psb Speakers Enter Headphone Market On Top
I realized in the taxi to JFK en route to a 7 AM flight to Chicago to attend the AXPONA audio show that I had left my Bose QC3 noise cancelling headphones at home. After only one cup of coffee I had to endure the airport noise with my $15 spare workout ear buds attached to my iPad.
Once tucked in the seat on my Jet Blue flight I began to remember all of the good reviews the psb M4U 2 headphones had received. Some called it the best noise cancellation headphone available. Some retell the legend that Paul Barton made them for himself because he travels a lot and does not want to sacrifice good sound for noise cancellation.
The psb headphones had some luke-warm reviews as well. When compared to the Bose QC3 that I had left behind in New Jersey, it is said that the sound quality of the psb M4U 2 headphone is demonstrably better to the Bose QC3, but that the noise cancellation is inferior to it. Some reviews say that the psb’s are not as comfortable as the Bose either.
I did not want to fly home from Chicago without noise cancellation headphones, so I took advantage of the show discount and bought the psb M4U 2 at the show. I unboxed them in the hotel room and set them up with the AAA batteries that are included. A flight adaptor and a 1/8’’ to ¼’’ adapter are also included. The headphones fold nicely, but the included travel case is a bit bulky. I never use the travel case anyway except as a place to store the accessories at home.
The headphones had a few features that I didn’t notice in the Rosemont display room. There are dual line inputs that are interchangeable and allow you to put the source line on the right or the left, whichever side is most comfortable. There is also a remote and stereo monitor control with a microphone for use with an iPhone. This allows you to place a call or take a call without having to remove the headphones.
I was able to test the headphones on the flight home from Chicago the next day. Once I became comfortable in my seat at the gate, I took the headphones out of my carry on and plugged them into my iPad. Either the overnight burn-in worked a miracle or when I tested the psb M4U 2 in the Rosemont room at the show my ears had been spoiled by too much awesome sounding equipment.
Waiting to board the plane, I played a little Vampire Weekend through my iPad. The sound was crisp and sharp with good dynamic range, just as it should sound. Then I played some Mozart, Symphony #20, to hear the contrast from a bigger sound. There was no mushiness or muddling. Each instrument was clear with nice isolation and good dynamic range. The headphones gave a very musical presentation almost the equal of any under $500 open ear headphone without noise cancellation.
People who travel a lot know that noise cancellation headphones dramatically reduce travel fatigue by blotting out the hustle and bustle and by making crying babies and the whining of bored children disappear. So the importance of a good travel headphone lies with the quality of its ability to muffle out the background. When I tried the noise cancellation in the airport I was truly amazed. Maybe it was because I expected worse, but the noise cancellation was every bit the equal to the Bose I forgot at home. Unlike what I had expected, there was no compromise here.
When I arrived home I attached my psb’s to my laptop again and let them burn in. After about 50 hours of burn in, I gave them another listen. The quality of the sound was doubly good as it had been on the flight home. Not willing to believe a burn-in could make them sound that much better, I simulated my flight home from Chicago by playing the same Vampire Weekend and the same Mozart from my iPad. It was almost hard to believe these were the same headphones I bought.
With a minimum of 50 hours of burn in time, the sound from the psb M4U 2 popped. The early reviews claiming them to be on a par with Bose for noise cancellation but better than Bose for musicality must not have let the headphones burn in long enough. There is simply no comparison between the Bose QC3 and the psb M4U 2 and there is no need to discuss it further here.
Anyone who enjoys audiophile sound enjoys the status of high end products. Wearing the psb monogram on headphones in the airport is a status symbol. They sound good, they feel good on the ears and they even look good. There is nothing more to ask for a noise cancellation travel headphone.