Sometimes in the electronics world two comes before before one.
In 2012, PSB, primarily known for its speakers, introduced its first ever headphone, the active noise-canceling PSB M4U 2 . It was hailed by many critics, including CNET, as one of the world's best NC models.
So, what does PSB do for an encore in 2013?
It brings out the M4U 1, the non-NC "passive" version of the same headphone, that's what. While the M4U 2 remains the better choice for those who want an active noise-canceling headphone to better seal out ambient noise, this less expensive model does sound slightly better and is targeted squarely at audiophiles who want a neutral sounding headphone with very clean sound.
Design and features The popularity of the Beats-branded headphones has had a major impact on the design of full-size headphones, and these PSBs haven't escaped their influence. Yes, they have a more oval shape, but they do share the same shiny, polycarbonate plastic folding headband.
The headphones do seem fairly durable, but if you're tough on headphones their metal-and-plastic hinges might be a concern. That's true of most hinged headphones, and like those models, the M4U 1 folds up into a more compact bundle that fits into a protective travel case.
The generously padded headband is comfortable, has large, easy-to-see "L" and "R" markings on the inside surface, and doesn't make any creaking noises when I twisted it, which is a good sign. The Gyro-Suspended Ear Cup mounting system allows the ear cups to swivel vertically and laterally to better fit a wide variety of head shapes and sizes. The M4U 1 has 40mm drivers, weighs 12 ounces, and has a 32 ohm rated impedance.
You get two 5-foot-long cables, one "plain," and one with an inline one-button remote/microphone for making cell phone calls. The cables are a little too long for me -- I prefer 4-foot cables -- but one upside to the M4U 1's design is you can plug either cable into the left or right earcup. You can also plug in another set of headphones into the free jack and have two people listen to the same music or movie at the same time. More full-size headphones are offering this feature.
Accessories include the aforementioned nicely finished zippered travel case, a two-prong airline adapter, and a 3.5mm-to-6.3mm plug adapter. And props to PSB for throwing in a spare set of earpads -- that's an extra we'd like to see more headphone manufacturers include, especially at this $300 price point.
The M4U 1 comes with a longer-than-average two year parts-and-labor warranty. To initiate a warranty claim you'll need to provide an invoice or proof of purchase.