It’s no secret that people love their headphones. Apple fanboys shriek with delight at anything with the brand label on it. Rebels try to snag Sony’s or Bose latest and claim they hold the greatest Noise Cancelling set of cans in the world. My first pair of Active Noise cancellers were PSB’s M4U2s. They are wired, and I’d argue still have some of the best sound out there. However – wired is kind of out these days. PSB let me test out the PSB M4U8 MKII headphones – their take on wireless Noise Cancellers. Here is the good, bad, and the ugly.
The design and button placement take the cake here. Every other noise cancelling headset out there relies on buttons and your memory to either power on, pair, or adjust volumes up and down. I love the PSB “button” options. It isn’t a button at all. Rather, it is a small switch. While wearing the set I can easily turn them on and off without confusing it with other buttons. Volume works the same way, and it is clear PSB opts for function over form with this set. Connection is fast, and my phone instantly recognizes the device when powered on. I can also toggle between active and passive noise cancellation modes.
The headphones are very comfortable, and I wear them for several hours at a time. I frequently pair them to multiple devices, and they toggle between my phone and PC with ease thanks to Bluetooth 5.1 compatibility. Additionally, they support AAC, AptX HD, and SBC codecs, but they do not support the high end LDAC – which happens to be featured on Sony’s well known WH-1000XM4’s. Why does this matter? For the average listener, it doesn’t. For those who want premium HiFi sound, LDAC allows for a higher resolution of streaming audio (32-bit/96kHz).
It’s also worth noting the battery life on these headphones. In my first use I got about 26 hours, and very similar results on future use. PSB advertises 25 hours, so I feel good about the marketing here.
The Not So Bad
The ANC on the MKII’s is decent, but overall, it is just mediocre. I still feel the M4U2’s beat them out for blocking external sound. I also own a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 ANC headphones and they easily take the cake between the two sets. For the price, the Sony’s are a much better buy (the XM4’s and XM5’s are also available) and they look and feel better as well. The overall sound quality on the PSB’s is really well balanced though and shouldn’t be ignored.
The bass slaps and pounds into my skull without being overpowering. Highs blend well and don’t irritate or sound overpowering. All in all, there is a wonderful balance of sound, and I can’t help but enjoy the listening experience. As with most Noise Cancellers (at least over ear), I can pick out a variety of song pieces I never noticed before. Guitar and background vocals stand out almost like I can see the tracks they were recorded on. This is always the beauty of using a wonderful headset compared to say listening to the radio in my car. It is a unique, and in some cases exhilarating experience.
The problem is, I feel like older sets of Sony headphones like the aforementioned WH-1000XM3’s offer just as good of sound if not better at a fraction of the price. So, unless the design is that much better and matters that much to someone, why spend the additional cash?
The biggest complaint I have about the PSB M4U8 MKII headphones in general (outside of the lengthy product name) is that they look clunky on my head. They feel great, they sound really good, but they just look like they stick way out on my head. I tend to have the same complaint about Turtle Beach gaming headsets. PSB recently announced they will release the M4U9’s and from pictures it doesn’t look like they are changing the design to form better to the head. I’d love to see a focus on a form fitting design in the future from PSB because right now, while I kind of don’t care what I look like, I kind of do care at the same time. These make me look like I’m a DJ or about to chop some trees down. In the end I’ll take superior ANC over beauty, but there is def room for improvement on the design front.
PSB can make a great quality product. There’s a lot to love here, but for the price they want to charge for the PSB M4U8 MKII’s I can find a better looking and sounding headset from competitors like Bose and Sony. If the M4U9’s can up the ANC quality and bring premium codecs, I could still be convinced to switch, however for now when I go wireless, I’m sticking with the competitors.