An act of ex­trav­a­gance

FOR Smooth pre­sen­ta­tion; solid sound; com­fort­able AGAINST Bass is too rich; sound could be crisper; pricey

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Test -

The PSB M4U 4s have very big shoes to fill. Not only are we fans of PSB'S overear cans (M4U 1 and M4U 2), but they’re also the com­pany’s first stab at a pair of in-ear head­phones.

Th­ese in-ears come with a hefty price tag, and that puts them up against some mighty tal­ented com­pe­ti­tion. Our favourites are the Award-win­ning Shure SE425S. They cost £200 and are mag­nif­i­cent. How do the PSBS fare next to such for­mi­da­ble com­pe­ti­tion?

The sound of sludge

We start with grunge bal­lad Creep by Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots, and are met with a full-bod­ied sound that gives a good im­pres­sion of what the PSBS are ca­pa­ble of. They go loud. They’re big and open. They have a lot of oomph in the bass depart­ment.

There’s plenty of de­tail to pick out the strums of bass strings and the lilt­ing qual­ity of voices. The late Scott Wei­land’s raw and pow­er­ful vo­cals shine through with a strong sense of so­lid­ity run­ning through­out the midrange. While a day’s run­ning-in will get rid of any top-end bright­ness, there’s a slight touch of hard­ness in the tre­ble. It’s not enough to mar the ex­pe­ri­ence, but some may find it weary­ing to lis­ten to.

We could do with a touch more clar­ity and sub­tlety, though. Where the Shure SE425S amaze us with their breath­tak­ing in­sight and trans­parency, the PSBS of­fer a more laid­back per­for­mance. The gui­tars and drums sound meaty and charge ahead at a de­cent tempo, but they sound just a lit­tle sludgy – even for a 90s grunge band. It makes the M4U 4s com­fort­able to lis­ten to, al­though you’ll want a bit more ex­cite­ment and at­tack with fa­mil­iar songs.

Tips to pre­vent leak­age

That’s partly be­cause of that warm and fuzzy bass per­for­mance. The PSBS plunge deep (ad­mirably so for a pair of in-ears), but they're not as well de­fined and taut as the Shure SE425S. That de­li­ciously squelchy bassline from Sbtrkt’s Wild­fire thuds softly – we want a punchier, tauter im­pact. Tighten up that bass, and the PSBS could be so much more at­tack­ing and rhyth­mi­cally ex­cit­ing.

PSB has gone for a round-the-ear de­sign for the M4U 4s, which loops around the ears for a more se­cure fit. We wish they had the flex­i­ble wire in­serts you can mould to your ear-shape like the Shure SE425S have but even af­ter a few wiggles and tugs, the PSBS do stay put.

The chunky ear­buds are lighter than they look, though, which means you won’t get worn down when wear­ing them for hours. You get a good se­lec­tion of ear tips in the box – three pairs each in foam and sil­i­cone – and it’s worth try­ing them all out to find the best seal. You’ll know it’s the right fit when you get max­i­mum bass, sound doesn’t leak out (or in), and the buds don’t pop out of your ears when you move.

A black and white choice

The over­all de­sign is fairly muted, with a flash of metal around the edges break­ing up the plain de­sign. The M4U 4s come in two colours: black di­a­mond and arc­tic white. Our one slight com­plaint is that the in-ears aren’t clearly marked as left or right. You’ll have to go by the colour trim where the cables join the ear­buds: red for right, white for left.

We do, how­ever, like that PSB has pack­aged two cables in with the M4U 4s: one with in-line mic and a three-but­ton re­mote, and one with­out. The con­trols are re­spon­sive and easy to op­er­ate, and both cables are thick and sturdy enough that they don’t get tan­gled up.

Splash­ing out over £200 for a pair of in-ears is an ex­trav­a­gant act, but the PSB M4U 4s are def­i­nitely worth a lis­ten if you’re go­ing to treat your­self. How­ever, the stan­dards are high in the ever-ex­pand­ing in-ears mar­ket, and th­ese PSBS need to be just a lit­tle bit more dis­cern­ing – and more ac­cu­rate – to beat the best.

PSB M4U 4

In-ear head­phones

£230 “Gui­tars and drums sound meaty and charge ahead with a de­cent tempo, but they sound just a lit­tle sludgy – even for a 90s grunge band”

The PSB M4U 4s of­fer a laid­back

per­for­mance which lacks a lit­tle

punch and at­tack. Though on the

pricey side for a pair of in-ears,

they are worth a lis­ten if

you want to treat your­self

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