User Review: M4U 2 Headphones - Almost Perfect

April 16, 2012

Products: M4U 2 Headphones

I fly about 150,000 miles a year (and have been doing that for several years now), and have been searching for the ideal set of portable headphones (that offer noise isolation or noise cancellation). Many examples of my search fill a cabinet in my office and failed in one way or another. For the noise isolation route I have experimented with both in ear models (deeply seated in the ear canal) and sealed back headphones (with no noise cancellation). For in ear I have used the Shure 535’s (superb sound, very difficult to fit properly, and after many attempts to seat each earphone, someone will try to talk to me forcing me to remove one or the other and then I have to refit all over again), the Klipsch X10i’s (much better tips than the Shure offering, small and comfortable, but not a great sound performer), and a few others. For sealed back headphones (must be small enough to fit in or on my large briefcase and sensitive enough to work directly with an iPod) I have gone through Beyer T50, Shure, B&W P5, and many others. Some were very fussy to place properly on ear to get the right sound reproduction (Beyer although once properly placed sound great), some were uncomfortable after a hour or so, some did not isolate very well (B&W although a very nice sound), and some just didn’t sound good no matter what. For the noise cancellation variety I tried two different models of Bose (over ear and on ear) but did not care for the sound reproduction and they only worked in active mode (run down your battery and you’re out of luck), Sony, Panasonic and Seinheisser. None were a perfect solution either sacrificing sound quality for noise cancellation or providing less than desirable relief from background noise. Eventually, I began to travel with my Ray Samuelson Emmeline Black Bird portable amp (about the size of a deck or cards) taking a feed from the docking port of the iPod just to improve the sound from the more comfortable options lacking in great reproduction. That helped a lot both in terms of the music detail and preserving the iPod battery life but added weight and bulk to my briefcase. Then came PSB with the M4U 2 headphones. They are the first headphones I have ever purchased without auditioning first. I have PSB Synchrony One floor standing speakers in my main music system, the Synchrony One B speakers in a remote music system, and PSB Alphas around the house as part of the central sound system. Paul Barton produces exceptional, high value speaker systems. I have been buying his products for more than 20 years, and I was confident he would bring a good solution to the headphone market. I had to wait a while (in fact a long while) to get them, but a pair arrived last week at my audiophile dealer (Audio Alternative in Atlanta), and they were in my hands almost immediately. I have already put them to the test including a long flight. These headphones are a breakthrough in design and function. Everything has been taken into consideration and fulfilled: --comfort (I had them on for three hours at one point, no discomfort) --fit (easy to place and adjust, not fussy about placement for optimum sound) --cord can be inserted in either cup --three modes, not just two yields exceptional choice flexibility (this is a big deal as they are superb in passive mode, the amplification mode saves battery use on the listening device and actually improves sound a bit, and the noise cancellation mode really works on loud flights at a small sound quality expense) --on cord button in active or NC mode that allows you to hear and respond to conversation around you without removing the headphones --standard AAA batteries (more convenient for travel, no recharging issues) --fold up design saves space --lots of extras (extra ear pads, two cords for different functionality, adapters, etc.) --beautiful design, very attractive And best of all: --they play music with the same detail and neutrality I have come to love in PSB speakers. Detailed highs (never grainy), clean midrange and tight bass (not hyped at all) make these headphones a winner in every way. I just don’t see any compromises with the PSB M4U 2’s when traveling. And for the money, they compete far above their level in any situation. Of course, that seems to be in the PSB DNA – great performance, high value, thoughtful engineering. I highly recommend this wonderful product!

Carl - Atlanta

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