphones. Effectively these are almost the only ones available! Most Sennheiser and Shure headphones are ugly, Beats headphones are bad in practically every way, AKG headphones come close but I am not a huge fan of their glossy style, and most other brands are just a bit rubbish.
But theses little headphones full fill what I want perfectly. Firstly they look great! A completely understated style that come people say boring, but I love as they are in some ways a dummed down and smoothed out DJ style headphone. As a fan of minimalism and simplicty, these headphones are ideal. The built quality on them is fantastic as well (minus one flaw which I will mention later) and I have never worried about chucking them into my bag or using them most days.
The simple, almost unnoticeable branding, also strikes the right tones with the overall image of the product. Most companies love to have extremely big and bold logo's on the earpieces proclaiming they brand to everyone else around you. Beats headphones rely on this entirely, the only reason you would buy a pair of them is for the brand. Not the quality, or the design. But AIAIAI stick to a simple debossed logo on the inside of the headband. Simple, precise and out of the way. It makes the whole headphone seem almost unbranded, which I really do like.
Nearly ever single person uses headphones with an iPhone or another type of smartphone, so having a built in mic is essential. This simple single button solution does everying it needs to. The audio quality is great and it allows you to control your music on the go. 1 click for pause/play, 2 to skip to the next track, and 3 to skip to the previous. Again nothing complex, just everything you need. Overall the headphones are great to look at and are very well made. The only downside is that after longer use periods, especially sitting at a desk, they do to be become slightly uncomfortable due to the thin padding on the headband.
Of course the main reason you buy a pair of headphones is to listen to music and therefore good sound quality is incredibly important. These AIAIAI's do not miss a beat here.
The sound quality is what you would expect from a headphone costing around £100. It is nothing mind blowing, but it does sound pretty great. The base is present and the treble is sharp without being piercing. And the aspect I like the most is how flat and unadulterated the sound is from these. Many companies blow out the base on headphones, but these will sound brilliant no matter what you listen to. Best of all they block out a fair amount of sound and do not leak too much noise, meaning you can use them in public and at work guilt free. They aren't as good as my old Sennheisers, but they cost a load less and look so, so much nicer!
There is however one problem, and it is a biggie. The soft touch rubber coating was already peeling off when I opened the box. You may think this was simply a one off, however AIAIAI sent me another replacement pair and these had the same problem. Initially I thought it was going to be some sort of quality control issue with headphones being damaged in the factory, however it seems to be a manufacturing and design issue. The soft touch rubber comes off quite easily at any point that comes into contact with anything. And this even happens when you simply have them hanging around your next. So basically unless you are planning on putting these on a stand whenever you are not wearing them, the rubber will peel at all the perimeters. Not ideal if you plan on taking these in your bag.
Should you buy a pair?
In a single word, yes, yes you should. There are a few hitches with the overall finish quality which is a shame considering the price. However they are, in every other aspect, extremely well made and they sound fantastic. And if you are as design conscious as I am, the look and style of these headphones surpasses nearly everything else on the market. If you have got any questions, just stick them in the comments below.
If you want one, they are now only £85 on Amazon which is an absolute bargain!