July 14, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Headphones

PSB M4U 8 MKII Wireless Headphones Review

When it comes to a premium listening experience, many people look for headphones that can completely immerse them in whatever they listen to. Active noise cancellation technology has made this possible, and we see many audio brands trying to see what that looks like in their products. PSB, a well-known speaker company, has recently launched noise-canceling headphones, the M4U 8 MKII. They claim to have the technology to make you feel like you are listening to a pair of their high-quality speakers. This pair has a lot to offer, especially starting at an incredible price of $249, so let's go over all the details.

What does the box contain?

  • M4U 8 MKII Headphones
  • 3.5mm analog cable.
  • USB-C cable
  • ¼” adapter
  • airplane adapter
  • Travel case
  • Quick Start Guide Booklet

Aesthetics and Functionality

Let's start with what these look like. This pair comes in jet black and the matte finish is definitely easy on the eyes. The headphones fold inward, making them easy to fold and store in the provided carrying case. The headphones' gyroscopic suspension design makes them easy to fit on any head, without squashing inward or feeling too small. The control buttons are on the back of the right earcup and the toggle switches are easy to use when worn. I'm a big fan of the decision to forego buttons for controls and instead use a momentary switch for volume and forward/backward. I can move a switch up or down instead of having to search for a button and hope it's the right one. The on/off/ANC mode is a normal switch and the Bluetooth pairing light also works as a button to open pairing with your smart devices.

Unfortunately, the battery life on these is quite short, with a full charge lasting 25 hours. That is if you do not use active noise cancellation, and if you do, the useful life is reduced to 18 hours. Compared to the competition, which comes with at least 35 hours of battery life, this isn't the best performance wireless headphones could have.

In terms of features, it is easy to connect the headphones to any smart device. The Bluetooth connection was strong and remained consistent throughout the hours of testing. There is an app that is recommended to download to access more features of the M4U 8, but it is not strictly necessary to start listening. After you have tried it, I recommend using it to improve your listening experience. With equalizer presets, noise cancellation settings, and Personal Sound by Audiodo™, the M4U 8 truly goes above and beyond to ensure that each listener has their own desired optimal sound. These features, while very attractive in name only, fall short due to the fact that they are very limited. The equalizer is limited to just 4 presets and a misleading front display led me to believe I could play with the settings to make them whatever I wanted. Additionally, the transparency scale is limited to three main settings. I would have liked more customization, but for one of the first pairs of headphones from this company, it's a great start to improving the user experience.

Technical specifications

  • Wireless active mode: 25 hours of battery life
  • Wireless ANC mode: 18 hours of battery life
  • Frequency responses:
    • Low cut -10 dB: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
    • Low frequency cut -3 dB: 15 Hz – 20 kHz
    • Within ±1½ dB: 20 ​​Hz – 20 kHz
  • Impedance: Passive 32Ω
  • 40mm closed dynamic transducer
  • Dual 3.5mm analog inputs
  • High capacity batteries
  • Total harmonic distortion:
    • ANC On (1kHz/1mW): 0.5%
    • ANC off (1kHz/1mW): 0.25%

Featured Features

  • 24-bit wireless HD audio
  • NFC Pairing
  • Digital ANC with 4 adaptive microphones
  • Audiodo™ Personal Sound
  • Two integrated microphones with Qualcomm® cVc™ technology
  • RoomFeel Technology
  • atpX® Bluetooth technology

Hearing check

Audiodo™ Soundstage, ANC and Personal Sound

PSB had promised a pair of headphones that were equivalent to listening to a pair of their high-quality speakers. As far as I'm concerned, I think they kept their word. The soundstage is wide and has great depth, displaying a variety of details and textures throughout the frequency range. The stereo image is also very detailed and provides a precise location of where the instruments are located in the stereo field. The RoomFeel technology that has been integrated into the headphones is noticeable, especially when noise cancellation is activated. It gives a certain warm tone to the tracks you listen to and you immerse yourself in listening as if you had a pair of speakers in front of you at home.

It's sad to say that the noise cancellation aspect of these headphones was disappointing. In many of the headphones I've heard, the noise cancellation kicks in almost immediately when you turn them on, generating a low hum that drowns out the rest of the outside world. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I really had to turn up the volume, even with noise cancellation on, to get a good idea of ​​what the isolation sounded like. When activated, it was nothing spectacular as it acted as if the volume was the noise canceling part and not the actual technology. The sound was impressive, I admit, but I wouldn't brag about the ANC these headphones are advertised to have. The transparency they provide is absolutely amazing, given the four microphones that pick up any outside noise to pass through the headphones. However, it seems that clarity with transparency may have cost the listener more isolated noise cancellation.

One of my favorite features of these headphones was Personal Sound by Audiodo™. I was hesitant about it at first, as I didn't think I'd be able to hear a noticeable difference. Little did I know, once I turned it on, every song became elevated to my personal audience. I would give the review based on my personal ears, but I think it would be fairer to give a review based on what you get from the stock configuration. The frequency range was definitely improved with this feature and since setup only takes 3 minutes at best, it was worth it. All that said, I highly recommend using the personal sound feature when using the M4U 8.

Low frequencies

The bass on these headphones is good, but only under certain circumstances. I found that when ANC was turned off, the low frequencies rolled off a lot due to the microphone pickup being enhanced for the rest of the room. I was missing that thumping kick drum or a booming sub-frequency, all because the high-quality microphones were working to push through the ambient noise around me. When ANC was turned on, the bass was more present, and I could hear the color it gave to many of the tracks. It was still a little flat in the sub-frequency range, which was a little disappointing, but I was glad to hear the bass lines on my favorite tracks.

Midrange Frequencies

Super detailed mids with excellent distinction between layers. Vocals shine in the midrange and the various instruments that fall into this area also get very good sound reproduction. Clear, colorful and the best variety of these. The lower mids are not washed out and the upper mids can transition well into those really bright higher tones. Rock songs modeled this very well, where I could hear the drums taking up a lot of that mid-low range and then accompanied by vocals and guitar in the higher range. Buzzcocks' “Everybody's Happy Nowadays” was the perfect example of this, where every layer in the midrange was clear and detailed without feeling crowded.

High frequencies

Like the bottom end, the top end cuts off a bit when the ANC is off and blends into background noise when the transparency is too high. By contrast, when ANC is on, there's surprising clarity and color that balances out the overall low tones of the noise cancellation. It brings brightness and balance to tracks and pairs well with the prominent midrange. The vibrancy that many heavy songs seek comes through, and it's not too piercing or overwhelming in a loud, isolated pair of headphones.

What strikes me here is that the frequency range is really like a bell curve, when the ANC is off. The midranges receive all the emphasis and both extremes are dropped to either side. I noticed this most clearly in “Asc. Scorpio” by Oracle Sisters, a song I knew had a lot of bright highs and substantial lows. The midrange clearly stood out on this song, and the triangle of light that I knew was floating in the high end just wasn't as present as it normally would have been.

Summary

To conclude, I would say that the PSB M4U 8 MK II are a quality piece of equipment. While they may not have the battery life you want or the noise cancellation features you were hoping for, they come with colorful, detailed sound that is sure to impress any audiophile. The Personal Sound™ and RoomFeel technology is a nice added touch that sets them apart from the others, and it's a decent price. ANC may not be something to promote too much with these, but if you're looking for good sound on the go that you can customize to your own hearing, these are the headphones for you.

The PSB M4U 8 MKII are available from Audio46.

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