The Canada-based company, PSB, has been designing audio peripherals since 1972. They’ve created a fairly reputable name in the audio industry with loudspeakers being their specialty. Recently, the company released the M4U 8 MKII ANC Headphones. Succeeding the M4U 8, these circumaural headphones witnessed a slight increase in price and an upgrade in terms of a few features. Let us look at whether these cans justify their considerably steep price of $399.
Pretty Generous with Accessories
The M4U 8 MKII are definitely packaged like $399 headphones. The company has been exceedingly generous with accessories. The package offers a 3.5mm analog cable, a flight adapter, a ¼’’ stereo adapter, a Type-A to Type-C charging cable, a shammy for cleaning, a quick start guide and a hard-shell zippered storage case. PSB has got you covered for every possible event with its accessories. You have the option to switch to a wired connection when the headphones are out of juice along with getting travel and stereo support. The company has also been mindful of cleanliness and protection. The storage case is as sturdy as it can get.
Not a Lot Happening in Terms of Aesthetics
Looks-wise, the M4U 8 MKII are pretty unexciting. This isn’t to say that they are unpleasant to look at. Instead, they are just serious-looking headphones with not a lot going on. For their price, they almost lie in the category of bland for me. A little more inclusion of metal, apart from the small plates with the name of the model emblazoned on either side, would have been a good idea. The M4U 8 MKII headphones feature a plastic body with a leather headband and memory foam ear pads. The plastic is good quality, though, and feels solid in your hands. The leather exudes sophistication as well. PSB’s latest wireless headphones may not look as expensive as they are but one thing is for sure: the company certainly didn’t skimp on material and quality.
The M4U 8 MKII are insanely comfortable headphones. The gyro-action ear pads are made of immensely soft memory foam with generous padding that cushions your ears really well. There is sufficient space in the center of the cups and you don’t feel your cartilage touching the ear pads at any point. However, I feel that the passive noise isolation on these headphones could have been better. While the M4U 8 MKII were comfortable, they didn’t provide as snug of a fit as I would’ve liked. This is likely what caused their passive noise isolation to not be among the best that I have experienced.
The leather headband on the M4U 8 MKII is excellent. It also offers a thick cushion of padding to keep your noggin comfortable. I like that the headband isn’t too thin, hence, dividing the force across a larger area resulting in less pressure on the top of your head. The headband is tactile and easily expandable.
Highly Unintuitive Controls
I have never understood why, in some headphones, all the controls are found on a single earcup. Dividing the controls evenly between both cups makes much more sense. The M4U 8 MKII made the same mistake. This could have been less of a disaster if the controls were at least intuitively designed. But we don’t see that happening either.
The right earcup is the one that is severely overworked. It hosts a Bluetooth pairing button, a volume rocker, a toggle switch that turns the headphones and ANC on or off and a slider for skipping to the next track or rewinding the track. The slider that skips and rewinds music is also responsible for answering or declining calls and pausing or playing music. The same cup also hosts the 3.5mm port. It is incredibly difficult to cycle through the controls on the M4U 8 MKII and I encountered a number of missteps.
First of all, all the controls featured a similar design which made it pretty confusing. The toggle switches felt the same as the sliders when I was attempting to navigate them. Moreover, some design choices were just plain bad decisions. For instance, the on/off switch being the same as the one that controls ANC is not very smart. Every time you miss the ANC by just a little, you’re going to end up switching your headphones off. And we all know how annoying that can be. On the plus side, the controls are pretty responsive and fast.
The M4U 8 MKII features amazing bass. It is the kind that you feel in your chest and throat. There is a noticeable oomph in the low end. It’s pretty commendable that the company manages to achieve that without overdoing it. There is a very thin line between bass like this and the kind that ends up sounding thick. Some companies get tempted to overdo it and, as a result, it ends up sounding a little too thunderous. The lows on the PSB headphones, however, are rich and clear. They have plenty of presence to them and space inside them. Regardless of the volume, the bass remained powerful throughout.
The treble didn’t stand out as much as the bass did, but it was pretty great as well. It is sharp and detailed. The mids are bright and carry detail as well. Overall, it didn’t sound as if the elements of the orchestra have been clustered together. Every element had its respective space in the orchestra and sounded extremely clear. The overall sound profile of the headphones is tinny.
The M4U 8 MKII host 40mm drivers. They are compatible with Bluetooth 5.1 and support the AAC, AptX HD, and SBC codecs. LDAC support is absent, though. The headphones also feature 24-bit HD audio. For the uninitiated, HD audio, or high-definition audio, enables streaming music to sound more like an original studio recording. And 24-bit audio is essentially audio resolution that is measured in bits. 24-bit audio can record 16,777,216 discreet values for loudness levels versus 16-bit audio which can represent 65,536 discrete values.
Pretty Good Noise Cancelling
The M4U 8 MKII feature four adaptive mics that help reduce unwanted background noise. I’d say the noise cancellation on the headphones is quite powerful. It canceled out the sound of my roommate doing the dishes, the pretty loud sound of the shower tap running, and the hum of the traffic. What it failed to cancel out, though, was the siren of an ambulance. This is fairly common among noise-canceling headphones. The higher the frequency of a sound, the more difficult it is to cancel it. All in all, though, the M4U 8 MKII did a great job of reducing unwanted noise and providing a peaceful experience.
Battery, Mic, Water Resistance
On paper, the M4U 8 MKII advertises up to 25 hours of wireless playback. The figure may change depending on how loud you like your music. With a 3.5mm connector included, you don’t have to worry about the battery giving up on you anyway.
The PSB headphones make use of two built-in mics that enhance call clarity. The mics perform pretty well in terms of reducing background noise. One area in which the M4U 8 MKII might disappoint you is water/sweat resistance. Surprisingly enough, the headphones aren’t resistant against both which means they’re not very ideal as a workout partner.
Is It Hardcore?
PSB’s M4U 8 MKII sport unintuitive controls and are not resistant to water or sweat. However, there are multiple areas they excel at. They offer a plethora of helpful accessories, a solid build, a comfortable fit, excellent bass, and pretty great noise canceling. However, we still feel that they’re not worth their price tag.