As much as I love men’s style, I don’t always want to write about it. Part of the reason this is not a daily blog. And I, from time to time, have mulled over talking on other subjects that I have accumulated a good deal of knowledge on; namely travel, grooming, restaurants and other lifestyle interests. So as we near the two year mark of The Fine Young Gentleman I think it’s acceptable that I delve into some of these other subjects from time to time. Today we discuss headphones.
Much to my surprise and delight I was gifted a pair of headphones for Christmas this year, the Bose QC 15. Which I think are the most popular noise cancelling headphones out there, but this does not mean they are the best (they aren’t). So it seems we have yet another case of the masses leading themselves astray. Sound like men’s style? Uh, yeah. And just like men’s style, I have a few words on the subject.
I first gave the QC 15s a few hours of test listening. I was happy with the sound and they were extremely comfortable. However two things bothered me. First, the bass was not as tight as it should be for a pair of $300 headphones. Second, you had to have the noise cancelling engaged to listen to anything. A serious design flaw, I thought. As when you have the headphones on the noise cancelling creates a small bit of pressure in your ears, something I did not care for (I should note this is not unique to Bose, all noise cancelling headphones have this). But some headphones allow you to listen to them without the noise cancelling engaged and some have better sound quality.
Unsatisfied with what Bose had to offer I searched for what else was out there. There were the Beats Executives, which many people of my generation seem to favor. But I don’t care to patronize the brand because the sound balance is off on all of their products I have tried. The bass is to heavy, sometimes overpowering the mid and treble. And the treble is often of sub-par quality. And then there are the offerings from Sony, Harmon Kardon and Sennheiser; all good headphones but there is better.
My search ended at the PSB M4U 2s. I was initially deterred by their higher price of $400, compared to the more common price of $300. But after checking the product specs, reading a few reviews and learning the pedigree of PSB I felt the extra $100 was justified. Two things about the M4U’s caught my attention and ended up being the deciding factors. First, that the headphones had three listening modes; unamplified, amplified and acoustic noise cancelling. Unamplified listening allows the user to use the headphones without turning on any switch, the headphones are powered from the listening device. This means you can still use the headphones once the battery dies, which is not the case for many noise cancelling headphones. Amplified listening engages the M4U’s amplification system (and battery), the sound is noticeably better than unamplified, and there is no ear pressure. Acoustic noise cancelling is effectively amplified listening plus noise cancelling. So the sound quality is as good, but there is that issue of the pressure in the ears. I pretty much only use the headphones in amplified mode except for when on an airplane. Second, the sound quality in the amplified and noise cancelling modes was better than the QC 15′s and others I have tried in the past. The sound stage was also stellar.
The only critique I have of them is that after a few hours or constant wear they are slightly less comfortable than the QC 15s. But as with suits, fit is relative and the PSB’s may fit your head and ears better than mine.
Another well thought out design feature of the M4U’s is that you can plug in the headphone cord to either ear (see photo below), something which I have not seen on its competitors. And also something I have come to appreciate the more I use the headphones. In the box is also included a spare pair of ear pads, 1/4″ adapter, dual prong adapter (for airplanes), 2 cords (one with microphone for use with phones and one without) as well as a carrying case (see photo below). And as is the case with all of the headphones I looked into the construction is very very solid.
Spending $400 (even $300) on a pair of headphones is not for everyone, I realize that (part of why these things make such great gifts). You could buy a suit from Indochino with that money. But if you are the type to invest in a good pair of headphones you need look no further than the PSB M4U 2. The sound is at the top of its class, even including studio headphones of similar price. And the fact that you can listen to them in an amplified mode without engaging the noise cancellation, and thus ear pressure, is a total game changer.
Justin L Jeffers
Note: FYGblog received no compensation from PSB or any other party in the course of writing this article.