You might be wondering what a headphone review is doing here on WWR, instead of on our sister site Knapsack.News – and that’s a fair question. Ostensibly, watches are luxury items, no matter the price. Today, no one needs a watch, per se. Your phone will get the job done. Still, we are drawn to these miniature mechanical wonders. In the same vein, the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII feel like a luxury item, as compared to whatever ANC headphones you might be using.
Who is PSB Speakers, anyways?
They’re an audio company that call Ontario, Canada home. The company started back up in 1972 (named for Paul and Sue Barton), creating speaker kits that were affordable, provided the purchaser could handle a screwdriver and a soldering iron. They eventually began building speakers that did their utmost to reproduce sound just as you’d hear it if the instrument was there performing live, which is a relatively effortless way to listen. Today, of course, they’ve got all manner of speakers (and now headphones) that reach towards the higher end without putting too much hurt on your wallet.
What are the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII?
Simply put, the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII is a over-ear headset that have active noise cancellation capabilities, can be wireless (or wired), and a tuned audio response that can be further customized to your own hearing (using the associated PSB app on your phone). In terms of looks and the fit-and-finish, they definitely have the premium look down.
How do you setup the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII?
For starters, you’ll want to ensure that they’re full charged. Using the USB-C port on the headset, it’ll take a bit to get things topped off (the LED on the power switch will go from blinking to solid once it’s done). Then, flip the headset on, and pair it to your phone using Bluetooth (or NFC, if your phone supports that pairing method). Once it’s connected, you’ll go through any firmware updates, and then you can settle in to do the customized sound profile.
As we’ve experience with other headsets that offer this sort of tuning, you’ll want to be in a relatively quiet space for this. It goes through and plays a variety of tones at different volumes, to see what your ears can pick up. The left and right ears are each tested separately, providing a custom profile for your hearing that can then be sent over to the headset.
What’s it like using the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII?
These days, we’re used to touch surfaces, or small buttons that don’t have much tactile feel. The PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII, on the other hand, bring you back to an almost mechanical feel for their controls. For starters, you’ve got an actual switch you move up to turn them on, and then one more click to turn on the ANC mode. No wondering if you’ve turned your headset on or off. To control the volume you’ve got another rocker, and another rocker to skip forward or backwards (or press it to pause your music). Once you’ve got the controls down, you’re set to go, whether it’s listening to music, podcasts, or getting on some calls for work.
What we like about the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII
For starters, those hardware switches are just a delight. They’re easy to find and use, and since they only exist on one earcup, there is a very shallow learning curve to working the controls. Secondly, the comfort of these headphones is great. I’ve got a bigger noggin, so I can sometimes get too much pressure on the ears, or even across the top of my head from the headband. Here, there was none of that, making them perfectly comfortable to wear all the live long day.
Third, we like the flexibility – if you’re going wired – to plug the cable into either earcup. This allows you to run the cable on your preferred side (mine is the left, being a lefthander), without having to try to flip the headphones around. Finally, of course, we really dug the sound quality. It felt like a faithful reproduction, and accurately delivered highs, lows, and mids, without giving too much preference to either. Of course, that’s with the custom audio profile; if you’re looking to push your own personal EQ preferences over, that’s not something that’s possible with the headphones directly; you’ll need to rely on your audio setup and hardware to do that.
What we’d improve with the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII
For starters, we wouldn’t mind seeing a longer battery life. With ANC on, you’re getting at best 25 hours of usage between charges. Pushing this closer to 40 hours would be our preference here. Additionally, when the charge gets low, you get a VERY loud chime in your ears. We’d love to be able to turn that down so you could at least get through a call without feeling like you’re missing some elements.
The other element we’d focus on is the headband. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a big head. As such, I tend to push headsets to their limits. Now, here, I was able to adjust things to fit me just fine, so that was great. What I noticed, however, was that as I’d move through the day – say, yawning or speaking – that there was a creaking noise. I could not isolate whether it was coming from the headband itself, or the mounting points for the earcups (which can move around fairly freely). This is not a sound that would transmit through on a call, but it’s something I definitely noticed throughout the day. Again, this could be due to my head size, but something worth noting.
Are the PSB Speakers M4U 8 MKII worth it?
At the end of the day, that’s the question you have to ask yourself for any purchase. If you’re already got an ANC headset you’re happy with, then the answer is probably no. However, if you want to take a step up and get truly faithful reproductions of the music you’re listening to, then yes, I’d say they are. With the included cables and adapters, you’ll be able to plug into a variety of wired sources (should Bluetooth not be an option). If you’re just listening to podcasts and doing video calls at work, these are going to be overkill. Wonderfully comfortable overkill, but still.
For those who are all about their music, all day, every day, then it would hard to be argue against these, particularly as they CAN do double duty as your work-from-home headset as well. And in terms of styling, this is a headset that does not look like something that is trying to be trendy or draw attention to itself. It looks and feels like a premium piece of kit, and it’s not going to attract any undue attention (unless someone is really into audio equipment). They’re available in black or brown for $399 directly from psbspeakers.com
Details from PSB
- Bluetooth HD wireless connection with aptX™ HD and Qualcomm® cVc™ technology
- Separate Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), Active, and Passive Modes
- All-digital ANC with digital MEMS microphones decreases audio conversion error
- PSB’s latest RoomFeel™ technology with greater detail and better imaging
- Personal Sound by Audiodo™ through the PSB Headphones app
- Access additional features, settings, and over-the-air updates using the
PSB Headphones app
- NFC pairing for supported devices
- Over-ear, amplified, closed back design
- Physical controls for volume, playback, and mode selection
- Unique dual 3.5mm input connections (left or right side)
- Tangle-free cords for analogue wired and USB-C connection
- 1/4” stereo and dual-input flight adapters
- Runs on included rechargeable battery power
- Up to 25 hrs battery playtime in Active Mode
- Gyro-suspended ear pads
- Carry case and easy folding for travel and storage
|LF Cutoff -10dB
|LF Cutoff -3dB
|Within ±1 1/2dB
THD, total harmonic distortion
|ANC: ON (1kHz/1mW)
|ANC: OFF (1kHz/1mW)
|1/8” * (3.5mm) Stereo Jack (Left or Right)
Bluetooth aptX® HD
|Standard Cable – 2m (78 3/4″) Detachable Tangle-free
USB Cable – 2m (78 3/4″) Detachable Tangle-free
|Wireless Active Mode
|Wireless ANC Mode
|ABS + Polycarbonate
Dimensions / Weights / Finish
|7 7/8 x 7 7/8 x 2 7/8 (200 x 200 x 70mm) (Travel Case)
|Ear Cushion Outside
|2 3/4 x 3 7/8 x 3/4” * (68 x 98 x 17mm)
|12oz (342g) with cable
|* Non-metric measurements are approximate.
All specifications are subject to change without notice.