Not long ago, I reviewed (in Hi-Fi+ Issue 94) PSB’s M4U 2 active noise-cancelling headphone ($399.99)—the firm’s first-ever headphone product. Candidly, I was very impressed by the M4U 2, not only because of the absolute levels of performance it delivered, which was quite high, but also and more specifically because of how well rounded and well thought-out the whole package was. The draw, as I observed in my review, is that the M4U 2 is in a sense a “headphone for all seasons”—a headphone that offers all the convenience and noise-cancelling features listeners might want, but that can just as easily be configured to provide sonic purity for the purists. What is more, the headphone incorporates voicing insights that PSB founder Paul Barton has developed over a lifetime of loudspeaker design work.
There really is so much to like about the M4U 2 (“M4U”, by the way, stands for “music for you”) that one might reasonably ask why PSB would need to release any other model. Yet now we have a sibling to the M4U 2, called the M4U 1, which is a passive headphone that sells for $100 less. I thought it might be useful to ask what market the M4U 1 is meant to serve and what its comparative advantages or disadvantages might be vis-à-vis the M4U 2.
Unboxing: What’s in the Box?
Packaging for the M4U 1 is closely patterned after that for the M4U 2, which is to say that it’s gorgeous and very appealing. Within the main carton are a fold-open pair of boxes, one contain a tray for the product manual and most of the headphone’s accessories and the other containing a tray that holds the headphones themselves (packed inside a semi-hard-shell case), plus a few more accessories. Once you get everything spread out on a table, here’s what you’ll find:
- One set of M4U 1 headphones.
- A matching semi-hard-shell case with zipper closure.
- One spare set of headphone ear pads.
- A flight or “airline” adaptor.
- A 1/8-inch to ¼-inch adaptor.
- A cleaning cloth.
- Two 1.5m signal cords—one with an iPhone/Blackberry-compatible inline remote and mic module, the other without.
- A minimalist and mostly graphical user’s guide.