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PSB M4U 2 Noise Canceling headphones

  1. Arvan
    Really impressive sound, not so impressive design.
    Written by Arvan
    Published Oct 12, 2016
    Pros - Really good slight warmish balanced sound. Comfort for a big heavy plastic headphone is actually quite good.
    Cons - Massive size. The build is not very impressive. No real value in the NC and amp electronics, expensive for "old tech"
    Let's start with the build since it is a hot topic on this headphone.
    It´s not very confidence inspiring but it's chunky. Made out of mostly plastics and cast aluminum for the adjustment arms and probably aluminum or stainless for the hinges, this thing should be quite durable. However i don't see it lasting a lifetime. Since it's so heavy and the plastic seems to be of the hard kind that just cracks and shatter if dropped, i think that if this thing picks up speed during a drop, it's probably going to break. However, i don't usually drop my gear and i am a very careful person when it comes to my gadgets i personally don't see this as a problem, but it's worth knowing for some buyers.
    Compare this to some much cheaper headphones from "headphone" companies like Beyerdynamic, AKG and some Sennheiser models or the undisputed heavyweight king of durability, the German Maestro 8.35-300 series headphones.The M4U is build "wrong" i would say.
    Take note that this headphone isn´t new and it isn't (while sounding amazing) targeted at the pro-audio or headphone geek market. When the M4U2/1 saw the light there was an era of plastic fantastic cans with funky colors. If the M4U series was designed today, i bet it would look different.
    The construction folds into a "portable" size. However when you unfold this thing of modern day "swag" the noise when the hinges goes into place, make you cringe. Not the kind of sound you want from a MSRP of 400 USD.
    To summarize my rant here..It´s way to heavy for it´s own good. Instead of making out of durable plastics they added a lot of the shiny stuff to make it sturdier. I think it´s a shame.
    It´s made out of a springy rubberish material. It´s not the worst but not the best. What is nice is that the plug is very small and sits flush with your device of choice. The microphone sounds rather good but it´s located to far down the cable. A mistake often seen on portable headphones. How hard can it be to make a proper cable? Either is it flat ( the worst thing ever! ) Or the microphone is way to low.
    When the headphone is in active mode, you can press the little hump on the cable ( Where the microphone should be located btw ) This let´s the microphones for the noise canceling amplify outside sound to make it easier to hear without removing the headphones. Kinda of a nice feature.

    Comfort? How does this massive contraption fit on your cranium? Well, surprisingly good.

    It´s easy to find a good seal, the pads are of good quality and you get a replacement pair in the box, a nice touch! But nothing is perfect. Let me tell you what could be better.
    The pads are to thin and to small. It's that simple. While the pads are soft and made of quality materials, when they get pressed around your ear they gets thin and your ear starts to touch the baffle. On my head ( and ears ) it's not really a big deal but i can absolutely see this an issue for people with larger ears or a larger head where the clamp get's the best out of these pads.
    My favorite replacement earpads are the Brainwavz HM5. And they are too big, bummer! I have not found a replacement pad worth looking into since the main issue here is not quality, it´s depth.
    Sound. Where it´s get interesting.
    I did buy these cans without hearing them first, it's often how it goes down when i shop for cans. Part of that is the lack of demo units available around this part of the world ( Sweden ). Second, if there are cans available locally, the price is not nice! Heavy taxes etc yada yada makes this very expensive compared to the US for example.
    Since i often buy cans like this, the first listen is something special. In this case i was pleased to say the least.
    The sound out of this unimpressive thing made out of plastic is organic, vast and natural ( not neutral ) The headphone sounds damn good.
    It´s a rather flat signature but with a warm tone that makes music and instruments sound pleasant and still with enough sparkle and detail to make it an interesting listen.
    The bass is well weighted and goes deep enough but it can be a little honky and go up to the lower mid bass on some tracks. On the other hand this ads meat to guitar riffs and vocals. I would prefer more sub bass while still keeping the attack. Bass can be little lazy and honky but overall rather well tuned.
    The treble is just enough. It´s organic and blends nicely in with the overall tone of the headphone. I would have enjoyed a better articulation in the treble though. A little bit more energy and crispness. However this is a dangerous area to enter when tuning a headphone. Specially something like this that has to be every headphone on planet earth at the same time. It´s enough treble, it sounds good. But it’s not magic.

    Mid Range is well presented and not to forward. I think this is an important point to focus on. If mids are to forward people tend to not enjoy the overall signature ( speaking of the majority of the people here, not geeks like us ) Since the mid range blends a little bit with the bass it can sound a little hollow and honky. But hearing lyrics and detail from instruments like acoustic guitars are no problem here. It´s good and not tuned far back in the mix. It’s not magic, but absolutely good enough.
    Soundstage is where it´s at with the M4U2. Really good surround feel and depth. Pinpointing instruments and details on a live jazz recording is a joy and really impressive for something “cool” looking like this. I’ve read that this headphone had good stage but i was not expecting it to be this good. Overall the presence blends together with the overall tuning and makes this a slightly warm and cosy experience. I think the soundstage is what makes this headphone stand out from the crowd.
    Without soundstage and this organic flat-ish tuning the PSB M4U2 would be nothing. Nothing really stands out in the other areas of the sound signature. It´s the whole that is impressive. The bass is good enough, midrange and treble is also good enough, not fantastic. But when the “Room feel kicks in” you hear where it’s at.
    Electronics..Yes! It´s powered by batteries and it’s why you should buy the M4U1 instead.
    There is a built in amplifier which is great in theory but it’s to noisy. The headphone is easy to drive as is. It’s nice to have an easy to drive headphone that sounds this good.
    There is also a active noise canceling funktion. This mode ads the noise of the amplifier plus the noise from the NC itself. However it does a rather good job with low frequency noise like engines, road noise etc. I can at least find a useful scenario to use this function compared to the amplifier. To bad you can't run the NC mode only without including that darn amplifier.
    The active parts do NOT work on android phones..It makes me furious really. I know it’s apple only but it should not be. It’s a regular 4 pole plug on the cable, and the remote has one button only. Still when connected to any android unit ( nexus 6p, 5x etc ) all you get in active mode is static and ground issues. It´s all in the cable. A theory is that they somehow use the ground for the microphone on apple devices or the resistor or something like this to make it all work.
    You can get it to work with a regular stereo source though. Xduoo X2, Sansa Clip for example.
    To summarize this long review. The headphone sounds great but don’t pay for the active version, it´s not as good in drowning out noise as the Bose QC 25 and the amp is useless.
    A great sounding headphone with a sound signature that appeals a lot of people. PSB tried to make this the only headphone you should buy, It got the “looks”, it “folds” it has “noise canceling” it even has a built in “amplifier”  and that's what's wrong.
    Lucky you who can get your paws on the passive version of this called the PSB M4U1 it´s a much better overall experience since it’s a headphone, not a space craft.
    I bought this pair used for about 120 USD, money well spent! However the best price for a new pair is 350 USD ( passive version not available here ) and for 350, i think you should look for alternatives.

      peter123 likes this.
  2. hongkong
    Best of the rest of the world ?
    Written by hongkong
    Published Apr 8, 2016
    Pros - Cancel noise is good but not very good
    Cons - Not very strong
    This headphone is the best I've heard.
    I have Sennheiser PXC 450 and Bose QC 25.
    PXC 450 has a poor sound if you hear the PSB M4U2 !
    Bose QC 25 is impressive about cancel noise, but too much bass and not very musical.
    PSB is excellent for listen music in 3 modes and his cancel noise is not the cancel noise of the Bose, but I prefer PSB.
  3. Mr_Owlow
    Very good!
    Written by Mr_Owlow
    Published Jul 11, 2014
    Pros - Good in passive mode, great in active, and decent noice canceling
    Cons - My ears get warm, and a bit too big and heavy for laying on my back.
    I bought these headphones a little over a week ago, and thought I should post my impressions. I work in a small office, and sit close to my boss, who is constantly on the phone, so I wanted a noice-canceling big headphone for home and for the office. I first listened to these a year ago and fell in love with the sound, but my wallet didn't allow the purchase, and now I own them, and am very happy with them.
    Previously I owned the K701's, but sold them because the headband hurt my scalp, and I've been using in-ear phones since. I mostly liked the sound in the K701; the bass was very correct, but sometimes not that fun, and the highs were incredibly unforgiving. The PSB's are more balanced in my view, and have a bit more oomph, especially with the built in amp on. The noice canceling works well in the office, but does change the sound slightly, I can't put my finger on what happens, but it is not as good as with just the amplification on. Either having a stack of batteries handy or a charger seems to be needed, but I think this is a better solution than a built in charger.
    Edit: Formatting
  4. kcmega007
    Awesome Headphone ( :
    Written by kcmega007
    Published Feb 16, 2014
    Pros - Very detailed and well balance + good enough punchy bass ( I love the amp mode ) Stylish ,,but bulky looking
    Cons - Bulky and yes,, a bit heavy
    Bought this PSB M4U2 for a few days now,, super happy and excited - bought it from a headphone store.  ( Headphone Bar - w. boardway, Vancouver bc )
    I always wanted a noise cancelling headphone with passive mode and uses batteries than stupid rechargeable ones.. and I have been doing my research and listing on headphones for a month before purchase and now my wish has come true  + this headset has a amplifier mode ,, which makes the music sound lively and hearing the vocals are super clear and clean sounding.
    I feel that the amp mode is the best mode than the nc mode.,, but still nc mode , is awesome ,, I couldn't even hear my phone ring ,, when I was listening in nc mode,
    I wish this headset is a bit lighter and not so bulky design and at times,, is not that comfortable at a long period of time.. other than that comparing to my other favourite headphones - like :
    V-moda M80 , B&W P3 and Monster DNA's , the PSB M4U2 is one of my best headset - I own for now.  I haven't tested using my headphone amplifier on this yet,, like the Fiio e17 and Electric-Avenues
    PA2V2 amplifier ...I'm wondering how much more detail of sound .. if I use them on m4u2 ,, my next purchase might just get a better amp at $500-600 range.[​IMG]
  5. leadbythemelody
    I like these the best (Best for: Piano, Orchestral/Classical music. And music with Vocals)
    Written by leadbythemelody
    Published Nov 22, 2013
    Pros - Natural Representation, Soundstage "Room-Feel Technology", Nice Midrange, Integrated Amplifier
    Cons - Noise Cancelling Is not the best, very heavy, On-ear clamping pressure, plastic design, Slight grain in the treble, Bass-transient are not the best
    I've owned the Sennheiser Momentums, B&W P7's, and other mid-fi portable headphones but I prefer these in terms of sound quality only.
    Why? These headphone's have such an organic/balanced representation of all the sound frequencies that it really sounds accurate/natural opposed to accurate/cold or overly colored.
    Sennheiser Momentum: Dull/bloated bass response, overly thick midrange, and recessed high frequencies.
    B&W P7's: Unnatural Representation, slightly thin midrange, loose bass, strident high frequencies.
    Ultasone Edition 8's: They are like $1499. Better than the P7's and PSB's , but severely overpriced.
    Bose QC 15: I tried to like them for their excellent noise cancellation but the sound is so horrible.
    Sennheiser PXC 450- Dry, dry midrange, subpar bass response, better noise cancellation than the M4U2's but not better passive sound isolation.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. leadbythemelody
      No it's not just you.
      leadbythemelody, Jan 27, 2014
    3. zorin
      What a good and succinct evaluation of several headphones.  I am not the only one who finds P7's treble crossing into the shrill territory. To
      add about Edition 8, these headphones have an unbearable treble.
      Do you know the weight of M4U-2 ?
      zorin, Feb 3, 2014
    4. leadbythemelody
      Thanks. The weight of the M4U-2's are 12.08oz (0.8Ibs) with the batteries
      leadbythemelody, Feb 10, 2014
  6. tracer99
    Appearance of high quality but lacking in execution and comfort
    Written by tracer99
    Published Oct 15, 2013
    Pros - Amazing active (NC off) sound quality. Full range response.
    Cons - Not that comfortable for long periods. Active NC has weird distortion sometimes. Poor Internal build.
    Warning: See Update (2014-12-15) below.
    First, a disclaimer. My Head is of an above average size. 7 3/4 (XXL)
    These headphones are very well made. In the world of plastic, it's nice to see headphones put together with metal and screws, though plastic is still heavily used. Because of this, they are heavy and ridged. The problem with this, is if you have a large head then they clamp uncomfortably to your head. Because of the stylized ear cups, you will find pressure on parts of your years. This is in contrast with most high end Sony or Sennheiser.
    With a good headphone amp the fully off state produces good sound with good passive noise isolation.
    With the middle "active" setting, you get a nice quality build in headphone amp which improved bass response considerably and is very enjoyable.
    The full Noise Cancelling mode is inconsistent. It seems, based on the quality of your input, their can be a bit of a feedback loop where noise is introduced to the noise cancelling feedback.
    Compared to headphones like the Bose, Sony or Audio Technica, this is a dirtier implementation.
    The travel case, detachable cables and other accessories round out a very well thought out package.
    Ultimately I regret my purchase, not because of the NC feature, value or any of these things, but simply due to them lacking the all day comfort I need for hours of coding at my job. Again, please take into consideration the size of your head vs. mine when reading this review.
    These headphones were purchased used.
    Update (2014-03-05): I still have these headphones. I'm not sure if this is intentional, but the headphones come with a second set of pads. I found these to be stiffer. This allowed the headphones to sit properly on my head and are more comfortable. Again, not as comfortable as Senns for example, but comfortable enough that the amazing sound quality is worth it. 
    Lastly, I can't seem to add a photo. I apparently lack permission. 
    Update (2014-12-03): Still using these headphones. So I apparently do not regret buying them. I can't find a pair of NC headphones that comes close to the overall quality and sound of these. One feature of note, is that they act as a headset for making phone calls. This is something I do regularly at work through our internal VOIP system. I also use the feature on my phone. 
    Update (2014-12-15): 
    1. hd800op
      I now want to see a picture of your head.
      hd800op, Nov 7, 2013
    2. hd800op
      You can't just drop something like an xxl head and not deliver.
      hd800op, Nov 7, 2013
      SnobbyNoob likes this.
    3. hd800op
      Oh, and I would like to see the headphones too
      hd800op, Nov 7, 2013
  7. BobbyWould
    PSB M4U 2
    Written by BobbyWould
    Published Jan 16, 2013
    Pros - Sound, Build Quality
    Cons - None so far!
    Just got my PSB M4U 2 headphones after a dilligent search for the right cans for my lifestyle.  I am a "limited audiophile".  Limited since my main genre is classic rock from the 60's and 70's.  If you need a broader range of music style to consider, then please press on.  This review may not be that helpful for you. I am also a frequent traveller, so the noise cancelling consideration is important for me.  I originally bought some AKG K495NC's, which were returned due to discomfort on the ears during long plane trips, and also considered and tried out the Sennheiser PXC 450's, which were a little too large for convenient carrying in my travel bag, and also the speakers actually were touching my ears causing no small amount of discomfort.  Then my PSB's arrived!  I have had them on 4 long plane trips (over 3 hours each), and as I write this article I am listening to Pink Floyd's "Animals", and am euphoric over the quality of the sounds.  Perfect bass for my taste (but hip-hop addicts may need a little more), and all the elements of the mids and highs are discernable.  I am happy as a lark!  The noise cancelling has an extremely low, almost undetectable hum of quiet noise, which is a necessity on phones of this type.  The QC 15's from Bose may be a little better at noise cancelling (seems about the same to me), but the quality of sound blows Bose away.  A friend has a set of Grado's (not sure the model, but PS1000 sounds familiar), and I think these babies sound better.  With the noise cancelling off and the amp activated (internal amp included), they are as good as set of cans as I've heard in awhile, and that's saying a lot!  The build quality is phenominal, but they may look a little strange on your head.  PSB chose functionality over style with these cans, so they have a larger wrap-around quality with pivoting earpieces (360 degrees) for a very good fit.  I took the redeye back from Vegas a couple of weeks back, and slept like a baby, which I usually do anyway.  The point is I had no discomfort or extra heat from my headphones.  Kind of like football refs - if you don't notice them then they are pretty good.  All in all, I have no complaints, and look forward to many years of happy listening with my new PSB M4U 2's!
    1. Craigster75
      I agree with your comments. They are a great headphone that can be EQ'd to handle tons of bass as well. I agree they are excellent for 60's and 70's rock. Where did you find them for $360?
      Craigster75, Jan 18, 2013
  8. crimsonghost
    Great Commuter 'phones for the less budget-conscious
    Written by crimsonghost
    Published Nov 4, 2012
    Pros - Sound, Aesthetics, Comfort, Folding, build quality, overall size
    Cons - price tag, weight
    Great phones. I'll add to this later. I just wanted to get this started.
  9. AnakChan
    PSB M4U 2 Travel Headphones
    Written by AnakChan
    Published Jul 30, 2012
    Pros - Noise Cancellation, Active, and still usable if batteries drain. Comes with lots of accessories
    Cons - Somewhat large and heavy.
    A few weeks ago, I met a very nice gentleman who was a distributor of this product. I had never heard of PSB let alone the M4U 2 and I was given the opportunity to demo this product. A very big thanks to John of Lenbrook Asia for this opportunity.
    On The Head
    Isolation - average. Maybe similar to the LP2  for my sized head. The Ed8s & Signature Pros isolate more. Whilst the clamping force though somewhat akin to the Ed8s & Signature Pros. It's weight on the head though is heavier than the aforementioned headphones.
    The size of the earcups are just a tad small for my ears despite being circumaural. As such overall comfort-wise I'd probably feel its comfort to be less suitable for my head-size. But it may be more suitable for others with (smaller?) heads & ears.
    Here's a picture showing the depth of the earpads.
    Absolute top knotch! Comes with 1/8"->1/4" plugs, airline converter jacks (very useful!), hard case, different cables (with phone capability), extra earpads, cleaning cloth, etc.
    Aside from the noise cancellation, it has an active & passive mode too (where passive mode can be used when the 2xAA battery drains). It also has dual jacks, one on each side of the earcup giving you flexibility which side you prefer your cable to fall on. I continually switched sockets on the earcups on the planes depending on which arm rest had the socket.
    The cables don't tangle which is great, but they do have somewhat of a memory effect on how they were coil-stored. They're not microphonic though which is great.
    The hinge also appears to be quite strong.
    So how does it sound?
    In Passive Mode
    1. personally, these didn't sparkle for me - but then again I've been coming from Fostex TH900's, FitEar To Go!334, Unique Melody Merlin's, etc. Having said that, passive mode appears to be a bonus feature anyway, not its main selling factor - its ability for continued use even after the batteries are drained. My understanding is other NC/Active headphones stop dead when the batteries are dead - not good for a long overhaul flight.
    2. although the SQ didn't sparkle for me, I still found acceptable detail in this mode.  Bass extension is decent but not deep. By comparison. The TH900 & V-Moda range extends deeper. They're not warm (nor bright for that matter) by any means.
    In Active Mode
    1. this is where the M4U 2 shines. I have to admit, I've always had a prejudice against double-amping but in this design, it seems to work quite well.
    2. just switching on active mode, the detail jumps up, bass extensions increase, & overall sounds quite dynamic.
    3. the trebles on the other hand didn't seem to extend further however, feels more brought forward.
    4. the soundstage perceives to be larger in active mode initially but flicking back & forth, at least to my ears, they're really the same. Its more the improvements in the aforementioned aspects seem to make one think the soundstage increases too.
    5. I seem to detect a hiss though (noise floor) when in active mode is enabled.
    Noise Cancellation Activated
    1. This is another selling feature of these headphones. Especially with the amount of accessories that come with these headphones, (at least to me) it tends to target more for the traveller.
    2. the NC does (as with other NC headphones) cut out a certain range of frequencies so SQ is affected. Having said that, when I'm on a plane though, I don't mind so much...better than the low hum reverberating throughout the cabin.
    3. again as with most other NC headphones, it does create a "suction" feeling the ears, but by no means uncomfortable.
    4. on the plane, I actually used the NC feature quite a bit for watching in-flight movies more than for listening to music. So actually it's quite well suited for travel if it's the intent of the manufacturer to target travellers.
  10. DnB4Guy
    the seldom discussed PSB, a Giant killer...?
    Written by DnB4Guy
    Published Jun 20, 2012
    Pros - Sound quality, comfort
    Cons - so far, none
    Had these for just over 2 months now and have a couple hundred hours with them. These are a very balanced headphone in terms of the frequency range they are capable of. Paul Barton (the man who designs PSB speakers) suggests this is 20-20,000 Hz @ ± 1.5 Hz, and I believe him.
    I find these to be VERY comfortable. They weigh in at almost a pound, but a nice pleather padding on the headband and nice soft pleather ear-cups make them literally disappear. Unless I move my head in some direction with speed, I don't notice that I'm wearing them. I've had them on for over 10 hours straight, and never suffered warm or sweaty ears, or any discomfort at all. Perfect cans for my head it seems!
    The removable cable is nice, and the ability to use either cup to connect the cable to is a bonus. There are 2 cables that come with these cans, but I've no use for the (included) ipod/iphone cable as I don't use an ipod/iphone. PSB also includes a pair of ear-pad replacements as well as a cleaning cloth for them and your first set of batteries.
    These headphones operate in 3 different modes...Passive, Active, and Active w/Noise Cancellation. I currently have no need for the noise cancellation, so I don't use that mode. If you don't have batteries, the Passive mode offers a very nice sounding headphone experience. The Active mode offers a slightly enhanced low-end presence without disturbing the remaining frequencies and it nearly doubles the life of my Cowon D2. This enhanced low-end that PSB calls in-room feel is supposed to create a sound similar to that of your loudspeakers in your home. I can't really argue with this, as I've done and do comparisons with the M4U 2 headphones and the Stratus speakers with different music.
    I've only listened to music with these cans thus far, no movies yet, but the sub-bass and bass performance is really quite good. I mostly listen to Drum & Bass (Big Bud, PFM, Logistics, LTJ Bukem, etc) and it shines through the M4U 2 as nicely (maybe even nicer than...?) as it does through my big-boy speakers (PSB Stratus). An oldie but goodie from the early 90's is a great way to hear the quality of the extension on these: LFO - LFO
    I'm not the best person for describing sound-stage etc, as I listen to electronic music which really has no stage (?), but I was literally put right in the middle of the club while listening to Diana Krall - Live in Paris. There's much more "stage" in this CD than there is in any of my DnB CDs, and I can clearly hear where the music is coming from. I love what I'm hearing from these. Instruments are clearly separated and sound very real.
    These are not just a "noise canceling headphone" as I've got a couple hundred hours on them without even using that feature and have enjoyed them immensely. Paul & Company (PSB) have produced a very nice set of "introductory" cans for their consumers.
    edit: ssrock64, yes I compared them to the Shure SRH1440 and also to the AKG K701/K702 (I don't remember, it was a few months ago). The PSBs won that round, but IIRC both were below (if just) the PSB price.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. nick n
      Thanks! Nice review. Did you post this up in the thread also?
      nick n, Jun 21, 2012
    3. thecansmancan
      hey, kinda following up ssrock64. You said you compared them and they won. But what does that mean? That doesnt really say much do you have a more detailed comparison perhaps?
      thecansmancan, Aug 16, 2012
    4. BobbyWould
      I posted a review of these headphones, but for some reason the site is not allowing me to comment on my own article. Craigster had a question related to price. I got my PSB's on ebay, but non-returnable. http://www.ebay.com/itm/PSB-M4U-2-Active-Noise-Cancelling-Headphones-psb-m4u-2-/330858971367?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item4d08bb40e7. Afterwards I found another guy in Sarasota, FL who had them for $360.00, but if you don't live nearby as I do, you would have to pay shipping. http://www.encorehes.com . Hope this helps Craigster!.
      BobbyWould, Jan 19, 2013