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PSB M4U 1

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #91 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: Great soundstage. Crisp, clean, even sounds across the board.

Cons: Needs an amp for best sound. Is that really a bad thing?

TL:DR - these freaking ROCK HARD. Buy them. Now. Seriously, why are you still reading this? GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!

A review on the PSB M4U1:

First let me say that I enjoy good music. I don't care what genre it's in, I just want good music. You're probably asking "How do I judge whether or not music is good?" Very simple: music should tell a story. I don't care if there are words, it doesn't even matter if you hear one story and I hear a different one. It's the story that counts. Otherwise what is music but some random noise? You may ask next "Well what makes you the authority on whether or not there is a story? Wouldn't the artist know better?" I should hope that the artist would know. :) I'm definitely not the be-all, end-all authority on good music. I don't claim to be. I'm just someone who knows a lot about music and has strong opinions. I'll share them if you want, otherwise just find your favourite CD/MP3/FLAC/ALAC album and enjoy. Liking good music comes with a bit of an issue - a good soundsystem to play said music on, especially when portable/at work. Unfortunately most of the people I work with like very specific music so I don't have the option of bringing in a nice stereo system to work. That and bringing a stereo system on the GO Train or TTC (mass transit for non-Ontarians) when I take those also wouldn't work very well. Hence the need for a good pair of headphones. I like headphones over earphones or IEM as I find after a couple hours max an IEM system fatigues my ears and I get sore. Nothing better than a good IEM while riding my motorcycle but general day-to-day usage I'll take a good pair of headphones anyday.

My testing rigs are:

iPhone 4
Laptop direct to headphones
Same laptop coupled with Fiio E07K, connected with USB for proper DAC

Music samples included (artist only for ease of reading/typing):

Hans Zimmer
John Williams
Danny Elfman
DeadMau5
Girl Talk
Flyleaf
Nonpoint
Metallica
Five Finger Death Punch
In Flames
Lady Gaga
P!nk
Papa Roach
Seether
The Verve
Shinedown
Sevendust
Pop Evil
Elton John
Lady Antebellum

The Review:

Unboxing the PSB M4U1 is a study in craftsmanship and showmanship, without over-doing it. A nicely appointed clamshell style box covered with a single sleeve to keep everything together. Opening the clamshell presents the headphones in their hard travel case on one side, the cords, spare ear cups, instructions and warranty information in the other. Both sides of the shell have a cover over the accessories, making sure they are protected. Taking the travel case out of the clamshell and opening it up to see a beautiful piece of gadgetry. The headphones look like heavy beasts, no hiding it. Lots of other reviews have stated that the weight of the phones is probably their greatest downfall. My old cans, a set of Shure SRH440s, weighed almost as much (according to manufacturer's spec sheets) yet felt heavier by a wide margin. These headphones are not light for sure but I don't get the fatigue some people have mentioned. I found the distribution of weight was perfectly proportioned with the majority on the top of my head and very little on either ear.

Accessories include two cables, one with iPhone/Android control and a mic, and a second cable with nothing but the cable for direct signal to the phones from whatever device you're using. There is also a 3.5 to "normal" jack converter and a 3.5 to dual 3.5 converter (some airplanes require this kind of connection for stereo sound). The headphones also have a unique feature I did not see in any other vendor offer - the ability to plug the jack into either side of the headphone. If your device is on your left side, plug the jack into the left ear cup. Right side for right. Or if you like having a cord go across your body do it that way! The second jack also has an interesting feature - a second set of headphones can be plugged into the unused ear cup jack and the second pair of phones is driven in turn

The ear cups themselves feel...divine. There's no other word I can think of to describe them accurately. When I was shopping for new cans I tried out numerous vendor offerings, from Grado to Bose, AKG to Sennheiser, Audio-Technica to Sony, etc. For me the PSBs are the most comfortable ear cups I've ever felt. Made of some sort of pleather/abs combo that sounds ridiculous and uncomfortable yet is crazy comfy. Unlike memory foam ear cups or ones covered in velour, these don't make my ears sweat or feel squished. And yes, there are a number of headphones that have velour coverings on their ear cups. :)

Doing a direct comparison (either by switching phones and restarting songs or using the dual output of the E07K) showed that the sound issued by the PSB is a much cleaner, flat sound than other devices. As an example, the Audio-Technica was much punchier in the bass presentation, whereas the Shure's had a slightly crisper treble (to the point of almost pain...to much crispness isn't always a good thing!). I much prefer the flat, crisp sound issued by the PSB. I want to hear the music as presented by the artist and producer, not how the headphone maker thinks it should be played. The PSBs were also developed to produce a similar soundstage to what you would experience with a good speaker system in a normal room, instead of an audiophile lab like most companies. That simple difference is very clearly evident in the presentment of sounds.

If it wasn't evident before now I'm extremely impressed with these headphones. And you didn't read the TL:DR. :) Cost for these is a bit steep for some, not so much for others. I was able to get them brand new from a proper retail store for 279+tax, shipping included, making these the third most expensive soundsystem I've bought to date (Shure 535 and my full home theatre being the most). MSRP is 299+tax. Can you get headphones cheaper? Yup. Hell there are some good ones cheaper too - Audio-Technica M50, Shure 440/750/940 even, AKG 550 (although this one is only about $20 cheaper...). Will they sound as good? No. Not even close. At least not to me. What about spending a little more? At approx. $300 isn't there a gamut of "professional" sounding cans? Yes there is. Thankfully all the reviewers out there seem to agree with me - to get a better soundstage than the PSB M4U1s (or the M4U2 if you want noise cancelling) you'd need to spend anywhere from double to triple the price, or more.


Like most things in life this is definitely a YMMV thing as music is very subjective. Some people are bassheads, in which case they may not like these cans as they don't up the bass by themselves. They require some EQ fooling around for extra bass. Some others are trebleheads and it's the same issue - modifying an EQ settings is required for a more in-your-face treble punch. Even with that though I'd still recommend these to anyone. Why? Simple - every device that I know of has a built in EQ that you should be able to very quickly and easily modify, not all headphones give you the option to listen to the music as it is supposed to sound. Definitely try them out in a store first and for those with a S/HWMBO that may not understand spending that much on a pair of phones...to you I say it's always better to ask forgiveness than permission. Just make sure you keep the receipt. :P

Cheers,

M.   

Posted

Pros: Amp optional, Value, Comfort, Sound

Cons: That plastic feeling.

I could not recommend these headphones more, they sound better than anything else i have had the opportunity to listen to for more than five minutes. They take the best parts of the headphones i owned previously and puts them all in one package and refines them even more. More controlled lows than the m50, better highs than the ad700's and keeps their sound stage, and the mids of the MS1 with more detail. Just an incredible headphone.

 

Buy these now.

ALSO: I bought my pair from videopro in Australia, and they arrived the next day with free shipping. There was very minor damage to one corner of the beautiful packaging but for the most part I am a very, very happy customer.

Posted

Pros: Excellent frequency response, very balanced sound. Excellent, punchy bass, energetic mids/treble. Great imaging, timbre & soundstage for closed cans.

Cons: Slightly heavy. Comfortable for up to 2-3 hours.

I needed a closed pair of headphones to use during late-night listening sessions, when my wife and daughter are asleep, and where my (VERY) open-backed Grado PS500's leaked too much sound. The Grado's are amazing, and had they made a closed headphone, they could simply sign me up. So I began a journey to find the ideal audiophile closed headphone, which would also isolate noise effectively in a passive way, and ideally be portable. I tried the Beyerdynamic DT1350, great treble, punchy bass, and good mids. It just wasn't as "FUN" as I was looking for. Additionally, it got uncomfortable being supra-aural on sitting on the ear. I also tried the VModa M100, as I had read it was more accurate than their previous offerings. Ok, it is incredibly built, military grade even. But it was just still too colored for me, adding bass in places that didn't need it, and overpowering the mids. The treble was fairly good, but a little rolled off at the limits. Next I tried the Sennheiser Amperior. This is a good headphone, and many will like it. I thought the highs were a bit zazzy and hot, especially with "S" and "T" sounds. Of course, the source was critical, and the better the quality of the file, the better the output. I just couldn't put my finger on why I didn't want to keep them, but the clamping force was the deciding factor. Throughout this search of trial and error, I came across several glowing reviews for the PSB M4U 2's, which featured active noise cancelling. I had never been a huge fan of the way added electronics altered the sound quality and transparency of these types of headphones, but many respected audio publications said they were different. Then I read that PSB had recently released a new model without the active noise cancelling. It was difficult to find a review for this pair specifically, but I decided to pull the trigger. WOW. This is the first headphone that Paul Barton of PSB has introduced, and they knocked it out of the park. These are really phenomenal sounding headphones.

Treble: These have as close to a perfect, extended treble for their price that I could possibly imagine. They have excellent resolution and detail, easily keeping up with phones 2-3x their price. They have an extremely balanced top-end that has sparkle, energy and impact, rendering all range of instruments, both electric and strings/percussion with lifelike precision. They never fatigue me and have little to no sibilants. Being a drummer, the realistic snap of snares is a special treat.

Mids: Fantastic, slightly forward, with just the right amount of presence and weight to immerse you in the music. Great with both male and female vocals, and well rounded with all genres, from Rock to Hip-Hop, EDM to Classical. Truly, it is hard to find faults with the frequency range and presentation that Paul Barton and team engineered into these beauties.

Bass: Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Punchy, able to achieve sub-bass, and so accurate and fast. They do their best to add nothing to the original intended sound, but they can really slam when the song calls for it. I've played them pretty darn loud with my Nuforce Icon HDP, and I cannot get them to break-up.

I'm just in awe that these are only $299. Audiophile steal. Period. Please don't feel trepidation to make the purchase due to the low amount of positive reviews online. Folks who have heard the M4U 1 and the M4U2, and compared them back to back, have preferred the transparency and naturalness of the M4U1. You're not getting less headphone if you don't care about the active noise cancelling. They myriad of reviews are correct. Buy these, you won't be disappointed.

Happy Listening!

Posted

Pros: Well-imaged sound, even response, easy to drive

Cons: Uncomfortable, ugly, very revealing

Overview

 

I listen to all types of music: from mixtapes of dubious quality from DatPiff to FLAC rips of half the MFSL library. I'm generally listening at my desk, though I also listen walking the dogs, walking myself, on the subway, lying in bed. About 65% of the music I listen to is rap, 10% electronic, 25% rock/pop of some sort. I'm a music critic, and my usual tools for evaluation are the Audioengine A5 speakers, Denon AHD2000, Shure SE215, Apple iPhone earbuds, and now these, the PSB M4U1. Honestly, I just listen to a lot of music with whatever's best at hand.

 

The PSB M4U1 are some of the best headphones I've personally heard, and compare favorably (to my recollection) to the HD650 and IE8.

 

SOUND

 

I've found the headphones to be very precise and revealing. They don't necessarily present a wide soundstage, but the separation is very good. Different elements of a track, or different instruments, all receive pretty clear characterization. I've actually noticed a lot of different ambient sounds in studio recordings since using these.

 

The treble isn't at all rolled off, so they seem a little 'sharp', but I suspect that's because I'm used to slightly muddier or bass-heavy earbuds like the IE8 and SE215.

 

As for the bass - it's good. It's certainly not 'powerful' or overwhelming, but it seems accurately accounted for. When you've got the volume up, there's a somewhat physical bass 'hit' (sub-bass, I guess some people might call it?). I don't mind super-duper overwhelming bass; I turned the bass setting on my IE8 all the way up, and sometimes wanted more. I find the PSB M4U1 more than sufficient. They don't bowl you over, but the total sound package is such that the bass doesn't need to overwhelm to have a solid presence. As you can see from the length of these paragraphs, bass is pretty much the second- or third-most important thing for me, and these have it.

 

The PSB M4U1 have revealed some flaws in my music that I have previously missed. That's sort of a plus and a minus. Since I bought them to be an 'every day' sort of headphone, I'd like them to 'enhance' my experience. But if the source material (all FLAC, 320, or V0) is flawed, well, it's not their fault. Still, I didn't notice this sort of resolution with the HD650 or AHD2000. That could either be a plus or a minus.

 

Along the same lines, I think it could be that I wasn't (somehow) driving the HD650 sufficiently. I've had no such problems with the M4U1. They seem to drive easily, though, and I may sound like an idiot here, I haven't amped them. Maybe they sound even better amped. Compared to the un-amped AHD2000, they sound much better: clearer, better separation of sounds, more accurate bass.

 

Fit and Finish

 

OK, this is where the PSB M4U1 lose half a star. I do have a pretty big head. I wear something like a 7 3/4 hat. My ears might be a little big. Whatever. The tips of my ears hurt after wearing the headphones for more than an hour. Given how great they sound, this sucks. I never want to take them off, but I've found after a week that I have to take frequent breaks or suffer sore ears. The headphones also look pretty ugly overall, and they look stupid on my big head. (But hey, if you have a pinhead, maybe they'll look cool on you.)

 

I got the gray pair. They look like a really bad knock-off of the HD650: they're all plastic, no metal, and just a plain, upside down U shape like wearing a cross section of a bucket on top of your head.

 

EDIT: I just remembered another slight cavil. The cable with the mic/remote is very long. Since the cable is inherently for portable use, I wish it weren't like three feet long. Also, the mic/remote is really just a play/pause button; there's no volume adjustment on it. I still wouldn't knock the M4U1 down to 4 stars over this, but it's close. The sound is the most important thing, but obviously the headphones must be used as objects in the world, and I find their use to be highly problematic.

 

Conclusion

 

Given that these headphones hurt both my body and my pride to wear, the fact that I'd still rate them a 4.5 should give you an idea of how great they sound. They sound great. That's the greatest attribute for a headphone. I don't care if I look like a dork and have sore ears. It's worth it.

 

BUT - If you're on the fence from a sound perspective between these and, say, the Sennheiser Momentums or something, I'd say pick the other ones. I find these uncomfortable, ugly, and a chore to use. They do sound good, though.

PSB M4U 1
Description:

PSB Speakers gets up close and personal with your hi-fi. We've taken our 40 years of bringing real sound to real people and packed it into our exciting new Music for You (M4U) series of high performance headphones. You're listening to music more than ever before, but now you can do it in comfort and style with PSB's true-to-nature sound quality. The latest M4U addition is the M4U 1 Over-Ear Headphone, which offers our Room Feel™ technology and the same musicality of our award-winning M4U 2 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, but without amplification or noise cancelling. The M4U 1 brings the precise true-to-nature sound of PSB's in-room loudspeakers to affordable personal listening.

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